How to Prepare for a Power Loss

by heather

Now that I’m living in downtown Detroit, I’m facing the possibility of extended power loss this winter. I’ve heard it happens frequently here, especially when the winter winds start howling.

I also have a feeling that because of this city’s drastic budget cuts, the roads aren’t going to get plowed and salted near as often as they were where I used to live. So this winter is going to be interesting to say the least.

Most of us face the possibility of power loss during the winter months. Even in places like Tennessee and North Carolina, ice storms can down power lines for a week or more.

It’s important we start now preparing for a winter power loss. After all, when it’s 15 degrees out and the snow is piling up, you don’t want to wonder how you’re going to stay warm or how you’re going to get to the store for something to eat.

Preparing for a Winter Power Loss

1. Alternative Heat

The most pressing concern during a winter power loss is how you’re going to keep your home warm until the power comes back on.

If you have a fireplace or wood stove, make sure you keep an emergency supply of cut wood someone in your home or yard. It needs to stay dry so it can be lighted at a moment’s notice, so if it’s outdoors make sure it’s covered with a tarp or under a shed.

If you don’t have a fireplace or wood stove, then think about buying a small kerosene heater. These can keep one room livable until the power comes back on, and they cost $129 on up.

Focus on heating one room and one room only. If that room has doors and windows, cover them with blankets to keep the heat in.

If you don’t have any heat source, then gather all your blankets in one room, ideally the room farthest away from the cold wind that’s blowing. Interior rooms usually have the lowest heat less (don’t forget your basement, which might actually be the warmest room in the house when the power goes out). Next, construct a tent (your kids will love this!) and gather everyone inside. Make sure you leave an opening for fresh air. This space will heat easier with your body heat. Cuddle together under the blankets, in your makeshift tent.

If you have livestock, then the warmest area might actually be in the barn, with your animals. Straw and large mammals can be really effective ways to keep warm!

I also found this awesome tip online

Susanne Russo recommends: “A simple and cheap heater can be made by taking any leaves from the yard as well as kitchen table scraps and like items. Place them in a double layer trash bag, wet the contents until they are slightly damp, then tie the bag closed. Put it in a trash can with a lid. This is my emergency heater for cold weather. The stuff in the bag starts composting and in several hours starts building up heat. Within 24 hours, it can almost get hot to the touch, and will radiate heat for a few days. If you have outside aviaries, place the closed trash can in your flights and it will radiate some heat. Another thing that can be used to get the leaves and compost heating up quicker is Compost Starter, which can be found at some nursery and garden supplies.”

Another way you can stay warm is by heating bricks. Here’s the tip:

If you have a gas oven or fireplace, you can heat bricks up to a high temperature. If you have an electric oven and expect a power outage, you can warm the bricks up as a precaution. Remove the bricks when they are warm, but still touchable. Bricks hold warmth for a long time, sometimes days. You can wrap these bricks in towels and warm up your bed.


When the power goes out, how are you going to cook food?

I have a MSR cookstove and plenty of fuel I keep on hand for just such emergencies. Any kind of camp stove will work, but when it’s cold and black out, having hot food will be treat. If you don’t have a cook stove and fuel now, it’s a great time to pick one up. They often go on sale in the Fall since camping season is largely over.

Don’t forget you can also use a charcoal or gas grill when the power goes out. But make sure you use it outside.

3. Food

Do you have a small stockpile of food that would be easy to cook in an emergency?

Think warm comfort food. Macaroni and Cheese, soups, tasty rice dishes…anything hot and filling will work. It’s also important to keep plenty of drink mixes on hand. Hot tea, coffee, cocoa and even broth (like beef or vegetable) will really help keep you warm during a power outage.

4. Stop Drafts

If you  have drafts coming in through your windows or under doors, now’s the time to stop them. Caulk any drafts and make or buy door draft blockers. Keeping the cold air out is essential to maximizing your limited heat.

5. Dress in Layers

Several thin layers will keep you warmer than just one bulky sweatshirt. Pile on as many layers as you can, and don’t forget to cover your head! Most of our heat loss occurs through our heat.

6. Supplies

Candles, flashlights, spare batteries, and oil lamp…you should have some if not all of these on hand before winter even starts. A hand crank or battery-powered radio is also an essential. Hand and toe warmers (which can be bought at most major retailers and any camping or hunting store) will also come in handy.

Dos and Don’ts:

  • Do NOT use your stove as heat. It’s inefficient, and can start a fire.
  • Do NOT a charcoal or gas grill indoors. This puts carbon monoxide into your home, and you could die.
  • Do let your pipes drip a bit so they don’t freeze.
  • Do have a backup plan; know where you can go or who you can stay with in case you can’t hold out.
  • Do know how to shut off your water valve in case a pipe bursts.
  • Do unplug all appliances and electronic devices. When the power comes back it can surge and cause problems, especially with computers and TVs.

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Lisa November 9, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Thanks for all the smart tips. They’re great whether there’s a power outage or not. Many of us will (I imagine) be keeping our thermostats lower this year out of necessity. And who doesn’t want to save a bit of money too?

mike November 12, 2010 at 5:14 pm

The tip you listed about letting pipes drip is very important. Wish I would have read that two years ago; had to learn the hard way!!

Ken - Cambio de Cheques November 15, 2010 at 6:59 pm

We are in Argentina and are used to economize on resources a very good tip is to install solar panels and chemical recycling of waste.

Good luck.


Helga December 29, 2010 at 3:01 pm

Thanks for Interesting blog! I’m follow you.. 🙂

Jorge k. de cambio de cheques April 30, 2011 at 2:35 pm

Thanks for you tips. Very good

Jorge k. de cambio de cheques

Jorge de Admival July 25, 2011 at 12:32 pm

In my humble opinion, the use of gas stoves balanced shot, in contrast to environments designed with insulation termicos’en Europe increases taxes on those not complying with the changes in their homes for energy savings, or solar, or wind-powered products not to eat our trees.
George Admival HREF=””> <A

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