The average home is heated by devices that require grid power to operate. When winter weather knocks out our power, our homes can become dangerously cold.
It is not only a matter of comfort; if the temperature drops too low, our pipes will be in danger of bursting as they freeze.
There are many DIY options for heating sources, and often, they are simple to build, but they often are not as effective as the off-grid heating options, which are widely available in-store and online.
When we are trying to heat our homes without the aid of the electrical grid, we often must rely on devices that burn fuel that radiates heat. Unfortunately, the major issue is that burning these fuels will generate carbon monoxide, an odorless, colorless, tasteless, and lethal gas.
Therefore, it is critical that any backup heater you buy is certified and that you adhere to all the manufactures instructions regarding safe use and ventilation.
Carbon monoxide is a massive threat, but it is not the only problem these backup heaters can pose. Anytime you introduce an alternate heat source into your home, you run a significant risk of fire. Therefore, you must stay vigilant and keep all flammable materials away from your heaters.
When buying backup heaters for winter power outages, choose models with tip-over protection and an oxygen depletion sensor. These two features could save your life and your home.
Problems With Backup Heaters
There is one massive problem with using smaller backup heaters, which does not have to do with safety. These heaters are designed to heat small areas and, therefore, will not heat your entire home.
Consequently, you will have to consider which areas of your home require heating and purchase heaters specifically for those rooms and spaces.
Millions of homes around the planet rely on a wood stove for heat and cooking, and it serves these families well.
However, while this is an option for heating areas of your home, it comes with some problems that you will need to solve well before using it.
The most significant issue is that the stove will need its chimney vented to the outside of your home safely and effectively. This is not something you want to whip up on the fly after the lights go out; the stove pipe chimney must be in place and adequately installed first.
The second issue is that a wood stove requires a lot of wood which you will need to have on hand before winter takes away your electricity. For most of us, keeping a healthy supply of firewood is simply not practical unless we regularly use a wood-burning stove, fire pit, or fireplace.
Another issue is that wood stoves are not portable, so it would only be effective to heat the room that the stove is installed.
Wood stoves have the advantage of being able to be used for cooking food and heating water. With a bit of ingenuity, you can mount water tanks to the side of a wood stove or wrap the stove pipe in copper tubing, for hot water on demand. Here’s how you can make a simple water heater that provides you with free hot water each time you use your stove.
Wood Burning Fireplaces
A fireplace is a decent way to provide heat to a room; after all, it was the go-to method for much of history.
However, wood-burning fireplaces have similar disadvantages and safety issues as wood stoves.
One of the most significant issues with a wood-burning fireplace is that unless your home already has one in place, it is not practical to have one installed.
Like wood stoves, fireplaces also require regular cleaning and maintenance to keep them operating safely and effectively.
Propane is a safe and stable fuel source that is always widely available. Many backyard grills use propane as a fuel source, and if you have a propane grill, it makes sense also to use a propane heater as a backup heat source.
There are many models of propane heaters on the market in various sizes and BTU ratings which means that you will be able to find an option to suit any space in your home that you need to be heated.
An advantage of some propane heaters is that they use the 1-pound cylinders that you would often see used to run camp stoves and lanterns.
If you do a lot of camping, or use a propane camp stove as a part of your preps, you can stock a surplus of these 1-pound cylinders to use for your heater.
You must remember that any heater you choose must be rated for indoor use and follow all the manufacturer’s directions to ensure safe and effective operation.
When using a propane heater with a 20-pound or larger cylinder, keep the gas cylinder outside the home in case any gas escapes. Propane is heavier than air and will settle in the lowest areas of your home, resulting in a significant risk of explosion.
For portable and off-grid heating, propane heaters are a good option worth considering.
Kerosene heaters are less desirable but still viable options for off-grid backup heating.
These heaters usually use a wick that draws the kerosene from a fuel tank. The wick is lit, and the heat generated is harnessed and directed to provide heating.
In some cases, these heaters will use a battery-operated fan to push the heated air into the room. Many kerosene heaters are rated for indoor use, but they still carry risks you must be aware of before relying on them for emergency heat.
Kerosene heaters have similar carbon monoxide risks but have the added risk of potentially toxic fumes from the kerosene evaporating. In addition, as kerosene burns, it can also release sulfur and nitrogen dioxide, which can become dangerous without proper ventilation.
Clean kerosene can also be hard to find and will need to be rotated regularly to avoid having the kerosene go bad.
When the power fails during the chilly winter months, it is critical for us to have alternate methods of heating our homes, as well as keeping our plumbing from freezing.
In these cases, small portable heaters are precisely what we need to get through those cold and dark winter nights.
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