How do we stay warm for a couple of weeks? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

It seems as though I am a bit more optimistic than most of those I've seen posting messages here. I respect Having assessed the risk (as the authors of Time Bomb 2000 advise) I am making contingency plans for a two to three week disruption of major services, or sporadic outages. I can stock up a month's worth of food, water, batteries, etc., but the heat is a real problem. I live in WI where it will be pretty cold in January through March of 2000. I honestly don't believe that we need to convert the furnace to LP and bury a tank in the back yard. (We have NG right now.) So if the electric and natural gas goes out for a couple weeks, how do we stay warm until the utilities are restored? I read the LP heater discussion posted here earlier. (That scared me) I considered a kerosene heater, but how does one store all the fuel? We have a small fireplace, but it doesn't heat real well. I'm not sure that it would accept a woodburning stove insert. Are there any safe portable heating methods available? (I know I'm being difficult, but any help would be greatly appreciated. Obviously, I've never made these types of plans before.)

-- Mike Gartner (, September 07, 1998


I'd suggest you get down to your nearest outdoor activities store. You can get sleeping bags and clothing that'll keep you warm even in a howling gale at -20 (or so they say; can't say I've ever tried!). In any case, equipped with such gear surviving inside a house (ie with near-perfect shelter) should not be too hard unless you are elderly or have a severely impaired blood circulation.

Further measures could include constructing yourself an indoors refuge out of (say) styrofoam slabs that'll stay warmer on just your body heat than the rest of the house (especially if its an old drafty one). Warning: do NOT expose that stuff to a flame! A tent would be a better idea if you want to use candles, bottled gas stoves etc.

Cold air is a lot more dangerous if it's moving. I have seen photos of members of the British Antarctic survey *sunbathing* on airbeds on the ice not far from the south pole. Air temperature was way below, but wind velocity had dropped to zero (a very rare event down there). So, do all you can to draftproof things - maybe treat the coming winter as a chance to do some tests.

Have to say, I'm glad I don't live in WI.

-- Nigel Arnot (, September 07, 1998.

If you don't mind giving up the looks of your fireplace, you can build the hearth out further and set the woodstove in front of the fireplace and hook into the chimney. I would have the chimney inspected first.

-- beckie (, September 07, 1998.

You'll need light in any case, so why not purchase a couple of Alladin lamps? I'm ordering several of these; I think they'd be handy for any power outage of more than a few hours, especially in the colder months. Owners of these lamps report that they put out a good deal of heat, so if you confine yourself to one room they should be capable of warming it up a bit. Just remember to allow for some ventilation, and never burn the lamps while you sleep.

As to storing kerosene, you could buy a 55-gal drum and use a simple pump to fill up a gallon gas can. Kerosene is much less volatile than gasoline so you could even store the drum indoors if you had to. Just be sure to cap it up tight and be careful of spills.

-- Max Dixon (, September 07, 1998.

We have a heated water bed and when power was out for three days last winter, the water stayed warm enough for the whole time (with additional comforters on top for insulation). With that in mind, and having discounted many sources of heat as not feasible or too dangerous for us, we're awaiting delivery of a two-panel solar array (can be addded to as funds allow) which will run the water bed heater. In addition, I've bought several of those metallic (mylar?) emergency blankets from Wal-Mart at approx. $1.98 each. Extra blankets and quilts, possibly to be used as "wall-hangings" and tacked over doors and windows, will help too. But we're in NC and don't (I hope) have to worry too much about really cold weather.

Good luck,


-- Aitch (, September 07, 1998.

Beckie's method is what my brother did. Worked okay in midstate NY.

I agree with you on the sleeping bag ratings: Boy Scout camping in mid-winter (cold enough that the coffee freezes!) is surviveable, but very uncomfortable. Go with the stove-insert, add insulataion & weatherproofing to the house, it will stay above freezing inside. Than double up the sleeping bags, and figure on sleeping in the room with the hearth. Let the rest of the rooms get colder, but above freezing to protect pipes.

There is almost no insulation "inside" a house between rooms and ceilings, so try to keep everything closed up. This far south, I've got the worry more about AC in summer: but I added reflective insulation under the eaves to reflect heat out in summer, reflect warmth (from below) in winter. Also just added 9" insulation blankets above the old blown in insulation in the attic.

Still have to improve weatherproofing. Chores, eh?

-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (, September 07, 1998.

I'd strongly consider kerosene heater. You can buy kerosene in 55 gal drums ($2/gallon) and from what I've read on Internet, people have successfully used 5 or 10 year old kerosene; probably should add some treatment to absorb condensation.

My son in KY (with 5 children) heats his 2 story house with kerosene heater for the most part -- uses furnace when it's really cold --you could use 2 kerosene heaters. I know you need to leave window cracked for ventilation / don't asphixiate anyone trying to stay warm.

-- Sylvia Ross (, September 07, 1998.

I agree with the kerosene heater suggestion but would add a carbon monoxide alarm. A further suggestion would be to get a good dome tent (Hillary is cheap) and erect it inside you house. The tent will warm up just from body heat. You could use the kerosene heater for the day and turn it off at night as you get in the tent. As an aside, I have been following the electric utility Y2K progress and I am pessimistic. However, it depends on the region of the country. Call up your state Y2K coordinator and your utility company and ask two question. 1.) How many embedded systems (programmable logic controllers) have you tested and replaced? (The number should be somewhere around 2% - 5% replaced of the total.) 2.) When are you going to take individual plants offline in a hot mode and test your actual status?

If they tell you they aren't going to run full scale tests, be worried, be very, very worried and prepare for two months- not two weeks.

-- Ronald Herring (, September 07, 1998.

If you live in Wisconsin, then I assume you have a full basement under your house. Does the chimney for your hearth go all the way to the basement floor? If so, have a mason install a stove outlet in the basement, then put in a wood or coal or pellet stove. That will heat your house and keep the pipes from freezing. Or go with a woodstove installed through your fireplace chimney. If that isn't feasible, then a kerosene heater is your best alternative. BTW, Wisconsin isn't immune to storm-related power outages, especially in winter blizzards -- what do you use now when the electricity goes off?

-- J.D. Clark (, September 08, 1998.

I must communicate that my sister's house caught on fire due to a kerosene heater being placed in close proximity to tile cement, a very flammable material. Do not place flammable materials near your kerosene heater! I am sure this applies to fireplaces as well.

-- Amy Leone (, September 08, 1998.

Thanks for all the good feedback. Sure is nice to know we're not alone. I'm looking into the K-1 heater now. I will be sure to follow all safety precautions if I go that route.

To J.D. Clark - Believe it or not, I'm 39, and I can't remember a winter power outage here!

-- Mike Gartner (, September 08, 1998.

Another thing to consider, whatever heating method you choose, is to zone your house; make one room the room where you will spend waking hours and focus your efforts there. In our case, that would mean insulated drapes, and blankets hung in doorways to keep heat where we put it. Red Cross also suggests keeping it a little cooler for comfort; gives you an incentive to keep moving, and excercise is one of the best preventatives for a low mood that there is...

-- Karen Cook (, September 10, 1998.

you can control where heat goes in house by using blankets nailed over doorways&buy outside grill food~both work!

-- j s bogrand (, September 13, 1998.

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