Possible to Live without Heat in North??

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While I have wood and a wood insert for the fireplace, I wonder, should I run out of fuel (OR if it gets STOLEN), is it possible to stay alive and healthy in an unheated home in say, 15-20 degree outside weather??

(The home is fairly new, so you and I know it's not THAT well insulated.)

How would one dress on a daily basis while inside? Any other pointers for those of us who might need this info??

-- Jaqueline Frost (Cold@icy.com), October 20, 1999


I wouldn't want to try it.

As long is there is enough mass in the house to retain heat (drywall, etc) the house will approach the average of the day and night temperature plus a little gained from people, animals and cooking.

You would also need to drain the plumbing fixtures and add plumbing (RV) antifreeze to the traps to keep sewage gas out.

-- John (jh@NotReal.ca), October 20, 1999.


It would be tough but you might do it by trying to huddle up in your innermost room (fewest windows etc.), hanging drop sheets over the windows and doorways, and if necessary turning a sofa upside down to huddle under. You could also make a kind of "tent" using furniture and plastic sheeting. The idea is to create a dead air space that your body heat would help to heat. If you had a small candle that would also help, but you would have to be careful and not take it into a real small space like under a sofa! Too dangerous risk of fire.

Needless to say you would need good wool clothes and especially something for your head, and sleeping bags. If your house has a basement, I believe that might even be a bit warmer than the main floor.

I'm sure others on this board can give you even better suggestions.

-- citygirl (citygirl@idirect.com), October 20, 1999.

Oh - I forgot - you could also get those "warm up" things that you can put in mitts and slippers or boots. Once activated they stay warm for a few hours. I think they are available at ski shops and possibly Wal Mart.

-- citygirl (citygirl@idirect.com), October 20, 1999.

You might want to think about adding extra plastic 'storm windows' as per my earlier post at this link...

http://www.greenspun.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg.tcl? msg_id=001YjH

Also, remember that south facing windows have a net heat gain (You gain more heat from the sun than you lose through the window) ... You can maximize this by covering the windows with a blanket or piece of insulation at night.

-- John (jh@NotReal.ca), October 20, 1999.

Your forefathers did it. Purchase nice thick skimasks, most of your body heat loss is via the head and feet. Nutrition is important to thermogenesis, particularily the B vitamins (particularily B3), therefore a daily intake of meat(fresh or frozen) is important (or pills). Get some GOOD long underwear.

Remember, the enemy of warmth is moisture, you do not want to ever sweat. This is why the europeans thought the eskimos were lazy. The natives knew if they worked so fast that they would sweat, they would loss some of the insulative ability of their clothing. Around camp it is uncomortable, in the field it is deadly. Many european expiditions perished in conditioned that allowed the eskimo to thrive.

On windows, even triple paned wonders are horrible heat lossers. Staple throw rugs, or blankets over the window and put chair cushions between the window and hanging cloth.

-- Ken Seger (kenseger@earthlink.net), October 20, 1999.

Another way to block windows is to buy 4x8 foot sheets of rigid insulation, usually has a foil backing or foil on both sides. Comes in various thicknesses. Cut it the size of the window and jam it into place, then caulk around it. Do this on windows that don't face south. You can have this stuff in the garage, and just install in an hour or so if you need it - don't mess up your windows for nothing.

The same stuff laid on a concrete floor makes a big difference in how that floor feels. Lay it down and put a quarter inch of plywood over it, to spread the load of your feet, etc.

We made an insulated quilt/airstop for my mom in St Paul - stitched up batting between two layers of plastic tarp material. She can use that to seal a stairway (that has no door), isolating the room where the fireplace insert is.

Main idea - find the smallest room you can, insulate it as well as you can, then heat it just a little.

-- bw (home@puget.sound), October 20, 1999.

Make sure the house is well weatherstripped and all insulation is in good condition. At our home in northwestern wisconsin, where cold weather is 30 or 40 below zero, we don't usually bother making a fire in the furnace or heating stove or even use the wood cookstove if it is as warm as 25 to 30 above zero. At 20 degrees we find that the air exchange from opening and closing the doors to go in and out cools the house down a lot. It warms up overnight even though there is no source of heat other than the refrigerator and people and lights. Our previous house which was super insulated (14" walls, etc.) was left unoccupied for 2 weeks one winter when it was below zero, and it was in the mid-50's inside when we returned. A super-insulated home could be built to require no extra heat source other than the people using it.

In your situation, the idea of "camping out" in one of the rooms would be my suggestion also, after making sure that every possible air leak in the house is sealed, and windows insulated, etc. however, leave provision for ventilation air that you can control, such as a small vent or window, to provide combustion air for lantern, heater, breathing, etc.

-- Jim (jiminwis@yahoo.com), October 20, 1999.

One way to survive is indeed to camp out in one room. We've used a tent in the past when the heat was out. Stuff it full of sleeping bags and blankets, keep everyone in as much as possible. Ain't pleasant but will keep you from freezing...

-- kozak (kozak@formerusaf.guv), October 20, 1999.

I knew a sculpture student who lived above an unheated garage for 1 whole Chicago Winter.

He pitched a tent. Sometimes his girlfriend would stay over.

It worked, he's alive (of course he did go to a warmer area during the day...)

-- plonk! (realaddress@hotmail.com), October 20, 1999.

Great suggestions, I don't know if you have kids or not, but if so, you might want to consider some "activities" that would normally make one nervous inside (if you have knic knacs!)

Remove all the breakables and flamables from your room during the day and bring out one of those nerf ball basket ball games, or Twister or other active games. The kids will warm themselves up and the room.

Tents can be made with matresses, sleeping bags and such under dining or card tables.

Privacy is a problem, for dressing and bathing. Have plenty of light weight rope, clothes pins and fasteners for the walls (worry about the holes later) and you can pin up a sheet as a partition for bathing/dressing.

We used to wash our hair outside, because of splashing,(22 degrees is the family record...I don't hold it), you could use your bathtub; but with one gallon of water you can wash your hair, letting the rinse water run back into a dish pan, then use that water to wash up inside.

Use a little water reserved back from the gallon, and not soapy, to put a bit of vinigar in. Use this as a "final rinse" to remove soap residue from your body since it is hard to rinse off bathing this way.

Also, if very short on water, this vinigar rinse alone will make you feel alot better, especially under alot of heavy clothes, or if you have no way to heat the water, thus forced to use cold. Have a good moister cream on hand too. Your skin will dry out from the soap also, as well as from the constant chill.

-- Lilly (homesteader145@yahoo.com), October 20, 1999.

I picked this up from the y2k survival handbook and plan on using it if the power goes off for a while. Good luck.

I would recommend the urban Igloo. An igloo can provide enough insulation to keep a anyone comfortable and alive for a reasonable period of time. the secret if simply to construct a small, well- insulated room that insulates you from the elements and makes efficient use of natural body heat. An urban igloo is a heavily insulated indoor tent. The easiest way to construct one is to take a good-sized dining room table(leave the removable leave in to maximizeits length), place a mattress on the floor underneath, and drape heavy blankets, quilts, rugs, or even tarps over the top and down the sides. the table supports the heavy insulating materials and the mattress provides both a comfortable sleeping surface and insulation from the cold floor. Hang the insulating materials all the way to the floor except in one or two spots where you'll want to make small gaps to allow fresh air into the shelter. Do not make your air vents near the top iof the shelter because they will allow warm air to escape. Once you occupy your igloo, you'll find that even your exhaled breath will, in tiem, help heat the shelter. Although this free heat is good, it can also cause condensation that will eventually drip down on everything in the shelter, including you. To reduce this problem, make sure the inside layer of your insulating material is made of something absorbant. If you don't have a large dining room talbe, use your imagination to find other support structures for your igloo. Mattresses, couches, desks and similiar sturdy objects all work well.

-- y2k dave (xsdaa111@hotmail.com), October 20, 1999.

Houses did not used to be well insulated, and heating equipment was poor, so people wore a lot of clothes made of wool and other animal fibres. They ate a LOT more food, for fuel. the food had a much higher fat balance, too. When I say a lot more food, I recall my grandmother telling us what the men who cut wood in winter on her Adirondack mountain farm would eat: a dozen eggs, stacks of pancakes, a pound or more of bacon etc. for EACH person.

The midday meal included lots of meat or fish, pies, potatoes, beans, hot food.

If you think you may be without heat, stock up on fats like butter flavor Crisco, nuts, spam etc. Peanut butter,lard, oil. You are eating to run a furnace!

Women wore long skirts with lots of petticoats to keep warm! Hats, ditto. Now purchase the high tech polartec long underwear, comes in three weights, insulate with fleece, wool or synthetics, use a windbreaker layer for outside.

Never, ever, wear cotton; it gets wet and will not dry out, causing deadly heatloss by evaporation. In cold weather do not use cotton sheets, use a polartec fleece blanket right next to your body to wick away moisture. Down comforters, sleeping bags of any material except cotton, wool blankets are lifesavers.

We are warm blooded creatures, and can survive cold weather with proper food, attire and shelter. Our very near ancestors did so, but we need to relearn some of their skills. The idea of an urban cave is good short term, but for anywhere longer than a few days, you need to extend your options. Hit the thrift stores now!

Good luck! You are definitely thinking down the right lines!

-- seraphima (Seraphima@aol.com), October 21, 1999.

Give some thought to how those squirrels, mice, and other warm blooded critters survive the winter. Small space, well insulated, will be able to be maintained by body heat alone. When I was a child, growing up in upstate NY in a 200 year old uninsulated house, we used to go through a ST Vitas dance every night under our bed covers to produce as much friction (and heat) as possible. Gave us all a nightly workout, with a fair assurance of making it to morning!!

-- Bill (Bill@SHF.com), October 21, 1999.

About those woolen blankets, clothes, etc. I've bought a woolen BLEND pair of socks every now and then. They'll be on my skin for about 30 sec. before I start itching like crazy. What other materials might be ok?


-- beej (beej@ppbbs.com), October 23, 1999.

"with one gallon of water you can wash your hair, letting the rinse water run back into a dish pan, then use that water to wash up inside."


Please be careful doing this. Best check with your gynecologist first.


-- Al K. Lloyd (all@ready.now), October 23, 1999.

For the wool itching.Get over it.cotton is comfy but it'll absorb oil,stop breathing,and soon you'll get foot fungus.Wool wicks oil away from the skin much more effectively and will keep you healthy longer between washings.If the lights are out laundry will be done much less often.Wear wool and discipline yourself to not scratching.

-- zoobie (zoobiezoob@yahoio.com), October 25, 1999.

Great practical advice. If wool bothers, you wear silk long underwear or buy silk sock liners.

-- Nancy (wellsnl@hotmail.com), October 27, 1999.

You can make insulation by stuffing bags with leaves, dried grass, etc: anything with lots of small air spaces. Stack bags against walls in room you're huddling in. Take duvet cover and stuff with leaves to make extra thermal blanket layer. Think!

-- Spidey (in@jam.toasty), October 27, 1999.

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