How to Heat Yourself in an Emergency

Latest By Louis Spencer JR |

Staying warm during a long-term disaster will be as essential to your survival as having access to water and food. Failure to stay warm can lead not only to the obvious frostbite and hypothermia, but also cause a person to become sick at the exact time it is most dangerous to contract even a mundare illness.

When prepping for cold weather a successful approach will be three-pronged:

• Home • Bugging Out • Work and Vehicle

Having an off the grid heat source to not only keep your home warm but to also use for water purification and food preparation reasons should at the top of your priority list and survival budget plan.

Top 6 Ways To Stay Warm In Your Home During An Emergency 1. Wood Cook Stove

This multi-use type of wood stove will not only keep you warm but can be used as both a stove and an oven. These old-fashioned style cook stoves provide efficient heat that can be manually regulated and even used to water bath or pressure bath can upon during a long-term disaster.

A wood cook stove is the most economical choice for home emergency heat. Not only will a unit like the one shown in the photo above heat an entire floor of a typical home, it will also you to cook, bake, purify water, and in may cases, come complete with a warming unit.

When popping food in a microwave is no longer an option, keeping a plate of food warm for a member of the prepping family who is out on perimeter patrol or working the land, will be not only incredibly useful, but an incredible morale booster. Photo courtesy of

2. Wood Stove

These stoves are staples in rural homes across the country. They provide far more heat than a fireplace. Although not as easily as with a wood cook stove, if you purchase a unit made of cast iron with a flat top, the surface can also be used or heating food and boiling water. Pellet wood stoves might seem like a handy way to heat your home off grid because chopping firewood is not necessary, but you will not be able to run to the store or order wood pellets online during a SHTF disaster.

Unless your state laws or home insurance policy prohibit it, always opt for a traditional wood log burning stove. By attaching a copper coil set up to the wood stove (and likely to a wood cook stove, as well) you could generate your own hot water even after a complete power grid failure.

3. Fireplace

There is nothing quite like the bucolic and tranquil image crackling logs in a fireplace musters up, you will need multiple fireplaces on a single floor to achieve the same type of heat output you would garner from either a wood cook stove or a wood burning stove. If you build or purchase a cast iron or wrought iron tripod and cast iron cookware, you could make one-pot dishes and boil water in a fireplace.

If relying on a wood burning stove to keep you warm during an emergency disaster, make sure to purchase an extra grate and door insulation cordage. The ash pan beneath the wood burner should be emptied daily during heavy use to avoid a fire and unnecessary wear on the grate.

4. Propane Heaters

A propane heater can warm a room quickly, but will not broadcast out the warmth like either style of wood burning stoves or even a fireplace. Proper ventilation must be a top priority when running a propane heater to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning… and death. If you plan on using one or multiple propane heaters indoors during an emergency disaster, invest in nominally priced carbon monoxide (combo units that also detect fire are recommended) and copious amounts of batteries. You will have to stockpile propane to keep the unit pumping out the heat.

Any emergency heat unit that is fuel by a non-renewable source can leave you vulnerable to exposure and illness when the stockpile is ultimately depleted. We have a large propane heater that is filled up twice annually for about $350 to $500 per fill. If you purchase a similar tank and budget for the yearly fill ups, you should be able to expect to have a reliable heat source for six months at a stretch – at least. We have never run our tank completely out before getting the winter time fill up.

Get the most out of your propane heater by using a catalytic heater version with a ceramic element. This type element allows the propane to burn more along the lines of hot coals in a fire instead of a flowing flame, and not only saves on fuel but could pose less of a safety hazard.

5. Outdoor Wood Furnace

This type of emergency heat unit will likely tax your survival budget, but will effectively move all of your heating needs off grid. These large exterior furnaces use pre-split logs and must be “fed” at regular intervals to avoid a drastic drop in temperature. Unless your prepper retreat offers ample firewood and you have both the helping hands and manual tools to drop a plethora of trees, you would likely run out of available fuel before a long-term disaster even ends.

An outdoor wood heater like the one pictured above cannot be used to heat your home during an emergency, but it can be placed just outside of a garage, workshop, or other outdoor area where work is being conducted, to help keep the prepper group member from becoming too cold while completing a necessary task – or help prevent livestock from freezing to death during a snow or ice storm.

6. Solar Generator

Any type of generator will allow you to power an electrical heater, but a solar generator will work as long as the sun shines (even during the winter months) without needing to be fed any type of stockpiled fuel.

7. Kerosene Heater

These inexpensive and portable heaters can be used indoors with proper ventilation as well as in garage and outbuildings, as long as all manufacturer’s safety protocols are followed. Like with propane, you will only stay warm as long as your fuel supply holds out – making both styles of off grid heat a great companion heat source but should never be relied upon as your sole source of emergency warmth.

Warming Tips

• Use blankets to seal off any part of the house that absolutely does not need to be heated. Sleeping the entire family in the room with the wood stove or other source of alternative heat source, will allow you to not only monitor the fire all night but waste less of your fuel by closing the dampers somewhat and still remaining warm.

• Do not go in and out of the house any more than necessary, to avoid the room temperature from dropping unnecessarily.

• Do outdoor chores during the heat of the day to avoid becoming chilled and exposing the house to cold air repeatedly.

• Eat or drink something warm before sleeping and layer your clothing and blankets to help stay warm and conserve fuel.

• Place towels or blankets anywhere that a draft is flowing to avoid heat loss, and chilly air.

• All wood is not created equal, and anything that you cut will need time to cure. Hardwoods like oak, hickory, walnut, and locust, will burn hotter and can last all night. Softwoods like poplar and birch, are great to use with kindling to get a fire going.

The most important thing to remember when making plans to heat your home during any type of disaster, it the cost vs. payoff of the off grid heating source, and the availability of fuel.

Buying multiple propane and kerosene heaters to keep you warm during a SHTF event will be far less expensive than shelling out $1,000 to $3,000 for either a wood cook stove or a wood burning stove

Either of these types of heat sources are capable of heating a large space in a relatively short amount of time, cost you nothing for fuel if your prepper retreat is partially wooded, not be dependent upon any type of mechanical components that can easily break or rely upon fuel delivery for use.

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