Most Americans don’t realize how much we depend on electricity until the supply is cut off. During the winter no electricity usually means no heat. I get to go through this every few years as ice storms move through the area.
Kerosene Space Heater
When we first moved into our old drafty farm house, we got a kerosene space heater to help supplement the propane furnace. We used it mainly in the living room, and it did a good job of keeping that room warm.
The biggest drawback of the kerosene space heater seems to be the kerosene smell. I didn’t mind it all that much but my wife hated it, but not enough to turn it off. Keep in mind, too, that if the wick is dirty, untrimmed, or just set too high, kerosene heaters will smoke quite a bit.
If the power is down, one or two of these heaters placed in the rooms you use most and then moved with you if you need to work in another room do a really good job of keeping you warm.
Oil lamps give both light and heat when the grid is down. You can burn kerosene in them but they tend to smell like the space heater when you do.
If you have an old leaky metal five gallon bucket, you can punch some air holes in it and turn it over on top of the lantern to make a passable space heater.
The same can be said for kerosene lanterns. Some lanterns can be converted into a burner for cooking purposes also.
Candles are another light and heat producer. They also add a cheery glow that might pick up your mood while suffering through an outage.
We use large three wick candles when our power goes out. They are large Christmas candles that we picked up cheap on closeout after the season. They last a long time and put out more heat than you would expect.
You can make a space heater out of a candle by putting a terra cotta flower pot over it (similar to the five gallon bucket over the oil lamp). There are many sets of instructions and even videos to be found online showing you how to make them simple or complicated.
I have done similar things with a votive candle and a coffee can in a small camper. It put out some heat but not as much as I would like. On this smaller scale I think multiple units might be required.
Taper candles can be burned singly or in groups to give you more light and heat. They don’t last as long as the pillar type but will work.
I am always on the lookout for candles in thrift shops, garage sales and closeout stores.
Coleman Stove and Lantern
While these units will put off heat and heat up a room they can also put out carbon monoxide. EXTREME caution and a good working carbon monoxide detector should be used if you try to heat with them.
Every winter there is at least one story in the news of some family dying of carbon monoxide poisoning. It would be best to avoid them altogether in an enclosed space if at all possible.
A much safer alternative is a catalytic heater that doesn’t use flame to produce the heat. It does however produce carbon dioxide and use oxygen so your room should not be air tight.
Catalytic heaters are available that heat from propane, natural gas, white gas (coleman fuel) and kerosene. This is a really safe and effective product for heating without power.
Safety should be first since it is most important, but I put it last so hopefully you would remember it.
As I said, carbon monoxide is a very real danger and should be foremost in your mind when using any fueled heater that heats with flame.
Fire is the second big danger. If you are using small units like candles or oil lamps it is best to place them up high where they will not be accidentally knocked over and start a fire. The great Chicago fire was started by a cow kicking over an oil lamp.
Also be aware of hot surfaces. They can burn you badly, plus they can also start a fire if they come in contact with something combustible like your drapes.
And lastly, make sure your room is not air tight since all these units will eventually use up all the oxygen in the room if more can’t find its way in.
If you use a little common sense and take some basic safety precautions, you should be able to keep yourself snug as a bug if you lose power this winter.