emergency heating and cooling {Disaster prep day 11}

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Today’s post, as part of the disaster preparation series, is to consider how you would stay warm or cool during a power outage.

Are You Ready We’ve had a few heat waves in Australia over the last few weeks. And while some of us down under have been experiencing record high temperatures, our friends in the northern hemisphere have been experiencing record low temperatures.

Without power, either extreme can potentially be fatal.

And it doesn’t take a disaster to cut the power. Last week, during highs of 43°C in Victoria, one power company cut the power in a couple of towns for an entire day to do routine maintenance on the grid.

How do you stay cool when the mercury has climbed to 43°C and you have no power?

At the other end of the thermometer, last year a blizzard cut power to 650,000 homes and businesses in North America. While we don’t have to worry about temps getting that low in Australia, when it gets below 0°C (heck, when it gets below 10°C) it’s not fun trying to stay warm without heating.

Here are some tips for staying warm and staying cool without electricity. What are your tips? Why not share them in the comments below?

preppers go green

There are plenty of things you can do to make your home stay warmer in winter and cooler in summer. Installing adequate insulation is one thing you can do. Sealing gaps around windows and doors, investing in heavy curtains and putting into practice other solar passive design ideas are a few more ideas for improving the efficiency of your home.

These things will not only save you money on electricity day to day, they will help keep your home warmer or cooler during a power outage.

Alternate heating sources

Besides the obvious idea like extra woollen jumpers and blankets, snuggling for shared body heat and letting the sun’s heat in during the day then closing curtains and doors to keep it in at night, some other alternate heating ideas include:

Kerosene heaters. There is some debate as to whether kerosene heaters (and lanterns) are safe to use indoors. They do (like gas appliances) off gas carbon monoxide, so adequate ventilation is needed. They are also, of course, a fire hazard and they get HOT, so common sense is needed when using one.

We had friends who ran these heaters all winter when we were kids. Sure, there were a few burnt bare bums getting dry after a bath. But that was the 80s when stuff like that wasn’t as big a deal.

You can find some tips here on using kerosene heaters. Don’t forget to keep some extra fuel on hand.

Wood stove or fire. If you have one. These also provide light and a way to cook food. Don’t forget to store extra wood.

Gas heaters. Like this one. Keep in mind that propane gas also emits carbon monoxide, so you need to be very careful when using gas indoors. People can die of carbon monoxide poisoning during disasters from gas heaters and cookers, but especially generators. The heater linked to above has a low oxygen shut off.

Alternate Ways to Keep Cool

Unlike heating, where you you can invest in an alternate source of heat, or just rug up, it can be difficult to stay cool without a fan, especially if you are rationing your water. Here are some ideas for keeping cool without electricity:

  • If it’s safe to do so, leave the house and find a shady place, preferably near water so that you can benefit from the cooling breeze that comes off the water.
  • Go for a swim if it is safe to do so.
  • Block out the sun using heavy curtains or by placing towels or blankets over windows.
  • Open windows and doors on opposite sides of the house in the evening to create cross ventilation drafts.
  • Cook outside if you can, to reduce internal heat gain.
  • If you are not restricted in water use, you can place a damp sheet over open windows or doors to cool the air down as it blows in. This doesn’t work in places that already have high humidity.
  • Have a bath or shower (assuming you have no water restrictions). Alternatively, use a spray bottle to keep your skin cool.
  • Hang out in the coolest room in the house.
  • Dress lightly and avoid heavy work or strenuous physical activity.
  • Stay adequately hydrated.
  • Dip your hands (up to your writs) or your feet in a bowl of cool water.
  • Use a hand fan.
  • You could also invest in a battery powered fan like a tent fan. I haven’t tried one of these, so I don’t know how effective they are. If you’ve used one of these, let me know in the comments if they work well.

Staying cool or staying warm during a power outage is often more about comfort that survival. But when the power goes out during record highs or record lows, that’s when it starts getting dangerous, especially for the very young and the elderly. So it’s important to consider these scenarios and prepare before they occur.

The great news is that ‘greening’ you home is a great way to stay cool or warm without electricity and should you never have a power outage, you will still be better off because you will be reducing your energy bill and saving money!

What are your tips for staying warm or cool without electricity?


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