No one likes to be cold, and when the power goes out, having a way to keep warm becomes a top priority. Learning lessons from our great grandparents (or my dad who also grew up without electricity), here are the best ways to keep warm without electricity.
We have a wood stove, which acts as our primary heat source during the winter. Our stove has a glass front which provides some light, and the top is designed for cooking (learn more about cooking on the woodstove here). And like any good homesteading or preparedness tool, it serves three wonderful functions.
If you have a wood stove or propane heat source, then being without power isn’t that big of a deal for you in regards to staying warm. But what if you're in a situation where you need to save your propane, or you don't have these heat sources?
This advice will serve you well not only at home without power, but if you’re out in the elements as well.
10 Ways to Stay Warm Without Electricity
The more body heat we can contain around us, the warmer we'll be. Put a snug-fitting wool hat on your head that fits down over your ears. You’ll instantly begin to feel warmer.
Our body will do its best to keep our internal organs protected, even at the expense of our limbs. This means if you keep your core warm, you’ll also be keeping your extremities warmer, too.
The most efficient material for warmth is wool. It can be itchy, but when it comes to keeping you warm, nothing is better than fur or wool. It was made by nature and God to keep an animal warm and safe when out in the exposed elements and it will do the same for you.
Furthermore, if you're around loved ones, cuddle up and help each other stay warm!
Layering is your best bet. You want to make sure your bottom layer (the fabric against your skin) will wick away moisture. If you sweat in cotton, and then it turns cold, the wet fabric will begin to suck all the body heat straight out of you. Not a good thing.
Many folks like these shirts as their base layer because it wicks moisture away from your body and dries quickly. A wool or wool blend long-sleeved shirt as your next layer will give you a lot of warmth.
You can then layer on a sweater, vest, or coat if needed.
Keep Your Feet Warm
Don’t forget about your toes! A pair of thick wool blend socks (can I get a prize for saying wool the most times in a single article?) will keep your feet warm, especially when paired with a pair of lined boots.
Of course, indoors, you probably won’t need the boots unless you’re in freezing conditions for a long period of time.
Keep Your Hands Warm
Gloves are another must. I really like this pair of wool fingerless gloves with the mittens that flap over (similar to the ones I'm wearing in the picture above, and double bonus, they have a place for heat packets!). This way, I don’t have to take off my gloves when I need to chop wood or use my fingers for a few minutes.
I don’t know about you, but I tend to fumble everything with gloves on, my fingers just don’t work right in them, but if my hands are freezing, it's also hard to use them!
We like to keep a box of these little handy pocket warmers. They have hand, toe, and even body warmers so you can pick the best size for your coldest parts.
There's nothing worse than needing to go check the animal's water, only to come back to a cold house! These will certainly take the edge off.
Don't underestimate the warmth of a good blanket, especially, can you guess it? wool blankets or a nice heavy quilt. And as any good homesteader and pioneer lover, there is nothing better than a nice thick gorgeous quilt for cuddling up under. Or having on the back of your couch or even folded up on a ladder because it just looks all kind of vintage cool in your living room when you’re not using said quilt.
You'll be even warmer if you share body heat (see tip #1). So cuddle up under that blanket with your spouse or kids.
Although the though of not being able to sprawl out while sleeping makes me feel slightly claustrophobic, not freezing will get me past that pretty quickly.
The design of a mummy sleeping bag will keep you warmer as it traps body heat. This sleeping bag is rated for 0 degrees and is your best bet on cold nights when you need to hunker down.
A Hot Beverage
A hot beverage will warm up your hands and your insides, by raising your core body temperature. There's nothing like a bowl of hot homemade tomato soup and tea to keep a body warm.
This is provided you’ve been following along in our preparedness series and have a well-stocked pantry and stored purified water on hand to heat.
We purchased this little stove for under $15 and it works great for boiling water or soup.
You should never ever run an outdoor cooking stove inside a house or use charcoal to keep warm. It can be deadly. Don’t do it!
But, using one outside to boil water for hot chocolate or tea, or brewing my favorite coffee is a great idea.
This may seem obvious, but I can be almost shivering in our house and then do a 30-minute workout and be warm in the same clothes and temperature for over an hour.
Some jumping jacks and high knees will warm you up in as little as five minutes!
Terra Cotta Heaters
Another option for heat without electricity for your home is a tealight terra cotta heater. Now in full disclosure, I’ve never used one. As stated, our woodstove does a fine job of heating our home.
This is an interesting article on not only how to make a terra cotta heater, but how it held up in their home when the power was out and it was below freezing outside.
I have to state the obvious here, please be extremely careful when using any kind of open flame in your home, even a candle like a tealight. Never ever leave it burning unattended.
(Bonus) Go Out!
Last, but not least, we have a bonus tip for how to stay warm without electricity and that's to go to a friend's home, neighbor, church, or red cross shelter that has heat (as long as it's safe to travel).
Did I miss anything? Tell us how you stay warm when the power is out in the comments section below.
More Posts You May Enjoy
- How to Stay Cool Without Air Conditioning
- How to Use a Generator During a Power Outage
- 30 Day Preparedness Resource Page
- How to Cook on a Wood Cookstove
- 6 Things to Do For Fun When the Power is Out
- Off Grid Living: What You Need to Know
- 11 Ways to Cook Off-Grid Without Power
- Cast Iron & Dutch Oven Outdoor Campfire Cooking
- How to Make Beeswax and Lard Candles at Home
Do you have any ideas on what to use instead of wool if you are allergic to wool?
Could you wear a base layer that isn’t wool, so the wool isn’t touching your skin, and wear the wool on top?
I teach winter tent camping in north Wisconsin….we only wear silk as the first layer…feet; silk socks, then battery wool socks…hands: silk glove liners and then battery wool gloves with the fold over part to choose between fingeress glove to mitten…the head; silk liner and then battery wool hat with ear fluffs. legs and torso first layer silk rated for the temp.
What is battery wool?
Silk and down are great alternatives.
How about a one of those silver mylar “space” blankets? Cheap and effective.
Any 100% natural fiber like silk or cotton. Silk is often used for long underwear as it fits well under clothing and it insulates. And of course…layers. Layers leave small air spaces between layers which create excellent heat retention.
Have you tried Llama wool or baby Alpaca (it’s not as scratchy) they sell it in skeins on the internet for people who knit. Also there’s synthetics like thinsulate and battery powered clothing that plugs into 12volt in your vehicle to recharge. 🙂
Keep everyone in one room, isolate that room with blankets over any doorways, and keep your heat concentrated to that one room. You can also pitch a tent inside, and keep everyone in there, to concentrated body heat. Be sure to cover windows/doors with blankets to keep out any drafts. Don’t forget the importance of adding humidity to the air for comfort as well. We supplement with kerosene heat, and keep a pot of water on top of the heater. Bonus, add some herbs and your house smells great too.
Also, if you have area rugs move them to the floor of that one room you’re sheltering in for extra insulation on the floor.
Joan, thanks for that tip!
Agree with most of this but would open shades on sunny windows and cover them when the sun retreats. The sun adds a lot of heat even when the temps are low.
Solar is always a good idea, and while the mylar space blankets aren’t a bad idea and many folks have them, I personally would rather invest in wool.
Bubble wrap is a good insulator around windows, and still lets the light in, I have tried this around a glass door and it worked well.
Melanie Ann Berchtold
Mylar sold in little packages is thin and short, so unless you have several they are best for small spaces. They will keep what is inside the about 70 degrees, so work in brutal heat too. The kind that comes in a roll that they give to runners may be a consideration. One could ask for them after the race and recycle them for emergency use.
Styrofoam hold heat for a long time. I would recommend insulating a ⛺ with Styrofoam
Styrofoam hold heat great also sand put sand in a metal pot over a fire for short time. The sand will generate heat for hours
We do this daily due to our southwest facing home. All windows are swung wide o pi en BB to allow sunlight band heat in winter. The Dog loves it!
My typical base layer in the winter is silk long-underwear. It is incredibly warm and pretty thin, which is nice to have a non-bulky layer. I tend to do winter time hikes in the snow and ice and it makes a huge difference. If I get overheated, I have not noticed the silks getting cold or damp. Might be a good option if you are not able to wear wool.
I love this series Melissa! Cant wait to see what topics are up next!
Oh, my, I want some! I didn’t even know they made silk long-underwear. Thanks for the tip! And I’m so glad you’re enjoying the series, me, too!
It doesn’t even need to be long underwear. I have several long sleeved t-shirts made of raw silk that I use for layering in winter. They’re multi-purpose in that I can wear just a silk top when it’s not too chilly.
Great tips! I usually toss a pot of water with herbs on the back of our wood stove in the cold dry weather. Pine needles make it smell festive.
Is your last Monahan and were you raised in S. Florida?
Line your room with emergency blankets. Those are the $1 mylar-kind of blankets that are all shiny. If you line one room’s walls with these, you’ll have a very warm room. Ask me how I know, lol.
Thanks, Tracey! I have a feeling you’ve been without heat and electricity…. 🙂
I am currently living with no heat and all this information is reminding me of the things my mother did when we had no heat when I was 7. Thank you very much.
Polypropylene (not sure of spelling) underwear for a base layer. It takes the sweat away from your skin and you’ll be warmer longer. I use it while deer hunting and ice fishing in northern Wisconsin. It’s the best thing going. Also mittens are better than gloves for keeping warm and heavy hunting boots will keep your feet toasty. Remember, if you can keep your head, hands and feet warm, the rest of you will be warm.
For those allergic to sheeps wool, alpaca wool does not have any lanolin. It is supposed to be warmer too. I have never noticed any sweaters for sale made from alpaca, but I have seen the yarn for sale at farms and farmers markets. A good knitting project for when the power goes out!
I, like Kenna, love my silk long underwear. You can get turtlenecks as well as crew necks for the tops. Because they are so thin, I’m sure you could wear both and top it with 100 percent cotton turtleneck and sweater. I love natural fibers because they breathe and I stay warm without overheating. I also love my flannel lined pants, but unfortunately the newer ones seem to be made of lighter weight cotton–more like dress pants.
Thanks for that info! I had read that lanolin is what most people have issues with, too.
I was wondering where the best place is to find silk long underwear. I like the idea of wearing them, or a long sleeved shirt,to sleep in.
I am fighting lyme disease and I’m always just freezing in 68° temps. Or I wake up sweating around my hair, chest – many wet cotton t shirts in the morning …
I’ve worn the t shirts for working out in, the ones that say they are wicking away sweat, but I still have that wet neckline thing going on.
Thanks for posting this.
This one has pretty good reviews and a good price on the silk long underwear! http://amzn.to/2ditcyI
I buy long sleeve silk shirts at the thrift stores. Their value is missed by many and can be found under a dollar. They come in many colors with collars, usually the only thing that shows. Happy hunting. Don’t forget to shop for others.
When I was in the army, there were nights that were so cold you didn’t really sleep. You kind of just meditated. When all that blood goes to your core it puts a crazy amount of pressure on your bladder. And you guessed it. Had to go pee every hour. Which was a blessing believe it or not. I had an old canteen that I “relieved” myself in. Because you don’t want to get out of your bag and lose what body heat you have, and 2, it’s the only warmth you’ll get cuddling that bottle. Gross? You bet! But it kept me alive. Of course, only the army will give you 5 grand worth of kit, and then you you’re not allowed to use it during training. Much to the dismay of a group of young soldiers clinging to anything above 32 degrees. You on the other hand, will probably be better prepared. But hey. If you gotta survive the night. There ya go.
Hi Melissa, great tips! My husband is wheelchair bound, and in our Canadian winters we needed to find a safe, effective way for him to shelter in place if his van stopped running or he was stuck somewhere. Without the engine producing heat a vehicle can be deadly while waiting for help. We bought (and use) a Coleman propane catalytic heater that runs on the 1 pound green bottles of propane. It is designed for use INSIDE but with the caution that it uses oxygen so one must allow fresh air to come in. It does not produce carbon monoxide. There is a manual that comes with it and it is a device to use with caution. However, as a paramedic I would encourage others to look this up, do your research, and invest in a similar or same product if you spend time on remote highways and/or harsh climates. I have used mine when camping and it is part of my winter travel kit in my truck. Caution: do NOT use heat generating devices if you do not know or understand their proper use!
Number 7 is out for me as I’m claustrophobic! Wish I could get one as I know they are warm. Grammyprepper also has a great idea. By closing off rooms not necessary, you condense the heat in areas that need it. I do this every winter, close off the upstairs. I also put a few of those dehumidifiers up there to help prevent mold issues from the cold air.
I have even thought about getting two tents, one small the other larger to help with fending off cold in the house.
Silly, maybe, but have you ever seen the movie “The Day After Tomorrow”? I first watched it during a cold 19* ice storm. NOT fun, but pretty informative.
Great tips from all. As things get closer to the ‘end’, electricity failures and such will become more and more the norm. Having plans in place for this type of ‘disaster’ is going to be needed. Thank you for all your informative posts!
loved the article! But I can’t seem to subscribe!
What seems to be the problem when you subscribe so I can try and help? I’m glad you liked the article.
I have put bricks in our chimney with a wire rack ,so we could warm water for tea, coffee or hot chocolate. It worked well for us!
Thanks for that tip!
Make yourself a canopy bed like they did back in the day before they had wood stoves. Thats what I did, the outside air temperature can go as low as it wants too, even below freezing. I’ll be as warm as 70 degrees (or warmer) inside my canopy bed. All without using any heat sources other than body heat.
Great advice. I’m going to try them all tonight!!!! Thank you
I have used the terra-cotta tea light heaters they’re awesome. But I found that a three wick candle worked much better. I bought 6 inch unglazed terra cotta pots the matching water saucer contains wax spills and heat as well and the pot feet. Rested the pot feet on the saucer edge and turned the pot upside down I put the 3 wick in the center of the saucer it’s lavender scented. You want the short wider three wick so it gets oxygen and stays lit. Put the pot over amazing how well they work. My family owns a rennisance fair, I work the ticket booth, we are in UT open in May, we can still have snow or summer weather. Last year rain and sleet. Used 2 in the booth worked well we also found some flat round rocks and put on top to heat up then put them in our pockets. Oh and we had lots of hot chocolate and coffee, the booth has a generator for the square registers. I also use these heaters in my room and kids rooms (I have teens wouldn’t recommend this for smaller children), so I can turn the furnace down in the winter.
I’ve actually made two of the terra cotta flowerpot heaters. They barely work for hand warmers. Forget about warming a room with them. We actually set up temperature gauges to see. It was 55F in the back room and we checked the temperature 2 feet away from the pot, 6″ from the pot, and the pot itself. The pot itself was about 92F, and the temp 6″ away was 55. We tried adding more votives under the pots, no difference.
Thanks so much for the info Jane.
it was interesting for us to learn we are related to Laura. We have a copy (unfortionately) of a letter she wrote (verified) that we were able to trace to one of three brothers whom she referred to as cousin. what a treasure
That is so cool and what an awesome thing to discover. I’ll try not to be jealous at all.
Hi Melissa. Yesterday, I was feeling cold, so I covered myself with a blanket while curling on the couch 😀 And in a recent winter I used a special rubber container and filled it with hot water and placed it underneath my feet in bed to help my feet get warm and to fall asleep 🙂
Love it and hot water bottles or even hot bricks/rocks (back in the pioneer days) were used to keep warm. Great point!
I’m definitely getting one of those heaters thanks
We got caught at our cabin in a snowstorm and set up our tent inside a shed, insulated it with blankets and we did have cold rated sleeping bags. We also had two dogs and two cats who joined us in what my husband now calls “the snuggle of life”. We used our only gallon of kerosene the night it dropped below zero to 15 below. Several weeks later we emerged slightly dehydrated, rather claustrophobic but otherwise ok. I should mention that the highest temperature we experienced was 32 degrees.
Wow, Carol. So glad you guys were prepared and stayed warm!
a few more suggestions.
they make liquid heat packs that are reusable, or re chargeable by simply boiling in water for 5 minutes, that we have used to preheat scouts, who were shivering, sleeping bags in an attempt to stave off hypothermia.
hotsnapz and heat wave are just 2 brands available.
Also high calorie meals and snacks, fuel for the body to generate heat, are all we allow the scouts to plan when winter camping.
I do love the wool products myself and have encouraged many others to use wool products to keep warm.
All in all a great article
Great suggestion, Jim! Thanks for sharing and good point on higher calorie items
I was out of electricity for 4 days with temp down to 40 degrees inside. I took a free standing outdoor umbrella and draped a bolt of fabric over it making a tent. Blankets would work too. I placed it in from of my gas fireplace and placed a sofa inside to stay warm. The blower didn’t work with no power but it stayed very toasty.
So glad to hear you stayed warm Patti and thanks so much for sharing
Being in the electrical business, I am not sure I can encourage these ideas, but I still love them. Thanks for sharing!
Roger, I totally appreciate your honestly. lol
I’ve tried the terra cotta t light heater. It does work, but only in a small room. But keeps hands warm. One thing I do is set up my sterno chafing pans and fill with water. The steam adds moisture to the air which warms it up and you can cook canned goods like soup and stews, hot water for tea or drip coffee.
Melissa, you mentioned putting a pot of water on your heater.
I have a gas heater, it’s one big black box with vents across the top to let the heat out. When the heat is on off, you still get enough warmth to dry some washed items on to “air dry” w a little help.
In the summer the pilot has to be turned off because it does add to the heat here in California.
I really like the idea of putting water on top in the winter.
The heater looks about 3 feet tall and wide. I could easily put a pot of water on it.
Does that help with your breathing? Dry skin? I am fighting lyme disease and my skin is so dry 24/7.
Just wondering the benefits of water on top of a gas heater.
And does anyone know if those types of heaters have a filter or anything else that needs changing every year ?
I’ve never had a heater like this one before.
I just know that this house is full of dust – every where.
I don’t feel well in the house, breathing.
When I can get out, and breathe fresh air, I feel much better. However, w lyme disease you can’t just stay out all day. You need a clean place to live and breathe in.
Every one does. But with lyme you are much more susceptible to mold,spores,dust mites, and all the creepy things in our air.
I use the water on our wood stove and it helps keeps moisture in the air, which helps when it’s really dry out.
Try some times merino wool long underwear, the are mutch nicer than anything with man made fibers. A other wool addict and lover of swanndri
frances Van den Bergh
Hi there Melissa. When growing up we use to put bricks in front of the fire place and when we went to bed we would wrap them in newspaper and a towel or two, place them at the bottom of the bed and it acted as a water bottle and kept the heat for a long time. Kind Regards, Frances from Sunny South Africa
Lovely tip Frances!
Thanks Melissa. Good info. I live in the mountains in Arizona and I am always amazed at the flatlanders who come up here in the winter are so unprepared. I’m a semi-retired pastor who loves the woods and now, wool! I think I’ll go by a sheep and start from scratch. You do get the prize for wool mentions! Blessings
Because canning salt is so processed there’s not the minerals left in it like sea salt. You can use whatever salt you want, but sea salt has more vitamins in it, therefore the good bacteria has more to feed on and more to feed your body. Hope that helps
Thanks David and if you get a sheep I totally want to hear about it!
ever since I found you on the internet; I just love all of the tips and things you write about. I’m new to canning and I think its a blast. I know some people think its to much work but, I’m one of those folks who want to do my own food up so I know whats in it. I’m also sodium restricted do to high blood pressure. This is another way to keep an things.
thanks for all of the great tips
I love hearing other people think the work is worth it,too and that you enjoy the site and tips.
What a life I envy you.
Ways to Keep Warm Without Power | The Prepared Homesteading Survivalist
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Great article especially here in Canada. There are a lot of people who need this up front and in their face. Yesterday, In Northern Alberta, the gas lines froze leaving many residence without the convenience of heat for many hours and some, without the back-up of a wood stove. So many people rely on a steady flow of convenience they are oblivious to “What-if’s”.
Today we have a balmy -26 compared to -42 yesterday evening. Both my husband and I dress for the weather, (layers like you described). I can’t wear wool due to allergies so I pile/layer on more soft cotton knitted fabrics while out walking. Another alternative is Alpaca, or Angora if you can afford making your own sweaters out of it. Nice stuff.
I use mylar blanket that way I’m toasty and don’t sweat by morning plus I sleep all thru the night because my body temp is regulated. Try it. For $1 blanket you have nothing to lose
As much as I agree with the whole using wool in every way possible to stay warm. I am so allergic to wool I would rather freeze than itch my skin off my body. Great ideas though totally agree. 🙂
Thank you for sharing your knowledge! I appreciate your explanation about the ads, and the reassurance that they are items you trust. Definitely giving you the Wool-Gathering Award for most mentions of wool in a short article! 😉
Lol, wool sometimes get’s a bad rap but it’s great stuff and I like your sense of humor
This really isn’t relevant to your post, but I wanted to let you know that your pop up isn’t working. It’s coming up, but looks wonky and you can’t read what it actually says. I would really like to be added to your email list though, if possible! I am loving everything you write so far!
I’ll have to check it but filled it out for you so you’re on the mailing list now 🙂
Please subscribe me
You can often get 100% wool sweaters, etc. at the thrift stores very inexpensively. Also, learn how to knit, even if you only accomplish making a few scarves. They will be very useful.
Learn how to make and use a rocket stove. It must be used outside, but if the weather is mild enough, you could make some good meals or just boil water with it.
Study how our ancestors lived without electricity. You will find some very good information.
sally s smith
Love the conversation! My 2 cents worth is down comforters are great. We spent 7 months in an unfinished Amish shed in 2015/6, and the down was so great. Also fan of wool, I spin and weave and knit with the spun wool. It is very easy for me to get more wool, as I ask at farms and houses with sheep and they usually just give it to me (these are non wool folks who throw the wool away. Some even call me from year to year.
Keep up the good work! (we had a kerosene heater in the shed and kept a tall pot in front of it for hot water. Lowest temp was 17-in NC)
Cashmere is extremely warm and lightweight and I don’t find it itchy or irritating, like other wool. I buy used cashmere at thrift stores. It doesn’t matter if there are holes etc as I’m using for warm layering, not looks
Please sign me up. Thanks!!
Hi there I’m fascinated by your website. Although not as cold here in the UK. There are possibilities of power loss this winter due to global conflicts so all you guys tips are appreciated. Would love to sign up to your website. A novice servivalist(Ann)
Love your info
There’s a big caveat on using the terra cotta pots and tea lights—— most clay flowerpots get too hot that way, and can explode! Friend of mine’s son got badly injured that way.
Many thanks !
Love your post! Also had a nostalgic moment with the photo of you holding the mug in your kitchen with your metal bread box in the background, my grandmother had the same one, thanks for the memory 😊
Another way to stay warm is to set up a tent inside the home, body heat and breath will keep the temperature warmer inside than the rest of the home. I am very grateful for my wood burning stove. For those that don’t have that, a tent and the terracotta heater with candles does work. I had a heating repair man tell me that is all he uses. You can use a big aluminum roasting pan to put all the candles in. Closing doors and only trying to heat one room will. make a big difference.