16 Alternative Heat Sources For Power Outages

Power outages are stressful and scary, especially when they last for more than a few minutes. Having to spend days without electricity is especially dangerous when temperatures drop and staying warm is vital. Keep an alternative heat source on hand for emergencies any time of year for safety, warmth and comfort when you need it most.

In this article, learn about alternative heating solutions for power outages. However, keep in mind what else you may want in your home emergency kit like flashlights, backup phone chargers or batteries and matches.

Explore Forge & Flame wood burning stoves and pellet stoves to keep your space heated and cozy even during emergencies.

The Challenge of Heating During Power Outages

Having no electricity creates numerous challenges from charging your phone to making sure food doesn't spoil in the fridge. One of the most stressful problems that comes with it's own challenges is how to keep your family warm. These common issues can make heating problems go from bad to worse.

  • Safety Concerns: Many alternative heat sources without electricity pose a risk of fires or carbon monoxide poisoning, so read all instructions and take the necessary safety precautions.
  • Limited Duration: Since alternative sources of heat rely on another type of fuel like wood, gas or pellets, they can only run for as long as your current supply allows. 
  • Temperature Control: Backup heating sources may not allow for temperature control, so using zone heating is critical in times without power.
  • Poor Insulation: The heat generated during a power outage will not be retained if there is poor insulation in your home. 

The right heating solution can reduce your heating bill and keep you protected all year long.

Traditional and Fuel-Based Alternative Heat Sources

Luckily, there are many options for a no-electricity heater to provide warmth and comfort during a power outage. Most options utilize wood or natural gas as the fuel but we’ll also cover some indoor heaters that don’t require electricity, gas or wood but still provide reliable and consistent heat.

Wood-Burning Stoves

Wood-burning stoves are great not only for regular zone heating of your home but also serve as a way to heat without electricity during a power outage. Even better, some wood-burning stoves have dedicated cooking zones on top, so you can use them for safe indoor cooking without electricity too!

Authentic wood-burning stoves are available in a variety of sizes and design options to fit your needs and living space. Built to last, wood-burning stoves are a dependable, efficient and sustainable option.

Wood Pellet Stoves

Wood pellet stoves use small wood pellets made of recycled wood scraps and sawdust as fuel instead of logs. Some are powered by electricity, but many wood pellet stoves use gravity to feed pellets into the burner, allowing you to heat the home without electricity. Another benefit is pellet stoves do not require a traditional chimney as long as another type of proper ventilation is in place.

Gas Inserts

If you have an existing fireplace and want to upgrade to a more convenient option, a gas insert may just be the answer. Easily heat the house without electricity and instead tap into your home's gas line.

With a click of a button, you’ll have immediate warmth and clean burning heat. Although this option requires professional installation, it is well worth it. A gas insert will fit right into your home, providing immediate warmth and an emergency heating source.

Encore Flexburn Bordeaux fire room 4C
Get to know Forge & Flame and how sustainable heat can bring comfort and peace of mind to your home.

Kerosene Heater

Kerosene heaters use a fiberglass wick and kerosene fuel and are a portable option for a heater without electricity. While they serve as an excellent backup heating source, extra safety precautions must be taken to avoid damage to yourself and your home.

If shopping for a kerosene heater, look for one that is rated for indoor use and only uses 1-K kerosene that you can refuel outside your home to avoid spills. If your kerosene heater is not vented, keep a window or door cracked to the outside and keep a working battery-powered carbon monoxide detector in the space.

Catalytic Heater

Catalytic heaters use natural gas or propane as fuel in conjunction with a catalyst (usually platinum) and oxygen to create heat and radiate it out to your space. As with most heating options we’ve covered so far, you’ll want to make sure the unit is rated for indoor use, in a secure spot and has proper ventilation. 

Biofuel Cans

Biofuel cans are an affordable and compact option to have on hand as an alternative heat source in an emergency. These cans use biofuel so it’s a non-toxic choice with lower emissions than other options. They can be refilled and only need to be lit with a match or lighter to use. Additionally, biofuel cans can be used to heat your space or for cooking.

Learn more about choosing the right wood to burn to have the most heat possible in your space.

Passive and Environmental Sources

Passive heating strategies utilize natural elements like the sun or wind to maintain heat and reduce reliance on your main heating source. Leveraging passive heating techniques is a sustainable and environmentally conscious way to reduce energy consumption and be better prepared for emergencies.

Passive Solar Heating

One increasingly common way to heat a house is through passive solar heating. Heat is captured from the sun via south-facing windows and stored in housing materials with a high thermal mass like concrete, tile or brick.

Utilizing passive solar heating principles can save you money in the long term on heating and cooling but can come with high up front expenses. For the average person, small changes like keeping your shades open during the day and closing at night, is a smart way to achieve some passive heating with little effort. 

Solar Air or Passive Wind Systems

Solar air systems work by using air to transfer the energy of the sun throughout the home to heat it. The installation of solar air systems is fairly complex and usually requires professional help.

Passive wind systems transfer energy produced by wind and turn it into electricity. For a passive wind system, your landscaping choices affect the heating and cooling of your home. A simple row of trees placed strategically could break up cold winds that would normally hit your house and increase heating needs. 

Learn about the 2024 Wood Stove Tax Credit and how it can save you money on a new heating stove.

DIY Alternative Heat Sources

In case of emergencies, some heater for power outage options may be what you need. These resources are not meant to be the primary source of heat, but they can supplement your backup heating source to provide some relief. When attempting any DIY project, take safety precautions and make sure to work in a clean space away from any children or pets.

Build a Candle Heater

A candle heater certainly won’t heat the whole house like some of the previous options but it will provide warmth to a small space in a pinch. All you’ll need are some tea candles, a terra cotta pot and some tiles or bricks.

In a clear space on a table or counter, light a few tea candles and surround them on both sides with a stack of tiles or bricks. Place the terra cotta pot upside down over the candles with the edges resting on top of the tiles or bricks. The heat will collect in the pot and travel to the surrounding space.

Soapstone Heaters

Soapstone is another method that won’t provide significant heat but it will make a difference when used in a single room. Soapstone is a soft, natural rock with a high thermal mass, which means it can absorb and release a lot of heat.

Place the soapstone in front of your heating source for about 30 minutes to absorb some heat. Then turn off the heating source and use the warmth slowly radiating from the soapstone.

Camping Cooking Bags

Originally intended for cooking food while camping, these bags can also serve as an emergency heat source. Fill the bags with boiling water, seal them tightly and place them in areas of the home that need targeted warmth. Gradually, the heat will be released into the surrounding area. Their small size and ease of use make them a nice backup heating option in an emergency; just be sure to handle them carefully and properly seal them up to avoid burns.

Defiant Wood Stove
Keep everyone safe and warm by knowing the best practices for how to burn wood safely.

Insulation and Retention Methods

During a power outage, retaining heat is crucial in keeping you warm and comfortable. Many strategies like sealing all windows and doors with weatherstripping or using heavy curtains to trap heat can be accomplished on your own. Other options like insulating your crawl space or water pipes may require a professional. Read on to learn which methods will help your family most.

Backup Electric Generators

During an emergency where you have no electricity, backup generators can be invaluable. Some generators can be hooked up to your home’s electrical system and automatically kick in when the power goes out, or work directly with an alternative heat source. Because generators are very powerful, use caution when installing on your own or seek professional help to get one installed. 

Home Insulation and Insulate Plumbing

Most energy companies will provide a complimentary energy audit of your home to check insulation, windows and doors and air leaks. If you have an attic or crawlspace, those are common offenders for poor insulation. Preventative measures like insulation improvements to spaces like your attic or your water pipes can go a long way in retaining heat when the power goes out.

Designated Heated Room

If power outages are expected to last a few days, concentrate your heating efforts on a single, designated room to maximize warmth and conserve fuel. Add rugs and weatherstripping to insulate the room and minimize heat loss. Once the room is well-insulated from the rest of the house, add your heating source to warm up the space.

Thick Layered Clothing and Warmers

When the power goes out in the winter, be sure to dress in layers and opt for fabrics like wool or fleece. Keep warmers in your emergency kit for your hands or feet and put them into your pockets or waistband to increase your body’s core temperature.

Emergency Heating Blankets

Emergency heating blankets are lightweight, affordable and a great addition for an emergency kit. These blankets have reflective material on the inside which makes them up to 90% heat-reflective to help your body retain heat and provide comfort in an emergency. Wrap them around your body or place them on top of your bed at night to keep warm.

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Keeping your home warm with a wood stove and zone heating can elevate comfort and peace of mind.

Safety Considerations

With emergency heaters and other alternative heating solutions, safety is critical. You don't want to wait for an emergency to figure out what needs to be done to keep your family safe and warm.

  • Practice Using New Heating Sources: Read the instructions fully and get comfortable with how your heating source works.
  • Ensure Proper Ventilation: All combustion heaters require ventilation to remove the excess carbon monoxide produced. Leave a window or door cracked to help air flow and support ventilation.
  • Store Fuel Appropriately: Especially important for kerosene heaters, store fuel in an appropriate container away from ignition sources and direct sunlight. 
  • Test Carbon Monoxide Detectors: Keep battery-powered carbon monoxide detectors on each floor of your home and test them once a month.

Forge & Flame: Stay Warm With Our Wood-Burning Stoves

The stress and fear that comes from power outages and the uncertainty of how you'll keep your family safe and even fed can be overwhelming. Fortunately, there are many solutions from DIY options like candle heaters or camping cooking bags to supply heat in a pinch.

For a long-term solution, keep your home warm even during the most treacherous events with a wood-burning stovepellet stove or gas stove from Forge & Flame. We combine three iconic stove brands to give you the best product and quality on the market. Shop our entire collection of stoves or find a store near you to heat your home every day and in times of crisis alike.

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