One of the most critical things we lose, when we lose electrical power, is the ability to heat our homes. Even if you have gas heat, the blower and controls for that heating unit will be powered by electricity. Even gas-fired hot water heating requires electricity for pumps and controls.
Fortunately for us, our ancestors before us had to heat their homes without electricity. This was usually done by burning wood, although coal, heating oil, dung and other materials have been used in different times and places. The big advantage that wood has over any of these (except perhaps dung), is the ease in which we can harvest it from nature, using only a minimum of tools and equipment.
But harvesting the wood is not enough; if we don’t have any place to burn that wood. That means installing a fireplace or wood-burning stove in the home. Of the two, a wood-burning stove is the better option, as it will radiate heat from all sides, whereas a fireplace only radiates it into the home from the front. Any heat radiated out the back usually goes outdoors.
The problem for most of us is installing them into the home, specifically installing the chimney. If you own a one-story home, the chimney only has to go up through the attic. But if you own a two-story one, then you’ve got to find someplace you can run the chimney, where it won’t be going through the middle of a room.
Another option is to run the chimney out through the wall and up the side of the home. While this may not be as attractive, it is effective. It can even be done temporarily during a time of emergency, running the chimney out a window and closing up the space around it. Just make sure the chimney goes at least three feet above the roof, so that the smoke doesn’t come back into the home. Create a fireproof base for the stove to sit on, either out of brick or tile.
But just putting in a fireplace or wood-burning stove isn’t going to be enough. You’re going to need a stock of firewood and it will need time to dry, before you use it. Depending on how cold it is where you are and the type of wood you get, it’s possible to go through from three to six cords of wood in a winter.
Even with that, you’re going to find that the fireplace won’t heat your entire home, but only the room that it is in. In order for it to heat the entire home, you would need an additional set of air ducts, which captures warmed air from your fire and circulates it through the home. That isn’t normally done.
What our ancestors did (except those who were very wealthy) was to heat the main living area of their home and perhaps the kitchen. Bedrooms weren’t heated. Often, the children slept in the loft, which would be the warmest part of the house. If the parents had a private bedroom, the only heat would be body heat, under a pile of blankets, after the bed had been warmed up with a bed warmer. That’s workable, but not what we’re used to.
Adopting the idea of using a bed warmer, as well as a soapstone to carry heat from the fire to various places in the home and wagon, like those ancestors did, is a great survival means of keeping ourselves warm. While it might not be the climate controlled luxury we’re used to, we will survive.