Winter ushers in Christmas and New Year’s Day which are times for fun and celebration. Unfortunately, winter is also the time of year when the weather can take down power lines or overstress a furnace resulting in a breakdown. So what should you do if it’s cold outside and the heat stops?
Being prepared is always a good idea. Having a power generator, a kerosene heater, a toasty fireplace with plenty of wood or a wood/pellet burning stove, are all great ideas. Unfortunately, having ready sources of backup heat is not always an option, and many of us are caught unprepared when the furnace goes silent. What should you do to stay warm while waiting for the repairman to come?
The first thing to determine why the furnace stopped. Is it due to a power outage? Call the power company and find out how long you may be without power. Knowing what you are facing helps you plan the actions you should take. If the problem is with the furnace, call an HVAC repair service. Once again, determine when a service provider will be able to come out and do the repair.
Next, assess what you have to keep warm. Gather blankets, sleeping bags, winter clothing, and any warming aids (chemical hand and body warmers) that you can find. Do you still have hot water? Empty glass bottles make great warmers when filled with hot water.
Insulate to Keep the Heat In and the Cold Out
Wear layers of clothing to maintain warmth. Start with a base layer, ideally thermal underclothes. These garments are designed to trap air against your skin to keep you warm. On top of the thermal underclothes, add a wool sweater or thick sweatshirt. For the legs put on denim jeans or wool pants. This second layer should be breathable fabrics that still allow airflow. If it is extremely cold, top off these clothes with a jacket or coat – a garment that “seals” the heat. Remember your extremities so add gloves, scarves, a woolen hat, ear muffs, and even boots.
Drink Warm Liquids
Ingesting warm liquids in the form of tea or soup helps the body stay warm. Staying hydrated will help the body generate the heat required to function. Avoid drinking alcohol because the “warming effect” you feel is false. Alcohol does not contribute to warming the body.
Pick a Room
Is there a room in your house or apartment that can accommodate everyone and can be closed off from the rest of the house/apt? Set up camp in that room. It will be much easier to stay warm together in one place than spread out. Whenever possible, bundle up in blankets, sleeping bags, and extra clothing.
Don’t Block Your Radiators
If your apartment has radiators, they should always be kept clean – any amount of dirt and dust sitting on top of them will absorb some of the heat that is produced. You should also remove any radiator covers when the heat is on, as covers can block the airflow through the radiator in addition to absorbing heat. Move your furniture so that all chairs, couches, bookcases, entertainment units, desks, beds, etc. are not too close to your radiators or heating convectors. Don’t let your drapes or curtains cover them either, as they will divert heat to the windows (and therefore out of your apartment if they aren’t adequately sealed) instead of into the rest of the room.
What Not To Do
- Don’t use your oven to warm the house.
- Don’t use propane heaters or charcoal stoves in the house (or garage). Staying warm is important, staying alive is even more so. Carbon Monoxide is toxic and accounts for hundreds of deaths every winter.
- Don’t use hot showers or baths to warm up as your body temperature will drop to a lower level afterward. When in doubt, stick with extra clothes, sleeping bags, blankets, hot water bottles, and shared body warmth to keep you warm.
Prepare yourself and then have a beautiful, happy, peaceful, and safe Christmas. Enjoy the break and recharge your batteries for work in New Year.