Staying Warm (or Cool)

How to Stay Warm in Cold Weather and Climates

Most gas furnaces and all electric furnaces won’t work in a blackout.(The gas furnaces need electricity for the fans.) Use some combination of the following to keep warm:

1. In warmer parts of the country where it doesn’t get too cold, you might be able to manage with layers of shirts and pants, sweaters, coats, wool hats and scarves and gloves. You’d also need many blankets.

2. You can make an emergency “igloo” by draping enough blankets over a small kitchen table and huddling underneath. Or if you have a pup tent, you can set it up indoors.

3. If you live where it gets extremely cold, you might choose to super-insulate one small room where you live. There are several advantages of insulation over most heating options: You don’t have to spend money for several months of heating fuel (whether wood, fuel oil, kerosene or coal). There’s no fire danger if you use body heat or heated bricks to stay warm. You won’t be adding to air pollution (wood and coal fires generate a lot of particulates.) Using insulation also doesn’t let others know of your presence or level of preparation, as smoke from a fire would.

4. If you have no budget to buy insulation, you can make insulation “walls.”

To make an insulation wall, these things should be purchased or collected ahead of time: old newspapers (a stack about three feet high), two large sheets of plastic that are 1-2 mils in thickness (often used as a disposable drop-cloths for painting), a can of spray adhesive (either artistic adhesive or car undercoating adhesive), and the standard small plastic bags that people commonly get when they shop, and some duct tape or clear packaging tape. Here are the materials for the insulation wall, partially constructed:


Directions to make one insulation wall: 1. Crumple and ball up ten two-page sheets of newsprint and put in a small plastic bag, then tie the bag shut. (Don’t use the heavier paper inserts. You might save them for fire fuel.) You will probably need a stack of newspapers about 3-4 feet high. Fill about eighty bags this way. (This will take about three hours.) 2. Open up one sheet of plastic, usually at least 8 feet by 12 feet. Spray a small amount of adhesive on it. 3. Start laying the bags on the sheet, leaving about a five inch border. (These will eventually be sandwiched between the two sheets of plastic.) Although round, pack the bags fairly tight against each other so there are no large air holes. Spray a little adhesive so the bags stick to each other, as you go. 4. Ball up more double-page sheets of newspaper, and squeeze them into the gaps between the plastic “balls.” This prevents air flow between the plastic balls and makes the insulation wall a better insulator. 5. Spray a coat of adhesive over the top. 6. With one or two other people carefully lay the top sheet of plastic on top, and then tamp down so that the adhesive sticks. 7. Staple or duct-tape the five-inch borders together, so the paper balls don’t fall out the side of the sandwich, and so that there is no lateral air-flow.

If you don’t have enough small plastic bags, 13-gallon bags could probably be used along with the standard small plastic bags, by using string to create two or three almost-round compartments for the newspaper, but I haven’t experimented with this. (I originated the insulation wall design.)

Uses: You can sleep under one of these (except for your head, since it doesn’t breathe) Or you could take two walls and use one rope or long cord, to make an A-frame tent for sleeping. (Use blankets to close off the open sides.) Or you could use one or two draped over a table to make a much warmer ‘igloo.’ Or you could use five or more to insulate a small room, by either attaching to the walls and ceiling, or building a frame within a room and attaching to the frame.

TWO CAUTIONS: This insulation is highly flammable, since it’s made with paper. DO NOT USE ANY HEAT SOURCE WITH OPEN FLAMES. DO NOT SMOKE OR USE CANDLES. Also, do not make your room or tent so air tight that there is no flow of oxygen for breathing. LEAVE A SMALL OPENING AT LEAST, FOR AIR FLOW.

5. If it gets very cold where you live, consider purchasing a extreme temperature sleeping bag. For about $100, you can purchase a bag that can keep you comfortable down to 0 °F, and you can be okay in it down to -25 °F.

6. Alternative heat sources.

Most of these alternatives will put your budget beyond bare-bones preparation. Most also require vigilance against fires.

a) Chimneys are usually not very efficient, but wood-burning stoves usually work well. You just need to store enough wood.

b) Off-grid solar or wind energy. This requires an array of storage batteries for when the sun is not shining.

c) Packing a lot of people in the same semi-insulated room and using body heat. This may be necessary for those who have no other options, but may lead to spread of disease.

d) Caves or certain underground structures may be an option, since the Earth’s temperature is about 55 ºF. The corner of a basement if insulated may do better than the rest of the building if there is no heat.

e) Kerosene or gas heaters. Not generally recommended because of fire hazards, carbon monoxide hazard, the storage space needed for fuel, fuel cost, odor, and danger from burns.

f) You can wrap heated bricks or stones in a towel and then bring them into an insulated room or pup tent (or put under a blanket) for some heat. This doesn’t provide a lot of heat but can increase your comfort level. (Details: use firebrick or rocks that won’t explode when heated, put in fire to get heated, push out of fire, pick up with oven gloves, wrap in towel over and over, and carry in bucket or with oven mitts still on.)

Staying cool without air conditioning

Options: Wear thin, cool clothing. Plan to siesta or be inactive during warm part of day. Open up windows when it’s cooler to let in cool air, and close windows during warm part of day. Use insulated room to keep out heat. Drink plenty of water. Moisten clothes or drape a moist towel around neck, since evaporation causes cooling. Work or stay in shade or part of house away from sun. Find a basement or cave area, again because of the 55 degree underground temperature.

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