🔥 How To Survive An Extreme Power Outage

Dear Rich Lifer,

This winter, millions of people in southern and midwestern states were without heat and electricity as a result of Winter Storm Uri. 

Snow, ice and sleet knocked out power lines in states like Louisiana and Mississippi, while in Texas, more than 2.7 million Texans were without power as frigid temperatures and unprecedented surges in electricity demand triggered a state of emergency. 

Residents were urged to turn down their heat by their utility companies in order to keep power grids running. Sadly, there were still 24 deaths reported due to carbon monoxide poisoning, hypothermia, and house fires related to the storm.

One question many residents had was why they were being asked to turn down their thermostats to stay warm? 

It’s counterintuitive, but the short answer is it saves the power grid from complete failure. If your home still has power, it might seem harmless to crank up the heat. But on an already overtaxed power grid, every little bit of electricity counts. 

Because central heat actually relies on burning natural gas for “heat,” most of the energy used is to blow air around your home. Compared to other home appliances like your dryer and dishwasher — and, critically, heat blankets and space heaters — central heat uses far less power than these energy hogs. 

That means lowering your thermostat just a bit (to the 60s) could mean the difference between having a little heat versus having no heat at all. 

This advice sounds overly simple, but in the case of a strained power grid, it’s the most economically sound thing you can do.  

But you’re probably wondering, what happens if the power grid goes down anyway? Then how do you stay warm? 

Below are some of the best low-cost warmth hacks we have pulled together from all corners of the globe. Keep these tips in mind when the next winter storm warning arises. 

Build Your Home Base Upstairs

You’ve probably heard people say “heat rises.” While this statement is true, it’s only half the story. When heated air expands, it loses density and colder air falls to the floor which pushes the warmer air up due to the buoyancy effect. 

If the power goes out in the dead of winter, first, designate one room as your home base. Ideally, this room should be away from doors and windows. Second, choose somewhere upstairs so you can take advantage of this heat rising principle. By establishing a home base upstairs and in an isolated room, your chances of keeping warm have now just increased. 

Always Ask What Is the “R” Value? 

R value stands for resistance to heat flow. Whenever you put a piece of clothes on, ask yourself, what is the R value of this particular item? 

Thick materials have higher R values than thinner materials. Any material that’s particularly good at trapping air, like fleece and wool tend to have higher R values. The small air pockets formed in these materials prevent the flow of heat. 

It’s the same idea behind fiberglass insulation in your walls and ceilings. These tiny air pockets are life savers. 

Understand and Avoid the “Cold 70 Effect” 

Ever wonder why you still feel cold even in a 70-degree room? Although your exterior walls, windows, and floors might be as warm as 70 degrees Fahrenheit, your body’s temperature hovers around 98.6 degrees. 

You begin to feel cold in a 70-degree room because your body is radiating heat to these colder surfaces. This effect is known as the “Cold 70 Effect.” 

If you want to stay warm, you’ll need to combat the Cold 70 Effect by doing these three things: 

  1. Avoid cold surfaces – the more you can avoid, the better. 
  2. Insulate to increase your R value – warm slippers offer better insulation than socks and bare feet, plus, the thicker they are, the better their R value. Wear gloves and boots since these are nerve-rich surfaces. If you keep them warm, you’ll start to feel warmer in general. 
  3. Duck and cover – if you can’t avoid the Cold 70 Effect, try to at least cover your neck and head with a sweatshirt. This will increase your R value and protect these cold-sensitive parts of your body. Warmth stunts the body’s response to shiver, which can lead to a more comfortable experience. 

Keep Faucets Running, Not Dripping

If you want to avoid any burst pipes, make sure your faucets are running, not just dripping. Keep cabinet doors open under sinks in your kitchen and washrooms to notice any drips. Also, if it’s too late and your pipes start to freeze, use a hairdryer to thaw frozen pipes, never a torch. 

Never Run a Generator Inside

The American Red Cross says to never run a generator inside a home, basement, garage, crawlspace or any partially enclosed area. Use flashlights in the dark, not candles. And even though it’s really cold, keep your refrigerator and freezer doors closed if you lose power.

Avoid Burning Cold Wood

Since you’re reading this, we expect you’re already planning ahead. If you have a fireplace and access to plenty of dry kindling and firewood, one trick we learned is to store any extra wood indoors if possible. It’s much easier to burn warm wood than it is cold wood. So store extra firewood inside your house and it will be easier to light. 

Use a Thermos to Keep Warm Liquids Hot

During rolling blackouts, boil water and put it in a thermos. Do the same thing with coffee and soup. This will of course depend on how long the rolling outage is but try to plan ahead. 

Leave one light on at night so you know when the power is on or off. As soon as you get power, boil water and make coffee or store the boiling water in a thermos for later. 

Final Thoughts

The National Weather Service issued some pretty common sense tips on keeping the house warm, but they’re important to share nonetheless. Keep these top of mind when the next winter storm rolls in: 

  • Close blinds or curtains to retain some heat. Maybe even throw an extra quilt over a breezy window.
  • Close off rooms to avoid wasting heat.
  • Stuff towels or rags in cracks or under doors.
  • Eat often to continually provide your body energy, which helps keep you warm. And be sure to hydrate, but avoid caffeine and alcohol.

To a richer life,

The Rich Life Roadmap Team 

 

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