Heating Post-TEOTWAWKI

While this isn't exactly the coldest time of year, this came up in the question thread below, so I thought I'd give it a go.

Freezing to death is no fun. But what do you do when the magical modern grid goes down and heat is no longer available at the flip of a thermostat?

Man kept from freezing to death for millenia through good ol' fire, and it is your best bet to get through the apocalypse. The hearth, fireplace or wood stove used to be the centerpiece of every home. Generally, homes were much smaller in the old days, so that they could be heated by the single fire. We have giant homes with central heating these days, although we do have the advantage of generally better insulation than in the old times.

So, how can we use good ol' fire to keep from freezing solid? Click below to find out.

Many homes still have wood fireplaces, though the typical masonry fireplace is not a particularly good/efficient heater. Fireplace inserts are available to help remedy this problem -- they basically convert the masonry fireplace to a big wood stove. This drastically ups the efficiency and effectiveness. 

The old wood stove is a popular option, and is easier to insert into an existing home than adding on a big stone fireplace and chimney. There are a variety of designs out there, and prices range from a few hundred dollars into the thousands. Some designs are geared towards cooking, some towards space heating, and others a combination of the two.

As far as wood stoves go, the rocket stove design is popular these days. They are simple and efficient. For heating, the rocket stove is often used to heat a mass of cob masonry, which retains the warmth over several hours. This YouTube video is a good resource, and this book is the go-to guide for heating with rocket stoves.

Wood-fired furnaces are another option, and allow for central heating with wood. These multi-fuel furnaces came up in a quick Google search - they can burn wood, oil or coal. Though I think most wood furnances need some electricity to operate the furnace blower and other systems.

Yes, these all require wood, and they will all produce some amount of smoke. So you will need a stockpile of wood and access to more of it. And if smoke is a tactical concern, you'll have to be smart about when you burn.

If wood burning is right out, then I would look into a propane powered space heater like the Mr. Heater or Mr. Heater Big Buddy and a good stockpile of propane. The regular Mr. Heater will run for 48 to 110 hours on a 20 lb. propane tank, which could get you through several days of off-grid cold. You will need an extra hose to hook up the larger tanks.

Unless you have a small home or a very good heating set up, you'll want to plan to mainly occupy  and sleep in the room with the heat source. Add insulation to the room if you can.

You should, of course, also have warm clothes and good sleeping bags for everyone in the family. These are "hunker down" sleeping bags, so weight is less of a concern. I'd figure out winter lows, subtract another 20 degrees and then buy a heavyweight canvas duck/flanel lined sleeping bag along those lines. Something like the Slumberjack Big Timber; rugged, durable and toasty warm and around $100.