One of the biggest challenges facing survivors in a so-called ‘doomsday’ scenario – particularly one in which key utilities and resources are compromised – is finding practical ways to stay warm. While there are all kinds of portable heating systems on the market, many designed for use in emergencies, the vast majority rely on unrenewable power sources.
In the first few weeks and months after a major incident, gas and battery power may still be readily available. As time progress, however, there’s no guarantee either will continue to be accessible. In any case, it’s always useful to have contingency plans and staying warm is should be a major priority for you and your family.
Those with an interest in prepping or survivalism may have heard about a ‘revolutionary’ candle heater while browsing for supplies online. This cheap, simple device promises to be the perfect emergency heat source when others cannot be relied upon.
The question is, do candles warm a room? Well, we’re sorry to disappoint you but claims of a candle heater capable of warming a whole room are…ambitious, let’s say. Every room is different, of course, but even a diminutive space with thick insulation, no windows, and no draughts would be too big for this to work. So, don’t go throwing out your battery powered heater just yet. In all practical, realistic tests, a candle heater was not powerful enough to heat more than a small portion of the room.
If you own one of these candle heaters – or you’re inclined to buy one – you can try it for yourself. The candle sits under a small ceramic pot. It’s great for keeping fingers toasty but the heat won’t rise far enough for you to feel it if you pull or lean your body away. Our advice, then, is not to buy any of these candle devices for a prep or emergency kit. Use them as a novelty device only.
One of the best portable heaters that can be used safely indoors is available on Amazon. Click here to get the latest pricing. Nevertheless, we will look at some of the best emergency power sources and further detail on whether candles could be enough to help you keep warm.
Figuring Out How to Heat a Room Efficiently
If you want to figure out the best way to heat a room without gas or electricity, you first need to account for a number of key variables. For instance, does the room have insulation and what is its level of efficiency? What is the heat loss ration from outside? Are all windows, doors and other openings sealed? If not, could they be sealed to maximize heat efficiency?
It’s worth noting another major problem with the promise of candle heaters. To keep as much heat inside as possible, all draughts must be sealed. Yet, candles need oxygen to burn. And you need oxygen to live. It may take a long time but, eventually, the candle will begin to deplete both yours and its own oxygen supply. The truth is, relying on an unventilated fire for heat is a potentially dangerous strategy.
Even if this weren’t the case, a typical paraffin tealight emits just 100 thermal units. If one square foot of space requires 20 thermal units to increase warmth by just one additional degree, you can see how inefficient a heat source it would be. When we consider the fact you probably would need to seal the room – or lose about 80% of your fight for heat – it’s clear the best option is a fuel or power source that doesn’t need to be burned.
Identifying Viable Sources of Heat
In most regions, the most efficient source of alternative power is, by some margin, energy from the sun. It’s totally renewable, low maintenance and very easy to replenish. Plus, it can be used to power all kinds of devices, from radios to space heaters, generators, portable stoves, televisions and lots more. If you don’t yet own any solar-powered devices, we highly recommend shopping for some.
Although, in a bind, you can create a DIY solar heater from nothing more than a little wood, clear plastic, empty soda cans, black paint, and plastic tubing. Or, you can just be prepared and buy yourself an ambient solar heater. They can be a little pricey but, don’t forget, there doesn’t need to be an emergency to benefit from solar power. Use it to save money on your energy bills and adopt cleaner, greener heating habits.
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What to Do When Burning for Heat is the Only Option
It’s worth remembering, no matter how thoroughly we prepare for a disaster or emergency scenario, we can still be caught out. If you find yourself in a dangerous situation and a makeshift heat source is needed immediately, you may end up working with limited supplies. If your only option is to burn fuel for heat, do it. It won’t be very efficient but, used correctly, it will keep you alive until more resources can be found.
The most obvious choice for fuel and heat is organic matter like wood, coal or even cotton materials. They will all burn but take extra care with fuel that’s been sourced from things like furniture, clothing and other household items. Some will release toxic chemicals if burned. Therefore, it’s best not to do this in a completely sealed space.
As already discussed, candles are one of the most inefficient heat sources. However, even they are better than nothing in an emergency. At the very least, they’ll keep your hands and face warm. The same goes for fat based fuels such a lard or cooking oil. They can be burned if you add a makeshift wick but, again, they won’t give out a great deal of heat.
Ultimately, you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do in an emergency. Yes, many of these heat sources aren’t very good ones. They can mean the difference between frostbitten fingers and toes, however, so don’t write them off completely. They may work as an intermediate solution, particularly if there’s an accompanying plan to find a better power source.
Other Ways to Stay Warm and Survive in an Emergency
Whether you have access to an efficient or inefficient heat source, you must take steps to protect yourself until help or additional resources can be found. For instance, if cold is a danger, gather as much warm clothing as possible. Wool, fur and down are the best options but these materials won’t be available to everybody.
If you don’t have access to any of these options, synthetic materials can be DIY-ed to create warm, cozy garments capable of keeping you alive. All you need to do is press layers of crinkled paper – dry leaves if they’re all you have – between each of your garments. Aluminum foil is another alternative if you have no paper or card. This is a tried and tested survival technique. It has saved lives before and it could save yours.
In freezing temperatures, Chapstick or Vaseline can be used as an emergency seal for your skin. Spread it overexposed areas, particularly on the face, to protect them from the worst of the cold. Pay extra attention to your lips, nose, and cheeks. In a very dire situation, you can use lard instead of Vaseline for the same purpose. It’s going to smell pretty bad but it’s surely better than kissing goodbye to your nose.
The most serious scenarios are those in which people get trapped outdoors in very cold conditions. The risk of frostbite and hypothermia is dramatically increased in these cases, so it is imperative some kind of shelter – no matter how ineffective – is fashioned from materials in the vicinity. In this case, any kind of shelter really is better than no shelter. Knowing how to create a basic ‘lean-to’ can be the difference between perishing and surviving.
If you do get caught outdoors in dangerous conditions, priority one is to fashion yourself a makeshift shelter. Priority two, if possible, is to identify a potential heat source. Once you’ve done this (or figured out it can’t be done), the last priority is to conserve energy. The more you move, the warmer you’ll get and the more heat you’ll lose. Insulate yourself with as many heat-trapping layers as possible and stay mostly still but flex your fingers and toes regularly.
Final Thoughts on Staying Warm in an Emergency Scenario
So, we’ve debunked claims basic candle heaters can warm entire rooms in the event of a power cut or gas shortage. Unfortunately, it’s not really true but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use one in an emergency situation. First, take a thorough look around your environment and try to identify a more efficient heat source.
Close up any spaces you don’t need to use to trap the existing heat in as small a space as possible. Seal up the gaps around doors and windows unless your only option is to burn fuel to keep warm. Don’t forget, unventilated fires are dangerous. You’ll have to weigh up your options and decide whether it’s best to seal the space or burn materials to warm it.
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