Tips for Staying Warm When the Heat or Power is Out

No home or apartment is immune to the power cutting out, especially during winter storms. Your furnace may also break down on a frigid day, and you may not be able to get it repaired right away. Obviously, dressing in layers to keep warm helps, but there are more things you can do to keep warm until you get your heat back. Here are some tips.

Let the Sunshine in During the Day
If the sun is shining, open any shades or blinds and let the light in. The sun’s rays will help keep the room warmer than any room without windows. The best rooms are ones with windows on a southern wall as the sun’s winter position in our hemisphere will let the warm rays in longer. At night, close them again to slow the dispersion of the warm air.

Keep to One Room and Seal It
You and your family members/roommates should stay in one room as much as possible. Your collective body heat will help keep the room warm longer. Seal any air leaks in doors or windows with a towel or blanket. Run your hand along the edges of windows and doors to feel if cold air is coming through.

You should also keep your fridge and freezer shut as much as possible to prevent the food inside from getting cold as well as reducing what little warm air is left in your kitchen. According to the CDC1, food left in a refrigerator that does not have power will stay cold for four hours. Food in a freezer can stay good for 24 hours (if the freezer is half-full) to 48 hours (if the freezer is full). Once power has been restored, it is wise to go through your food and throw out anything that became hotter than 40°F. A fridge thermometer is a good item to keep on hand in your fridge.

Let Water Run
To prevent pipes from freezing and bursting when you have no power, turn each faucet on and let the water slowly drip out. This movement of water will prevent freezing. This is especially important for rooms where your faucet is on an exterior wall as they will freeze faster than faucets on interior-only walls.

If your pipes become frozen, turn on all your faucets and use an electric hair dryer to warm the pipes. Never use an open flame or any heat source that uses gas. As the pipes heat up and water passes through, the moving water will help more of the frozen water melt and dislodge.2

Use Generators and Other Sources of Heat Safely
If you have a generator, you can use that to temporarily keep the power on in your home. Always keep a generator at least 20 feet from your house to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and always use the correct fuel.

If you have power but no heat, you can use a space heater to warm an area. The space heater should be put on a hard, flat, non-flammable floor surface at least 3 feet from any combustible materials like carpet and furniture. Space heaters are not designed to be used on counters, tables, desks, etc. Never use a gas stove, car engines, or camp stoves to heat your home as they can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.

When the power goes out, your first step should be to contact your local utility company to report the outage. Don’t assume someone in the neighborhood has already made the report; you may never know how far spread a power outage could be and it might only be your home especially if a storm did not pass through. The sooner you report your outage, the sooner trained technicians can investigate, repair, and restore power to your home.


1Food Safety for Power Outages [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]

2Preventing and Thawing Frozen Pipes [American Red Cross]

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