One of the primary considerations we need to keep in mind for emergencies is the benefits of fire. With a proper fire you can keep warm, cook food, sterilize water, signal for help, keep insects at bay, see at night and many more benefits come from fires. But today, we need to restrict ourselves in many cases to fires that may not be so efficient or convenient for our best interests. As a society we have drifted away from fires in the home for many reasons, and that’s too bad. I remember when I was a little kid that on occasion my Dad would build a fire in one of our two fireplaces and we little kids would huddle around the fire, gazing in awe at the crackling logs and glowing coals, as we unknowingly kept warmer than we would have been without that fire.
And then there have been many occasions growing up where we have visited relatives, and there would be a fire in the fireplace, and during the summer a fire in the barbeque pit in somebody’s back yard. And don’t forget the campfires as we enjoyed the great outdoors. For some strange reason I remember this one particular camping trip where we all went camping, except for my mother and younger brother, and when we arrived at the campground it was drizzling pretty bad. The first thing my dad did was to get a fire going in the fireplace, put some water on to boil and after the tent was up make us some hot chocolate. We huddled around that fire on that dark soaking summer evening and the warmth dried us, and entertained us as well. I think without that fire we would have all been miserable campers, instead of happy campers.
With these thoughts in mind, turn to what we have today and the home you live in, and think about your emergency preparedness plans. If the power were to be out for several days, does your home have what it takes to keep you warm, cook your food, sterilize your water and light up your nights? If it does, bravo for a job well done. If it doesn’t, why not?
There are many options today for alternative heating, and most people with a survival mindset already have a plan in place for when the lights go out. Some folks use what is affectionately called a top hat, or kerosene heater. These are possibly the best choice you can make in the way of emergency heating, as you can also cook on them as well. Toyostove, Kerosun, Corona, and Dyna-Glo are all popular names, and they are all similar in appearance and operation. Dura-Heat, Sengoku, and Kero World are some other names on the market as well. So there are plenty of choices available. This type of heater is what is known as a convection type heater.
Instead of taking air from another location and blowing to the area you want to heat, such as in a hot air furnace, these heaters heat the air within the room the heater is placed in. as heat rises from the top of the heater it draws cold air in through the bottom to be heated, and continue the cycle. In this way the temperature of the room becomes consistent throughout the room, instead of having a room with cold spots. With radiant heat, only certain objects in the path of the heater become warmed. With an ambient heater only a small area becomes warmed. These more limited heaters are usually propane or butane powered, and while they work well, they don’t have the same capabilities.
Often times tank mounted, the propane style are radiant, and catalytic in nature, whereby a screen covers the burner assembly, and the flame burns inside a cage like structure. Supposedly this consumes all of the harmful particles of the gas and its burn process. the heat is directed in one direction only, and can be quite effective in smaller contained areas, such as ice fishing shacks and other small shelters. If you desire to go the propane route, there is a convection type heater available as well, and for general use is a better choice. This type of burner works the same as the kerosene fueled convection heaters. One popular name for the radiant propane heaters is the Mr. Heater Buddy heaters. Widely available, these units can be powered by either a bulk tank via an optional hose, and the smaller ones by the one pound canisters of propane you can get in most hardware and camping stores. The biggest unit is claimed by the manufacturer to be able to heat up to 400 square feet, so bear that in mind when shopping for a portable heater.
Another type of heater on the market is the butane powered type. Not widely available here in the US, the butane heater is more popular in Europe. Delonghi and Calor are a couple of well name brands. Butane has a lower BTU rating than propane, so it takes more fuel to do the same job, but on the other hand is a safer fuel. But as a plus, the butane heater manufacturers make some more attractive units that can look good in your home. In my opinion, I would prefer to reserve the butane for small portable stoves and lighting appliances. Their efficiency is much greater in that respect even with the lower BTU rating. Perhaps if a greater variety of butane heaters and larger canisters of fuel were available I would have a different opinion, but in a survival situation, an inability to get fuel for your needs is a critical point, and the lack of bulk butane’s availability removes it from my list of choices for survival equipment.
And herein lies the rub of making your decisions for any type of heating unit. Where is the fuel for it going to come from? When talking about a full fledged break down of the world around you, are you going to be able to call up the oil company and order a tank of oil for your furnace? While localized disasters such as the great ice storm of 98 occur, you are only talking about a short period of time. But there are other problems to contend with as well. A tank of oil for your furnace is useless if you have no power to run the furnace. You have a generator for electricity? That’s a good move, but what will you do when the gas supply runs out?
Long term, your best choice for a back up should also be your best choice for long term use with no commercially available fuel source. That leaves you with little option, and usually means wood. Or in some parts of the country, coal. Wood is a plentiful fuel in most parts of the country, and can be had in an emergency situation for the cost of the labor you put into harvesting it. Of course, the idea of simply going into somebody’s forest and hacking up their trees will rankle some folks, so you have to take care in where you get your fuel from. And if you are really prepared you already own your own woodlot or acreage where any trees you cut are your own.
A wood stove provides an excellent heat source, as well as an appliance for cooking. They can be had new for as little as a couple of hundred dollars, and sometimes used for next to nothing, if you look around some for one. But there are some drawbacks to owning one. For instance, if you live in an apartment building, what are the chances you can install one in your apartment? Thinking about the long term ramifications of this issue puts a different picture on your wall, doesn’t it? Here you are, living in a dinky little apartment with a jerk landlord who has left you in the cold because the world outside came to a screeching halt. No electricity, no fuel deliveries, no gas stations open, stores and supply houses all shuttered because of the catastrophe, what to do, what to do?
If you have a survival mindset, you’ll see what I am saying here and resolve that situation now, not later. But if you are stuck in an urban setting and cannot get a wood stove, at least get yourself one of those top hat style heaters mentioned earlier in this piece. I had one when the ice storm of 98 hit and we were without power for just over two weeks. My house was always in the seventies, and I could cook on top of the heater as well. And this was in the middle of a Maine winter, mind you. While there were no local places to by kerosene for the unit, I did have two hundred gallons of #2 heating oil in my tank for the boiler, which was useless because of not having electricity. It was a simple matter to siphon the fuel out of the tank, into a five gallon jug and used that to fuel the old corona heater I had picked up that prior fall for ten bucks at a flea market.
While #2 fuel is not an ideal mix for those heaters, it does work quite well. I found the wick needed to be cleaned a tad more often, however. Probably due to a higher water content. But if you do have one of those heaters, it would be an easy job of siphoning fuel from anyone’s fuel tanks for your own use. That, of course is illegal to do as you would be stealing from other folks, but in an end time scenario where there no longer is any law, and the homes have been vacated by people fleeing from themselves, who cares?
The point here is that you need to take control of your own destiny and figure out what you need to do to survive in the end times. It won’t be a pretty picture, and there probably won’t be any source of assistance beyond what you, and people around you of the same mindset can provide for. Widespread infrastructure collapse will be a far worse catastrophe than events like Hurricane Katrina was. As bad as that event was, it was still a localized event and help was available from outside the area. With a complete breakdown, there won’t be an outside area to rely upon for assistance. Remember that when you formulate your plans for survival in the coming times.