STAYING WARM DURING A WINTER POWER OUTAGE

Blizzards, ice storms, and powerful winds will strike this winter. It’s impossible to predict just where they’ll hit, but anyone might need to endure cold nights without electricity until utility workers restore power.

Don’t be caught in the cold.

People can survive a few cold days in relative comfort by piling on layers of clothes or snuggling under thick quilts at night. But, even the most well insulated house will gradually cool as soon as a power outage shuts down the furnace. Eventually pipes will freeze, causing enormous damage as water squirts on carpet, furniture, books and electronics. In fact everywhere!

Will your heating system work without electricity? Find out before a blizzard leaves your family in the cold.

If your heating system depends on electricity, now is a good time to install back up heat.

Two ways determine whether the furnace will work. The best is to call your local heating company and ask. Or, turn off the circuit breaker that feeds power to the furnace and give it a try. It probably won’t work. So, get to work protecting your home, furnishings and family.

Winding Pathways encourages homeowners to eliminate the risk of freezing pipes by taking precautions before cold weather arrives. Probably the best strategy is to invest in insulation and to replace old windows that leak cold air. A well-insulated home cools more slowly than a poorly insulated one. But having a backup heat source that doesn’t require electricity is important even in thickly insulated homes.

Electric wires are stretched between poles above ground where they are vulnerable to storms. In contrast natural gas lines are buried in the ground and are immune to storms but vulnerable to earthquakes. The chance of losing electricity is higher than losing gas.

Most modern gas and oil furnaces need electricity to work. It powers blowers that distribute warm air through ducts or circulates hot water to radiators. When a storm knocks out power the furnace shuts down.

Winding Pathways is in frigid Iowa where it can be 25 below zero with high wind for a week or more. A traditional furnace heats our home but won’t work without electricity so we’ve done two things that will keep us, and our pipes, warm.

We hired a professional to install a woodstove downstairs. And all spring and summer we cut, cured and stacked a few cords of wood. We enjoy its cozy heat even when the power works. It reduces our natural gas bill and would keep the house warm without electricity. Woodstoves aren’t for everyone. They require work to cut and stack the wood and maintain the fire. Firewood takes lots of storage space and stoves bring dust and smoke into the house. For those who don’t want to deal with wood heat there’s a better option.

We also hired a company to install two natural gas heaters. One is a fireplace insert. The other is a simple gas heater at the other end of the house. Their blowers won’t work when the power goes off but unlike the furnace they continue to provide heat without the blower. They’ll keep our home relatively warm even without electricity. Similar heaters can be fueled by propane and would be a good choice for homeowners who don’t have a natural gas line nearby. Most heating supply companies sell gas heaters that work without electricity.

When the wind howls, ice pellets rattle against the windows and the thermometer plummets it’s comforting to know that a house has a heat source that will work without electricity.

 

 

 

Favorite Stocking Stuffers

Stocking Stuffers

Stocking stuffers that will see use year round.

As the rush for Holiday gifts gets into full swing, we sometimes wonder how to “fill” those stockings with meaningful, fun and inexpensive stuffers.  Here are some of Winding Pathways favorite items to be prepared for long dark nights and to simply enjoy cozy winter evenings.

Tops for us are flashlights.  I once overheard women talking about how when the power went off one summer night they could not find their way around their own home and didn’t know where their flashlights were.  Wow!

While we are adept at and comfortable with finding our way around our home, yard and even motel rooms in the dark, we always have a flashlight with us to use as needed.

Our advice is: First, learn your home, especially in the dark. Good night vision is important. Second, have handy a variety of flashlights and sizes.  In the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, den, and basement. We have small ones at the bedside, backpacker headlamps that fit over stocking caps and large handheld spotlights in strategic places. Remember to check batteries and have extras where you can get them easily.

We are outside a lot, so we like to have plenty of hand warmers with us.  Several brands are available and some last longer than others.  Some are made to fit into boots and tuck on your back. Anyone who works outside will appreciate a bunch of these. For the winter football fans, you can’t beat the warmers. The paper and mail carriers in your life will surely give a nod of thanks for receiving some warmers. And, those hardy winter bicyclists in your family will love you for including warmers in the stocking.

Because some folks enjoy feeding birds, birdseed and feeders are always great gifts.  Use caution and buy quality seed and feeders.  You will waste money and attract scavengers if you buy cheap seed loaded with milo, the small reddish seeds in a mix.  So, go to a farm store or specialty bird feeding store for higher quality seed and feeders.

A totally practical gift is a weather radio that can be plugged in, run by batteries, or even be powered by a crank.  Just Google “weather radio” and choose the one that fits your needs best. With winter upon us, get one!

Of course, many of us like to simply snuggle down on “long winter nights” and read a book.  Bookstores are alive with exciting and intriguing books for winter reading. One we have discovered and pored over is One Square Inch of Silence by Gordon Hempton and John Grossmann.

Preparing for Winter

Fall is a perfect season to be outdoors. We look forward to the delicate lace of the first frost on our russet oak leaves.

When outside be sure to look up. You might catch sight of a raptor, perhaps even an eagle, way up high catching thermals and moving south ahead of the cold.

Birds migrate, reptiles hibernate, and plants go dormant but people carry on through winter. Fall is the best season to prepare for the blizzards and cold wind to come.

A good friend, Jean Perkins, who is a realtor and helped us find and buy Winding Pathways in 2010, has a list of tips on the Skogman Realty website about how to prepare for the cold season. We’re passing it on and encourage all our Winding Pathways visitors to prepare their home so it’s comfortable and safe in the cold months. Then, they can enjoy all types of weather and seasons.

 

Hurricane Harvey’s Lesson

Images in the nightly news from Houston during and after Hurricane Harvey are heartbreaking. It will take years for flooded communities and families to recover.

Harvey reminds us that disasters can happen anywhere at any time. Some are relatively predictable. For example, tornadoes and hurricanes are most likely to hit certain places during parts of the year.

Other disasters are impossible to predict. We remember that years ago a worker accidentally set a fire that burned an enormous quantity of Styrofoam insulation in the roof of a sewer building near our home. Clouds of toxic smoke billowed out, and the mayor ordered an immediate evacuation.

Fortunately, we were prepared. Within fifteen minutes we loaded our survival bin, sleeping bags, a tent, drinking water and our two young kids in the car. An hour later we were camped well away from the smoke.The next day the fire was out, the air clean, and we were home.

Everyone should make emergency plans and acquire emergency items in case of a disaster that shuts down local stores and utilities or forces an evacuation.

Click on the Preparedness Section of windingpathways.com for specific tips on how to survive disasters and a list of suggested items to stock in a disaster kit.

Sterno – Great for Emergencies

At Winding Pathways we wrote periodically about preparedness.  Usually, it’s related to the potential for seasonal weather-related events. Almost every day someone somewhere suffers damage from a tornado, hurricane, ice storm, blizzard or some other natural disaster.  Sometimes we simply discover an alternative use for emergency equipment. Sterno is one! It’s as simple as a quick way to heat water for tea or coffee while working in the cabin or out camping.

We all realize that when the power goes off it’s helpful to have back up lighting and cooking equipment on hand. Propane and liquid gas stoves designed for camping are ideal for emergencies when the power goes off, but they are pricey.  A lower cost alternative is a “Sterno” stove or equivalent. These are inexpensive lightweight stoves that fold flat and take almost no storage space. They are sold in big box stores that stock camping equipment.

The common fuel for these stoves is “Sterno”, a gel made from alcohol and contained in a small aluminum cup. You pry off the lid, stick the fuel cup in the stove, light it, and it’s ready for cooking. Sterno stoves cook slowly.  They’re not the best for elaborate cooking but are perfectly suited for a few days of light meal preparation until the power comes back on.

We’ve found that fuel cans sold in restaurant supply stores and called “Chafing Fuel” are less expensive than buying fuel in a camping store. These are mostly used by caterers for keeping food warm at buffets, and they work great for emergency cooking, too!  For information go to Sterno Products.

Please note that Winding Pathways has no connection with the Sterno Company. We like their products but have not received money or materials from them.