Written by 3:41 pmSurvival

Survival Heating: The Ultimate Guide

Photo of a Woman drinking tea and a man warms his hands next to a campfire

It might not take much to leave you without heat – a particularly bad snow storm or a fault with the lines might put you in a situation without warmth, just when you are in most desperate need of it.

Luckily, there are many other ways in which you can create your own heating system with the tools within your home. More than anything, it is important to prepare, prepare, prepare. No one assumes the worst will happen to them, until it does.

In this article, we have compiled the ways in which you will be able to survive the cold weather when your heating system fails you.

10 Steps to Surviving in Cold Temperatures with Survival Heating

If you know you could be in danger of having your heat cut off, there are some things you might want to consider now so that you can be prepared for whatever might come your way in the future. Some people might not consider the steps below as something to prioritise – but even just the smallest thing can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. These are ten crucial steps for anyone who is at risk of extreme weather – like blizzards or ice storms – and are looking for ways to make it through alive.

1. Understanding Movement of Heat

A key step for survival in cold weather, before doing anything else, is trying to understand how heat moves in your home. Understanding the movement of heat will help you warm up your home far more efficiently. For example, if there are some oddly shaped rooms or halls in your house, that will hugely affect the way your house is heated. A great tip for understanding heat movement in this way is by taking temperatures at different heights in different rooms, by the doorways, etc. This might also aid you in finding out where the draughts enter your home – even though some draughts might be able to help you push warm air into your house, it is better to try and limit draughts altogether.

One way to minimise draughts in your house is to insulate your windows and walls. This is a great way of minimising heat loss. You can insulate your windows by attaching plastic wrapping to the glass. You might also want to look for cracks either in the walls or windows, and to fill any cracks with caulk to form a seal against the cold.

If you have a basement, it might be a good idea to also get this insulated. Any heat pumped into your basement will naturally get wasted as the heat will want to rise.

2. How Does Electricity Contribute?

It is likely you own heating systems with varying maintenance, but the problems with this complicated systems is that they will probably be using a lot of electricity. In a situation of a blizzard or snow storm, amongst many others, your electricity-powered system could be in danger of major disruption and so your heating system will too.

One of the best things you can do to prepare is to have a heating system ready that doesn’t require electricity, and will last you a long amount of time.

3. Prepare for a Power Outage

Ice, snow, or even extreme wind can cause real problems for power lines and can prevent them from operating. It might be a good idea to prepare for the colder months now, by stocking up on rechargeable batteries which can also be stored away, or by purchasing a generator. This will be very useful in the event of power outages to use with your electric heaters when there might not be any power for them.

You might benefit from also considering alternative heating tools and other forms of fuel, and how you can make the best out of using them. In the event of electricity failing during power outages, there are other ways you can warm your abode.

4. Have Alternative Fuels on Standby

There are some alternative fuels for you to consider, which can be created from cheap materials found around the house. You can use these materials for different heating methods, depending on what you have lying around in the case of an emergency.


Using newspapers is one of the cheapest forms of fuel you can use. You can take anything made out of paper, such as newspapers and then tear your material into shreds. After that you soak your papers in water to make it soft, so for a few days. You will then be able to squeeze the water out of this to form a brick-shape which you would burn just like a wooden log. They are extremely effectively fire starters and will come in handy if you have no access to wood. They usually last a long time when they begin burning and so are a great source of fuel in the case of an emergency.

A newspaper log for burning


To get the best out of candles as a source of fuel, you would do well to purchase candles in a range of shapes and sizes to use in multiple locations within your home. Even small candles like tea lights can still be useful, but make sure to use these candles safely and take any precautions to prevent a fire. Make sure that you do not place any candles in the pathway of a draught – we want to avoid a dancing open flame as best as we can.

Candles are a lot easier to make than some people might think, and you can make them from anything with wax or fat in it, like vegetable shortening, butter, etc.


This is another cheap form of fuel you can purchase. It is easy to purchase and then store it away for future use and is a great emergency heat source. It also has little undesirable effects on the environment, unlike fossil fuels, and are very energy efficient.

5. Build a Heating Device

There are several heating devices you can build to help you heat your home – below are some examples.

Candle Heater

This is a heater that can either be purchased or made at home. Candle heaters can be created with zinc-free washers, bolts and nuts, or from clay flower pots. It is very important you pay attention to the metal hardware. Zinc-free is absolutely crucial, as, when heated, metal containing zinc can produce fumes which are toxic.

After about an hour of heating, your candle heater will be hot enough to warm food and drink in bowls which can be used in heat – make sure you remember to put a saucer cap on top of your flower pot candle heater.

An example of how to make a Candle Heater

Alcohol Stove

This is a great and reliable emergency, DIY heater, as it uses cheap alcohol for fuel and runs for a lengthy amount of time. This handy device will give off a lot of heat from quite a small amount of alcohol so be careful with how much you add at a time. They are a handy little stove, and are easy to use which is a major plus. Simply put the fuel into the stove and light it up, place your pot directly over the stove and wait for the water to boil. When the weather is extremely cold, it might take a little longer to bring your water to boil, but nevertheless it will still be able to work effectively.

They are a wonderful source of heat which can be used safely indoors – however, there may be some risk when it comes to using your homemade alcohol stove, so ensure all safety measures are met to avoid any dangers of fire.

Alcohol Stove

Propane Heater

This heating device might be more costly than your rubbing alcohol, it is nevertheless still very useful if you find yourself in an emergency situation. Many propane heaters come with a small propane bottle, and works at a high pressure. It is important to remember that, if you are going to purchase a propane heater, that you get a propane heater which is approved for indoor use.

An example of a Propane Heater within a house

6. Consider Other Systems

Depending on how quickly you need to assemble a heating system, there are several other backup systems you could consider if you have more time. It’s good to remember that there is not just one method for heating your home – there are many different ways and this is the time to find out what works for you.

Compost pile

If you can assemble a medium-large pile of compost, you will be able to produce a great amount of heat, enough to heat waterpipes. To use this effectively, you will need a plastic pipe filled with water. You will be able to get the heat from the compost pile into the house if you connect the plastic pipe into your house, pump water around your room and back to the compost pile.

Solar Heating

If you live in an area which is very sunny – or even if you just have a sunny spot on your roof – you might be able to take advantage of this. By using a solar can heater, you will be able to generate some heat – this handy device only needs an insulated box and a glass cover. Inside, arrange some plastic pipes and then you can either choose to run the water through the pipes, or just let the hot air from within the pipes *vent* into and through your house.

This is yet another great trick for having hot water readily available, even in situations where there might be none.

A DIY Solar Can Heater

7. Keep Your Wood Dry

It is absolutely crucial to keep your pile of wood as dry as you possibly can. To do this, especially if you live in an area prone to severe weather conditions, it will be best to keep a lot of wood near to your home or under shelter.

You will be at a major advantage if you keep your wood close by, chopped and ready to use. It will also be very useful if you are able to find a space within or close by to your home to store as much wood as possible in. By using your readily made wood in a wood burning stove, you will be able to efficiently heat your house – and by keeping your wood in constant supply, your wood stove will provide heat for you long term.

An example of how you might keep a woodpile dry

8. Carefully Manage Fuel

There are ways in which you can manage your fuel consumption. One of the more passive ways of doing this is by keeping all of your windows shut – especially at night. It is important to also let in as much sunlight as you can, so keep the shades or curtains open during the day.

Weathers can get extreme and with that, fuel lines could potentially freeze too. It is important that you understand how to keep some fuel ready to use indoors. Make sure you do this safely and take any precautions to prevent a fire.

When you are really desperate, you can always use warm food or drink to keep your core body temperature in a stable state. Sometimes, it is not always possible to use the methods outlined above, so the smallest things can go a long way when they are needed.

9. Keep an Emergency Survival Kit

Keeping an emergency survival kit is a pretty key step if you find yourself worried about the potential dangers of extreme weather. If you are a prepper, then you might already have your own emergency survival kit. It is not too difficult to compile a kit of useful tools, as you will be able to find most – if not all – of them around your house.

Your emergency survival kit could include items mentioned above – rubbing alcohol, candles (plus a candle heater), matches or whatever you have that could enable a fire.

In extreme situations, you might also be able to use a tent – you can pitch it within your home and camp out in your living room to help reserve as much warmth as possible. It is also important to keep a lot of water and food (especially food that can be warmed) to help you stay hydrated and energised – especially if you need to stay indoors as much as possible.

10. Understand Conduction, Convection, and Radiation

We’re not here to give you a science lesson. We are here to ensure your survival in extreme conditions, and for that, it is important for you to understand how you can use conduction, convection and radiation of heat to prevent as much warmth as possible from leaving your body.


You need to find ways to prevent heat being transferred from your body. One of the best ways you can do this is by using thick blankets, or a sleeping bag. Anything that comes between you and the ground is a great way of keeping you warmer by reducing the heat lost from your body.


Heat is easily lost from the body when the skin is exposed. Even if you might have covered up a lot of your body with a blanket or sleeping bag, that still leaves a considerable amount of you exposed to the elements. In order to prevent convection, use scarves, hats and gloves to cover up remaining skin and help keep as much warmth within your body. It is crucial that, in an emergency, you try and retain as much body heat as possible.


Heat is also going to radiate from your body and so you need layers to trap the warm air. Clothing layers are vital in reducing the radiation of heat off your skin.

Conduction, Convection, Radiation Diagram

We have included a simple diagram for you to better understand how conduction, convection and radiation works with our bodies and what we can do to try and prevent ourselves from losing body heat in extreme weather.


We hope you have found this article useful, and that it will help you get through the tougher times. Like we suggest, there are many things for you to consider in helping you get through the extreme weathers. The most important point to take away from this is to prepare as much as you can, as early as you can. In a winter storm, you will want to go outside as little as possible, so it is important to keep any devices or material you want to use close at hand – whilst also maintaining all fire safety measures.

Stay warm and stay safe this winter.

If you still have any further questions, feel free to leave a comment, or consider the frequently asked questions below.


How can I heat my home in an emergency?

There are many ways you can heat your home in an emergency. A great idea is to either build or purchase an emergency heater, like a kerosene heater or candle heater. Propane heaters are also a great source of heat, but are often a bit more costly. Alcohol stoves are usually a cheaper option to achieve similar results. In an emergency, any source of heat – no matter how small – will be useful. Be sure to keep windows shut to trap in as much heat as possible and to minimise heat loss. It might be wise to purchase a CO2 detector for your house as well – in an emergency you will be turning on heat sources and keeping windows shut, so there might be a danger of CO2 levels rising.

Is it OK to leave a heater on overnight?

It is dangerous to leave a heater on overnight. Though it may be tempting in order to stay warm as you sleep, but leaving it on overnight, or even unattended, could potentially lead to a safety risk or fire.

How can I heat my cold room without a heater?

There are other ways in which you might be able to heat your cold room without access to a heater. You might want to consider getting your windows and walls insulated – though this might be quite costly, you will reap many benefits from this in the long term. Try to block out any draughts you can by working out where they come from and blocking their passage. Make sure you have some alternate fuels on standby – such as wood or paper for burning, but only use this if you can ensure it can produce heat safely and not cause a fire. By using your wood in a wood burning stove, you will be able to heat your room efficiently and easily.

What is the best secondary heat source?

A fireplace, a wood burning stove or even an electric blanket are great secondary sources of heat and are ideal for warming up more targeted areas of your house in order to save on cost. They are great heat sources for you to use in order to stay warm as they don’t require the maintenance or cost as the larger primary sources of heat. This is also a really useful way to heat the rooms within your house that are potentially cooler than other rooms, whilst also not costing you very much.

However, it is important to remember that, whichever secondary heat source you choose to help you heat your rooms, you should never leave them unattended

How can I prepare for winter weather?

It is always best to prepare as early as you can. Get your windows and walls insulated if this is possible, and try and work out where the sources of draughts are. This will help you figure out how you can prevent and minimise the draughts coming into your house. If you have a basement in your home, it might be very useful to get this insulated as well – basements naturally waste a lot of heat energy as any heat in it wants to rise.

It is a great idea to start piling up on fuel sources, such as wood. If you are thinking about building up your wood pile, get your chopped wood either under some shelter to keep it dry, or as close to your home as possible to prevent you from being outdoors too much when the extreme weather hits.

When it comes to your survival, no method of heat retention is too small or too silly. Stock up on winter clothing, like hats, gloves, scarves, and especially weighted or electric blankets. This will help retain as much heat for your body and will focus the heat on the part that matters most – you. Anything that helps you stay warm is crucial for the winter.

How do you keep warm in survival craft?

One of the most important things to remember is to dress properly. If we can understand how heat is released from our body, we understand that we can dress a certain way to trap it before it escapes so that it keeps us warm. Weighted blankets, or sleeping bag, are great ways to put something between you and the ground to minimise heat loss. You will also want to wear normal winter clothing, such as hats, scarves and gloves to have as little skin exposed to the elements as possible. This will help you retain body heat. You can also make use of your emergency survival kit mentioned above – you can put whatever you feel is appropriate in your survival kit, but we suggest a candle heater, candles and matches, as well as plenty of water to stay hydrated, and food which can be warmed.

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