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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Back-up Heat? part 1

   I think we may have touched on this subject at some point in the past but I know I haven’t done a complete post on this yet. As we did discuss a couple of weeks ago, in the foundations post series, we have to have shelter. This is universally recognised and accepted as a basic need. I think we would also agree that a shelter, any shelter, that will keep us dry and out of the wind would be better than nothing. How much better would we be if we took the time to provide a back-up heat source to this shelter now while we have the opportunity?
   This is what we’re going to discuss today, Heat! You all know that we, the “Prepper” family, have our city house in Western Washington State and then our BOL and future homestead in the Eastern part of Washington. These two very different climates require different approaches to handling this issue.
   As preppers we each need to first do an assessment of where we are currently. What are the typical weather patterns that we each can count on throughout a normal year. Does the weather get extremely cold, below freezing where you are? Do you face the potential of a prolonged sub-zero weather event? Maybe sub-zero weather is actually the norm in your area? I know this sounds remedial and I’m often tempted to just shut up and let you all be, no point in boring you with simple minded topics that you all have covered years ago… This is when I remind myself that despite the fact that the weather in North Dakota is extremely cold – EVERY WINTER, people continue to die of these conditions when the power goes out for an extended period of time…
   Another thing that I want to point out is that even in our warmer climates, we get surprise weather events. I’m pretty sure that I’ve been hearing about unusual snow storms in Texas this year? I could be wrong but if you just watch the national news some evening, you will see what I’m talking about. In many of the areas of the country, back-up heat or maybe back-up warmth would be a better way to put it, can be accomplished with several wool sweaters for each member of the family. Only you the individual will know what is going to be adequate for your family.
   Another thing to consider is where you and your family might end up if you were forced to evacuate your current home? Are you going to stay with uncle Joey out in the sticks several hundred miles away? How’s he set for supplying your family? Wouldn’t it be better to plan ahead and offer to bring more than just additional mouths to feed when you show up on old Uncles front porch?
   With all of these preliminaries out of the way and each of us having had the opportunity to take stock of our current setup, lets talk about what additional preps we might need to add!
   The primary approach that I personally plan to and will be focusing on is sustainability. There are several heating options that come to mind that are non-electric. I guess the main choice for long term sustainability would be a wood stove or fireplace insert. There are also very good and even fairly efficient kerosene heaters that I think are a viable choice.  Following this of course would be the host of propane fueled heat sources.
   Just like we all have unique needs depending on our personal situations, we each have a shelter with unique design elements. Does your home or shelter already have features that could be expanded on? Such as an existing fireplace? What about your existing furnace? If you’re already using propane or natural gas, maybe there would be a possibility to setup a power source for the furnace fan and continue to use it.
   Before we look specifically at the hardware options we need to establish a base line of what our desired outcome really is. We may have to accept that we don’t have the ability to heat our entire structure. Possibly we could need to restrict ourselves to only one or two rooms. Is your home setup in such a way to make this possible. Our house in Seattle isn’t setup well for isolating spaces in the main part of the house. We live in a tri-level home and our family room, where the fireplace is, is pretty much open to the kitchen and then the living and dining rooms as well. If we were to try to use the fireplace or a fireplace insert for heat we would have to plan on heating the entire house. It isn’t that our home is overly large but all that air space and the typical high ceilings of the early 90’s doesn’t make for a realistic option.
   Also important is the length of time we think we will need these alternate plans for. Is this a week of cold weather that happens to take out the power grid too? Perhaps this is something more long term or even TEOTWAWKI? You all have probably already pegged me for the worst case scenario guy that I am! Unfortunately, I have financial restrictions just like everyone else! We all have the ideal setups that would be perfect for just about anything that comes along but the finances of someone that will need to make a few compromises along the road to our long term goals. What can we all do to have a system or systems in place to fill the gap, keeping us warm enough to be comfortable? Just like with our approach to food storage, we all need to start somewhere and then we’ll build from there as we have the ability.
   A sensible first step would be the non-electric and non-fueled items. Many of our homes already have this equipment but when was the last time you saw them and inspected their condition? I’m referring to sleeping bags… You already have them in your camping gear, right. Well, that’s often the best piece of equipment, the one you already own! Just having these in the house isn’t good enough, they need to be incorporated into your families plan! That means they should be of the quality and cold rating for the situation you might find yourself in. ‘
   Making this equipment a part of the families preparedness plan means that a new degree of vigilance needs to be taken to assure that they are always kept in the same place and put back there after each use. I don’t know how your house works but if you have children than they are usually needing to drag these bags off to camp or the neighbors house and often they are never seen again. This isn’t the end of the world, it just needs to be factored in to the equation. Maybe, the kids should have a special sleeping bag that is the one that makes those particular trips. This would allow the families supply bags to remain in the house or under your control at all times.
   This might sound a little severe and with your families cooperation might be unnecessary, only you will know what will work for your plan. These bags and the wool sweaters that were mentioned earlier, along with the blankets and other household comforters, etc. could be looked at as the level one warmth replacement preps. It will be important to discuss this with your spouse and family as appropriate so everyone knows that this will be the expected response to lost primary heat.
   As usual we’re just getting warmed up, pardon the pun, on a topic that will need to take at least a couple of days to look at thoroughly. We’ll pick it up again tomorrow and see how much farther we can get…

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