January 26, 2014

Warming up to new ideas for heat

When the Ice Storm struck our region in January 1998, my wife and I were able to survive five days without power because we had a wood stove and a shed full of firewood.

While others were forced to huddle in emergency shelters or overpriced hotel rooms, we survived quite comfortably on our supplemental heating source.

Since that time, however, we’ve moved to a new house that is heated entirely by electricity.

Every winter since, there comes a time when my wife begins to fret about potential hypothermia.

“What if the power goes out? What will we do for warmth? What will become of my babies?”

Usually I just shrug and say that the ruthless efficiency of the Plattsburgh Municipal Lighting Department does not allow for prolonged outages.

Still, with yet another stretch of sub-zero days this past week — thus scientifically disproving global warming — it does seem like a good idea to prepare for the worst.

What can people do if the power goes out or they run out of heating fuel and they don’t want to leave their home or purchase an expensive generator?

Do not attempt to warm your house with your car’s exhaust or a gas stove or charcoal briquettes. Fortunately, there are numerous safer and easier options.

The most obvious is to burn stuff, mankind’s oldest method of heating. Assuming you don’t already have a fireplace or wood stove, it’s perfectly acceptable to set a roaring fire in your living room, or convert your electric stove into a wood stove. This may invalidate your homeowner’s insurance, but you won’t need a permit unless you plan to burn outside.

Books, boxes, furniture, trash, bedding, carpet, shoes, paintings, socks, certain musical instruments and hardwood floors can all be set aflame to provide life-giving BTUs of heat. Warning: some home electronics can explode when deliberately set on fire. For safety’s sake, please set your fire inside a ring of stones or bricks or leftover holiday fruitcakes.

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