When Power Fails: How to Stay Warm Without Electricity

The most wonderful time of the year is here! But among the cookies, caroling, and Christmas cheer, that bitter winter chill and those frigid blizzard storms are beginning to blow in across the country.

Cold weather is hardly concerning when the heater is on and you’re bundled up with blankets. However, what happens to you and your family when the power suddenly stops? You might think it will never happen to you. But the truth is, no one is safe from surprise power failure.

When the cold comes, preparing for that possibility is crucial. Keep reading for tips on how to stay warm without electricity. This season could be the one with consequences; will you be ready?

[Related Read: How One Family Made It Through the Snowstorm That Shut Down Texas]

A male and female sitting on a couch covered with blankets.

Dress for Disaster

That same rule you apply to hiking and camping trips should also apply as you prepare for winter power failure: dress in layers.

Your body heat is the most precious heat you can preserve in a cold-weather crisis. Once your body temperature begins to drop, your chances of developing hypothermia start to rise.

Consider wearing these clothes, or at least keeping them close, when a winter-weather emergency is on the horizon:

  • Start with long, thermal underclothing.
  • Then, put on fleece-lined leggings or pants, as well as another top. This should be thicker than the thermal underclothing, but not quite as thick as a sweater.
  • Next, slide on some socks. Avoid natural fibers, like cotton and hemp; they absorb sweat and leave your feet wet. Choose synthetic fabrics like polyester, nylon, and wool for stronger moisture-wicking and drying capabilities.
  • Add a pair of insulated pants, a warm sweater, a heavy jacket, a thick coat, and if braving the outdoors, a set of waterproof snow boots.
  • Be sure to remember a hat, scarf, and some gloves as well, all made from synthetic fabrics.

As important as it is to add layers when the weather is frigid, it is just as important to take layers off. Too many clothes can cause overheating, which will lead to sweating. Without the appropriate fabrics and materials, sweating will leave your clothing wet; and that is the last thing you want when cold weather comes. 

But enough clothing or too little, there are even more ways you can have the upper hand when it comes to your body heat. Using emergency blankets, sleeping bags, and tents made from reflective material will trap your body heat and keep you alive.

A modern living room with a green couch, wood coffee table, and other decorations.

Designate a Small, Warm Room

Your body is the smallest and most essential space you need to keep warm in the cold. The next priority? The immediate area around you.

Stuck at home during a storm that’s knocked out power, aim to contain the whole gang in one single, small room. Keep in mind that smaller areas are easier to heat than larger ones.

Look for these features when choosing the right room:

  • If possible, pick a south-facing room. It may not be warm outside, but a room with south-facing windows will soak up the sun and bring in some heat.
  • Avoid the basement. Opt for a room upstairs, on the top floor of your home. Remember, heat rises!
  • A room with carpet is best. Carpet is an insulator, keeping the floor and everything on it warm. If your only option has tile or wood flooring, be sure to cover it with blankets to keep the cold at bay.

A hand repairing a window with a leak on the side.

How to Prepare the Rest of the House

Even when contained to one room, there are other parts of the house you will need to access in an emergency, such as the kitchen and bathroom.

Here are some things you can do to retain heat throughout the rest of your home:

  • Before the cold comes, prioritize making sure that the areas around windows and doors are properly sealed. If there are any leaks or openings, use caulk to fill and seal them. 
  • If there are blinds on your windows, keep them closed for additional insulation. Only open them when the sun is in sight to let the sun warm the room. Just be sure to close them once the sun passes.
  • No blinds? Use blankets, plastic sheets, or bubble wrap to block the windows.
  • Hang heavy blankets over doors, hallways, and exterior doors, especially those with glass.
  • If there are air conditioning units that cannot be removed, cover them.
  • Invest in draft guards for all doors, especially exterior doors. This will keep the cool air from coming in and the warm air from going out. Use blankets, towels, or old clothes to create makeshift draft guards if needed.
  • Use thick blankets, rugs, and even mattresses to cover floors without carpet.
[Related Read: 10 Winterization Steps You’re Overlooking]

A solar-powered generator running a microwave on the kitchen counter.

Have the Right Equipment On Hand 

Scrambling around the house to find insulation options is one thing, and it certainly works. But your family will be in a much better position with the appropriate equipment and gear at your disposal.

You might think that having items like an oven, stove, and heater aren’t possible when the power is out. In actuality, you can access all of those appliances and more, even when your connection to electricity is shot.

Be sure to stock up on these essential pieces of equipment to prepare for winter storm survival:

  • To keep the household running as normally as possible, invest in a solar-powered generator. The Grid Doctor 2200, for example, can power kitchen appliances, washing machines, routers, lights, and even electric fences. For smaller jobs, the Grid Doctor 300 is an especially affordable alternative.
  • Heat is your lifeline in a cold-weather crisis. However, you may not have a fireplace or functioning stove, and starting a fire in the house is not a great idea. With the VESTA Space Heater & Stove, you can keep warm and cook your food both indoors and without power. Just slide in some canned heat and get it going.
  • A stove is an essential, but so is an oven. Extend your emergency meal-making options with the Ember Oven. Another self-powered tool, this oven runs on fuel you find on the trail, like sticks, leaves, and pinecones. You can use canned heat, charcoal, and fuel tablets, too. If you can use your in-home oven, you can use this one just as easily.
  • Fire starters make fire-starting faster, easier, and more reliable. Use an option like InstaFire Fire Starter to light a fire in your fireplace or to start your stove. Having some waterproof matches on hand wouldn’t hurt, either.
  • Long-lasting hand warmers are another valuable item to keep in stock for winter storms. Put them in pockets, gloves, socks, and shoes!
  • Though already discussed above, here’s another reminder to pile up on blankets, sleeping bags, and tents. The more reflective and insulated, the better.

A young family eating emergency meals in their white kitchen.

Eat the Heat

Just like mom always said, lots of warm liquids are the secret to surviving a bout of the flu.

When you’re feeling cold—whether you’re sick or well—eating and drinking warm foods and liquids can do wonders on raising your body temperature.

Here are some of our tried-and-true favorites that are sure to warm you up:



[Related Read: How to Protect Your Food and Gear in Winter]

A self-powered space heater and stove. It is black and placed on a wood table.

Rise Up to Combat the Cold

Power loss is a frightening possibility at any time of year, but it can be especially concerning when the weather drops to freezing temperatures.

But now that you know how to stay warm without electricity, you will be prepared for those sudden winter storms, infrastructure failures, and other cold-weather disasters.

Keep following along for essential survival tips. What are you doing now to prepare for winter worries? Tell us in a comment below!

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1 comment



Each fall my family spends a Saturday preparing and making sure ALL of our emergency supplies, tools, generators, lights, food, heaters, water, etc. are ready, at a moments notice, to keep our family, friends, and neighbors warm and safe. A small price to pay to be ready when the power fails.

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