How To Keep Your Cool If The Heat Goes Out

Amidst the picturesque surprise snowstorm last Sunday evening…


…we woke up to a 58 degree house. Brr. What the heck? Turns out we had run out of oil.

And no oil = no heat. Eeks! The eight inches of gorgeous white powder outside meant no oil delivery for at least 48 hours, so we had to do our best to keep the house as warm as possible so the pipes wouldn’t freeze and burst. Because that would be baaad.

Thank goodness we have a gas fireplace in the den (which independently runs off of Propane) so we fired that baby up…


…and got to work taking a few additional precautions to keep the pipes from bursting:

Tip #1: Close all the doors that lead to rooms without plumbing. The fireplace in the den was warming up the house ever so slightly, and by closing the doors to rooms without pipes, and leaving the doors to the bathrooms open, the heat was being directed into the areas that needed it most (while the bedrooms took one for the team by forgoing the heat for a bit).

Tip #2: Open the doors under the sink in the kitchen and the bathroom. By exposing the plumbing it will stay a few degrees warmer than if the vanity and cabinet doors are kept closed.

Tip #3: Run some water ever so slightly to keep it moving. If your house gets down to below 50 degrees, you may want to run the water to keep it moving which will make it harder for the pipes to freeze. Luckily our house stayed warmer thanks to the fireplace, but we were prepared to turn the faucets on for a steady drizzle in our bathtub and sinks if the temps dropped a few more degrees.

Of course with the doors to the bedrooms closed, our master quickly got fuh-fuh-freezing. And since the only source of heat was in the den, we were forced to whip out our air mattress and sleep in there until our oil delivery. It was kind of fun… like a mini camping adventure at home. But it was really nice to be back in our warm and cozy bed again 48 hours later.


Have any of you ever lost electricity or heat for an extended period of time? Any other tips and tricks to throw out?


  1. says

    We ran out of oil twice in the past month. It was a landlord issue. All I can say is thank heavens for electric blankets. We were super warm in our cold bedroom!

    • Amos Chipotle says

      Yes we simply lit a small fire in a tea kettle with old newspapers and Kingsford charcoal left over from the summer time cookouts. This kept the house warmer until the oil delivery man came and heat was restored. God Bless.

  2. says

    My family lived in an old farmhouse for 10 YEARS that didn’t have central heat or A/C. Or cable. My parents are adventurous, to say the least. It was all wood-burning stove and gas fireplaces for us, with occassional electric heaters when it got super-cold. To this day, a regular heat pump does nothing to warm my toes — there’s nothing as warm as a wood fireplace!

  3. Brandi H. says

    I haven’t, but my mother has. Her house is very old, and has a lot of drafts from old windows. Get’s cold quick. Her pipes froze this winter. She had no water for a couple days, luckily grandmother lives close by, but never the less, very frustrating. She actually called out the plumbers who had to crawl under the house, while it was 10 degrees outside, and the poor guy had to lay under there while holding something against the pipes to warm it up. Mom said he was under there about an hour!! Ouch. Can we say frostbite. Anyway, good to hear you stayed warm, and had some fun while doing so! At the moment, I am having fun reading all of your archives. If you don’t mind, I am going to steal your paint colors. Love them. My kitchen is becoming gentle tide. Now if only I can find such a good deal on some SS appliances. :) Here’s to hoping.

  4. Katie says

    two winters ago an ice storm took down a bunch of trees and power lines – leaving us without power (and heat!) for almost a week. by the 2nd or 3rd day our apt was too cold for us and our pets to stay in it so we packed up and moved ourselves, 2 dogs, and 2 cats to a hotel. it is very difficult to find a hotel that will allow you to bring pets! before we left the house we made sure all of the faucets were slightly on to keep the water running and prevent the pipes from bursting. we also put a lot of our cold food outside since our fridge wasn’t on. Even though it was cold in our house, it wasn’t cold enough to keep the food from going bad. When the electricity/heat finally turned back on, we went back home only to discover that someone had taken all of the food off of our back porch! oh-well, they probably needed it more than we did…

    as a side note, we keep our house at about 62* all winter so sadly 58* doesn’t sound that cold to me :-P gas heat is expensive!

  5. says

    We had the same issue, only our heat is gas and the igniter died. Fortunately, our guy was able to come that afternoon but in the meantime:

    I retreated to our third-floor bedroom and sealed myself in there with a space heater.

    I kept a winter coat, hat, and gloves by the door for when I needed to go into the rest of the house.

    I did loads upon loads of laundry I’d been slacking on — I’m actually kind of glad the heat died. It gave me an excuse to do it.

  6. Angie says

    well, I am from Nova Scotia, and we are king of the ice storms which bring down power lines and knock out electricity often. We had a big snowstorm in November 2004 which knocked out power for a few days. I got prepared by keeping a basket of candles, matches, flashlights, batteries, battery-operated radio and wipes in a basket in the front hall closet. Like you, when we ran out of oil, we had a propane fireplace to warm up, but NEVER let your gas tank run out!! We would cook on the BBQ, keep drinks and food cold in the snow and break out the board games to play by candle light….kinda fun for a few days….

  7. says

    There’s been a huge oil shortage in Europe. Russia has been cutting back on who they’ve been supplying this winter. We are lucky that Germany is high on the list for getting oil, unlike many smaller countries.

    It’s made us hugely aware of our consumption, even in our tiny tiny place of 480 square feet.

    Where I grew up in the US, it was often -50. Dang! Your 58 degrees sounds so cozy… which I know it still totally WAS NOT!

  8. Katherine says

    We lost power here in Richmond during the snow for 2 nights and the house was freezing. (We’ve had worse–once it was 4 nights, years ago during an ice storm…!) My husband was ready to go to a hotel. We have 2 little kids now so thankfully we were able to stay at my parents’ house. I always panic about the pipes freezing and bursting–this time a friend told us we need to turn our water off and drain the pipes so they don’t burst and flood the house. Then I asked our irrigation guy (who winterizes our sprinklers and is familiar with our water pipe situation), and our neighbor who grew up in Vermont. They both said we didn’t need to worry about it unless it was very very cold for an extended period of time. The next time we have a plumber come out I’m going to ask him and also make sure I absolutely know how to turn off the water if I had to (something which I know anyway…) I did know about letting the faucets drip like you mentioned, but your other suggestions were helpful too, thanks!

  9. says

    We have radiant hot water heat. I heard the boiler go out at 8pm when it was negative 8 degrees outside. The replacement part wouldn’t arrive for at least 36 hours. Thanks to our type of heat, we didn’t even feel much of a temperature drop until 24 hours later. For once I was grateful for the slow warm up/cool down.

  10. misty says

    we live in the country and things havent changed here in a hundred years…including the transformers to the main electric lines into our town. sooo, when the wind blows, the power goes out…for everyone. so we cant even go to a neighbors house for heat, a.c, water, dinner…
    many people have backup generators (no electric is a frequent occurence, sometimes for days). We FINALLY got one last week, but it still needs to be hooked up to the house.
    Anyway, in the summer we sleep on the screen porch to try to keep cool, and in the winter we turn on the gas fireplace and strategically close doors. Did you know you can heat up your food on the gas fireplace? just be careful! Also, we have LOTS of extra candles, and many permantently affixed canndle sconces in the rooms we need to see in. It’s actually kinda nice if it’s not too cold/hot. We always end up playing board games and eating whatever we can find that doesnt need cooking! Luckily our pipes have never frozen (knock on wood!) but we have had plenty of spoiled food in the freezer.

  11. Tracy says

    There was an ice storm here in rural Nebraska in December of 2006. My youngest child was only two weeks old, so we packed a few belongings and moved into Grandma’s house in town where they still had power. My husband was busy getting water to the cattle and stopping by our house to run a kerosene heater in our basement to keep the pipes from freezing. We were lucky because we only lost power for two days. Many others were out of power for weeks! It’s not fun to lose power with a newborn, so we invested in a permanent propane heater. We use it in the winter to create more heat in the basement. We can use it for cooking if needed. We also have an emergency tote that I re-stock throughout the year that we keep in our basement that included bottled water, some non-perishable foods, activities for the kids and so on. The tote doubles as a ‘tornado’ kit, too. Gotta love Nebraska’s unpredictable weather!

  12. says

    Before my husband fixed the furnace, we had to live in a house that was at a steady 50 for a couple of months. It was pretty wretched.

    The key to staying warm? Layer up the clothing and spend a lot of time cuddling with the dog!

  13. says

    During a ice storm this past Jan we lost power for awhile. Luckly we have a wood burning fireplace so we managed to keep it pretty warm in the house. We did all the tips that you listed as well as running our ceiling fans to keep the warm air pushed down since we live in a 2 story house.

  14. melissa says

    We turn the gas burners on the stove on and prop the carbon monoxide detector up near by. It keeps the house semi-comfortably warm.

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