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How to Stay Warm During a Power Failure

Posted on 2013-11-13 14:39:39 PST

We’ve all experienced it – a nasty storm comes brewing in and strikes with ferocious winds. Power lines are stretched and damaged and *poof* goes your power. Plunged into darkness, you’re fairly helpless without electricity in this modern world. Just about everything you do or own requires some kind of electrical power to make them operate – even your heating system in most cases.

Sure, some heating systems don’t use electricity as the primary source of energy, but chances are very good that you still need electricity to operate them properly. Oil and gas furnaces need electricity to (sometimes) operate the burner. They certainly need electricity to operate to run the pumps or fans in order to distribute the hot air. Heat pumps are the same way – electricity is needed to operate the heat pump and to distribute the air.

A power failure is very likely going to knock out your heating system. Once it does, your home will quickly start losing heat and rooms become colder and colder. Hopefully power will be restored in a short time. However, during storms, power outages can last hours and even days. Repair crews are maxed out and they’re working in very difficult conditions.

In a radiant heated home power failures becomes far less of a concern. Why?

Radiant heat does not rely on warming air to keep you comfortable. Radiant heat warms up the solid objects in your home – floors, walls, ceiling, furniture, etc. All of these solid objects are much more massive than the volume of air in your home. All this mass has an interesting characteristic in that once warmed, they act very much like heat storage devices. They continue to retain their warmth and only release it as the rooms begin to cool. The net effect is that a radiant heated home remains comfortable much much longer than does a hot-air heated home.

Personal Experience

Last year my home was hit with an extended power failure that lasted just shy of 12 hours. The outside temperature was -27° C (-17° F) with nasty winds carrying a wind chill factor of -45C (-49° F). During this time, nature called many times and our dogs had to be let out. Sure, we felt the arctic blast whenever we opened the door, however when we closed the door, we were once again comfortable. Instantly.

A hot-air heated home, under similar conditions, would be noticeably cooler within a half an hour. After a few hours the house would be downright chilly. In a few more hours, the home could very well be near the freezing point – the point where pipes might freeze and burst and cause extensive damage to your home and possessions.

In my radiant heated home, the internal temp only dropped 2° C. (~4° F) after 12 hours! My family and I remained comfortable during the entire event and we were at no point cold or concerned for the safety and security of our home.

Shouldn’t you consider radiant heat the next time you build or renovate?