Another winter is almost here and I heard on the news that heating oil costs are expected to soar this year. They’re currently about $3.50 per gallon here in Maine right now, but they’re expected to go up to about $3.75 a gallon over the winter. Ouch. A typical home oil tank in New England (and I presume elsewhere) is 275 gallons. How much would it cost to fill your tank?
Today’s prices: $3.50 x 275 = $962.50.
Extrapolated price: $3.75 x 275 = $1031.25
That’s a difference of $68.75.
As if things weren’t already expensive enough.
I don’t know about ya’ll, but I want to cut back on oil as much as I can. There are different strategies you can use, but one of the best things you can do is make sure your house is well insulated. Here are some tips and tricks on saving energy. It starts with 7 (really 9) tips, but there are more ideas after that for insulating and so forth. I won’t go into it too much here, but insulating is one of the best things you can do to help keep the heat where it belongs.
That’s just for the high price of heating oil, which could almost count for a SHTF event in my book.
What If TSHTF?
But this brings up the point about what will people do for heat after TSHTF? If you’re in New England or anyplace where it gets cold for the winter – and I’m talking about in the teens or below zero at night, not just dipping into the 40’s – you’ll know that running out of heating oil if you depend on it is no joke.
If you are truly dependent on heating oil there are a few things you might want to have around in case the power goes out.
The first line of defense is your clothing. First – dress in layers. Wool sweaters and socks, good synthetic underwear, and warm pants are all good ways to help fight off the cold. If the power goes out at night have some extra blankets or some good sleeping bags handy. If it gets really cold don’t be afraid to have a family huddle. Get everybody together in one place and snuggle up under some blankets.
Calamity Jane had a good post about cold weather clothing for women yesterday.
While a space heater won’t keep your whole house warm – unless you have a very small living space – you can hang blankets over the doorways or close the doors to heat only a couple of the main rooms. I have a small kerosene heater that will keep the edge off when the power goes out. I’ve also seen small propane heaters that fit right on top of the grill-sized tanks that do a good job of heating a room.
One thing to be aware of is that some heaters can give off deadly carbon monoxide if used improperly, so make sure you read the instructions for your device. Read here for more info about carbon monoxide safety instructions.
Heating With Wood
Heating with wood is an excellent way to stay warm during the winter months and if the power goes out it won’t affect you at all. You can cook on most woodstoves as well, so you probably won’t even have to get your camp stove out.
My parents used wood heat during the years I lived with them and many more after I moved out. I can still remember my dad waking my brother and I up early on fall mornings, pointing out the window at two cords of wood and saying, “I want that pile to be a memory by this afternoon.” That’s something I’d like to pass on to my son because those kinds of lessons are what helped me out the most when I went into the Marine Corps, but that’s a different topic.
Anyway, wood heat can be a lot of work, which I’ll discuss in a bit, but it’s extremely worthwhile if you have the means to do it.
When Mrs Jarhead and I moved into our new house a few years ago there was a pellet stove already in place. I’d never used one before and at first I didn’t care for it, but after the first winter changed my mind and decided that it’s a great piece of equipment. Our stove holds about 80 lbs of pellets and when we fill it up it’ll run a couple of days before needing to be refilled. It only needs to be cleaned about once a week and best of all, the pellets come in 40 lb bags. We keep about six bags in the closet next to the stove with the main storage area for the bags in the basement.
Last summer we bought two tons of pellets when they were on sale for around $215 per ton (that includes delivery), which should last us most of this season.
- It’s easy to adjust the feed rate and blower fan to give different levels of heat depending on how cold it gets
- Easy to feed the stove (you need to be able to lift a 40 lb bag)
- Only have to feed the stove once or twice every two days
- Fairly low maintenance.
- Runs on electricity, but will run off a generator (I’ve had power outages and tested it)
One last note about a pellet stove – you can’t convert it to a wood stove. Oh, I suppose you could with enough time and money, but when I saw it I thought, “Oh wow. If the power goes out I’ll convert it to burn wood.” Nope. They are two different animals.
Best Bet for Long Term SHTF Scenario
In a long enough SHTF scenario fuel for everything will eventually run out if there is no resupply. Your best bet is a woodstove in a well insulated house with plenty of warm clothing on hand for when the fire goes out.
Getting Your Own Wood
Cutting firewood is hard. Cutting firewood with a crosscut saw or a big bucksaw is harder, which would be a necessity if there’s no fuel to run your chainsaw. I know it’s harder because I’ve done it. You will need to be in good shape if you intend to do this and I highly recommend you give it a try so you’ll know just how hard it is.
This is what getting your own wood consists of:
- Go to the forest and find suitable trees for cutting: standing dead hardwood trees are your best bet. Trees that have been lying on the ground for any length of time rot quickly
- Cut the tree down. Cut into 4’ or 8’ for lengths for transporting unless you have a horse or something to twitch it out with
- Somehow transport them back to your yard
- Cut tree into stove lengths (12 to 16 inches usually)
- Get out your trusty axe or splitting mall and split wood into a manageable size for your stove
- Stack and cover the wood so that it will remain dry until you need it
- Carry wood into the house when ready to burn and put it in your wood box
If you think that sounds hard that’s because it is. Now try it in the winter when there’s 18” of snow on the ground. I’ve done that too and let me assure you that if you’re not in good shape it will likely give you a heart attack. It’s best to have your wood supply laid in early if possible.
I’ll end here before this becomes the never-ending post. This is one of those topics I could go on forever about, but instead of doing that I’ll let you chime in with your ideas for staying warm in winter after TSHTF. C’mon, I know you have some ideas.
Let’s hear them in the comments.