Keeping household members warm and cozy in frigid temperatures is difficult enough without adding a furnace crisis. While you wait for your furnace-repair service to arrive, take steps to ensure that family members are comfortable and safe.
If your power is working, electric space heaters are one option to keep your home toasty. But if you don't have a small space heater or the ability to get one, there are other methods to make your home and family feel warmer. (Space heaters can also pose a safety hazard if not operated properly).
Identify At-Risk Household Members
Small children, elderly adults, and people with suppressed immune systems have a difficult time regulating body heat. It takes only a few hours of body chill to cause health problems if a person has problems with thermoregulation. When your furnace fails and one of your family members is vulnerable in this way, consider relocating to a hotel or friend's home until your furnace is working again.
Healthy children will generally keep themselves warm with their physical activity, but caregivers must ensure they are dressed properly in dry clothes. Look for open places in their outfits along the waistline and lower calves. These "leaks" make kids feel chilled by exposing bare skin, so encourage kids to add long pairs of socks and long-tailed, tucked-in shirts to their ensembles to close up the gaps.
Also at risk are any household members who must repeatedly go outdoors to perform tasks or chores, regardless of age. Wind and moisture compound the risk of hypothermia, so ensure that people going outdoors are able to take frequent breaks to warm up, get out of the wind, and remove any wet clothing.
Take Advantage of Appliances
If you have power, your kitchen is a great place for family members to congregate. Remember: when the temperature is bitterly cold, every degree of heat counts. Roast a turkey, bake bread, or make lasagna. Keep the oven going, and it will provide a steady source of warmth.
Make chili in the crock pot and brew a pot of coffee to add more warmth to the room. Fill a stock pot with water and let it simmer on the stove, since humid air feels warmer than dry air. Make pancakes or grilled cheese sandwiches on your electric griddle to generate additional heat in the room.
Your clothes dryer is also a good source of indirect heat. As long as the dryer is close to where people are and is vented properly, it can add a few degrees of comfort to the living space when it's running on a heated setting.
You can also instantly warm up blankets, outerwear, and pajamas to give family members cozy garments and covers. Don't run the dryer empty, and do clean out the lint trap after each load, even if you're using the dryer only to heat clothes and bedding.
Pick Out a "Camp" for the Duration
In the old days, without modern central heating systems, families in cold environments moved into one room for the winter. A stove or fireplace kept that one room cozy. Choose a similar room in your home to turn into a temporary "camp." The room should be large enough for all to sleep and do seated activities comfortably in.
Block off any open doorways and drafty windows with blankets or plastic sheeting to conserve heat. Kids love to camp out on the floor, so cover it with sleeping bags and cushions. Let kids pile into the sleeping bags together and keep each other toasty as they sleep.
Plug in electronics that you know create excess heat, like old cabinet TVs, tower computers, and dorm fridges. You don't want to overload the circuits in the room, of course. But those hot electronic items can add a few critical degrees to your "camp" until you have proper heat again.
Contact the heating experts at HomeSmart From Xcel Energy to schedule an inspection of your furnace before you have a breakdown and need emergency heat. We offer many repair plans and even appliance replacement assistance for furnaces and boilers.