Preparing for Emergencies with a Wood Stove

Preparing for Emergencies

There's no better way preparing for emergencies than to build your life in a resilient way.  If you build your home in a way that allows you to be self-sufficient it can keep you and your family safe in case of a natural emergency.

In case the power grid goes down or if there is no more propane or gas to buy, preparedness will make all the difference. One way to be prepared for emergencies is with a wood stove.

Wood is an Ideal Emergency Heat Source

If you live in a cold climate, Winters can be downright dangerous without a non-electric heat source. Natural draft wood stoves are 16th Century technology, and require no electricity to operate.  The "engine" of the stove is the rising hot column of gases in the flue system. This actively pulls combustion gases out and fresh air in.

Firewood is easy to store in bulk.  According to the US Forest Service, one cord of hickory (approximately a 4' x 4' x 8' stack) produces 28,000,000 BTUs of energy.  That's about the same as 300 gallons of propane. And firewood doesn't require a tank or any special equipment other than a tarp.

When your firewood stack runs out, you can forage downed wood locally in most parts of North America. If wood isn't available, any number of solid fuel sources can be burned in properly equipped wood stoves. This includes pressed logs, wood pellets, biofuels like canola and sunflower seeds and soybeans, anthracite coal, and even dry manure.

Vermont based homestead snowed in.
Vermont based homestead snowed in.

An Emergency Cooking Appliance

Many wood stoves, including the Dwarf, can be used as a cooking appliance as well as a heater.  The top of your wood stove can be used as a burner to heat a kettle, a cast iron skillet, or a dutch oven. Using the rear exit option on the Dwarf stove provides the largest top cooking surface possible. But the top exit still fits a small kettle. The firebox can also be used for cooking (though we wouldn't recommend this if you're burning manure as fuel).

In a disaster situation, a safe supply of water is a critical resource.  If surface water is the only available source, you need to be able to make it safe to drink. The CDC recommends boiling water to as the preferred method to remove pathogens.  Place the water in a covered pot or kettle, and bring it to a rolling boil for at least one minute before consuming.

Tiny wood stove first burn outside.

An Appliance You'll Actually Use

Perhaps the most compelling reason to use a wood stove as an emergency heat source is that you'll use it even when it's not an emergency.  A wood stove provides powerful, dry heat, uses cheap and readily available fuel, and provides a cozy ambiance to your living space throughout the Winter.

While your backup generator may rarely see any action, and that stash of canned food in your cellar may go unused for years, you'll eagerly await the cool Fall days when you can sit by the fire in the evening.

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