This is the coldest streak of winter weather for Indiana since the late 1800’s and we won’t get a break until next week, when the potential warmup will bring possible heavy snow and ice. We’ve already had nights of ten below zero or worse, more nights of below zero, and a warm day lately is when the sun shines and it warms up to ten. The heated part of my house is about 18 paces by 12 paces. I do a lot of pacing in this kind of weather. I have plastic covers both inside and outside on all the windows except for two that are critical to ventilation. The house is well insulated in the walls and the attic, and there’s a full basement underneath that prevents serious temperature drops below freezing, even if there is no heat. Would take a lot of serious cold to freeze pipes here but we are getting close to that.
I heat with kerosene heaters and warm clothes. It’s not a fancy way to live and I can’t walk around in my underwear during the winter. When I go to town or go outside, I remove layers of clothing because I will be warmer and more active out there. Inside, I put layers on again. It’s a backwards kind of way to live but it’s comfortable enough. I have ways of living in the summer, and ways of living in the winter. Kerosene heat works well for me. Most people would think of it as an emergency heat source but for me it’s the primary.
In this type of cold, I have to break several of the rules in the operator’s manual that comes with the heaters. I do need to sleep with the heater running, so I sleep on the futon where if I open my eyes at night I can see the heater and judge how it’s doing. I get up several times in the night to check it and adjust the flame if need be. If something went wrong, I think the discomfort of the fumes would wake me up, but the company does not recommend depending upon this. Potentially fatal levels of carbon monoxide could accumulate if a kerosene heater isn’t working right. If you heat with kerosene, you need to know your stuff and keep it all working right. You can’t risk letting it go wrong. Kerosene heaters are the only combustible fuel heaters you can use unvented, indoors, and without affecting the cost of your household insurance policy. If you do this correctly, they are safe and efficient. If you do this poorly, you could die. I grew up with fireplace heat and wood stoves and the hazards of those are much greater, but you still need to understand kerosene problems and dangers and know how to do things safely, to depend on kerosene heat. If you smell something wrong, it probably is wrong and you need to fix it.
But when you have a night like a couple of nights ago, when it’s -12 outside and the power went out, there’s really nothing better than a tiny, reliable, affordable kerosene fire. I’d pat it on the heat if wasn’t too hot to touch.