View Full Version : Emergency Stove for Power Outage

12-18-14, 3:02pm
I am writing an article on how to take care of yourself for a few days if the electricity goes out. The person lives in an apartment or house without access to a fireplace or outdoor grill. How would you prepare say a cup of tea or soup? I have no idea what the alternative source is? I suppose I could visit a sports store? For camping equipment and see what is for sale. I'd like to do this for myself but find out if the product is useful. It has to be safe if it is an open flame. And, easy to use indoors and store.

12-18-14, 4:22pm
The best plan is to have a plan, starting with a 72-hour emergency kit stocked with food from all the food groups that doesn't require heating or refrigeration. Add to that plan a simple way to heat water and cook food. If you are without refrigeration, be sure to have some Thermos containers to store cooked food to use later.

Heating water takes the greatest amount of time and energy, so once you have it heated, store it in Thermos containers to use later. From experience during an ice storm, we heated water and filled two hot water bottles to heat the bed. The next morning the water was still warm enough to use for a sponge bath.

These are a sample of some of the methods I have for use in an emergency. I'd also suggest getting a copy of " Just In Case" How to be self-sufficient when the unexpected happens - by Kathy Harrison

For indoor or outdoor use:
-Sterno (one can of sterno can heat approximately 6-meals ) I found an old chaffing dish at a thrift store that works with a can of sterno for heating a small amount of water, heating food, or cooking something simple like scrambled eggs. You can also purchase a single-burner folding sterno stove. http://www.walmart.com/ip/15392286?www=true&productRedirect=true

I suggest you place this on top of your kitchen stove when using it. When using any open flame, you need to also have a window cracked open just a little for oxygen exchange. This is true if you are using emergency options of open flames for light or heat. Open flames consume oxygen.

For outdoor use:
-An easy Do-It-Yourself project - Buddy Burners and Hobo Stoves - http://martham.tamu.edu/buddy%20burner%20hobo%20stove.htm
We make these with our empty #10 cans and empty tuna cans (and other small cans) for a ministry for homeless people. Hubby and I made them for our close family members for Christmas several years ago.

-Solar Ovens - I happen to have three of them and use them on a regular basis. For heating water I have quart canning jars (they are made of tempered glass and will work for heating water, as well as cooking in) that I've spray painted on the outside with black paint designed for high temperatures (used for reheating bbq grills).

-Kelly Kettle - http://www.kellykettleusa.com/ This small unit can be used to boil water while you cook food. It takes very little fuel, which can be small sticks, pinecones, or a can of emergency fuel and fire starter - http://beprepared.com/fired-up-emergency-fuel-firestarter-in-a-can-2-5-lbs.html.

- Charcoal - This is the least expensive fuel per BTU that you can store. You can find disposable grills with the charcoal already contained in an aluminum foil grill. Whenever I find some on a clearance shelf at the end of summer I buy them for our emergency kit, but we also store charcoal in our basement. A 5-gallon bucket will hold 1 bag of charcoal (you need to keep charcoal dry) and is enough to cook 1 meal a day for a month. An even better choice to use with charcoal is a Cobb Grill - http://www.firecraft.com/category/cobb-grills for the most efficient use of charcoal.

12-18-14, 6:36pm
That's an excellent list, lessisbest. Makes me wish we had our own reference/wiki type page as part of this Forum because I know this is something I'd want to refer to sometime in the future..

12-18-14, 7:01pm
I suggest you place this on top of your kitchen stove when using it. When using any open flame, you need to also have a window cracked open just a little for oxygen exchange. This is true if you are using emergency options of open flames for light or heat. Open flames consume oxygen.

Flames also produce carbon monoxide, which is bad stuff to be breathing, as it ties up your hemoglobin and makes it unavailable to transport oxygen. Almost every time there is an extended power outage in the Seattle urban area when it is cold, someone manages to cause themselves trouble this way. ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hanukkah_Eve_wind_storm_of_2006#Deaths )


Small propane Coleman camping stoves fold flat, stow easily, and the propane bottles last forever - you don't have to worry about the fuel going bad. However, you still have to watch the ventilation...

Those Kelly Kettles are superb. I keep one in my truck so I can make coffee/tea/warm meals when we are out on long calls. Not for indoor use though :-)

12-18-14, 7:50pm
Sterno is what I use. Safe for indoor use. Look for my thread on emergency preparedness for apartment dwellers under the emergency preparedness area.

12-19-14, 6:16am
I have an Esbit stopve, which is just a folding metal frame that holds the solid fuel Esbit tablet under a pot. That is cheap and easy to store. I also have a JetBoil propane backpacking stove that is a lot faster, but the fuel is a bit more expensive. Either one will heat water. Ventilation is key still, as it is an open flame.

12-19-14, 9:51am
I appreciate the replies. However, this is for the apartment dweller or home owner who would be lighting this indoors. Probably I wasn't too clear but I was thinking principally of an outage during the winter months. I plan to go out and find this product and use it myself. It's got to be easy to find and not a hunt which some of these things might be. There aren't any camping supply stores in my area so I am stuck already for where on earth to locally find these products mentioned. It's meant for somebody stuck in their apartment and just wants to have a nice bowl of soup without burning the place or getting gassed

12-19-14, 10:14am
Cypress, I've tested out the sterno with the little folding stove. I heated up canned soup/stew and water for tea without a problem. It didn't get hot enough to boil water for pasta, but it's quite adequate for just heating things up. Maybe you could cook eggs on it. I've read where people said they did it, but I've not tried it yet. My emergency stocks are canned goods such as soup and stew, so sterno works quite well for this apartment dweller.

12-19-14, 10:15am

This is not a stove, it's a couple of tealight candles and some stiff wire hardware screen, available at any hardware store. If you are really in a pinch, you can use three items like empty tunafish cans, as long as they are the same height, to create a trivet for your pot. Just remember that it will all get very hot, including the cans, so set it up on a fireproof surface like your stove top.

12-19-14, 10:16am

This is the thread I did a few weeks back that will be very relevant to you.

12-19-14, 10:18am
Cypress- Walmart would have Sterno. Likely most (larger) area grocery stores too. Isn't there also a hardware store in the center of your town? They would be likely to carry Sterno as well. Hardwick Cooperative would be likely to have this as well. Klem's most definitely has it, and I think I've seen the folding stove there as well.

12-19-14, 11:32am
My experiment: Three tealight candles with the flames just touching the bottom of an enameled metal camping cup heated 1 cup of water to 140 degrees in about 15 minutes, making a decent cup of tea. Definitely not hot enough to boil anything, but it would be fine for soup, cocoa etc. I set the candles on the stove median and set a stove grate on top of them. All of these things were already in my house. I think part of the trick is to cook in thin metal, anything else will take forever to transfer heat. And eat out of the cup/pan, don't transfer heated food to a cold implement.

ETA: when I was backpacking I used Everclear poured into the metal shell of a votive candle. It's almost pure alcohol and one "candle-full" was enough to get coffee water to boiling (you could use any container that can stand heat, I just wanted something ultra light). I also managed to scorch a picnic table and set a pot holder on fire. Might have been better off just drinking the Everclear. - I would not recommend burning denatured or isopropyl alcohol in the house, it's usually got some seriously nasty poisons in it. Everclear is expensive but it's clean. Note: you need 95 proof if you can get it.

12-20-14, 6:39am
Sterno is what is used in chaffing dishes to keep hot food hot when serving a buffet. If you have it contained on a stovetop (which is heat resistant) you shouldn't have any problems using them safely. But when having ANY open flames in your home, always have fire extinguishers handy - that's just common sense.

If you don't use the entire amount of Sterno in the can, just place the top back on to keep the fuel from evaporating and you can use it for several meals. You can also control the amount of the flame with the can's lid by sliding it over the can opening. Chaffing dishes have a little "door" that is used to regulate the amount of flame. There is a "cup" that safely holds the can/s of Sterno on a chaffing dish. You can also find Fondu Pots that are heated with Sterno that would also work in an emergency. And also make sure you have something you can light it with. And while I'm at it, be sure you have a manual can opener.

Click on this link to see what a chaffing dish looks like, and you'll see they are intended for indoor use, and have been used for decades. http://www.amazon.com/Winware-Quart-Stainless-Accented-Chafer/dp/B001B66LXW/ref=sr_1_8?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1419075063&sr=1-8&keywords=chafing+dish

12-20-14, 8:31am
I remember growing up my parents had a fondue set that we never used for anything - except when the power went out. It got almost tradition like :-) Out goes the power and out came the fondue pot and Campbells soup. I believe it used sterno.

12-20-14, 9:47am
Another tip for apartment dwellers.... Where to store water. First of all, forget the bundles of bottled water and gallon jugs (which disintegrate during long storage and can spring a leak) for storage, they are too darn expensive when tap water will store just as well. You can fill recycled bottles like 2-liter soda/pop bottles, juice bottles, anything that is food-grade plastic, and add the proper amount of chlorine bleach (which prevents algae from growing in the water. Store away from light. You can line the back and side walls of closets with water, hide them behind or under your sofa or headboard on the bed. I store water in 3- and 5-gallon jugs, but I have a basement storage area. Avoid using recycled plastic milk jugs because the milk fat binds to the plastic and can't be removed. Eventually, under the right conditions, the milk fat will begin to go rancid and smell. Plastic milk jugs also begin to break-down and leak over time.

You may enjoy this information about emergency drinking water. http://www.bae.ncsu.edu/extension/ext-publications/water/drinking/emergwatersupply-minner.pdf

12-20-14, 2:31pm
All the stove user really would have to do is turn on the gas control a bit and then use a match (preferably something safer like a fireplace match) to light the gas stream. The electricity only runs the clock and the oven light.

This does, however, leave the user with the CO-removal problem bae mentioned.

12-20-14, 3:02pm
I thought that too, but it only works if you have gas in your apartment, a lot of places are 100% electric. - which means problems for not only cooking, but heating and hot water as well.

12-21-14, 10:50am
kib, true. I guess most of my apartments had gas stoves, so that didn't come to mind quickly.

12-21-14, 11:44am
It occurred to me because my parents live in a retirement community where there is no gas as far as I know. I worry about them when there are winter storms in PA, but at least it's a community issue in their situation.

12-28-14, 8:56pm
OK, today The Kid and I did an experiment with the Kelly Kettle. Time from first strike of flint-and-steel to water-poured-on-coffee was < 5 mins. Time to steep coffee in French press pot was ~5 minutes. Amount of fuel used - what my daughter gathered in about 60 seconds of scrounging around, about a loose handful.

Materials: Kelly Kettle, twigs and wood bits, one piece of newspaper, pocket knife, flint, water, coffee, coffee press








Do not fill kettle to the very top, leave room for the water to expand as it heats, otherwise it will run out, down the side of the kettle, and douse your fire. Safety tip....

12-28-14, 9:41pm
Also, part of the experiment today was to try out a new firesteel to start our fire, the FireSteel.com GoBSpark Armegeddon. They weren't kidding in their marketing, this puppy threw out an insane volume of very hot sparks, started up my tinder on the first try in a very non-optimal position, I was just giving it a test-scrape to see what the pattern looked like before getting serious about it, but the test-scrape started up the whole pile...