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We are expecting a decent winter storm, with a good potential for power outages. We don't have a generator, nor do we have a backup heat source for our house. We don't have time to get one, either!

We do have a portable camp stove, with a full tank of propane (20 lb.). Can anyone creative think of a way to use it to keep our pipes from freezing? We won't necessarily have internet to look things like this up, but there mhse be some safe and creative way to heat water (or something) with the camp stove and then bring that heat to the pipes. Any ideas?

Edit for additional information

Home is in northeast US, well water

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    Use the main shutoff and drain your pipes. Or keep all faucets dripping. Depends on just how cold it might get.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 22, 2022 at 18:49
  • Ideally, when do we do this? As soon as we lose the ability to heat the house?
    – nuggethead
    Dec 22, 2022 at 18:50
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    Soon if pipes are inside outside walls. If all pipes are in inside walls can wait till inside temperature goes down.
    – crip659
    Dec 22, 2022 at 18:53
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    Pretty much immediately, yes, particularly if you don’t know how long it will be or how cold it will get.
    – Jon Custer
    Dec 22, 2022 at 18:53
  • If the inside temp drops below 40F then worry about pipes freezing. If the outside pipes are not insulated then the only way to prevent pipe bursting is to turn off the main water valve at the meter and open all faucets in the home.
    – Traveler
    Dec 22, 2022 at 19:02

3 Answers 3

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Lots of the advice here is probably based on location. If it gets cold enough to freeze an indoor radiator, time to find a motel with power!

OK, getting more serious:

  1. If you lose power and you have municipal water supply, you could set several faucets to a slow trickle.

  2. If you are on a well, #1 isn't going to work, obviously because you have no power for the pump. So if you loose power, I'd turn off the main valve to the house and open all the cold water faucets, turn off the water heater, drain the system to the extent possible, blow out the pipes with a compressor if you have one. Opening the faucets will give the water a "place to go" rather, hopefully, than bursting pipes.

The usual preps are good, bottled water, canned soups & stews, etc. If you have an extended extreme cold outage, you can take stuff out of your fridge and simply place it outside!...maybe in a cooler so the veggies don't freeze.

Lastly, in extreme cold weather, pipes can freeze even if you do have power, depending upon where they are located. So a few faucets dripping will go a long way to prevent pipes from freezing.

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You need to shut off your main and drain the lines if your house temperature gets below 40°F.

My shutoff is inside my home but if you have the option then shut it off outside at the street-level.

Right now, boil some water in big pots and safely store them somewhere with the lids closed. This water should be used for emergency cooking unless you plan to turn on your main and drain the lines every time you need water. Re-boil before drinking if you don't have water bottles. If you wish to store drinking water without boiling then you'll have to store tap water in disinfected food-grade containers.

A 5-gallon tank of propane isn't much so get "creativity" out of your head because it will likely result in premature exhaustion of the fuel source or you burn down your house.

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  • Already have large quantity of bottled water
    – nuggethead
    Dec 22, 2022 at 19:44
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The partial alternative may be to leave pipes running, at least at a trickle. Ground temperature settles at or near average yearly temperature for the region, so water coming into the house from a well or water mains is likely to be above 40F. If water in the pipes is always being replaced with this warmer water, they will probably not have a chance to freeze through. This may or may not be practical given your local water source, and it isn't a complete solution, but it's the no-artificial-heat solution.

Doesn't help hydronic heating systems (radiators); you should still drain those if you can't heat them.

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