When the power goes out, one of the essential needs is boiled water, but how do you boil water without electricity or gas? Here's a step-by-step guide.
Nobody wants to be in survival mode unless they have to be. But when something catastrophic happens, and there is no electricity or gas, you need to know some basics to last in the chaos. One of the most vital things your family will need is clean, drinkable water, and if the power grid is out, that means what is coming out of the tap is terrible for everyone. ‘In addition, drinking from streams, lakes, or ponds could also be hazardous to your health, so what should you do? How do you boil water without the convenience of modern utilities?
Boiling water after the electrical power grid goes out is relatively simple. Choose a power source (most likely flame) and ignite it. Select an adequate container that will hold up to the flame. As the water heats, wait for it to boil. Boil water for at least 1 - 3 minutes to kill any bacteria.
What should you do to help your family survive the next regional or national emergency? Are there specific steps you can take or things you need to be aware of? What if there is no power source, gas, or electricity, and you cannot make a flame? Is there something you can do to make water drinkable?
This article will examine the art of boiling water when modern utilities are unavailable. It might be a natural weather event like a hurricane or tornado or something more sinister, like war or economic and governmental collapse. Whatever the scenario, we’ve got you covered.
First, Choose a Heat Source
You will need something to heat the water to bring it to boiling. This might be a BBQ grill, fireplace, or firepit. Even a camp stove or candles can work.
If you have a grill handy, this can be a good source of heat for cooking and boiling.
- Arrange the coals on the bottom of the grill evenly (even better if you have propane).
- Pour lighter fluid and ignite with a flame source (matches, firestick, lighter)
- Wait for the coals to begin to turn white
- Place the container of water on top of the grate
- Close the lid to keep the heat inside the grill
Remember that you should use charcoal or canned gas sparingly because you may not be able to go to the store to get more, and you may not have any idea how long you will be without power.
Fireplace and Firepit
The process is very similar to using a gas grill, but you are boiling right over live coals from wood, branches, cardboard boxes, or other combustibles this time.
- Arrange the kindling in the bottom of the fireplace under flammable wood.
- Ignite with a flame source
- Wait for a good flame or red hot coals
- Set the container of water onto an oven grate or even into the coals
- Wait for the water to steam and boil.
Here are a few things to remember: a campfire and firepit should be contained and set up away from a living/sleeping area if possible. A fireplace is likely inside your home and has adequate ventilation to draw any carbon-monoxide fumes away from your interior living space. Be sure to open the vent, so the smoke doesn’t pour into the room. Most homeowners fail to maintain their fireplaces regularly. If it’s been a while since you used your fireplace and you don’t need additional heat to keep warm, you might be better off building a pit in the backyard.
In addition, remember that any open fire will likely burn or soot the outside of the container you are using, so use an older pan or pot that you don’t mind burning.
Tea Candles or Canned Fuel
If you do not have any of the above sources, you can use a tea candle or a can of Sterno to boil water. A tea candle is a small candle enclosed in a metal cup that many people have for their spa time or to provide a small light source when the power goes out.
- Arrange the tea candles on a flat sheet pan
- Light the candles with a flame source (matches, etc.).
- Place a pan or container of water on top of the candles carefully.
- Wait for the water to boil.
The same procedure can be used for cans of Sterno or other canned fuel jellies. If you have a can of Sterno hiding around the house, you need to be careful that the can doesn’t get knocked over. The flammable jelly can pour out of the can and set your house on fire. Find an enclosed container (in a pinch), use a deep enough receptacle to house the can), place a baking rack over the pot, sink, etc., and then place your water container on the rack. (An oven rack can work if you need one, and are careful).
You may have a camp stove that may or may not have any fuel. If your family loves to camp, I am betting that at one time or another, you invested in one. (If not, this article may make you go out and pay as little as $20 for a single burner.)
- Get your camp stove out and set it up as per instructions
- Make sure that you have fuel for the stove
- Ignite the stove as per lighting instructions on the stove
- Turn the flame to a bluish cast
- Set the container of water onto the stove and wait for the water to boil
Remember to use this camping stove sparingly since you may have limited fuel resources and no idea how long the electric grid will be down.
Choose a Container for Water
If you have a teapot or old metal coffeepot, use that. If you own a ceramic teapot, you should be able to use it without cracking. Any plastic pot or pan will melt in the heat of an open flame.
Most survival experts will encourage you to boil as much water as you need, but I disagree. Since resources are limited, it is better to boil the water as needed and save the fuel to use on another day. If the weather conditions are extreme and you need to keep warm, use the fire and keep it going.
Find Additional Resources if You Can
Whatever source of heat you are using, try to maximize the amount of fuel you have at your disposal. This instruction means to blow out the tea candles after boiling the water, turn off the camp stove, spend some time collecting more firewood, or break down boxes to keep dry and use.
What Can I Do to Make Water Drinkable with no Heat Source?
Iodine drops or even household bleach can purify water and make it drinkable. If you use iodine, add five to ten drops of iodine to water and let it stand for thirty minutes to one hour. This is a great thing to do should you have to drink water from a stream, lake, or collected rainwater.
Household bleach can also be used. Add a couple of drops of bleach to the water and wait for an hour. If the water smells like bleach, wait a while longer before consuming it. See epa.gov. The website will give you instructions on using bleach in an emergency.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker