11 Ways to Heat Water Without Electricity

We’ve all become accustomed to modern-day electronic devices and appliances. Many of us don’t know what we’d do without electricity for a week, let alone a month.

But with extreme weather, our aging grids, attacks on power stations, and accidents, blackouts are increasing in America. They occur more often and last longer.

In a power outage lasting a day, several days, a week, or longer, you and your family will get tired of eating granola bars and crackers. You’ll want food and beverages requiring heating. And maybe even boiling.

Today I want to provide you with some ways to do that without electricity. You may have already used one or more of these. A few others might be something you’ve never considered before.

Candles & Camp Stoves

If the only item you have available as a heat source is a candle, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to boil water. But you should be able to at least heat it.

Just place a lit candle under a small pan of water and patiently wait for the water to warm. If you can add more candles to the mix, you’ll have a better chance of raising your water’s temperature.

You’d be much better off with a camp stove or solar cooker. All you need for a camp stove is kindling. Such as twigs, leaves, or grasses.

Camp stoves are lightweight and easily portable. Made of stainless steel, they produce only a small amount of smoke. And they’re easy to clean.

Solar cooker

This is a great option in warmer, sunnier climates. But they can also be effective in colder weather when there’s sunlight. The solar oven cooking method works by converting sunlight to heat. The trapped heat is used to boil water or cook food.

You can bake, boil, steam, stew, and even dehydrate food. This is a safe option without flames. No fossil fuels are required and no air pollution is produced.

This method is portable and low maintenance. Food almost never sticks or burns. Most meals don’t require much stirring during cooking. And the water you boil can be used for coffee, tea, cocoa, and other hot beverages.

If you’re new to solar oven heating, choose recipes that do well with slow cooking. Such as stews and casseroles.

Portable gas stoves

These are best used as an outdoor cooking method. The two best options with portable gas stoves are butane and propane.

Butane stoves are portable and can generate enough heat to do most cooking. However, butane canisters can be pricey and hold a limited amount of fuel.

Propane is a highly dependable fuel at freezing temperatures and high altitudes. The tanks, however, are thick-walled. They’re too heavy to easily carry.

Smaller stoves in this genre are single-burner stoves. But there are also two-burner stoves. If portability is not an issue, larger camper stoves with legs are effective.

Wood and coal-burning stoves

Wood-burning and coal-burning stoves are convenient for use in the winter when you can cook and heat your home simultaneously. But they’re also great in warmer months.

If it is flat enough, you can cook on top of it. The fire should be going strong before you start cooking. It’s best to use cast-iron cookware. It conducts heat, but does not retain it.

Frying time is similar to using a conventional gas or electric stove. But cooking time is longer.

If your food is cooking too quickly, turn down the drafts. Transfer food to a cooler part of the stovetop. If it’s cooking too slowly, open the drafts and add wood to the fire.

Grills and open-fire cooking

If you’re able to hunker down at home – or you have one of these grills at your bug-out location – it will come in handy. They use gas or charcoal.

This is a great way to grill various meats and fish. As well as large vegetables. Grills have an advantage over open-fire cooking because their lids trap more heat.

Open-fire cooking is a simple outdoor solution during a crisis. Set a barbeque grill plate over an open fire and cook.

Another option is using a large, flat rock. Place the rock over the fire. Once the rock is hot, put your pan or pot on top. The harder the rock, the less likely it is to crack.

Fireplace and fondue pot 

If you’re hunkering down, a fireplace is not a bad choice. Use logs rather than charcoal, which can produce carbon monoxide.

Add a little vegetable oil, salt, and pepper to your food before wrapping it in aluminum foil. Then cook it over the flame. Use tongs and rotate the food often. Use a meat thermometer for meat to make sure the inside is at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

You can use a fondue pot to cook a small meal. Make sure your fuel is approved for indoor use.

Stainless steel is the way to go here. Both for cooking and for cleaning up afterwards. Make sure the handles are strong and the base is wide.

Canned heat and engine cooking

The canned heat method is safe, inexpensive, and easy. You’ve probably seen this flaming canister used by caterers to keep food warm.

The no-spill, gel-like fuel is simple to use and can burn for several hours. Canned heat can be used with a chafing dish, fondue pot, or certain stoves and grills.

Engine cooking uses excess heat from your car or truck engine. It’s a last-resort cooking tactic.

Identify a hotspot such as the exhaust manifold. Wrap your prepared food in several layers of foil. Secure the food with a steel wire and make sure it’s not touching any moving parts. Close the hood and let your food cook.

I hope you’ve learned some new ways to heat water today. And for extra credit, you might want to search the Internet for ways to make your own small solar water heater.


  • Bobbi - January 30, 2024

    We live in Alaska where winter temperatures can sometimes drop to minus 45 degrees. We have a concrete block safe area that can be heated with a gas powered generator for a short period of time if used prudently and supplemented with body heat, space blankets and heavy blankets. Candles are useless except for light. Camp stoves would work if the sticks, leaves and grass weren’t covered in 2 feet of snow. Solar cooker? Nope, a little over three hours of daylight because sun is too low and it’s dark the rest of the time.

  • Charles Archer - January 29, 2024

    Be very careful using a rock over a fire. Some rocks retain water, which expands when heated, and can cause the rock to explode. It is better, if slower to build the fire on top of a much larger rock, which is less likely to absorb enough heat to explode, push the fire along as it burns and heats the place where it’s sitting, and push your pan or food onto the hot spot where you moved the fire from.

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