No one likes losing power. Finding yourself without electricity can be very anxiety-inducing, as many modern conveniences require electricity. If the outage is widespread, officials often advise not to drink tap water unless it has been boiled. Boiling water without electricity is difficult, but only if you aren’t prepared.
This guide details 15 ways you can boil water without electricity. Cooking during a power outage is also a challenge. These methods can also be used to cook a meal, though having ready-to-eat survival foods is also recommended.
Choosing a method and having it ready can make a huge difference when you lose power.
I built this list based on my experience of learning how to boil water without electricity over the past 40 years. From camping as a young boy to natural disasters that left my family without power for many days at home, I have experience with most of these methods. I also included a few lesser-known methods that I have seen used.
Here are the methods this guide includes.
- Gas Stove
- Gas Grill
- Charcoal Grill
- Fire Pit
- Wood Stove
- Survival Stove
- Rocket Stove
- Propane Camp Stove
- Iso Butane Camp Stove
- Fire Bricks
- Tuna Can Stove
- Solar Cooker
- Car Kettle
When using these methods, it is important to remember to protect yourself against burns. For example, if your pot of water is not stable on the fire, you may automatically reach for it if it looks like it is about to fall. I have done it myself. I like to keep gloves on when boiling water on anything other than a stove. They don’t have to be oven mitts, but a decent pair of leather work gloves will give you extra protection.
Also, keep proper ventilation in mind. You can use propane stoves inside for a short period. However, do not use them in a small, confined space. A typical kitchen with a vent hood is sufficient.
Since heating water likely includes fire, keep a fire extinguisher nearby. During a power outage, it is easy to panic and become careless. Many have been injured or died during an extended power outage.
How to boil water without electricity
Warming and boiling water without electricity was done daily in many homes 100 years ago. There is no need for anxiety or stress if you do not have power at home. If you have prepared your emergency food and water storage, heating water is no issue.
Some methods are certainly easier than others. I started with the easier methods and included a list of other ways that will work if you do not have access to the others.
These methods are based on how to boil water without electricity at home. A few also make sense if you are in a survival situation away from home. As part of your bug-out bag gear, you likely already have a method to purify and boil water.
To purify water, the CDC recommends bringing water to a rolling boil for 1 minute. If you are above 6,500 feet, boil the water for 3 minutes.
When cooking without electricity, you may need to warm up a can of soup or some of your emergency food. In an extended power outage, warm water is also nice for bathing and cleaning. Our ancestors carried many buckets of warm water to the bathtub or sink. A warm bath makes you feel better, especially after a stressful situation.
This method is likely the easiest since it is no different than normal if you have a gas stove. However, just because you have a gas stove may not mean it will work during a power outage. Some newer models have an “interlock.” The interlock is a valve that shuts off the gas to the stove and oven without electricity.
Some stoves only have the interlock on the oven portion, not the stove burners. Check your stove’s manual to see what type of interlock it has. Most that do not have an interlock will include instructions on how to light them without power. Since most gas stoves have electronic ignition, you must light the burners with a match or lighter during a power outage.
If your stove has an interlock, operating it does not take much power. Keeping a small emergency generator handy will allow you to power it up and cook normally.
This is the second easiest method, especially if you have a gas grill with a side burner. I used to think the side burners were a waste of money. I can heat a pot on the stove. Why would I need one on my grill?
The side burners are handy and are efficient at quickly boiling water. If you have a gas grill with a side burner, you can cook an entire meal easily without power.
If you do not have a side burner, you can still boil water in a pot inside the grill. It takes a little longer and more energy since you must heat the entire grill. Put a lid on the pot and close the grill to boil the water faster. This will contain the heat and allow the water to reach boiling temperature quicker.
I have a propane grill and two 20lb propane tanks. When one runs out, I replace it with the full one and get a refill for the empty one as soon as I can. This way, I always have at least one nearly full tank.
Similarly to a gas grill, you can also use a charcoal grill. A charcoal grill will be slower than a gas grill, but it is very similar once you have a decent amount of coals hot.
To get the most heat to your pot of water, make a pile of coals in the center of the grill. If your grill has an adjustable grate, move it down as close to the fire as possible.
Once the coals are hot, put your pot of water on the grill with a lid. Open the vents on the grill to the fully open position and put the lid on the grill. This will allow plenty of air to the fire and heat your water faster. You could boil multiple pots of water this way or cook something else on the grill after boiling all the water you need.
If you already have a gas or wood fire pit in your backyard, you can easily use it to boil water. For a wood firepit, you just need a way to put a pot on the fire. You can either hang it above the fire, put a grill grate over it, or just wait until you have some hot coals and place the pot directly on them.
Building a fire somewhere on your property is also an option if you do not already have a fire pit. Pick an area free from many leaves or brush, so your fire does not spread out of control. Also, do not build a fire very close to your home. Digging a small pit will help to keep your fire contained. You can use the dirt from the pit you dug to cover the fire to ensure it is out when you are done.
Start the fire with a survival fire starting kit, paper, and smaller pieces of wood, sticks, and twigs. Gradually add bigger pieces of wood as the fire grows. If you live in a rural area, keeping some firewood ready and dry is recommended, even if you don’t have a fireplace. Keep an axe or folding saw at home just in case. See our guide to the best bushcraft axe and best bushcraft saw for some great options.
If you have a wood fireplace, it is a great way to heat your home and boil water. After your fire is going and you have some hot coals, simply place your pot on the coals.
The biggest challenge with this method is getting the pot into and out of the fireplace without getting burned. Since a fireplace only has an opening on one side, it is not easy to sit the pot on the fire from above. A pot of water has to come in from the side, exposing your arms to the heat from the fire. I have had fires going in my fireplace that I could not stand to get that close to.
Depending on how your fireplace is built, you may be able to slide a pot in from the front. This gets the pot close enough to the fire to boil water without setting it directly in the fire. For this method to work, you may have to lay down some firewood and build your fire closer to the back of the fireplace.
Before you build your fire in the fireplace, consider how you will get your pot in the fire. You don’t want to catch your clothes on fire even with gloves on.
One hundred years ago, everyone had a wood stove in their kitchen. Today no one does. Some still have a wood stove of some type to heat their home. If you can put a pot on it, this is an easy way to boil water, and it is probably why you have it anyway.
Consider installing a wood stove if you have a detached garage or other building not attached to your home. It allows you to heat the building in the winter and easily boil the water out of the weather.
When I was young, we had a wood-burning stove in our home and our detached garage. In the winter, boiling water and cooking if needed when the power went out was easy. We had fires going in them anyway.
A small wood-burning survival stove like you have in your bug-out bag or a get-home bag is a great option. You can use them with smaller sticks and limbs; they are much quicker and easier than building a full fire.
Similar to a fire pit, make sure you start your fire in a safe area and have a fire extinguisher or water nearby. Before starting the fire, ensure the stove is as level as possible. You don’t want it tipping over when you sit your pot on top of it.
Rocket stoves are a type of stove that burns smaller sticks and twigs for fuel. You can build a rocket stove in various sizes, and small portable versions are available for emergency use or camping. The heat from a rocket stove is concentrated on the top of the “chimney” where you sit your pot.
A Rocket stove is three tubes connected to form a “J” shape. One tube that is tilted slightly up from vertical to the bottom of the “J” is where the wood is fed into it. Combustion occurs at the bottom of the “J,” and the heat exits upward.
The advantage of using a rocket stove is the smoke from the fire is mostly eliminated. The fire in the combustion chamber is very hot and burns most of the soot that causes smoke. However, they must still be used outside if you do not have a chimney. They are also very efficient, so the amount of wood needed to cook or boil water is much less than a typical fire.
Here is a video of a DIY Rocket Stove Demonstration
Propane Camp Stove
I have a small portable emergency camp stove that uses 16-ounce propane bottles. It is inexpensive and easy to use. It can be used inside for short periods with proper ventilation. For safety, I prefer to use it outside or in a garage with a concrete floor in case it tips over.
I also have an adapter for the 20 lb propane tanks for my gas grill that I mentioned earlier. This way, I have plenty of propane available in case I need it. In addition to the stove, I have a small heater that can run off of the same bottles or tanks. This gives me a way to heat and cook during a power outage.
The small propane bottles are inexpensive and easy to store. This is ideal for anyone who has an apartment or lives where it is not feasible to have a fire outside.
Our guide to the best emergency stove has some great options.
While similar to the Propane camp stove, these use smaller Isobutane-propane canisters. These are popular for backpackers since they are small and lightweight. They can be used inside with proper ventilation.
The fuel canisters are more expensive than the propane ones above and will not work with larger propane bottles. Unless you are looking for an emergency stove that is compact and easy to store, the Propane camp stove is the best way to go.
These methods are more challenging than the ones above, but they do the job in a pinch. These will take longer to boil water or be more difficult to setup than the above methods.
The small fire briquettes or lava rocks that are used in fire pits and fireplaces can be used to heat water quickly. If you have a gas fireplace, this could be a useful option if you can’t fit a pot safely into your fireplace.
You heat the firebricks and drop them into a pot of water. You want to ensure the firebricks don’t have a lot of debris before you heat them. The heat will sanitize the briquettes.
Care must be taken with this method since you need to handle the briquettes and they will be hot. Use tongs and gloves and avoid dropping them on your floor. It will take multiple briquettes to heat a large pot of water, so make sure you have 10 to 20 of them to rotate them out. You can buy a bag of these for around $20, so it is a low-cost alternative.
The advantage of this method is that as long as you have gas in your fireplace, you can reuse the briquettes repeatedly.
Tuna Can Stove
Oddly enough, a can of Tuna can be used as a stove. It must be packed in oil and not water. The oil will burn for a few minutes, long enough to boil a small amount of water.
Carefully open the can without spilling or pouring out the oil. Lay two pieces of toilet paper on the can and let the oil soak into the paper. Next, light the toilet paper with a match or lighter.
Suspend a metal bowl, bottle, or pot above the can to allow the fire to heat it. The fire needs air to burn, so do not place the container directly on the tuna can or you will extinguish the flame. You can use a grill-type grate sitting on wood or rocks a half inch above the top of the can.
Remember that this method will not boil a large pot of water but can be helpful if you don’t have any other options for fire available.
Here is a video demonstration of a Tuna Can Stove
Similarly to the tuna can method, you can place small tea candles under a pot of water. One candle lacks the needed heat, so multiple tea candles are needed. Five candles are the minimum that will work for this method.
The water container should be the same diameter as five candles arranged in a circle. A thin frying pan is the best container to use. The larger surface area of the frying pan allows the heat from the candles to be absorbed by the pan and water. Place as many candles as possible under your pan to heat the water faster.
Here is a demonstration video of how to make a candle stove.
A Solar Cooker reflects the sun’s rays to a central location, like a satellite dish reflecting satellite signals to the receiver. Since the sun’s rays are required, it will only work on a sunny day. The reflectors require constant monitoring to reposition them as the earth rotates.
This method is the slowest and most difficult of all of them. You must also have a solar cooker and a clear sky view. It could take up to 1 hour to boil water. However, this method needs no energy other than the sun and can be used repeatedly.
This method could be a viable solution if you live in a southern area with a lot of sun.
You can use a small car kettle to boil water. These simply plug into the 12V power outlet in your car and resemble a coffee pot-type kettle. These are expensive and can boil 12 ounces of water in about 15 to 20 minutes.
They draw a lot of power, so you will want to have your car running while you use it.
While only an option if you have a vehicle nearby, it is viable to use at home during a power outage. The amount of water you can boil is small, though.
- Use a container or pot that has a lid. When water boils, it turns from a liquid to a gas. You can see this as the water vapor rises out of the water. A lid will help to contain some of the water vapor. It will also help contain some heat, and the water will boil faster.
- The container or pot that you use should be lightweight. To boil water, the heating device you use must heat the water and the container. A thick heavy cast iron pot will take longer to heat than a thinner stainless steel one. When you have a choice, use a lighter one since it will contain less metal to heat.
- Don’t forget safety. I am mentioning it again here since it is so important. Protect yourself from burns, have a fire extinguisher nearby, and make sure you have proper ventilation.
- When you are trying to boil water, get out of the wind as much as possible. Heavy wind will carry away the heat from your heating device, taking the water longer to boil. If you are using a fire that you can’t easily move to a different location, consider building a tarp survival shelter on the windward side to block some wind. This solution is especially handy in long-term situations.
Boiling water without electricity is easy if you are prepared. After an emergency or water supply issue, officials often ask that you boil water before drinking it. Review our How to Start Prepping Guide. With a proper water supply stored up in long term water storage containers as part of your survival food, you won’t need to worry about boiling your drinking water.
During a long-term power outage, you can also use these methods to cook. Check out our Survival Recipes for ideas on cooking a meal from your survival food.
When you plan and PREPARE, the anxiety of losing power for an extended time disappears. Consider what Seneca said: “The person who has anticipated the coming of troubles takes away their power when they arrive.” This Stoic quote can serve you well in an emergency and life.