We returned home from San Diego yesterday afternoon, expecting the house to be coolish since we left the heat down to 60 (which means it is more like 57 in the house - I didn't want the pipes to freeze since we have a lot of cold spots in the house). My mom had complained at how cold our house was when she stopped by during our trip to check on things, but we both just figured it was because she's used to her hot, top-floor condo, which tends to run more like 75.
When I walked in, I noticed that the house was actually colder inside than outside and went over to the thermostat and noticed that, although it was set at 60, the actual temperature inside was only 48 degrees. Needless to say, it was pretty damn cold.
I turned up the heat, but nothing happened. To make a long story short, we had run out of oil in our tank while we were on vacation (normally we are on an automatic refill). We had the oil company come out and make an emergency delivery, otherwise we would have just repacked our bags and gone to a hotel.
We left for a few hours since it was so painfully cold in the house and even our space heaters weren't doing much to heat up the place. Basically, the end result is that, if we don't have oil (or electricity for that matter), we are screwed. We are woefully unprepared to deal with really cold temperatures because even if we wanted to use our fireplace, more heat would be sucked out of the room than emitted into it. If it were an emergency situation, I'm sure we could easily survive with our sleeping bags, closing off rooms, and piling on the clothes and down. But we would still be uncomfortably unprepared.
What back-up heating plan do you have for your home if you lose your main source of heat, short of leaving the house?
Side note: Since the oil guy came while we were out of the house for dinner, he was sneaking around inside and outside with a headlamp on. Our neighbor from behind us saw this, and knowing we were out of town, he called the police, which surrounded the place. I don't know exactly what ended up happening, if the oil guy was still here or what, but it's nice to know that the neighbors are watching!