Today is part 5 of the “Low Cost Survival Checklist” series, and in today’s post I will be discussing the possibility of an electricity or energy outage, different methods of backup power (including things that you never considered to be backup power), what a home genset is and why you should use it, and some concepts used when living off grid to aid us in our thinking.
Before I get into the topic, let me remind you to go to my National Preparedness Month post and share it on facebook and twitter for chances to win cool survival gear! Remember, I have been pushing others to share the post that I have made, so I can track all the shares, so if you share directly from the site, or in your own share or tweet, please send me the URL, so I can ensure that I get the correct count, or you can tage my facebook or twitter pages and then I will see it.
Remember, this is a reader-requested series of posts (Stephen of TN) and I do enjoy covering topics that I am asked to cover. It is a way for me to make this blog OURS, not mine. It allows me to make all of the subject matter about topics that are actually needed by the readers. So your questions and feedback help me alot. Contact me if you have any other requests.
Another item on the list that I made in my first post, Survival Skills, Bug Out Location, Low Cost Survival Checklist P1, I discussed a list of items. Energy was fourth on that list. In the wilderness, this means fire. In the home, this means many different types of energy that we take for granted around the home. It is the MANY systems that we have designed to take the place of fire. It could be our heating and air conditioning, our cooking, hot water, lights, and more. Since this post is overall low cost survival, I will actually be touching on many of them, but not going into insane depth. I have many posts of most of these subjects, and my plan is to link back to them throughout this post.
One of the first thing that everyone wants to know about, and for good reason is lighting. In my post about low cost storm survival, I discussed a storm bag. This is my very first suggestion before going to anything else. Get yourself a storm survival bag, which is just a bag with a bunch of lights, candles, some lighters, the Econ weather radio, some snacks, and a couple bottles of water. This equipment probably won’t even fill up a children’s backpack. If possible I am a big fan of hands-free, so I recommend head lamps or even the LED lights that clip onto your bill. It just makes it easier if you have to connect a generator or something. I also recommend that anytime you find the cheap aluminum 9-LED flashlights on sale in any store that you get a pack or two. Get them anytime you see the sale so you can place them in every drawer throughout the house.
Next would be a method of cooking. If you have a natural gas line going to the home, and you have a natural gas stove, you have one of the most reliable systems available that actually has the infrastructure to last for 6 months with absolutely no human intervention. You will probably be able to use it, so that is a great tool to have. To you, the first recommendation I have is the small electric countertop burners. Just because your system is more reliable, doesn’t mean it can’t go away. These things are only a few bucks, and you have a backup.
If you are on electric stove, I recommend spending $15 to get one of the propane camp stoves that attach to a 1 gallon propane tank. The little 1 gallon propane camping tanks are just for that… camping. there are cheap adapters that you can use to attach them to the five gallon tanks for grills. Get it for the home.
Now that everyone has a cheap backup method of cooking, the next backup method (and many will already have it) would be a natural gas, or propane grill. Natural gas grill is the same as a natural gas stove as far as the concerns, so if you have a nat gas stove, go with propane grill. Make sure you have a side burner on the grill. Now you basically have a propane stove. You can get a decent grill for a hundred bucks. Now a hundred bucks is low cost for what you are getting, but not cheap. But, like I said, many people will have one already. Now you just have to change your mindset to consider it a survival tool.
If you get a five gallon propane tank every month (about 45 dollars), after 5 months you will have 25 gallons of propane, and will be able to cook for at least a couple months post a blackout, not that they will typically last that long.
This all not only gives you the ability to cook, but also to heat water for baths and such.
It is unavoidable that we will have to buy stuff to help us prepare, but we can take small steps and find cheaper solution starting off, just to get us to a certain point in survival before we start dishing out the dough.
For electricity, I first recommend getting a $75 800Watt inverter. I have made posts about them: Inverters. Attach this to a 2×6 to allow ease of mounting it under the hood of your car in a storm, not a permanent installation. Connect it to your car battery, start the car, and let it idle. You have made a 800 Watt Generator 1600 Watt Peak with just 50-75 bucks!
Then we work on heating and cooling the person, not the space. So, get an electric blanket and a fan for every person in the home. You could get a couple more if you are expecting company when something like this happens.
Next, I recommend getting a 5000-7500 Watt generator. This is 500 bucks if you find them on sale, which you can quite a bit later in the year. This will be one of the most useful preps that you will get. It is actually very likely that power will go down for storms, or even fallen trees that are nowhere near your home. You can run refrigerators, freezers, and a TV with PBS or Nickelodian to keep the children in good spirits. You will thank me for that little nugget after 3 days with the power out. Should you run the fridge? I don’t agree that you should. I think a counter-top icemaker with a very good insulated cooler would do you well. It is actually much more efficient to make ice and use a cooler than to run a refrigerator. I know that there are the new YETI coolers, and I agree that they are good, but (gonna make some people mad here) overpriced. We have an old Igloo 150qt Max Cold and it has kept food cold when we forgot about it, WITHOUT ICE, over night!
Once you have more power, you consider more lighting, but stick with LED, and space heating and cooling. Individual window unit air conditioners are great for cooling one space to be used. The rest of the house, you use open windows and fans to just keep it cooler, but don’t air condition it. I like the Mr. Heater Brand heaters for efficiency. Most kerosene heaters are efficient, but pose a risk. Mr Heater has a shut off for low oxygen and for knock over. Many of the new electric heaters also have knock-over shut-off. Just remember that you will be using about a third of your power on the generator if you run one.
Before getting the generator, while you are using the automobile as a generator, you should begin storing and rotating your fuel, which I have also blogged about: Storing & Reducing Price of Gasoline, Find Gas in Fuel Shortage. We first start off with getting one five-gallon gas (or diesel) container a month, until we have 5 containers. Get it around the same time every month. Now you have 25 gallons of fuel. Number the cans as you get them from #1-5. Use #1 in your tank, and take it to fill it when you fill your car. Then next time, use #2 and fill it up when you fill your car. After the first five months of actually filling the containers, once you start rotating them, it costs you NOTHING, and now you have extended your driving AND backup power capabilities. You can do the same for kerosene for lamps and heaters.
Hope this wasn’t overwhelming, Stephen, but if you go back and read the post again, making a list in order of importance and from smallest item to biggest item (which I think I did a pretty good job already), you will have a great list to start with. I can’t ask all of you enough to leave comments on my posts and email me with questions, so I can serve you better.
As I write tips for your adventures and hear about cool gear, I will let you know all about it!