Where and how to start your journey towards a more prepared house hold
Part 5 Energy
I recommended Knowledge as one of the first things you should try and gain in part 1, so in part four we will look at another basic category of Items or Stuff I believe is needed for emergency preparations to keep yourself and family safe and secure and today that is Energy.
- Water that’s clean and drinkable
- Shelter, could be your home, a tent, or proper clothing for your area.
- Food, canned goods, freezer stocked up, garden growing or freeze dried.
- Energy, be it heat to cook your food or warm your shelter or electricity for lights & radios.
- Security / Self Defense
- Reliable transportation
- Low or No Debt
- Trade Currency, i.e. cash (or Barter items), to acquire the things you need from others.
So let’s look at our options and sources for energy if the grid goes down, specifically to cook with, lighting, communications, transportation and for warmth or cooling.
Cooking – If you have natural gas you should be OK for a while if it is a short term event, (and you don’t live in an earth quake area, if so all bets are off). Propane stores basically forever as long as the container is not damaged so if you have a barbecue pit or a portable camping stove you are set to boil water and cook food. When it comes to camping stoves there are lots of manufacturers and fuel options available. Different types and capacities from a two burner Coleman that runs on propane or white gas to a small portable alcohol, or one of the Solo Stoves that burns twigs and pine cones. Don’t have any of those, how about a camp fire or fire pit. Admittedly it’s a skill set to cook on an open fire and you need a few items like a grate or tripod to do so safely and efficiently. Now is a good time to practice and learn from your mistakes while supplies are available and working. A member of a MAG I use to belong to took it a step further and bought a wood stove and his family relies on it for cooking, heating water and canning.
Lights – Basics first, a black out kit, click here for the contents list of ours. Next acquire more LED flashlights, portable lanterns and plenty of fresh batteries to fit. As funds allow add more rechargeable batteries to your supplies and a solar panel of some sort to recharge them. We picked one on amazon that has multiple voltage out puts from USB 5 volts to recharge cell phones and tables all the way up to 12 volts to recharge a car battery.
Oil lamps and candles are options as well but be careful with open flames inside your home; a couple of good fire extinguishers are always a good addition to your home. Don’t forget extra wicks and plenty of lamp oil.
Power – After you have the basics covered, save some money, do some research and buy a 500 watt true sine wave inverter. With this and some extension cords you can use the battery in your card to supply AC power to some lights and radio or TV for short intervals. Next step up would be a small generator and I recommend at least a 1000 watt compact unit like the Honda E1000 or a Yamaha EF100is. These both are equipped with an inverter that will supply clean power to any electronics you will want to run. Yes you can get a similar size package for about 1/3 to ½ price from places like Harbor Freight and while I don’t have any first-hand experience with them, at such a low price point I wonder about there long term reliability. That being said if that is what your budget allows, it’s better than nothing.
One other advantage to the Honda, and I assume the Yamaha as well, is there are aftermarket carburetor kits available that allow them to run on natural gas or propane so fuel storage becomes less of a hassle. For a link to one we used click here, our use google for a search.
And what good is a generator if you don’t store some fuel, be it gasoline, diesel or propane. Think safety and whichever you chose to store, check your homeowner’s insurance policy to make sure there is not some fine print on the amount you can store.
To continue to build on your off grid power supplies would next be purchase some deep cycle batteries, at least one but as many as you can afford in even number pairs, a bigger inverter and a charge controller and a 100 watt to 150 watt solar panel. You can use the solar panel or the generator to recharge the batteries if grid power is not available and the sun is shining.
Other options to consider if money and resources are available on your property are Wind and or Water power. You will still need some batteries to store your energy but if a good flowing stream or a windy hill is accessible there are dozens of manufacturers that can help put you in the home power business.
Heat – Next let’s consider what are options for heating your home in winter, assuming you live in a region that gets cold. As previously mention wood stoves or fireplace inserts are very efficient, much more than just an open fireplace for heating a living space. Portable propane space heaters are available here locally at Walmart, Tractor Supply and Northern Tool that can be used. Same cautions apply for open flames inside house, keep away from combustibles, have fire extinguishers available, and have a window opened just a bit for fresh air and keep out of reach of children and pets. A carbon monoxide alarm is also a wise investment for any home.
Transportation – Whether your mode of choice is an automobile, pickup truck, motorcycle, four wheeler, Jet Ski, boat, snowmobile, airplane or helicopter, sooner or later fuel may become an issue for that vehicle. Alternatives to consider are a bicycle, electric golf cart, electric car, horse, dog sled or being in good enough shape to walk some distance. Horses and dog sleds take another skill set, specialized equipment and knowledge but if you have access, then you are one of the lucky ones. The electric car and golf cart will have a limited range but if you have a way to recharge them you could be ahead of the curve.
Radios – Communications are going to be vital if the grid is down. Simplest place to start is a good quality weather radio and a couple of inexpensive two way radios like a Baofeng UR-V5. The UV-5R radios are available from lots of sellers on Amazon and eBay and are a great little radio for under $30.00 each. These will receive UHF, VHF, FRS and MURS frequencies and if you have an amateur HAM license you can talk on 2 meter and 440 short wave bands. It can also be programed as a scanner for your local area emergency services. A great addition of a replacement antenna will improve the reception and transmit range over the one included. Lots of detailed information on the web on these so take time and do some research.
That’s some of my thoughts on energy in its different forms, but there are dozens more tangents that can be considered. Keep in mind the best time to start preparing and working on some of these options is the present. Make a plan on what to work on first, save the money and pay as you go; don’t go into any more debt than you already are.
As always please add your thoughts and comments below.