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The power goes out. What next?

 
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Without going down the rabbit hole of survivalism, I wanted to discuss the topic of basic, common sense, energy independence with regards to electricity. What practical steps have some of you taken, and is it even a priority/possibility for you?

What am I talking about? How would you function if the power grid abruptly shut down. Say a week passed without power, then two and three...
How much electricity do you really NEED?
What do you need it for?
I know some of you have probably experienced this firsthand. How did day to day life happen with work continue?

Here is a disturbance report from the Department of Energy(I believe), that lists different problems that the grid has faced this year. March 5th shows an interesting "cyber event" that is fairly troubling. I read Lights Out, by Ted Koppel a couple years ago, and his concerns seemed very valid. Government estimates that 10% of the population would survive after a year without power. Pretty sobering.


 
steward
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I am very close to someone who makes a living working for a power company. Most people have no idea how close we are to brown outs at the least. Power companies that are moving to wind and solar are going to fast. Now they find themselves short on generation. Best have a backup for everything supplied by electricity.

I have propane and solar lighting. Stocked pantry too.
 
pollinator
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I grew up (physically) in the 70's and we had at least 2-3 power outages a year that lasted for over a day, sometimes longer.  My dad was a Queen's Scout, so we were well prepared to weather the storm, so to speak.  We didn't have a genny, but we had several ways to cook and lots of shelf-stable food from canning.  Thanks to my dad, we even had milk in tetra-paks from somewhere, though you couldn't buy them in normal stores, so I don't know where he got them.

As an adult, I've experienced the blackout of August 2003, iirc, and that's about it.  I'm still shocked that that's the only real outage I've had to deal with.

I've got a 1500W 12V inverter that I can power from my car, though I've never had to use it.  I bought it on sale for half off and it's really the cheapest way I know of to be able to run a fridge, freezer, or furnace fan (one at a time).  
 
gardener
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I think the biggest thing that people don't think about is water. Many people don't think about the fact that their water source is dependent on electricity. I see a lot of really wonderful farms that are sustainable in many ways but don't have a secure water source. Water isn't just about hydration and hygiene. Growing food requires it in many, many circumstances. I don't know of anyone whose diet is significantly made up of food that wasn't irrigated. Many people are trialing growing orchards from seed with no water, which is cool, but no one currently eats a big proportion if their diet from it, that I know of.

Even irrigating from a pond requires electricity. And if the grid is down, it's likely that maintaining or buying new solar panels will not be feasible
 
master pollinator
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Daniel Richardson wrote:Say a week passed without power, then two and three...



That would mean civilization has collapsed, so I would prepare to cash in my chips, dying of starvation probably.
 
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Location: Central Texas
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The power grid is a convenient accessory most of us take for granted. We recently (this month) had a 48 hr power outage due to a tornado close by.  It was little noticed.

I am putting the finishing touches on a small cabin with a hybrid power system.  1300kW solar, 880 amp battery bank, 3000w inverter, transfer switches and power source selectors.   The cabin was designed from the start to disconnect from the Central Texas grid October thru April.  I have no delusions of living reasonably without air conditioning during the high summer months.

All lights are 12v LEDS, the exhaust fan and ceiling fan are 12v.  A selectable transfer switch powers 6 AC voltage circuits via inverter.  Microwave, fridge, chest freezer, propane/electric water heater and 2 circuits of wall outlets (TV,DISH receiver, laptop, charging stations)  are on the transfer switch.  A 2kw Honda inverter generator provides backup power.

I am not doing this because I think the end of the world is imminent.  I am doing it to be as self sufficient as possible.  It dovetails nicely with my chickens, bees, garden and orchard.

I am 63 yo and while I am not a full blown permie,  I do find some great info here if I filter the implausible and outlandish.  I also find the community here pleasant.  I try to imagine what life was like on a rural family farmstead during the 30's and 40's and emulate that.

I like the results so far.



 
Posts: 182
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I have experienced 48 hour outages. Once a day I would fire up the generator to run the freezer. I had water stored. The only long term issue is water. I can camp for months, but would hate to see my plants die!
 
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We have taken steps to build a farm that stores water and has multiple systems in place so that if one area fails due to heat and lack of water, other systems can still flourish. I've designed our homestead to work with no mechanical input. (Well, input of human powered mechanics, but no engines).

BUT - we rely on a well. With a pump. And if the power goes out, we are basically screwed on that front.

To carry us through the first week to 10 days, we have stored water for drinking. We have a stream nearby to collect water for washing. And I taught myself how to distill water using a rocket mass heater system. We live close to Puget Sound and, in a pinch, can grab water from there and heat distill it, although that is labor intensive and time consuming.

Mostly though, we store water on the farm - enough to last 3 months without rainfall to replenish them.

We also store lamps with oil, and solar lights that can be used indoors.

I have much trepidation about using generators in case of a protracted black out. I feel the noise would alert people to our location and they would want to compel us to share our fuel. Of which it might end badly. Better to get low and get quiet and help out our wonderful neighbors close to us. Plus, fuel runs out. So I've always wondered what the long term point was. We use a generator now for shorter power outages, but longer ones require systems to make things work.

I've taken it on grace that with a long term black out, most businesses will be disrupted, so going to work will be out - so I only store enough fuel to fill up one tank of gas in one car. It's my way of thinking that in case of a long term blackout situation, the best systems are ones that are quiet, renewable, and don't alert people to them. I choose to believe that most people are wonderfully good and nice and helpful. But it's the small subsection of people who have mischief on the mind that I keep in mind when designing our systems on the farm.

I've thought a lot about not trying to cram our old life into a new life without electricity. So our habits would have to change, and our priorities would have to shift. Time would be spent differently. I think the biggest thing we cultivate on our farm is flexibility and a daily practice of radical acceptance of current situations, whatever those may be. I feel like my mind is the biggest obstacle or the biggest hero of any situation.
 
Daniel Richardson
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Great feedback so far!

Sam and Lindsey, it looks like you've been pretty pro-active and have an awesome set up! It seems like a good generator(s) is almost a necessity, though Lindsey, your concerns about noise are something to consider.
I own a 2kW Yamaha generator that runs on LP. These inverter generators are pretty quiet and sip gas. I'm not sure how long it could run on a 500 gallon tank.

Timothy and Sam, it would be unfortunate to deal with a prolonged outage in the summer. Here in Colorado, food preservation would be a lot easier in the winter(set it outside).

Lindsey and James, you both make an excellent point about water. I'm in the process of building our house and want to build a couple 20k gallon cisterns(one is for heat storage) to store water. Our well is 1000' deep and that just seems too far down to get to in an emergency.  We'll be able to put in a smaller electric pump to fill the cisterns. I've been thinking of installing something like a reserve tank in the attic that can be fed by an old fashioned hand pump from the cisterns.

Tyler, that line of thought is what I'm hoping to avoid for my family and the folks on this site, but I get it. I'm pretty sure some people have been through an outage longer than a month though. It would seem like communications would be key to knowing what the heck was going on so you could make a plan. What kinds of equipment do you guys have? I'm thinking about picking up some goTennas and tinkering with them. This site has a good interactive program that allows you to see how mesh network range really matters.
 
gardener
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I have been in an area where the power was out for over two months after a hurricane. And several times it has been out for a week or two (also due to hurricanes...yay Gulf Coast).

I found that long distance backpacking was great training for living without power. I also live in my truck without much power (a solar light, a battery powered flashlight, a smartphone that can be charged in the cigarette lighter or with a small solar charger, and a jump box which can also provide some limited charging power via outlet or USB).

In my truck, I always have my backpacking and camping equipment, so I can stay warm and cook no matter what. This includes a small propane stove as well as a larger solar cooker. I also have twelve gallons of water in jerry cans, and a few water purification methods. I usually have some bulk foods in the truck at all times (beans, rice) as well as stuff that’s quick/easy (apples, energy bars, nuts). None of this is for SHTF scenarios, it’s just how I live, since I spend months at a time working seasonally in the national forests or hiking in the mountains.

I also hunt, fish, and forage.
 
gardener
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My first thought is probably least of most people's concern. How to get cool. Time of year would influence that. Once that is solved i think i am set up pretty good. A root cellar would be one solution to that issue.

Heating, cooking, lighting is relatively attainable.

Refrigeration is an issue as we would lose a lot of frozen meats. I'd probably run a generator as needed to preserve that, which i have on hand.

My water supply would last months. Not an issue.

 
James Landreth
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I think an important dimension to this discussion is duration. Is the grid down forever, or just a few days, months, weeks? Some people could survive for a while using stopgap measures like stored food and basic survival gear. But maintaining a stable community or society would involve a lot more.  
 
Jennifer Richardson
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Keeping cool:

Natural fabrics. Synthetics are miserable in hot weather (with the possible exception of some technical fabrics, but I still don’t like the feel of them in the heat)

Water. Go swimming if you can. Wet towel on back of neck, wet bandanna, soak shirt in water before putting it on. Taking it off and shaking it helps renew the cooling power. Consider just spritzing yourself regularly with a spray bottle.

Manual fan. Cheap folding souvenir kind that can be found at county fairs or Asian gift shops in the mall. Or cut out a circle of cardboard and glue it to a popsicle stick. Surprisingly effective especially in conjunction with water.

Adaptation. Your sweat glands actually work more efficiently if they are used to dealing with heat.

Shade. Especially living shade. Consider planting trees strategically if you are in a house.

Thermal mass. This can work for or against you, depending.

Ventilation. This is huge. Sometimes more windows open actually means less ventilation. Must consider the physics.

Glass and the green house effect. If you leave windows closed until you want to use the room/vehicle, you will be behind the eight ball.

Battery powered handheld fan that sprays water on you. Resorting to cheap plastic Walmart crap is a form of defeat, but it feels REALLY good when you’re desperate.
 
Daniel Richardson
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James, you're right, I was a little unclear about duration and that is a huge factor. I guess I wanted to look at this as a progressive journey of steps where people get more prepared over time. What part of the spectrum between a 1 day outage and permanent blackout are most Permies prepared for and why? We all handle risk and preparedness in terms of probability and scope. I believe a large blackout that lasts a few months, especially in rural areas, is more probable than most consider.
 
James Landreth
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Daniel Richardson wrote:James, you're right, I was a little unclear about duration and that is a huge factor. I guess I wanted to look at this as a progressive journey of steps where people get more prepared over time. What part of the spectrum between a 1 day outage and permanent blackout are most Permies prepared for and why? We all handle risk and preparedness in terms of probability and scope. I believe a large blackout that lasts a few months, especially in rural areas, is more probable than most consider.





I agree. We can take the situation in Puerto Rico as an example. It's not improbable that an earthquake in the west or a major storm in the east (in the US) could damage the power grid for several months. The US has a lot of debt and a rather chaotic political situation. Whether you affiliate with a party or ideology or not, it is likely that the US will remain in conflict for a long time. It is likely that organizing to repair the grid would be hampered by this. Sorry, I don't mean to take this discussion towards the cider press
 
pollinator
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Losing power for an extended time is something I've thought a lot about. We use to lose power pretty often for 1 hour up to 3 days at a time. So we bought a small generator and my husband set things up so that we can flip some breakers and have all our important things powered; fridge, freezer, water pump, stove, kitchen and bathroom lights, and the electrical part of our furnace and some outlets so we can charge our cellphones and our chargeable flashlight/lantern.  We have some emergency supplies and extra food. We keep the vehicles filled up with fuel. We have clothes lines set up in the house to dry clothing and can use the bathtub to wash clothing.This all is just a temporary solution.

This year I hope to get started on more long term solutions in place with the goal of making many of them the permanent system, not just a back up;

- install a hand pump for the well so we can access our water( backup system).
- get passive water catchment and store systems in place for irrigating gardens and watering animals(permanent systems).
- build a rocket mass heater for the house for heat(permanent system).
- build a root cellar(permanent system).
- build a greenhouse to grow food, extend growing season and serve to "store" some in ground crops (permanent system).
- build a food dehydrator to add food storage options (permanent system).
- set up a composting toilet system(backup system for now).
-toilet paper solutions, cloth toilet paper? Plants?(backup, maybe permanent).
- clothes lines and racks for drying clothes(permanent system).
-system for washing clothing (backup system? maybe permanent).
-get our gardens, fruit trees, berry bushes, etc. planted.
-get chickens for eggs (easy to store protein).

These are just a start and we still need to figure out better long term systems for getting well water, cooking,lighting,heating water for bathing.

Long term solutions already in place;
-we have bicycles for transportation with baby seat and kid bike trailer if needed.
-we use cloth diapers and cloth wipes for the baby.
-cloth menstrual pads and menstrual cup.
-a powerless drinking water filter(a Berky)
- hand sewing supplies including leather sewing needles.
This list is much to short!

I am working on adding to our collection of hand powered tools and would like a treadle sewing machine, hand cranked grinder for the kitchen, etc.

Hand-Water-Pump.jpg
[Thumbnail for Hand-Water-Pump.jpg]
 
James Landreth
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Adrienne Halbrook wrote:
This year I hope to get started on more long term solutions in place with the goal of making many of them the permanent system, not just a back up;

- install a hand pump for the well so we can access our water( backup system).
- get passive water catchment and store systems in place for irrigating gardens and watering animals(permanent systems).
- build a rocket mass heater for the house for heat(permanent system).
- build a root cellar(permanent system).
- build a greenhouse to grow food, extend growing season and serve to "store" some in ground crops (permanent system).
- build a food dehydrator to add food storage options (permanent system).
- set up a composting toilet system(backup system for now).
-toilet paper solutions, cloth toilet paper? Plants?(backup, maybe permanent).
- clothes lines and racks for drying clothes(permanent system).
-system for washing clothing (backup system? maybe permanent).
-get our gardens, fruit trees, berry bushes, etc. planted.
-get chickens for eggs (easy to store protein).




These are great ideas. I got a simple pump (handpump) installed and I appreciate having it a lot. Gravity fed rainwater collection is next on my list.
 
James Landreth
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Community is another important dimension too, though it's a lot harder to tackle. If you can only feed yourself, what happens next? I don't want to see my neighbors, or anyone, starve. I have a good friend who lives nearby and also does permaculture. She and I have spent the last two years establishing our farms. We've each built up infrastructure, established food forests, and improved the soil on our properties. Now that the groundwork is laid, we're each turning our attention outwards and involving the community more. I'm working with a church to do edible landscaping on its grounds and at the parsonage, and I'm working on convincing landowning members to plant fruit and nut trees on their properties. Being in a rural area, a lot of these people own acreage. We're also going to (fingers crossed) plant an educational food forest at our local library, and another at our elementary. It's slow going, but each tree and each conversation is a step in the right direction.
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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Daniel Richardson wrote:
Tyler, that line of thought is what I'm hoping to avoid for my family and the folks on this site, but I get it. I'm pretty sure some people have been through an outage longer than a month though. It would seem like communications would be key to knowing what the heck was going on so you could make a plan. What kinds of equipment do you guys have?



We don't have any installed backup electric equipment.  I think a solar cel phone charger might be a good idea.  I will look into that, thanks!

As far as survival in a disaster, we'd do fine for a week or two, but beyond that we'd start running out of food and medications.  A disaster cutting us off for more than a week is extremely unlikely here, thank goodness.  Flooding is our biggest risk, but there are multiple routes to town, so even a really tremendous flood would only be an inconvenience.  During the times I've lived in Texas I've experienced a tornado, a major flood, a serious ice storm, and less major flooding, and none of these has been more than an inconvenience for my family, thank heavens!

 
pollinator
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I think it is rather cynical to assume that a situation like that automatically becomes every-man-for-himself survivalist. Disaster situations worldwide show that people usually pull together and support each other through times of crisis.

In practice that means that we are not isolated to what we happen to have stashed. I don't have a backup water source on site, but I do have a car and a short drive to a river!
 
Tyler Ludens
master pollinator
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I agree, Michael.  Our country road "neighborhood" is good about looking after each other.  Everyone here is friendly and helpful, so nobody should feel isolated in a disaster situation.  We experienced this sense of community even when we lived in California, after the Northridge Earthquake, neighbors on our street were checking on each other to make sure everyone was ok.  And even there, after a major quake, the power was out for only a couple days.
 
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I've often thought about life without electricity. the longest ive gone without it is 3 days on 2 occasions. Tornadoes is the cause of it each time.i was able to borrow a gas generator the 1st time.i borrowed a ice chest the 2nd time.between it and the one i already have.allowed me to save my refrigerator foods.freezer foods remaind frozen.both situations allows me to at lest have a good idea to what life would be like with no electric. on a permanent basis..that's one reason i got into home canning.seeing how meats as well as other foods can be canned.i deffently need to learn ways of cooking and canning without electric and gas.
 
pollinator
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I would determine how widespread the outage was. If it was forecast to last for a while, and they can usually give you some idea, I would probably get in the car with my much-better-half, along with our bunny, and everything in our pantry.

I would bring the three clear glass gallon jugs I have used in the past for beermaking, suitable for holding water and disinfecting it, if placed in the sun. Before my internet died, I would take out a map, on paper, and mark the locations of public springs along our potential travel routes. I also would take a berkey-type portable filter.

We would either be going east, to my much-better-half's weekend employers, friends of ours that she assists, either in glassblowing, pottery kiln maintenance and firing, property management and renovations, among other things, or either 6 or 8 hours north, to either my much-better-half's sister's house, or her grandfather's. The first option is more feasible in the short-term, as I could get there with a half-tank of gas.

Wherever we went, I would take my stock of seeds, which I need to inventory and replenish, now that I think about it. I would make sure I had sufficient quantities of sprouting seed, just in case we needed to bridge hunger gaps, and the rest would get planted as soon as I could secure a good, secure location.

I think that shelf-stable pantry goods will be priceless as the power stays out. Keep in mind that most city grocery stores get their food brought in every one to three days. How well would that work without power? Things like lentils and rice, bouillon and spices, do very well as bases to stretch limited fresh resources.

If I had no place to go, I would still leave the city. I would grab camping gear and a canoe and strike out for the natural spring furthest from industry and population that I can reach, which happens to be near a portage entry point to a rather substantial provincial park.

We have a solar/hand-crank weather radio that also charges smart phones, so we'd monitor the situation and act accordingly. If there was no end in site, we'd take a camping trip to the southern interior of said park, portaging in until we find a likely spot away from fire roads and hiking trails. I would hopefully have had the chance to reclaim my hunting bow and equipment, and some books I have set by for just such an eventuality, as Foghorn Leghorn might say.

Oh, and I would seek out one of those largely automated indoor free-range layer operations before all the birds died. I would really scavenge any livestock I could find, but that might be an interesting journey if we portage far in.

My point is, in any blackout lasting longer than three days, I want to be out of the city. At least there, I have a chance to forage food, or come across stores that haven't been eaten out. In the longer term, cities are unliveable, especially for the number of people they're designed to house, without, at very least, electric pumps to supply water, and electricity to power sanitation processes. Smaller populations of people could survive if they were extremely forethoughtful about rooftop water collection, but that is also seasonally dependent; if a long-term outage occurred at the beginning of our summer's dry season, many people would die, turning cities into disease incubators even more than they'd already be with compromised sanitation.

If the power was going out and we knew about it, and let's say I was in charge, I would gear-up for a technological gear-down.

I would place water tanks with wind pumps atop them on every building that would support it, and have it moved to ever-higher tanks, until we had maxxed out our storage capacity for urban gravity-fed water supply.

I would commit resources to freshwater lake-floor aquaculture around our corner of Lake Ontario, as that would have the greatest possibility of feeding the greatest number of people.

I would investigate increasing our aquacultural space by damming the watercourses that drain into the lake, raising the water level in the river valleys and ravines, creating dozens of estuaries and making fish and duck-growing and pollutant-filtering wetlands, while also ensuring that nobody is at risk of building in flood zone, as it would already be flooded, all while not impeding fish traffic up and down said watercourses.

I would have wind pumps aerating where necessary to deal with that lack, increasing system capacity to both filter and grow food.

I think I would have the Food Terminal converted to cold-storage through the use of wind-powered sterling-cycle engines, which refrigerate if you put power into the system. The whole complex is lower than the surrounding terrain, so I would probably just have it covered over for the insulative value of the earth layer atop it, much like with a wofati.

I think much rooftop and southward-facing balcony space would be turned into container-gardening intensively managed farms, growing food crops while lawn space, and any land that couldn't be quickly converted to grow a food plant would be grown out as pasture.

Food tree seedlings would be planted out, air-layering would produce many young seedlings from that, and the Carolinian Oak Savannah that is so carefully preserved here in High Park would be augmented by food forest.

Pigs rescued from confinement would be let loose to eat mast, with all males but the few required for breeding made into bacon, ham, and chops. Chickens would also be rescued and set to creating food.

We would also institute a planting program for black locust for nitrogen-fixation, fuel wood, and building materials.

The bison would be assisted in every conceivable way to breed, and would probably be cross-bred with the available beef, West Highland Cattle, the same with the yak, and for meat, at least, evolution would be allowed to take its course on what savannah was reserved for pasture and wandering West Highland Beefyakalo. I think that dairy cattle would be bred down to backyard-size, with a preference for Jersey, and probably with some yakalo in the mix, for seasonal hardiness.

Home life would change. I have a feeling that rocket mass heaters might be very popular. I also think that we would see more than one family to a house, and that boarding house situations might become more common, as they were here for single young professionals before the turn of the last century, before widespread adoption of electricity. Heating a household, and even just enough hot water for regular bathing and dishes, would be hard enough that small families wouldn't be able to live apart.

I think houses would probably move to commonly-held pasture lots, perhaps kept as individual paddocks for a commonly-held flock of chickens, sheep, and mini-cattle. Goats might also be kept, but as they are browsers, their keeping would be more specialised than, say, that of sheep, who would do well on carefully converted lawnspace.

As soon as short- and medium-term food, including storage, had been handled, I would ensure that all riparian areas were boosted with beneficial plantings, including a shit-tonne of willow, to shade banks and suck up excess nutrients, and with sedimentation traps, where necessary, to encourage the formation of wetlands. This would not only filter the water, but increase the diversity of wildlife, including game animals that could be harvested.

Then, despite all we do, winter would come, and a great number of us would likely freeze to death.

Which is why, ideally, I am not in charge of saving the city, and I would relocate to farming country with my much-better-half and her family, and maybe some of mine, too.

-CK
 
Timothy Markus
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Daniel Richardson wrote:Timothy and Sam, it would be unfortunate to deal with a prolonged outage in the summer. Here in Colorado, food preservation would be a lot easier in the winter(set it outside).



When we lost power for a week I cooked up what was in the freezer after a couple of days.  I keep gallon jugs of water in the freezer for more thermal mass and can pull them out for the fridge or to transfer frozen stuff to my 5 day coolers.  Personally, I think the winter would be harder to deal with.  I wouldn't have to worry about the frozen food but water and heat would be an issue.  I've spend a winter without running water for most of Jan & Feb, which sucked, but it wasn't the end of the world.  For me, electricity is a nice to have.  I've got several different ways to cook without power, at least 5 ways to make sure water is potable and I can stay warm down to at least -40.

When I can, I go survival camping in the winter; no food, no fire, but I do take some fishing tackle.  If I don't eat, I'm OK, but the fishing is great when there's nobody else out there.

I used to worry about back-up power but I've found that I can get by without it just fine.
 
pollinator
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Growing up in the 80's in Home counties England.. (a very rich area) power outages of up to a week were part of the course every winter. The longest was 10 days, that one we moved out and went to stay at friends but generally there wasn't a big problem.

Heat. we had two open fires in the house (180m2) these were then used instead of the gas central heating, unheated rooms were closed off.
Light. candles, the candles (and matches) were kept in the sideboard behind the living room door so we knew where they were when it all went dark
Cooking. cooker was gas both hobs and oven (mains gas never went off)
Water. Mains again and it didn't go off, but as with all houses in the UK at the time it has a watertank in the attic even if there was a supply interruption.

chest freezers are good for a week with no power so long as they are not opened, wrapping them up with any spare duvets etc helps as well. We did loose the freezer contents on the 10 day outage but that is what insurance is for after all.

I remember one Christmas a succession of neighbours coming with bits of Christmas dinner to cook at our house as we had the only gas oven! Fortunately it was a big cooker with two ovens.


Here in my present house we have a gas hob and a standalone gas heater both run off of bottled gas we always have one full bottle and one part, a full one will last the cooker around 3 months. so we have some heat and cooking ability. Water is again mains so unless something major hits it will not go off for long (backup generators at the pumping station) We have tons of candles so there again is some heat and enough light.

We are not as well set up here as in our last house, in that one we had two springs for fresh water, plus water tanks for toilet flushing etc etc. and we were less than 200m from the river as a last resort, here well nothing really. Neither house had any backup heating other than portable gas, which is quite irritating as they both have solid fuel heating! But the furnaces are in barns and require electric to pump.
 
pollinator
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Tyler Ludens wrote:

Daniel Richardson wrote:Say a week passed without power, then two and three...



That would mean civilization has collapsed, so I would prepare to cash in my chips, dying of starvation probably.



No. Three weeks is still well within 'bad but localized event'.

After a big windstorm last winter many people in my region, especially those on smaller islands, had no power for over up to 2 weeks.

This was despite the fact that the windstorm was quite localized and resources from elsewhere in the province were shunted in to greatly accelerate the process.

The biggest lesson for many that thought they were prepared, was fuel for generators. Many people ran out, and couldn't get more for days.

If the grid goes down country-wide for weeks the food supply chain is fucked, and so is pretty well everyone. But there is a lot of room for smaller disasters to run into weeks or months, and these are quite possible to get through.


My current weak link is AC freezers on neighbours grid connection; right now I only have 1 backup generator, and probably 3 weeks fuel on average. The rest is solar...
 
master steward
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Jennifer Richardson wrote:

Manual fan. Cheap folding souvenir kind that can be found at county fairs or Asian gift shops in the mall. Or cut out a circle of cardboard and glue it to a popsicle stick. Surprisingly effective especially in conjunction with water.



Battery powered handheld fan that sprays water on you. Resorting to cheap plastic Walmart crap is a form of defeat, but it feels REALLY good when you’re desperate.



We picked up one of these at a grocery store. It's cheap plastic and the handle falls off, but WOW it works well on cooling us (and our food) down!



I don't know why they make electric/battery-powered fans when handcrank fans work so well. I really would love to find one that is made of more durable materials!


James Landreth wrote:
I agree. We can take the situation in Puerto Rico as an example. It's not improbable that an earthquake in the west or a major storm in the east (in the US) could damage the power grid for several months. T



This is my great worry. We do find in short (3 days or less) power outages. We use our generator to run our freezer and fridge (this thread is a good reminder to clean out the generator) and just cook on the woodstove and wash dishes with our rainbarrel water that I boil on the woodstove. And, I'm pretty sure our septic system would be good for a long time if all we were doing was flushing the toilets with rainbarrel water.

We're on a well, and the pressure in our pressure tank held out for drinking water for the longest outage we had. We ONLY used the running water to drink and dribble a little water over our dishes as a final rinse. What I would LOVE would be to have a manual pump. I found this pump (https://www.handpumps.com/excelsior-e2.html) that you can use to manually fill your pressure tank, without the use of electricity. I think this would be fantastic thing to have...as long as an earthquake didn't destroy our well and pressure tank, that is!





I've looked into getting a manual pump like the flo-jak, but I'm not really seeing any impartial reviews on it. Has anyone bought and used a flo-jak?

As for lighting and charging things, I've pretty much given up on solar stuff. We get so little sun during the winter that EVERY SINGLE solar light I've bought, has not survived winter. I have no operational panels.

I like hand-crank stuff butter. this radio is handcrank and has a nice reading light, as well as flashlight, and can charge devices. It's got great sound, too, and even picks up a few shortwave stations for added entertainment.



I would LOVE to have a bicycle-powered light. Anyone who's not working could be riding the bike (you could ride while knitting or reading or even whittling) and generate light. But, I'm assuming that'd need some sort of battery? I'd LOVE to get away from needing a battery, as those probably don't last forever and are toxic to dispose of and the mining for them is pretty devastating to areas of our world. But, my little hand-crank radio probably has a battery that it charges, or else it wouldn't hold the charge I give it (like another one of my hand-crank radios is now.)

Hmmmm, on the subject of refrigeration, I wonder if I put a ton of insulation around my chest freezer, could I use a bicycle for like 30 minutes a day to bring it down to freezing temperatures?

 
Skandi Rogers
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Nicole Alderman wrote:

Jennifer Richardson wrote:


I would LOVE to have a bicycle-powered light. Anyone who's not working could be riding the bike (you could ride while knitting or reading or even whittling) and generate light. But, I'm assuming that'd need some sort of battery? I'd LOVE to get away from needing a battery, as those probably don't last forever and are toxic to dispose of and the mining for them is pretty devastating to areas of our world. But, my little hand-crank radio probably has a battery that it charges, or else it wouldn't hold the charge I give it (like another one of my hand-crank radios is now.)

Hmmmm, on the subject of refrigeration, I wonder if I put a ton of insulation around my chest freezer, could I use a bicycle for like 30 minutes a day to bring it down to freezing temperatures?



Dynamo bike lights are quite common and do not require a battery to work, Most have one as the lights going off when you stop would not be very safe. Wind up radios also don't have to have a battery some operate on clockwork, I see there are some combined radio/torches as well.

As to the freezer, unlikely, there's a lovely video online of a professional cyclist trying to toast bread in a 700W toaster, he just manages it. so a freezer would need less than half that power but he was only doing it for what 3 minutes? if you can cycle at 16mph for long enough then yes (using the videos numbers)

 
pollinator
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Fortunately the property I bought is well-equipped for such things. We are off-gird with a fairly large solar array and solar hot water. The property has three generators. The well pump turns on between 1-3 pm every day, and pumps up to a 5000 gallon storage tank that is then gravity fed to the houses, it can also be directly accessed. My house also has two rain collection water tanks, not sure of the size, but they are large, black plastic tanks. There are also 4 propane tanks and a couple of diesel tanks on the property. There is one pond, one drainage ditch, and two seasonal streams. If all else fails, we have wood stoves, candles, and some know-how.
 
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I'm pretty sure the house we live in was built just before rural electrification got here.  There's a chimney through the kitchen with an access hole for the wood cookstove chimney (though unfortunately, we don't have a wood cookstove), a proper root cellar, and a big cistern.  Being at the end of a line, we have fairly frequent outages as is, and we're usually the last folks to get power back when things do go down.  Between a well-designed house and ongoing experience, we've gotten pretty comfortable with power outages.  We've gone as many as 5 days without power here (in the summer), and it was a nuisance, but not a huge deal.  

That time, we lost most of the food in the freezers (well, we fed it to the dogs and chickens), which I think we'd resign ourselves to in any longer-term summer outage.  Trying to can up two freezers' worth of random garden stuff when fuel is at a premium doesn't hit me as a great use of resources.  We have plenty of other food in the house, and if it was a summer outage, we'd be eating out of the garden and refilling the freezers shortly anyhow (assuming the power came back on within a few weeks).  In a winter outage, we could just drag the freezers outside to stay frozen while still protecting the food inside from critters.

In a winter outage, our biggest issue is heat.  We have a wood stove that heats the living room very nicely, but I don't think enough heat gets to the basement to keep the cistern from freezing in an extended outage.  I'm not sure what we'd do there.  We also don't have a whole winter's worth of seasoned wood, since we don't use that stove for primary heat.  

Otherwise, we're in pretty good shape for short-to-mid length (say a month) power outages.  

It would be ten minutes' work to plumb the downspouts into the cistern to collect rainwater - there are input / output holes, so the system was designed for rainwater collection, though we currently collect rainwater in outdoor barrels.  We don't actually water our garden or trees very much, and what we do water is normally from rain barrels.  The chickens and dogs also drink rainwater for much of the summer, whenever the barrels are full.  In the winter, there is usually plenty of snow to melt for drinking and washing.

For hygiene, in a short power outage, our sewers are gravity-fed into a septic tank, so we could just keep letting it do that.  After about a week, though, we'd need to stop, as the tank pumps out by electric pump.  We could easily divert the bathtub to drain onto the lawn, though, and dig an outhouse hole.  My husband and I have traveled to some very water-poor areas, and know from experience that we can clean ourselves by dippering from a bucket - you can get completely clean in less (usually waaayyy less) than 5 gallons of water that way.  We can wash laundry in the tub, and dry it on the line - either outdoors or on a rack in the house.

The root cellar is definitely not as cold as a fridge in the summertime (though it is very close in the winter), but we use it for cool storage year-round.  It works fine for keeping eggs, dairy, and such cool for a few days or a week.  Milk won't last as long in the summer, though, and I wouldn't trust meat to be stored down there for any length of time.  In a winter outage, we'd just keep frozen stuff outside, and use buckets of snow to keep the fridge cool - we've done that before.  We could probably seal things in glass jars and sink them in the cistern for some level of refrigeration, too.

Lighting is a non-issue for half the year, but in winter, we'd be stuck with flashlights and kerosene lamps.  We keep both on hand because of the frequent outages we already have.

For cooking, we have the BBQ, the wood stove, and a camp stove.  We could build a fire pit in the yard easily enough, too.  There are plenty of trees here.  

We have lots of books, drawing supplies, board games, and non-electronic kids' toys, and don't normally use a ton of electricity for entertainment anyhow, besides the internet.  

Getting to work (or to town at all) would be an issue, though if the power was out, my day job wouldn't be functioning either.  When we had the one extended local outage, the gas stations were all closed, since they need power to pump the gas.  Not a big deal for us, since we were well prepared to stay put, but it could be an issue for some people.

The thing we noticed in extended power outages (and when we traveled in places with little or no access to electricity) is that everything needs to be planned, and takes more time.  If it takes laundry two days to dry during a humid part of summer, you need to do smaller loads more often to make sure you've got clean shirts and underpants.  Cooking takes a lot more attention, since you can't just set the heat to medium and go do something else for a few minutes.  If your ingredients are more limited (since you can't grab meat and veggies from the freezer), meals might take more planning.  Also, things get dirtier when it is really time-consuming or inconvenient to clean them - we wore clothing more times before washing, and bathed less frequently.  Carpets would be a nightmare in short order, and we actually ripped all the carpet out of our house not long after that extended power outage.  It's much easier to sweep.  Income might be a problem, too - if we couldn't get to work, and weren't being paid, things like mortgages and taxes might become problematic.  

I think it would be a lot tougher to ride out long-ish power outages in the city, since there are fewer things you can do to mitigate issues - imagine the neighbors seeing you dig an outhouse in your back yard!  Here in the middle of nowhere, though, we have a lot of options.  

I think it also depends on how much you rely on electricity in the first place.  If you don't watch TV, the kids don't miss it when the power is out.  Same thing if you chop your vegetables with a knife, rather than a food processor.   Given that we're in an old house, we don't have the electric outlets or counter space for a lot of gadgets, so we don't have a dishwasher, electric kettle, food processor, coffee grinder, or many other gadgets that some folks really rely on.  That makes things run more smoothly when the power is out, as you can heat a kettle of water just as easily on the wood stove or BBQ as the electric stovetop.  
 
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Would gas still be plentiful? Our thing is that we live somewhere without any trees close. like at all. We have to drive to the mountain to get firewood. Without firewood we would freeze to death. So I'd be more worried about gas.
 
Jess Dee
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elle sagenev wrote:Would gas still be plentiful? Our thing is that we live somewhere without any trees close. like at all. We have to drive to the mountain to get firewood. Without firewood we would freeze to death. So I'd be more worried about gas.



For me, when the power goes out, the electric fan in my furnace stops working.  So even if I have gas, I don't really have heat.  Friends who have a natural gas fireplace run into the same issue - it only heats one  room without the electric fan (it heats most of their house when the fan is on).

I believe that some of the pumps that pressurize natural gas and move it through pipes are dependent on electricity, so that might also be a problem eventually, though not for several days or weeks.  It would also depend on how large an area was without power.
 
elle sagenev
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Jess Dee wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:Would gas still be plentiful? Our thing is that we live somewhere without any trees close. like at all. We have to drive to the mountain to get firewood. Without firewood we would freeze to death. So I'd be more worried about gas.



For me, when the power goes out, the electric fan in my furnace stops working.  So even if I have gas, I don't really have heat.  Friends who have a natural gas fireplace run into the same issue - it only heats one  room without the electric fan (it heats most of their house when the fan is on).

I believe that some of the pumps that pressurize natural gas and move it through pipes are dependent on electricity, so that might also be a problem eventually, though not for several days or weeks.  It would also depend on how large an area was without power.



We heat our house with a wood stove at this point but I can only get wood for it if I have gas for my car.
 
master steward
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I like to have a three year's supply of firewood on site.  Partially because in my climate it takes at least two to season enough.  The third year supply is my insurance against a health issue keeping me from cutting for a year or two.  
 
Jess Dee
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elle sagenev wrote:

Jess Dee wrote:

elle sagenev wrote:Would gas still be plentiful? Our thing is that we live somewhere without any trees close. like at all. We have to drive to the mountain to get firewood. Without firewood we would freeze to death. So I'd be more worried about gas.



For me, when the power goes out, the electric fan in my furnace stops working.  So even if I have gas, I don't really have heat.  Friends who have a natural gas fireplace run into the same issue - it only heats one  room without the electric fan (it heats most of their house when the fan is on).

I believe that some of the pumps that pressurize natural gas and move it through pipes are dependent on electricity, so that might also be a problem eventually, though not for several days or weeks.  It would also depend on how large an area was without power.



We heat our house with a wood stove at this point but I can only get wood for it if I have gas for my car.



Heh, I completely misunderstood :)   When we had an extended power outage locally, we couldn't get gas for our vehicles, either, as the pumps were all electric and the gas stations didn't have generators.
 
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Living somewhere with the following characteristics are fantastic advantages when faced with the problem of having no power for extended periods of time -


A temperate climate, huge advantage not to need to heat or cool your home to survive comfortably. Unfortunately, almost all of the USA outside of the west coast and Hawaii have either extremely hot, or extremely cold weather at times of the year, if not both.

Living somewhere with year-round rain is another big advantage for crops, collecting water, grassland for animals, etc

Living somewhere with a significant gravity fed water source for crop/animal/human needs, whether it be spring or a pond, or both if your lucky enough.


If you live somewhere with all 3, a temperate climate, adequate year-round rainfall and a significant gravity fed water source, then you have a pretty golden head start on setting up a property that can comfortably sustain life without electricity for extended periods of time.

Access to firewood and the knowledge and or tools to start of fire would be a big help as well.
 
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Nick, you've brought up the main crux on this issue........location. Most people have chosen their location based upon factors other than survivalist or subsistsnce living.

Living without electricity, gasoline, and other purchased energy sources for a month or more can be done in the right location. But it will be very difficult or cause extreme (possibly lethal) situations in many locations. It's something people don't take into consideration when they buy their land/home. I know that I didn't up until we chose the place we are now living.

By the way, we chose a spot with adequate rainfall, a local water system deliverable via gravity (both county and ranch water is gravity fed), enough acreage in grass for livestock, woods for firewood, year around growing season, and a community with the skills to hunt, fish, repair stuff. It wasn't luck that we ended up in this spot. We did our homework. The one thing we didn't have was knowledge/experience, but we went to work acquiring skills and learning as we developed our homestead. We were aware that we lacked this when we moved here but were willing to go learn.
 
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Daniel, am interested in the cistern setup you intend to use - any details you can share on that?  Also, does anyone have experience with a solar powered well pump?  Advice or recommendations?
 
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Reading all your thoughts and practical experience was inspiring.

The situation  near a big city like Munich would be quite different. During the bad years in and after WW2 people cut down the trees in parks for firewood, sometimes ate pets and went to beg in the countryside.

I am aware that I do not even have the suggested minimum of supplies (water, canned food) etc. and should really stock up on those - problem being lack of storage room, but I could squeeze in a little bit. I have never experienced outages for longer than a day or two (and that was years ago).
For heat, we have a wood stove. In the garden we have a big oven (pizza, bread, roast). My neighbour has a combination stove for cooking/heating. Overall a good, helpful neighbourhood, but not much self-sufficiency.

People have lived without electricity for most of their history - but today's setup is so reliant on modern infrastructure that we could not feed/attend all without a transition time.
I have read the memoirs of a great aunt of mine (born 1876) where she describes a spring flood after the Rhine froze in one harsh winter and which hit in the middle of the night - no lights or power to help you! But all in all they had a good life, they learned, worked, enjoyed, played music, wrote etc., all without electricity. They walked everywhere, and in summer when they could borrow horses and carriage from the director of the university they made nice outings in lieu of vacation.

I wonder if any of you have read the book The Wall by the Austrian author Marlen Haushofer. Do so if you get your hands on it. It describes the necessity to sustain yourself when you no longer can depend on things like electricity, shops etc.
(https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/586852.The_Wall)
I found it really gripping
 
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