How Long Would You Last Without Power?

Started by cockpitbob, February 06, 2014, 09:50:40 am

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That's a nice looking homebrewed 12V system.  ;)
"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety" - Benjamin Franklin



Hi all!

While I was Active Duty Air Force stationed out in Oklahoma, we had an ice storm that knocked out power to most of the region for 14 days. One thing I quickly learned was that all "expectations" go out the window.

I had "expected" that I would be able to run over to the next town over and buy a generator at Home Depot if I needed it. Wrong -- roads closed due to ice on the highways, and a collapsed bridge.

When I finally did get my hands on a generator, I "expected" that I would be able to go buy gas from Walmart, or one of the mom and pop gas stations in town. Wrong -- no power, no fuel pumps. When fuel was available, the city took first priority on all fuel for necessary generators such as sanitation, hospital, EOC, etc...

When I finally did have the opportunity to get gas, I "expected" that I would be able to use my bank card to get it. Wrong -- no power means debit card machines and long haul communications are often out as well.

I learned alot from that experience. Primarily:

1) You don't have enough fuel. No really.
2) You are never REALLY prepared.
3) Radio is vitally important when cellular sites start running out of juice.
4) Natural gas fueled appliances (to include gensets) would be GREAT investments
5) Be fluid.. That which you expect to be able to do will probably change. Resourcefulness, and knowledge are paramount.




You definitely bring up some valid points.  I learned similar lessons in an ice storm and a hurricane. 

Having a generator, even a gas powered one, is good as long as you're able to feed it on your own.  Storing gasoline and propane brings up it's own set of logistical problems.  Another option is solar.  If you live in an HOA area the bastards (I mean HOA board, sorry) may not let you put solar panels on your roof.  Mine won't, the bastards, sorry!  I have a fold-out solar panel that I use just for my radios and to charge my laptop batteries for use in my digital radio ops.  You've got to test this stuff though.  Your power options, grid or off-grid, should be just that, options.  You need to be equally adept at both.

Something else to add to your supply list is good ole, American cash!  Do like I do; put about $25 a week in a lockbox or fireproof box somewhere where you can get to it if you really need it; but it's not right there in your wallet.  If I have it in my wallet, I'll spend it.  For me the $25 a week is just what I spend on coffee so it's not really noticeable.

An option for keeping things like medications and some food cool is something known as a Zeer pot.  There are lots of examples on YouTube!
Take a look here:

Best of luck to ya!


Hi Richard,

I too live in an HOA. It has been most pleasant, no seriously, LOL! We live in an area way west of town near the farmland.  The goal of this development was to give bigger lots, and have more of a "Ranches" kind of feel. Due to that, our HOA is very lenient - allowing many unheard of's such as: chickens/horses, solar panels, large sheds/garages, etc...

Interestingly, our HOA doesn't allow antennas without approval. The beauty of it is that I live in Utah. The ongoing joke about Utah is the number of Mormons, and, well... it's true. I'm not one, but one of the great things about Mormons is their Emergency Preparedness mindset. Due to that, getting approval for an antenna for "emergency communications capability" is about the easiest process ever. Don't go trying to put up a 150 ft tower with 6 stacked beams, and they're pretty much okay with it!

I digress... I've been wanting to try solar for some time now. I have had my eye on our new shed with the hope of setting it up with solar for interior/exterior lighting, and a small store for power tools on an inverter. The hard part has been justifying the investment. I know first hand how important power becomes when you have none, but solar isn't cheap and buried romex is. :)


I use solar for charging AA cells only to power various devices, including radios. Trying to power anything big in my opinion is a waste. What are you going to use in an emergency? You'll eat your refrigirated foods first. Lights? Sleep at night, use candles. For cooking I'd use wood and liquid fuels. I can't think of anything in my house I would absolutely need to power up with 110V, save the occasional small items. That can be done with an inverter and 12V battery. My first concern wouldn't be electrical power. Security and organizing the neighborhood, that would be a priority. Here we are only a few blocks from a large concentration of armed EBT card users... Keeping these guys out would be a major concern. The first thing I'd do if the power went out for more than a day is go see the neighboors I haven't met yet. Radio would of course let me know if we were facing a long tern outage or not.. I think the main problem with the lack of electricity is far from being the lack of electricity...



In my experience with prolonged outages, things don't turn to anarchy as fast as most would believe, (although I'm talking about Oklahoma and Utah, not Chicago or Detroit here..)

For me the generator/power is to have as little impact on lifestyle as possible until the power comes back on. If it were a SHTF kind of nasty situation, I wouldn't want to draw attention by running a generator or having lights on anyway.


Quotethings don't turn to anarchy as fast as most would believe

As long as people believe power will come back soon...



Quote from: Maximus on May 13, 2014, 02:06:52 pmI wouldn't want to draw attention by running a generator or having lights on anyway.
I'm having some regrets with my Briggs & Strattan generator.  It's half the cost of an equivalent Honda, but 3 times louder.  The frame is almost vibration free, but the engine vibrates on its mounts so much that if I were to put on one of those big aftermarket mufflers I'm sure something would break quite quickly.


I had a "Titan Industrial" 9kW genset that was extremely loud too. I sold it before our move. I wouldn't mind a new one -- quieter of course.


You can get a lot of solar panels for the price of a generator, and they don't require gas, nor to they break, usually. Just make sure you have spare charge controllers.. Of course I am in Florida here, so what works for me might not work for you!



I'd be very interested in solar as well. Why not both? ;-)


Quote from: Maximus on May 13, 2014, 04:53:15 pm
I'd be very interested in solar as well. Why not both? ;-)
Yes.  Diversify.


Quote from: gil on May 13, 2014, 04:50:33 pmso what works for me might not work for you!

That should be printed in bold and pasted on everyone's bathroom mirror.  One size has never fit all and never will. 

I live in a semi-rural area (not farmland, but lots of larger properties and trees everywhere) in the Pacific NorthWest (AKA Pacific NorthWet).  My well pump requires 220v power and without it I don't have water other than what is stored or can be collected from rain (which is little to none during July and August).  I have a 300 gallon water storage tank I can fill if I can run the generator to run the well pump.  So, running the generator a couple hours per week will give me plenty of water and charge batteries.  It will also keep freezer stuff frozen until it can be used and the freezers shut down.

A friend of mine bought property a few miles away with no utilities available.  His plan was to build a homestead/cabin with solar and batteries for electricity.  He called one of the major solar suppliers and told the guy what he was planning... the rep asked him his zip code... and when he got done laughing, he told my friend the best he could do is a small panel to charge a couple of little batteries.  Even during peak periods the best he could hope for was about the equivalent of one hour per day of full output.

During the fall, winter, and early spring the sun never gets above the trees on the south side of our property.  Only now is the sun getting high enough to give decent exposure, but during the peak it is only for a fairly short time.  I could mount panels down at the lower part of our property but that would put them quite a ways from the house - not a good situation.  This summer I plan on converting the generator to propane, because propane is safe to store and (supposedly) lasts forever.  Apparently, the new formulations have ruined gasoline's storage capability and, even with extenders like PriG, storage isn't as feasible as it used to be.

With our lower population density - mostly people who are not particularly adverse to taking responsibility for themselves - security is lower on my list of things to worry about than some other issues.  Sure, there can always be a stray Zombie that got lost, but I can't see our area being a target of opportunity for hordes of them.

My point is people need to analyze their specific situation and make their plans accordingly.  Even my problem with solar doesn't apply to a good friend who lives about 100 miles north of me - he has plenty of solar access and can get more reasonable daily output from panels.  On the other hand, the reason he has solar access is because he lives in an older neighborhood in a large city.  That means his Zombie Index is far higher than mine - he and I are only 100 miles apart but we have completely different circumstances to deal with.



Another solution for sunless regions is a Peltier thermoelectric generator. Basically, these devices produce electricity from a difference in temperature between two sandwiched metal plates. So, if one side was exposed to the cold outside, and the other in contact with a stove inside, you'd get a nice amount of electricity out of the temperature differential. All with no moving parts or anything that could potentially wear out or break...



We had 6" of very wet snow a couple weeks ago and the power went out for most of a day.  My 6KW generator swigs fuel at about 3/4gallon per hour so my 25g fuel stock wouldn't last long.  I just spent about $150 on a dual-fuel natural gas conversion kit for the generator.  The house has natural gas plumbed out to the back deck for a grill.  Once I install the conversion kit and get a long flexible gas line I'll be able to run the generator 24/7 ;D.  I'm told the natural gas utility is one of the last to go down in a SHTF situation. 

It may be a month before I get the conversion done and tested I'll post when I do.