How Long Would You Last Without Power?

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

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Reports are finally surfacing about the April 2013 attack on a CA power sub station:  52 minutes with 100 shots fired knocking out 17 transformers.  They are saying it looks like a dress rehersal and that it wouldn't take many simultaneous attacks to bring down most of the grid ('cept you Texans who have your own).

I have a generator and transfer switch so I can run my house.  It's only 6KW but will run a lot of lights, the fridge and the 2 basement sump pumps in the summer huricane season and will keep the furnace going in winter to keep the pipes from freezing.  However I only maintain 25g of fuel in the shed.  The generator burns 0.4g/hr so that's only 63hr of continuous operation.  In winter I figure I can get by running it 3 times a day for 1-2 hrs which would stretch the fuel to 2 weeks, but mother nature has put people out of power for longer than that in the US.

I have 2 fire places but even if I kept more than the usual 1/2 cord of wood, all the fire places do is heat one room and suck the house's heat up the chimney.  I think this needs to be my next focus.  Our 2 cars usually have 15-30g combined fuel in their tanks but I'm not sure I can siphon from them.  That's the first thing I'll check. 

How would you fare without power for, say, a month?


Important thing to note is the substation was down for 26 days and power was re-routed from Silicon Valley. This prevented a long term blackout but a coordinated attack on both substations would have black the area out for at least a month. I work in renewable energy and parts are not kept on shelves and are usually made to order.

I have a generator that i would use to power the fridge and freezer until we could cook, can or eat everything in it. I have an insert wood stove that keeps the heat above 50 and usually have 2 cords on hand most times. Luckily my neighbor cuts and sells wood so in a long term outage i would get an extra cord from him.

If heat is a concern i would look to get a couple of insert stoves to plug into those fireplaces and keep a few cords of wood handy. Emergency aside we were able to cut our oil usage down to 3 fill ups a year and they only dropped off 150 gallons at a time.


Well, heat is not a concern here in Florida. If there was no civil unrest, I see no reason why just having the power out would change anything. It can get uncomfortably hot in the summer, but that's about it.. The problems would not come from the lack of electricity but people's reaction to it. My neighborhood isn't the greatest, so I would have to be vigilant. Other than that, a week or a month would make no difference to me. Now, if it lasted more than a week, I would assume there would be food preservation problems and looting. It would get worse very quickly, but that's another new set of problems...

As far as communications and power, I have a small solar panel which can power my radios indefinitely, even with daily use.


Jim Boswell

     Interesting subject, where I work we have to order big power transformers (12470 volt step down to 220) and that takes a 1 year lead time. Without power there would be no water after the tanks are dry, as they have no power back-up for the pumps. Good luck trying to buy gasoline as there is not a gas station in the county that has a back-up power system to power the gas pumps.
     At our casa I have 10 LP bottles and have a LP grill and camp stove for cooking. I have a convection LP stove I can put inside the house and run just enough to keep the pipes from freezing. If I had too I could purge the water lines to protect the pipes. Since that stove is not vented I could not use the stove when we are sleeping.
     For the radio shack, I have solar panels and I would take the batteries from the boat and use them in the radio shack. I could take gasoline from the boat and add that to the car and pick-up truck.
     For food we could empty the freezer, guess you could say we would have a big BBQ. I live in the poorest county in one of the poorest states in the USA. I figure 60-70% of the people live paycheck to paycheck. Since this is a rural area Guess we could buy meat on the hoof, butcher a steer calf and and share it with our neighbors. I need to stock up on basic supplies, rice, beans, flour, dried fruit.
     For many years I have been worried about the safety of the electrical power system. The lose of power is only part of the problem, over voltage spikes and lose of one leg of the power system can cause major damage to all equipment connected to that system.  Talk about a world of hurt.  73'S  KA5SIW


I think I need to look at inserts.  I was in a boy scout cabin a few weeks ago.  It was 20F outside and it didn't take much wood to get that large drafty cabin up to 75F inside.  I live in MA where trees are just like weeds.  They will grow anywhere you don't pave, plow or mow, except the trees get 60' tall around here.  Lots of wood for long term warmth.


February 13, 2014, 10:18:40 pm #5 Last Edit: February 13, 2014, 10:21:42 pm by cockpitbob
Well, the power went out.  After 20 minutes and no indication on the power company's web site that they were working on it (love my new smart phone), I walked my 15yo son through firing up the genny in the shed, connecting it to the house and throwing the transfer switch in the basement.  I feel both snobby and guilty that our house is all lit up and all our neighbors are in dark houses that are getting colder by the minute.  I guess I feel more snobby than guilty because I turned on the driveway lights just to rub it in

We have the heat turned way up and are hot-soaking the house because I will shut the genny off before going to bed.  And even though the local power is out our cable and internet still works!  ;D


bob, I'm out in Idaho heading home today but reports from home say we never lost power.

just think how long you could run that generator if you had insert stoves and you were only keeping the fridge going


Sump pumps take a lot of power when they start up. Two years ago after high winds and tornados came through power was cut off. I had a small 3.5kW gasoline Generator running. I had two sumps running pretty often so I shut down one and got by. I have since stopped most of the water problems and the pumps do not run at all now. The little generator would bog down and growl in protest when those pumps came on especially at the same time. With only one pump running, I could also have some lights and of course I had the fridge and freezer running, and charging batteries.  Me and the dogs lived in the basement which was nice and cool in the aftemath of extreme hot muggy weather that moved in after that storm. I had plenty of prep food and water. We were liv'n high on the hog  :)  It sure pays off to be prepared. Wife went where there was power and left me to keep the house going and protected. She had to go to work and I did not. Lasted about a week for me, but some here had weeks of no electric power. Thanks to Glock and Remington 870, and my dogs for keeping me safe on those lonely nights! We had only one home invasion, though, through this entire ordeal in my county. I felt my education in prep had paid off, but I am not fully prepared for extended grid down and I'm working on it. This storm helped me learn my weak points at this location.


Madball, it turned out to be a local outage.  I drove around and it was just our street.  They had the power back on before I went to bed. 

I had a 5" diameter branch come off a 60' tall maple and take out some bushes by the driveway, and my yard is covered with twigs.  I'm gonna have a big bon fire this spring.  It was a real sticky snow.  For a while my 22 gauge wire antenna was about 1" in dameter.  I've never seen snow stick to a wire like that before.

medic photog

Don't know.  I have a 10KW diesel generator with a 50 gal tank and twenty extra gallons of diesel then twenty gallons of kerosene.  I'm guessing my house will be the last one standing.  I have the fridge, freezer, oil burner, stove, washer, and five outlets on the generator so I'll have food, heat, radios, computer, charging capabilities and sparse lights.  I'm going to guess maybe three or four weeks depending on the time of year and if I need the heat on. 


I have owned an insert and they are great.  They turn a drafty fireplace into something that really throws off heat.  I have a natural gas generator tied into the house now and during Hurricane Sandy it was great.  The power was out for 8 days, but we had electricity the whole time.  As for how long I could go, well I'd say indefinitely if the gas continues to flow and then I'd have to start roughing it a bit.

The interesting thing about that sort of terrorist incident is that unlike a Carrington event, the situation would be long term, but not permanent.  It would be very apparent what needed to be fixed and how long it would take to fix it.  I think you would get a different response from people if they knew they had to go 18 months without power as opposed to forever without power.


I don't know if anybody else saw this but this thread reminded me of this article. This might get more people thinking about life without the grid.


We are just hearing about this now? I don't remember hearing anything about this before. Am I out of touch that bad, or did any one else not hear about this at the time it happened?

I have been signed up for alerts from for some time now. Maybe I wasn't signed up then.


Quote from: cockpitbob on February 13, 2014, 10:18:40 pmI feel both snobby and guilty that our house is all lit up and all our neighbors are in dark houses that are getting colder by the minute.  I guess I feel more snobby than guilty because I turned on the driveway lights just to rub it in.

A reminder for those just perusing that this might not be the best thing in real civil breakdown or extended outage. There are people who will be like moths, wondering what else you have that they don't...
jes' sayin'.

Glad to see the site's still trucking along; had some false-positive web-forgery issues to work out.


I've got a generator with 20gal of gas in cans, plus we fill the cars when they are 1/2 empty. so there should be an average of 60 more gallons in them.  In a long-term outage I could keep the freezer going until we got all the food canned or dehydrated.

With power outages in mind, when I bought this house, I put in a wood stove for heat and a 600 gallon propane tank for cooking (~5yrs worth).  12V silent fans move warm air from the great room to the bedrooms.

I've finished my emergency power system since the last time I was here, following the path someone documented here; Batteries on a smart charger and solar panels stored in case the grid goes down.  I've got four golf cart batteries, IOTA smart charger, Xantrex 1500W MSW inverter (overkill, but at a good price), and 12V LED lights in bedrooms, bathrooms and great room.  Since I didn't want to pay for an inverter I can hook to the house wiring, I ran three separate 110V outlets in the great room, from the inverter, for TV, Fridge and grinding coffee ;-) .  I put a four-cigarette-lighter-outlet charging station by the batteries, and I also ran a 12V outlet in the kitchen for convenience.

Pic's start at the bottom of this page
and continue on the next.

As I gained more knowledge of alternative energy systems, I learned my 400W of PV is not enough to charge my 400Ah bank properly.  So I am about to pull the trigger on 400 more Watts.  Of course, that will mean new cables, breakers and charge controller.  Sigh.

Oh yeah, I didn't like the sound of my coffee grinder on the MSW and certainly wouldn't want to run the fridge on it.  Plus, their are issues with MSW and some transformers.  I just got a 600W PSW inverter, this week.  Need to get that wired up and tested out...