Author: Finan Adamson

Last Updated: 03/2022

Overview

This guide goes into details on how to maintain electricity if it’s important to your survival and flourishing even when the power goes out. It may not be necessary to do anything here if you don’t depend on electricity to live. If the electricity is out for many weeks or months, you’ll likely go elsewhere so you don’t need to prepare on that scale. You may also want to do some minimal amount of preparation so you can charge your cell phone. 

Tradeoffs

If you need to have electricity when the grid is down your options seem to be generators and/or batteries. What setup you want will vary depending on your needs. 

  • Generators:
    • Need to be run outside.
    • Noisy
    • Can consistently get power as long as you have fuel.
    • Must be able to acquire or store fuel.
  • Batteries:
    • Can be run inside.
    • Quiet
    • When you run out you’re done unless you have a way of charging. 
       

You may want both so you can charge your batteries off the generator, but this can get expensive so you may want to skip this unless you really need it for medical reasons. 

Providing Power during an Outage

I just want to charge my phone for a day or two

  • If all you want is a way to charge your phone. Getting a little external charger would fit your needs. It would cost $20-$50. You could charge it and store it with your other emergency gear.Then you just hook up your phone via USB charger.
  • If you want to go a little harder on this so you can keep recharging things every day. You could get a portable solar panel. Wirecutter has solar panel recommendations. These would mostly be for charging things like phones, not laptops.

I want to charge a few things, but not my whole house

  • You’re going to want a power station. Basically a big battery that you can recharge when you have electricity. Wirecutter’s recommendations that cost between $500 and $1,400
    • In determining how much battery you want. You can figure out the watt hours(Wh) of the things you want to charge.
      • A watt hour (Wh) is the watts per hour a battery can produce. So a battery with a capacity of 300 Wh could charge a 60 Watt (the amount a typical laptop charger would pull) for 5 hours.
  • For most purposes a large battery probably meets your needs, but maybe it’s essential for you to have power, so you want to store gasoline and be able to charge your batteries from the generator.
    • If you need to do this. You should read through the wirecutter article on portable generators. They go through many options, but generally you can get a 2,000 Watt Generator for about $1,000.
    • Figure out the wattage of all the things you need to run to see how many watts you want your generator to be. According to the wirecutter article a 2,000 watt generator can run a few small appliances or a full size fridge in a pinch.
    • Remember, generators are loud and have to be run outside. So you’ll need extension cords to run anything in your house if you just have a generator without battery storage.

I want to provide power to my whole house

  • No don’t.
  • OK, if you’re willing to spend many thousands of dollars retrofitting your house to run in the apocalypse, you could . . .
    • Get house sized solar panels and install batteries.
      • A Tesla Powerwall costs about $6,700
      • Installation of solar panels (including the cost of the solar panels) is about $30,000
    • Find a generator that fits your needs and consult a professional.

Example Solution

Finan has sleep apnea and needs to use a CPAP to function well.

  • Finan bought a battery and solar panel so he can charge the battery with the sun each day if he doesn’t have power.
  • The battery lasts about 1.5 nights with my CPAP as long as the humidifier is turned off. The battery can be charged during the day, but it may not reach full charge depending on how much sun there is. Finan is ok with the slight unreliability because he won’t literally die from missing a night or two on the CPAP.

How to store gasoline

If you are running generators you will need gasoline. In preparation for emergencies you’ll probably want to store at least a little bit at home in case gas stations get shut down. 

  • The good people of wiki how have instructions for the proper storage of gasoline.
  • Highlights:
    • Store your gasoline in a container meant for storing gasoline.
    • Store your gasoline away from heat sources and out of sunlight.
    • Don’t store your gasoline in your house.
    • Store your gas in a well ventilated space.
    • Don’t store your gasoline next to appliances. Sparks could ignite the gas.
    • Don’t store more than 25 gallons in one place.
    • Consider getting a fire cabinet to store your gas in.
  • If stored properly. Your gas can last for up to one year. Old gas will not work well and may damage your generator. Old gas smells sourer and looks darker than fresh gas.

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