Five Reasons Your Off The Grid and Out of Power
Severe weather conditions, such as lightning, wind, ice, or even extreme cold, are the most common reasons for Out Of Power reasons. Lightning can damage electrical equipment; wind and ice could knock trees and branches onto the lines and equipment. Also, animals and vehicle accidents are other frequent causes of outages.
So what are five possible reasons to find yourself out of power and some alternative home energy solutions for your home preparedness?
Public safety power shutoffs and emergency planned outages
Alternative home energy alternatives will include everything from old-fashioned fire to the new age solar panels.
Solar Flares And Power Outages
I would like to review this one first because it’s different and ranks right up there with climate change as a ‘yikes….how can I deal with this kind of crisis’?
Experts on such matters report that the sun’s increasing solar flares could cause major problems in an out-of-power situation.
NOAA’s Elsayed Talaat told the Associated Press: “That solar flares can cause, for instance, high-frequency communication blackouts, radio blackouts that can affect our emergency responders as well as our airline communications, Often associated with these flares are energetic particle bursts that that can affect that can damage satellites by damaging these subsystems, electronic substances, and satellites, and even the solar panels.”
Like the Earth, the sun experiences different phases during its 11-year cycle, and the sun is entering its “solar maximum” phase where activity, like solar flares, increases.
Solar flares can cause an out-of-power situation because each flare releases a burst of electromagnetic energy that can disrupt electronics like satellites, GPS navigation systems, solar panels, radio frequencies, and, god forbid: cell phones.
“Not just research and not just monitor, but how we’re going to prepare the Department of Homeland Security, FEMA, other agencies,” Talaat said. “For instance, FEMA recently came out with an operations concept for a response to space weather events. We have instituted space weather as part of the international, national emergency, and state and local emergency management exercises. So across the board, we’re preparing for how we would respond to these large events.”
And you thought there was nothing else mother nature could throw at us.
Power Outages And Natural Disasters
Public safety power shutoffs and emergency planned outages are one of the ways power companies deal with events such as those raging fires going on out west at any given time. These outages are intentional.
It may be one of the utilities’ last resorts in preventing wildfires sparked by transmission and distribution lines.
Certain weather conditions, such as high winds and low humidity, can elevate the risk that transmission and distribution lines will start a fire.
A Supply Shortage May Cause A Power Outage
Supply shortages are the least bothersome regarding the out-of-power situation that may occur in your neighborhood. It comes down to supply and demand.
These outages can happen when there is simply insufficient electricity to meet demand.
I live in South Florida, where we do get some rather hot days. Really hot and muggy days. My pool pump is attached to the utility company’s device that will shut down my pump for a period of time to help conserve power to the grid during peak demand times.
Rolling blackouts are the last resort. Rolling blackouts do not affect everyone. For a power-saving solution, the grid operator chooses to turn off power only to a limited number of customers so as not to put all customers in an out-of-power situation simultaneously.
An Out Of Power Nightmare
Transmission failures are rare but can be catastrophic in scale. When I lived in New York in early 2003, roughly 50 million people in the northeastern United States were left without power.
Because of a tree branch.
A tree branch.
A transmission line made contact with a tree branch. That disturbance spiraled out of control into a massive blackout due largely to faulty computer systems. It is rare. But it did cause a massive out-of-power situation for a lot of people and a lot of hardship as well.
Transmission failure can happen at any time and is usually caused by weather, but this type of outage can also happen due to equipment failure, computer problems, human error, or a tree branch!
The Most Common Out Of Power Reason
And the winner is Distribution failures as the most common out-of-power situation for your emergency preparedness thinking and concerns.
Distribution failures are the most common type of power outage, but they usually affect a relatively small area. This type of failure can happen due to many causes – stormy weather that blows a tree branch onto a power line (did someone say tree branch?), an adventurous squirrel going into parts of a substation where no tree rat has gone before (and lived to tell the tale), a car crashing into a power pole, a metallic balloon(or alien space ship) that has escaped the grip of its owner and touched a power line, and the loss of power list goes on.
7 Reasons Why You Need Alternative Home Energy
Let’s get right down to business. Here are the reasons you should start preparing your home preparedness energy system right away:
- You will save hundreds of dollars a month… and thousands of dollars a year… for the rest of your life…
- You will help our environment, and maybe more and more people will begin supporting the planet’s future.
- You will have a lot of fun in building your own power systems. You can do it with your close friends and family during the weekend; everyone will like the hands-on activity.
- You can go completely off-grid if you want, knowing that rising energy prices will not affect you.
- You can make the electricity company pay you because the surplus of what you produce will make the meter point the other way.
- You can protect your pocketbook during recession times and spend money on more important items necessary for survival.
- You will feel awesome knowing you’ve done something great for your family’s security and the environment. You’ll be part of the solution, not part of the problem.
How To Generate Alternative Home Energy
Nine Ways to Cook When the Grid Goes Down
Cooking our food is among the many problems we will all face in a grid-down situation.
Today’s food preparation methods almost all require the use of electricity.
An unfortunate situation when you are out of power.
Even people with gas stoves might find that they can’t use them in a critical situation as the gas may stop flowing. The only people who can use their stoves are those who run off of propane; as long as they have gas, they’ll be okay.
Nevertheless, being able to cook will be important. We can’t just stop cooking our food. In addition to making it warm and changing our food chemically, cooking is necessary to kill any unwanted bacteria in our food so that it can’t harm us. This is especially important for meats.
Barbecue Grill. Probably the most common form of cooking today, other than the stove, is with a basic grill. Most people have one for cooking the occasional steak or chicken. These work best as replacement stoves in a grid-down situation. You can even put pots on the grill top, although it may blacken them on the outside.
While most grills today work off of propane, you can still use them with charcoal or wood. This may damage the grill’s gas burner, but that isn’t much of an issue as it is replaceable.
Fire Pit. If you have a fire pit on your patio, you can cook quite well on them. The only thing you might need that you don’t currently have is the metal grill to put over it. These are readily available in the same places that sell fire pits.
To cook over a fire pit, like cooking over any wood fire, you have to allow the wood to burn down to the coals, which will be hotter but much less likely to burn the food that you put on the grill.
Fireplace. For over a century after the United States was first colonized, the most common cooking method was in a fireplace. Pots were either placed directly in the coals or suspended over the fire on a metal frame. Meats were broiled by putting them on a spit, much like we cook rotisserie chicken today.
Wood-Burning Stove. The wood-burning stove eventually replaced the fireplace as the most common cooking location and was still in use in the West even when most people in the East had stoves. The top of the stove is flat, intended for cooking. If you have a wood-burning stove for emergency heating of your home, you have a ready cooking method for whenever the grid goes down.
Camp Stove. By definition, camp stoves are intended for use where there is no electricity, or you are just plain out of power.
There are three basic types, defined by the type of fuel they use:
Wood burning is basically just a portable box for you to put wood in and a pot on top.
Propane will be a problem when the sources run out. You also can’t use it effectively with wood.
Dual fuel is the old-style camp stoves that use either special fuel or gasoline. While gasoline may become scarce, this will probably be easier to find than the little propane tanks.
Solar Oven. Solar cooking is wonderful, especially in the summer when you don’t want to heat up your home with a fire. Its only drawback is that it cooks slowly, like a Crockpot. But solar ovens are easy to use and effective with a little practice. There are three different types:
A reflective box is the most common and may be added to your emergency preparedness solutions. You can make your own or buy one commercially. The oven consists of a box with flaps. The inside of all surfaces is coated with something highly reflective so that sunlight can be reflected in the pot when it’s placed inside the oven. You can increase the efficiency of these ovens by putting the pot in an oven bag, like those that are used for cooking a turkey.
Parabolic reflectors can be used, and the bigger, the better. Usually, these are made out of the old large satellite TV antennas, which are now obsolete. The inside surface of the antenna is coated with something reflective. When the pot is placed at the antenna’s receiver’s point, all the sunlight is focused on it. You must devise something to hold the pot in the right place.
Fresnel lens is the most powerful type of solar oven you can make.
These are flat plastic magnifying glasses. Large Fresnel lenses were used behind the screen for older big-screen TVs and can harvest one out of a discarded set and build a frame for it.
The focal point will be about two feet behind the lens. These are powerful enough that you can actually melt pennies with them.
So far, everything I’ve talked about is for pots and cooking meat.
But you can use just about all of the methods I’ve mentioned for baking as well.
The Dutch oven was the way that colonists and pioneers baked. They would take their bread or pie, put it in the oven, which was cast iron, and place it in the coals of their fire. More coals would be piled on top. Surrounded by heat, the contents would then cook. This is also a good method for one-pot, casserole meals.
It’s a good idea to have more than one alternative cooking method available because anything can happen to render your primary method impossible to use.
Be sure to prepare beforehand with long-term food storage to ensure you have a workable system and to practice cooking with it. The last thing you need is to ruin a bunch of food when supplies are short! Better to make your mistakes when foodstuffs are in abundant supply.
Ways to Heat Your Home without Electricity
Besides giving us a place to hang our hats, the most important purpose of a house is to protect us from the elements, particularly the cold. Hypothermia, the loss of core body heat, is one of the fastest killers in nature. We heat our homes not only to make us comfortable but also to protect ourselves from hypothermia.
Unfortunately, all of our modern heating methods require electricity, either to create or distribute the heat, as well as to control our central heating systems. When we lose electrical power, we also lose the ability to keep our homes warm.
While being in an unheated home is still better than sitting out in the cold, it’s not good enough. An emergency heating method is needed when all other heating methods are lost. That also means having some fuel stock on hand to power our heater.
Again the fireplace. The fireplace is the most basic heating system for a home. It has been used for centuries long enough that we don’t know when they were first invented. While retrofitting a fireplace into a home is not easy, many homes are still built with fireplaces for decorative purposes.
The biggest problem with a fireplace is that it isn’t a very efficient source of heat; much of what’s produced goes up the chimney. This can be helped by putting a fireplace insert in, transferring more heat to the room.
Some of these require electricity to operate internal fans, but there are also inserts that work purely by convection, bringing cold air off the floor and returning the heated air back into the room.
The type of wood you burn in a fireplace while out of power is also important. Although more expensive, hardwood firewood will burn longer and produce more BTUs of heat than softwoods will. The difference is significant enough to justify the extra investment in the hardwood.
Wood-Burning Stove. Wood-burning stoves were developed to replace the fireplace, increasing efficiency. They are typically made out of cast iron. This allows the stove itself to heat up from the wood-burning in it and radiate that heat into the room from all sides. While heat still goes up the chimney, a higher percentage of it radiates into the home.
Wood-burning stoves can be fairly easily retrofitted into a house, much easier than installing a fireplace. The major problem is to find a place to run the chimney. Modern chimneys are triple-walled so that the external part of the chimney remains cool. This allows them to run up through a closet or other space without any fire risk.
A wood-burning stove can also be used in a temporary installation for emergencies. The stove must be placed on an inflammable surface (metal, brick, or stone). The chimney can be routed through a window by the simple expedient of removing one of the upper panes of glass. The excess space in the window opening can be filled with plywood.
Kerosene Heater. Kerosene heaters are an excellent choice for people with a ready kerosene source. Although they produce a slight odor, they burn clean. In a grid-down situation, it would be impossible to purchase kerosene so a good stock would need to be kept on hand.
Like wood-burning stoves, some kerosene heaters radiate from all sides, increasing their efficiency. Kerosene heaters do not require a chimney, although they do require some fresh air. So it is important that the room where the heater is installed isn’t so tightly sealed that air can’t get in.
Propane Heater. Sometimes referred to as catalytic heaters, this is ideal if you already keep propane tanks at home. The propane (or natural gas, with the change of an orifice) passes through a jet into a perforated ceramic element, where it burns. Like the kerosene heater, the element is hidden behind a wire grating to prevent burns.
From a survival standpoint, the best thing about a propane heater is that they don’t require a lot of fuel and will continue to run as long as you have propane in your tank. Since the average tank is 500 gallons, it’s best to keep it mostly filled instead of waiting until it is almost empty to refill.
Any of these methods will work well to heat at least one room of your home. It would be extremely difficult to heat your whole home without heaters in each room. That would also require enough fuel for all those heaters, which is impractical in a crisis.
Out of Power and Staying Comfortable
Being out of power is not the end of the world if you are properly prepared.
You now know what to do.
The biggest concern when using any alternative heating or cooking method is ensuring enough fuel is on hand. Calculate how much fuel your alternates use, and then multiply that by the longest number of days you would expect to use it. Based on that, you can determine how much fuel you need to stockpile.
While it may not be as comfortable as having your whole house heated to use, during an out-of-power situation, you can now move yourself and your family into one or two rooms during the emergency and keep them heated and fed.