But I Don’t Want to Bug Out!

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Editor’s Note: This post is another entry in the Prepper Writing Contest from John D. If you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly win a $300 Amazon Gift Card to purchase your own prepping supplies, enter today.


Are you comfortable and secure in your home? Would you still be comfortable and secure if you no longer had electricity or natural gas service? Can you get by without your furnace, stove, and refrigerator? You may be able to live comfortably under these conditions in mild weather, for a short time, but how long could you last in the winter? Loosing electricity for an extended period of time is not a far-fetched notion. Freezing rain caused an extended power outage at my residence a few years back. Fortunately that incident was localized. When the roads were cleared I was able to go out for supplies. Nevertheless, if I had not been able to heat my home, I would have had to leave. My food would have spoiled, and I may have returned to find extensive damage due to broken water pipes. My home and belongings would have been an easy target for looters.

The ice-storm I experienced was a rare occurrence, but not the only circumstance that can cause an extended power outage. A failure of the power grid could be the result of a terrorist attack, or simply due to an aging infrastructure. Additionally, an outage caused by a tornado or earthquake can’t be ruled out as a possibility.

I don’t want to bug out!

In an effort to avoid problems associated with bugging out, I’ve taken actions that allow me to remain in my home, comfortably and securely, for an extended period of time. I won’t discuss my ability to defend my family and property from looters, but I will describe the systems that enable me to live comfortably.

To be self-sufficient in my home I needed an alternative to my furnace, and that alternative needed to be able to function for an extended period of time, perhaps several months. At the same time, I needed the ability to keep food from spoiling, and to be able to cook. Being able to cook implies that I also have the ability to boil water, making it safe for drinking. I’ve accomplished those goals with two main systems.

My alternative heating device is a pellet-burning stove. The stove can run for 12 hours or more without attention. This solution requires me to keep a good supply of wood pellets on hand. The stove burns one bag of pellets a day when the weather is cold, and less than that in milder conditions. I prefer to have no less than 10 bags available.

50000 BTU’s Pellet Stove with 120-Pound Hopper

The second of my two main systems is an off-grid solar electric system. I’ve sized this system in such a way that it can provide the electricity required by the pellet stove, especially at night, and fully recharge the batteries during the day. Additional capacity provides the necessary power for running a refrigerator, lights, for cooking, and for a variety of other devices.

The solar electric system was designed to meet my basic needs during an extended emergency. While the system produces more electricity than I need during mild weather conditions, I have to keep an eye on energy usage when it’s very cold outside. I have a few solar panels, not an entire roof full. The batteries store energy generated from the solar panels during the day, and apply that energy to the pellet stove, refrigerator, and other devices as needed.

Since my solar electric system is dependent upon sunshine, and since the sun sometimes doesn’t shine, I’ll have to conserve energy at times. I’ve discovered many opportunities to conserve, and still remain comfortable in my home. I can cut back on the biggest energy user, the pellet stove, by limiting heating to one or two rooms. On other occasions I may choose to use an electric blanket, not using the pellet stove at all. I’ve found that my small chest freezer uses much less electricity than my full-size refrigerator. Using that instead I can keep food from spoiling, and have enough energy left over for cooking and lighting. My lights are the LED kind, using only 10 watts each.

The main components of my solar electric system are:

7 – 85 watt solar panels mounted on my roof
6 – GC2 deep cycle batteries
1 – 60 amp Charge Controller
1 – 1100 Watt Pure Sine Wave Inverter
1 – Relay Driver (A programmable device used to provide battery protection and system automation)
1 – Automatic Transfer Switch (Used to switch between grid power and solar power)

Solar systems give you off-grid options many won't have.
Solar systems give you off-grid options many won’t have.

The Relay Driver allows me to better control energy use from the batteries, and therefore extend their life. While solar panels may last 25 years, battery life is dependent on how well they are maintained. I hope to get in excess of 5 years from the batteries by taking exceptional care of them. The relay driver prevents accidental over discharge. It does that by turning off the inverter (which powers all of the loads), when the battery voltage drops to a level that I programmed into the device. It does not turn the inverter on again until the batteries are fully charged.

The Automatic Transfer Switch allows me to use some of the solar-generated power to run my refrigerator on a day-to-day basis, therefore cutting back on my electric bill and recouping some of the cost of the system. I override this control, with a switch, when the grid power fails.

I’ll probably add one or two more solar panels to the system this year. I’d like to see my batteries recharge faster on cloudy days. Additional solar panel capacity will also allow me to use appliances during the day, without significantly reducing charging power.

Providing design details for a solar electric system is beyond the scope of this article, but you can learn everything you need to know from the following site: http://www.wholesalesolar.com/

Start by determining your daily electricity needs in kilowatt-hours, and then determine how many solar panels and batteries you’ll need to meet those needs. Solar panel capacity should be high enough to fully recharge the batteries in a reasonable time, perhaps with one full day of sun. The battery bank should have sufficient capacity to operate all of the loads (stove, refrigerator, lights, etc.), all night long. And remember, batteries will last longer if they’re not discharged too deeply, too often.

A “Kill A Watt” meter is an inexpensive, but useful, tool for determining energy consumption of your devices. Look for that device at eBay or Walmart, you’ll be glad you did.

You may decide to purchase a prepackaged kit with everything you need. If so, it should have the ability to automatically remove the load, once the batteries reach a certain state of discharge. Accidental discharges beyond 50% will shorten the life of your expensive battery bank.

I don’t claim to be exceptionally well-prepared for a SHTF event, but at least I’ve made significant progress. I have a small stockpile of MRE’s, and a water-purification device. I’m also an avid gardener, and I save seeds. I can see myself using energy from my solar electric system to provide security lighting to my garden area. But now I’m just rambling.

Many thanks to the others who’ve provided advice here and I hope that the information I’ve provided inspires others to do similar things.

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22 Comments on "But I Don’t Want to Bug Out!"

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Arcangel911
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Nice setup you have going on there…

S. Cullen
Guest

Doing all my prepping with the idea of staying put.

Working up a system that is multifunctional so I have a back up to the back up to the back up.

From freezers to power sources to multipurpose cooking means… Propane, charcoal and wood.

If nothing ever happens all I can say is there’s going to be on hell of a yard sale going on locally.

Bob Waldrop
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Ten days supply of fuel doesn’t seem like much to me. I can see a lot of scenarios where you’d be freezing cold because you ran out of fuel. We have a regular wood burning stove, and we start each winter with a full winter’s supply of wood, which in our case is one cord for our 1500 sq ft house in central Oklahoma. Several years ago, we spent $14K to retrofit our 1929 era house so it would remain comfortable in the event of an extended outage of the grid energy systems. 1. We have 9 inches (R-33) insulation… Read more »
Huples
Guest
Couple of things stop me from doing the same. Wood pellet furnaces, I heard they only use pellets and I prefer a wood fire and a wood stove. I can burn anything. Solar panels on the roof in my neighbourhood would make taking me out very desirable. I’d install if 25-50% of the homes have done it. I’m looking for a portable system to use on my 650 sq foot deck. It’s on the second floor and is invisible from below. I found a system but it is 10000 USA $ so too much for me. Emp hardened but outside… Read more »
John D
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I decided on a pellet stove because it can run all night without any attention. The output adjustable, and stays pretty constant. There’s very little ash, and the house stays clean. I prefer storing bags of pellets to cut wood. My supply can be relatively low, since there are several stores in the area where I can buy pellets. From your comment I’m not sure what your needs are. 120 volts at how many watts? 120 volts at 100 watts for one hour would require a small system that could be built for less than $1000. When sizing your system,… Read more »
Huples
Guest

Thanks John.
Yeah about 1200 watts. Just basically want to plug a dehydrator into one socket. I’m lazy and fall can hit up in Canada quick and in shtf I’d like the last harvest to be the day of the first frost.
I heard pellets were super efficient and clean. I’ll stick to the wood stove in case the need for it is long. It also gives the girlfriend something to do!

BobW
Guest

if fire wood is readily available, no reason to go with a pellet stove, IMO. Off-hand, a fireplace is less efficient than a woodstove/pot belly and both are less efficient than a pellet stove. Downside of the pellet is restocking challenges, and of course, electricity.

S. Cullen
Guest
I am learning that prepping should be a Masters degree program for some college since it tends to get rather involved with electrical, thermal, water purification ballistics, geothermal as well as culinary topics… All that weren’t taught back in the day or I missed in school. Therefore I am now in my hmmmm let’s say I was in HS when JFK passed but not yet around for WWII. Anyway some good ideas here… However NOT one size fits all…but my prepping is for the SHTF situation. I worked through hurricane Andrew down in the Miami area back when and we… Read more »
john d
Guest

When it comes to small solar electric systems, you can pretty much rule out electric heating and air conditioning. Those use too much energy over too long. But for $3 to $4K you can keep your refrig/freezer running, along with lights, tv, radio, etc.
John D

S. Cullen
Guest

Window ac units rather than a central unit.

I’m hoping that I can run ac for around 8 hours during peak heat times

TV I’m expecting that there won’t be TV running in a SHTF situation.

Small refrig so I am not using a full size one… Again less wattage.

Wood burning stove for heat so no electric heat.

Plenty of firewood to be had with 45 acres of woods.

Huples
Guest
If your summer s not to humid (mine is very humid) look up a swamp cooler. Run it with a small fan. I think dry deserts are the best for them. In Canada I’d just be adding to my humidex. Summer’s I’m doing midday siestas! The solar thing is confusing. I’m challenged as well! As near as I can figure lithium ion batteries are needed for daily use and most affordable systems don’t have them. Their batteries zero out after ? 500 recharges. Anyone a genius on buy and plug in systems for the incompetent like me? I’d looked hard… Read more »
S. Cullen
Guest
I am not sure about a humidity being in TN. I guess sometimes it can get humid but it’s not like dshe. Florida where I lived and worked as a LEO. (retired)… Being prepared (but for what) is the 64$ question I guess? I suppose that you can’t be prepared for every thing but I am thinking or looking at a SHTF situation in general. The main things are Food Shelter Water Protection Food is mainly can & dry goods but frozen as well thus the electricity source. Generator + gas with about 1000 gallons stored but then solar power… Read more »
Wanda Tumlin
Guest
I live in a 5th. wheel camper. Our A/c uses 2800 Watts. If I run it 10 hrs. per day that’s 28000 Watts. We have 4- 140 amp deep cycle batteries. 140 Amps X 12 volts = 1680 watts. You can’t discharge your batteries below 50% so that’s 840 usable watts. With my 4 batteries, that adds up to 3360 watts. Our a/c could be run 1 hr, per day with this. You would need a 3,000 watt Inverter which would use some of the left over 560 watts. You might be able to run a small refrigerator or freezer… Read more »
S. Cullen
Guest

Kills that idea if those are the #s I’m looking at…

Back to the drawing board I’m guessing

Wanda Tumlin
Guest

S. Cullen, look for alternatives to cooling. If you have any breeze, you can hang wet sheets or some muslin in your open doors and windows. You would be surprised how much they can cool down a room.

BobW
Guest
Honestly, I think its a bit of a fools errand to spend any meaningful brain power trying to rig a disaster system to run AC, even a wall unit. Room temperature will be the way of life from spring to fall. Unless your homie is a billionaire. Then, plan away. 🙂 Back on track, seems to me that if I was planning for some electricity AFTER, it would be for refridgeration, running water, lights, THEN cool stuff like heaters, and AC. Prioritizing what would most benefit the group is a good way to look at it. Everyone will have different… Read more »
S. Cullen
Guest
As I initially said heat will be from wood burning stove /fireplace… No electricity needed. Water will be from rain collection system since no water would be from County water. Lights? LED lights… Low wattage Freezers used until frozen food used up Refrig used limited… Cooking can be done outside using propane, charcoal or wood. AC would be used when Temps reach mid 90’s… Fans could be used otherwise… Occasionally use items to make bread and or to cook with on limited use or once or twice every week or two while supplies last. Solar power can be used in… Read more »
BobW
Guest

After thinking on this a bit more, have you given any thoughts to scrounging up a couple swamp coolers in lieu of AC units, as a more energy efficient approach to cooling the ranch?

I understand that the oppressive heat/humidity could be physically debilitating for some. The problem with many of those cheap wall units is that just like refers, the smaller units are far less efficient per watt consumed. I wonder if a trip to consumer reports might shed some light on power consumption vice believing manufacturers stated numbers.

S. Cullen
Guest

I honestly at this point am simply doing my homework here (research)…

But I’m also looking at other things as well… Log splitters electric verses gas… 10 ton for $700 verses 28 ton for $1500…effective for home use and smaller logs (16″ diameters verses 24″ diameters since most of the trees around me aren’t huge)….

Easier to move around etc…

Plus this and that….

The more frugal /economical I can be then the more I have to spread around on other stuff…

Otherwords the “best bang for my $$$…”…

BobW
Guest
Be careful with small refers. The idea of small = better is good, but pursue that masters degree in electronics. Study power consumption of all refers, from small to large. Use the KISS principle. Make a spreadsheet, document the consumption rates of each and every model you can get info on. The small ‘colllege’ refers are cheaply made and often consume more power per square inch of interior space than a larger one. The data will bear out which refers are desirable and which should be avoided. What about pursuing a DC refer? What about a propane/DC system like the… Read more »
Wanda Tumlin
Guest

BobW, you’re using DC lights, furnace motor, etc. aren’t you? That’s the way ours is set up.
We do run down a little faster using an inverter to run TV, Computers, and such. If we are not docked, propane for refrigerator.

BobW
Guest
Yep and yep. The refer is a dual system, DC/Gas, and electric (from the genny). I think there is a solid angle to consider with bug out shelters and cabins to be rigged purely from DC power. The trailer industry is built on DC. I do not know about rigging solar to skip the AC conversion, but a trailer furnace is DC/gas regardless of AC powers presence. As to gas (propane) consumption, my modern trailer consumes a 20lb bottle with weekend usage in about 6 months. I’d really like to see someone with the financial wherewithall to explore a basic… Read more »
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