How to Prepare for a Power Grid Outage

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Editors Note: A guest submission from Laura Johnson, and a timely subject considering current events in Texas and Louisiana, along with people along the Canadian Border starting to stoke their furnaces and boilers.  As always, if you have information for Preppers that you would like to share and possibly receive a $25 cash award like Laura, as well as being entered into the Prepper Writing Contest AND have a chance to win one of three Amazon Gift Cards  with the top prize being a $300 card to purchase your own prepping supplies, then enter today!

   

Anyone who’s lived in Florida during hurricane season knows that you can’t always rely on the power grid for electricity. Residents of Texas also know that it doesn’t take a natural disaster to take down the grid. During the summer, millions of air conditioners often push the grid past its capacity, which causes brown outs and black outs. Of course, experts warn that power grid cyber attacks are also possible.

        

Keeping the power on is becoming increasingly more difficult, but today we have more ways to go off-grid with our power supply. There are also a number of things you can do to prepare for grid outages so it’s easier to make ends meet until the power comes back on.

Invest in Solar Panels

Even if the power grid goes down, the sun will keep shining, or at least be generating positive photons. Homeowners that invest in residential solar systems are able to rest easy knowing that they aren’t dependent on the grid.

  

The trick to an efficient solar panel system is all in the setup. Panels have to be positioned precisely to catch the most sunlight. Things like the home’s orientation and tree coverage can make a huge difference. For this reason, some homes are better suited for solar panels than others.

  

Most preppers are self-reliant DIYers, but this is a project that requires professional help. In addition to solar panel placement, a professional installer will need to set up an inverter system for capturing the direct power (DC) from the panels and converting it into usable electricity. Don’t forget you may also need to obtain permits before you can install a solar panel system.

Buy a Back Up Generator

Another way to keep the power on when the grid goes down is by using a backup generator. Buying a backup generator starts with deciding which type of generator you want. There are relatively inexpensive portable generators and standby generators that can be installed at your home.

Standby generators are more expensive, but they’re also more reliable. However, gas-powered portable generators are the most popular option. The biggest consideration with any generator is choosing the right size. In general, the generator’s wattage needs to be higher than the load. To figure this out, add up the wattage of all the appliances, devices and lights you’d use during a black out plus the startup wattage for the biggest motor. This includes things like the furnace and water heater, which usually kick on first when the generator turns on.

Although gas-powered generators are commonplace, you have to be careful using them since they produce carbon monoxide. A gas-powered portable generator needs to be kept at least 10 feet away from the house.

Keep a Stock of Batteries and Candles

You don’t always need high-tech solar arrays or generators to ride out a power outage. Plenty of people can get by for two or three days using battery-powered lamps and candles. That is, as long as you have a stockpile of batteries and candles.

The one thing to watch out for is how you store batteries and candles. If you’re lucky, it may be a while before the next power outage, and the last thing you want is to think you have supplies only to find they’re no good.

  

Keep batteries in a drawer within your house so they stay dry at room temperature out of direct sunlight. When stored properly alkaline batteries can last for 5-10 years and rechargeable lithium batteries can last 10-15 years. The best way to store candles is in the refrigerator (not freezer). However, you should wrap them in plastic wrap or aluminum foil so the wick isn’t exposed to moisture.

Store Food That Doesn’t Need to Be Cooked

In addition to light, electricity is needed to cook many foods. You can easily bypass this problem by stocking up on foods that don’t need to be cooked.

Canned Goods – Canned goods are always a good option because they’re fairly cheap and can last for years.

Meal Ready to Eat (MRE) – Years ago only military members and their families were aware of MREs. Now, preppers have caught on to these complete meals in a bag that are ready to eat as soon as they’re opened.

Peanut Butter – Peanut butter is an excellent source of protein that can be eaten alone or smeared on bland foods.

Freeze-Dried Food – Freeze-dried meats, fruits and vegetables are just as nutrition as fresh options, but they last for up to 30 years. Just add clean water to re-hydrate before you eat.

Editors Note: Search our archives for numerous articles on food storage, batteries, generators, power cells and more to ride out any outage! 

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9 Comments on "How to Prepare for a Power Grid Outage"

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John D
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To expand a bit on your section about solar panels: I’m not sure if people understand that you don’t need to cover a large section of your roof with panels. 2 to 4 panels can supply enough electricity for lights, fans, refrigeration, cooking, and for keeping mobile devices charged. The positioning of solar panels is not super-critical, as your article suggests. Panels don’t need to be mounted on a roof. Mounted near the ground, in your backyard, behind a privacy fence, keeps your energy source hidden. The cost of solar panels has dropped dramatically in recent years, as has the… Read more »
xavier
Guest

Another important point to add to the solar discussion is the battery system. Solar only generates when the sun is out, so if you want your refrigerator to run overnight you’ll need a battery system. Plenty of calculators can help you find your power budget. Additionally, if you’re going to grid-tie, make SURE you can run your solar if the grid is down, or have an isolation/transfer switch.

John D
Guest

Just as you don’t need a lot of panels, you don’t need a lot of batteries either. If you use an energy efficient chest freezer, instead of an upright frost-free refrigerator, you can power it with just two marine deep-cycle batteries (and using a 300 watt inverter). You’ll have energy to spare for lights and other devices.

Sunny Boy
Guest
I have been through 2 sets of batteries and used the deep cycle Marine Batteries on repeater sites. The Marine batteries may last a year or two if the repeater has a low voltage cut off. They are next to worthless for anything long term. To get the longest life, never cycle them lower than 70%. I would never use a battery smaller that a L16 FLA (Flooded Lead Acid)battery. They will last about 6-8 years. We went to a 20 year battery bank, 12 Rolls 2 volt batteries at 2,450 amps each. Batteries are the weak link in any… Read more »
John D
Guest

Batteries for a backup system will last much longer, since there are fewer discharge/recharge cycles. My first set of GC2’s lasted more than 5 years.

Tom Jackson
Guest

The sun doesn’t shine at night. The use of a battery bank is a necessity to have a solar system work for you.

Mic Roland
Guest
We have ice storm outages instead of hurricanes. The cause isn’t so important. Instead of battery-driven lamps, we’ve opted for oil lamps. Little worry about the oil going dead in a drawer. They’re plenty bright enough to read by. Of course, getting used to going to bed when it’s dark saves on fuel (or batteries) We do still have some battery operated lamps (running on rechargeable AA). We have a solar battery charger which keeps the rotating stock of NiCad batteries charged. Part of the ‘trick’ to being ready for an outage is to get used to not needing the… Read more »
Dave
Guest
Thanks for the article! There were some important items on the list. Solar panels are definitely worth considering. We had them installed last year. They’ve saved us a considerable amount on our electric bills already, but the more important reason for getting them was so we would have power in a grid down situation. I with another comment suggesting that you don’t have to fully cover your roof in order to make good use of solar though. Just getting enough to run a refrigerator and freezer would be a huge help. If you can do more, all the better! Another… Read more »
Dave
Guest
One other thought…you need to make sure you have plenty of clean water set aside. You mentioned in your article that you need water to rehydrate Freeze Dried food, but even beyond that, water is one of those critical basic needs that you really need more than anything else. Before you worry about light sources and other things, make sure you have a solid amount of water storage. I’ve seen MANY blue water barrels in garages that sit empty year-after-year. When unexpected disaster strikes, they could be caught without one of the most critical components of survival…simply because they never… Read more »
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