Prepping For Power Outages

When the mains power goes, we are abruptly brought face-to-face with how many of the devices and services we take for granted rely upon it. Telephones for instance, where once they were attached to the wall by a cable, now they are a cordless device with a mains-powered base station. Your cellphone can fill that gap, but a modern smartphone with a battery life of under a day is hardly a reliable long-term solution. Meanwhile modern heating systems may still burn gas or fuel oil, but rely on an electric pump for circulation. Your kitchen is full of electrically-powered white goods, your food is preserved by an electric refrigerator, even your gas cooker if you have one will probably expect a mains supply.

When the power goes out we might say that we instantaneously travel back a couple of centuries, but the reality is that our ancestors in 1817 wouldn’t have been in the same mess we are, they had appropriate solutions to surviving a wickedly cold winter when electricity was still something of a gleam in [Michael Faraday]’s eye. In short, they were prepared in a way most of us are not. That’s a shame, so let’s take a closer look sensible modern preparedness.

The City Versus the Countryside

If Hackaday did Christmas cards, this might be one of them.
If Hackaday did Christmas cards, this might be one of them.

This is being written from a very small English village, one that lost its electricity for a significant time a few days ago in a snowstorm. Overnight we had a modest fall of several inches of damp heavy snow that lay thickly in windless conditions, bringing down plenty of tree branches, and the 11kV supply to our transformer. Readers from colder countries are free to exercise their mirth at this point. (But your weekend’s Hackaday stories might have been in jeopardy, had we not fairly speedily set up the necessary backup systems to continue.) You can spot the people who’ve not lived in our village for long on snowy mornings: theirs are the houses with no lights on.

Take a drive away from town down a few snow-bound country lanes if you’re not cowed by a few inches of the white stuff, and you’ll find the farming community safe and warm with the lights on, we’d like to think checking Hackaday over an ADSL line that temporarily has a 1:1 contention ratio.This isn’t because they’re the type of people who keep a basement room full of rifles and tins of beans in readiness for the Apocalypse, instead years of experience living at the end of very long chains of power lines have taught them what it’s necessary to keep handy for the inevitable power cuts.

The most basic requirement of heating without electricity is something you’ll inevitably find satisfied among the farming community with a wood burning stove of some kind. At Chez [List] it’s a room heater filling a large fireplace, but the stereotypical British farm kitchen has an Aga or similar solid-fuel cooker drying the Wellington boots and thick socks as it cooks the midday meal. If you’re a long-time rural dweller without an Aga then there will be a couple of orange propane cylinders at the back of the house for the gas range that performs the same function.

Just a few of the bits and pieces that come out to fight the power cut.
Just a few of the bits and pieces that come out to fight the power cut.

Wood and gas heaters and cookers are invariable, used whether electricity is at hand or not. To adequately replace the lost electricity for everything else requires a diverse collection of equipment, bits and piece amassed over the decades and kept in storage just for these moments. A wired phone from the 1980s that takes the place of our DECT base station, a battery radio, a variety of lighting devices, a pile of mains extension leads and multiway adaptors, a deep-cycle accumulator, a pair of solid-state inverters, and a small two-stroke generator. An hour after the power has gone, and we’re well-lit, our fridge is keeping the Christmas turkey frozen, and the Internet is back. Hackaday’s scheduling is saved!

From a Bit of Wax and Some String to Lithium Ions

The simplest power-cut lighting device is the humble candle, of which we keep a box or two in the cupboard just in case. Unless you are after a Dickensian vibe though it’s fair to say that better alternatives exist. A variety of sturdy farmer’s lanterns ranging from an older model with a lead-acid gel-cell and a car headlight to a lightweight modern lithium-ion LED model are first to be pulled out, swiftly followed by the usual array of LED flashlights. Bright light and long battery life still seems magical, for someone raised in the days of dim incandescent flashlights with zinc-carbon cells.

In the first instance when it comes to lower-power mains devices, we have a couple of mains inverters ready. Not particularly high-quality ones, cheap sandcastle-waveform 300 and 600 watt units. They are hooked up to things like the ADSL router, my laptop, and the family TV. A small farm has deep-cycle lead-acid accumulators charged and to hand for electric fencers, that happily supply these loads and can be readily recharged with the right charger from the car or the tractor.

Appliance Power

Get warm on cold days, by starting a tiny two-stroke that hasn't seen action since the summer!
Get warm on cold days, by starting a tiny two-stroke that hasn’t seen action since the summer!

Running a fridge or a deep freezer from a cheap inverter is not a sensible course, so if the power cut starts to stretch into several hours, out will come the generator. As luck would have it a faulty carburettor stopped us using our primary choice this time, so out came my cheap-and-nasty 800W two-stroke machine and a festoon of extension leads. It’s great for the occasional camping trip in the summer, but not my first choice because its voltage regulation can be a bit haywire. You soon learn to ensure it has a light bulb plugged in as a load before you connect any appliance you care about, and a plug-in mains voltmeter becomes an essential accessory as you watch the voltage sail past the 300V mark when nothing is connected to it.

Our telephone exchange is in a neigbouring village, and like all such buildings it has a back-up power system to maintain an essential service during power cuts. It must have some form of power management preservation schedule, because a few hours after the start of any power cut it turns off the ADSL service and we lose our internet connection. Thus the final part of our power cut coping strategy involves a mobile phone temporarily fitted with a data SIM and placed as a wireless hotspot in the one upstairs windows that gets a decent quality signal. We can fix our power problems, but the parlous state of British rural wireless coverage is beyond us.

Tell Us How You Have Prepared for Power Outage

So, you’ve had a description of life in a typical British village in a damp and cold December, and yes, you’ll have raised a grin at our lack of weather-resilience as a nation. Farming and rural communities everywhere have the same we-can-fix-this mentality though, so once you’ve replaced our 230V mains electricity and BS1363s with your local variant maybe there could be something in our power-cut-readiness that could still be of use. More to the point, what do you do when the power goes out in the middle of winter where you are? It’s a constant of life as a Hackaday scribe, that whatever we do is instantly eclipsed by far more amazing work by our readers, so some of you will have this situation completely sorted. The comments are open, tell us how you did it.

268 thoughts on “Prepping For Power Outages

  1. Our preparations consist largely of a 10 kW military surplus diesel generator. Runs the whole house without sneezing. In extended power outages, we’re never without electricity for more than about 10 minutes total.

      1. I had a trio of 35kw generators for a number of years when i had a few racks hosted out of my house. I had picked them up at a police auction at scrap prices. Ultimately it ended up being cheaper to host some where else and sold them.

      1. I don’t remember where it came from (my father bought it, not me), but they’re not hard to find. A quick search for MEP-003A on Ebay returns several, and I see them on the state surplus property auction website from time to time.

      2. Skip those and just keep an eye out on Craigslist and Ebay for diesel generators. Much newer ones that are smaller, quieter, more suitable for house loads (you don’t need more than about 3-4kw – basically just enough to run your most demanding appliance), more fuel efficient, less polluting, better regulated, and better parts availability – are easy to come by.

        Aside from the major appliances, houses really don’t need much electricity these days given LED bulbs. I think my living room is 16W of lighting total?

        1. Exactly… I think my entire house can be lit with a 300watt inverter. I downsized all of my computing to single board cpu s , phones and tablets.. all easily run on low voltage DC that can be recharged by the car or solar. Only thing left is refrigeration and occasional use appliances and a 1 or 2 kw generator is enough for all of that. One thing people don’t factor in when buying big generators is the availability of fuel in a disaster. After the floods here in 2005 I had friends using up to 10 gallons of gasoline a day to run a 6kw generator.

        2. Lighting was never the most demanding load. Normally you have to dimension the backup power, especially an inverter for the fridge. This damn cheap asynch motors have a huge start-up surge: >10 times the nominal load. I had to retrofit a ~100W fridge with a start-up capacitor to allow it to start on 600W sinewave inverter.

          1. What about an VFD to start the motor from a better position?
            I’ve seen such a thing from AVE on YouTube, starting a compressor under full load.
            How much does these things cost in NA?

          2. The motor does not have a “position” as it is asynchronous. Although a soft start with a VFD from something like 10Hz should work.

            Many modern fridges do not even have a start relay which cuts the starter winding after the current in the main winding drops as the rotor is up to nominal speed. They have a PTC which heats up over several seconds. During this time the starter winding draws 1kW or something. But the PC is a little cheaper than a real start relay. Mostly this motors rely on a high R/L ratio in the starter winding in contrast to the main winding to generate some small phase shift instead a capacitor.
            The inverter draw 50Amps and pumped 600W at reduced voltage into the motor until the overcurrent protection tripped. After fitting the capacitor it was able to start even with the inverter. Mission accomplished :-)
            A VFD would have been much more expensive than the capacitor, as this was lying in a parts drawer since several years. Luckily 16µF were a good value. :-)

          3. Addition to “position”: This compressors can not start against back pressure anyway. Too little torque. But as the PTC has to cool down to enable it to start, the back pressure has equalized. If not, the thermal cut out switches off and retries after some minutes.

          4. Martin – I’ve seen a number of freezers that go into a power-waste mode if power is removed while running, then returned before the PTC cools down. The PTC then never cools down because of the negative feedback loop – as it starts to cool, more current flows, and it heats back up. But this seems to happen at a current that’s too low to start the motor, so it just sits there drawing that level of current until it’s unplugged long enough (generally five minutes or so) for the PTC to cool down enough to start the compressor.

          5. Thanks – I’m glad to hear that there’s a workaround. I had given up on the idea of using a compressor refrigerator in my truck camper because of that problem. Maybe I’ll try that sometime.

          6. Of course this “power waste mode” could happen. Luckily my first test with the 16µF capacitor I had lying around was successful. Otherwise I would have experimented with different values. It happened that without it the fridge did not start with completely cold PTC. But if the PTC is the issue you can replace it with a proper start relais. I have seen them on Aliexpress between 3$ and 7$ (PTC is 0.61$).
            For Camping I use a real DC compressor fridge/freezer box with 18l volume. It is more expensive, but also much more power efficient than the 230V fridge on the inverter. But sometimes you need more volume. :-)
            I do Camping with the car and a tent, so an absorber fridge is no good option, would need a big propane bottle or a noisy generator. The DC compressor is powered with a solar panel and a spare battery in parallel to the car battery.

  2. I have placed the light switch style LED lights above the door to each room. These are available for $4-6 with batteries. They are sufficient to light up the entire room to an acceptable level. They won’t run for more than 3-4 hrs, but if you need to go in a room for something they do the job.

    I also have a thermostatically controlled gas log set in the fireplace for heat as it does not require electricity. About 8 years ago there was an ice storm in north Arkansas that broke 38,000 utility poles leaving those at the ends of the lines without power for 3 weeks in freezing weather.

    I’m adding a NG generator, but have not got to it yet.

  3. Good one! – This resonates here in the boonies of Appalachia. I went off-grid in ’79 for various reasons (not so much green but freedom -green came along for the ride), but of course, that’s not the norm. I laughed out loud at the comment about being able to tell who’s been living in this kind of place for awhile – they have backups, the newcomers don’t. For some years the main way I knew “official” power was out was neighbors coming over wanting to use my freezer, TV, and so on. And funny, people say to you when they find out you’re off grid “oh, you don’t have electricity” when it’s more like “I don’t pay a big power co for it”. Yes, wood and propane heat rule – and in general cost less (you make the house efficient and search out the good deals on fuel). One tends to have some long-keeping food as well (not beans, good stuff) – you might not be able to get to a store for awhile in winter. Luckily our phone lines are buried so our ADSL tends to be no worse than usual in bad weather. One doesn’t need to be like that common vision of a prepper, but one is “ready”. It actually feels pretty good to know that you’ll be able to handle most of the nasties with little effort – and sing “let it snow” with no worries. Here, neighbors with tractors have plowed the roads before the state gets here…we have an actual neighborhood, unlike what a city dweller experiences. One nice thing about being off-grid is that all that is well worked out long since. The generators (yes, you have backups on the backups) are all working, regulating, and ready to go. The batteries and solar arrays are in good shape, and the inverters aren’t cheapos – they’re top of the line. A lot of things – like the flakey generator mentioned – get tossed out early in the game, but even the good stuff benefits from being used more often than the occasional emergency. Even my Volt requires me to use the gasoline engine now and then to keep it oiled and the fuel fresh…

    1. But what people will have to deal with from now on is the changes needed resulting from climate change. Services lost will be one of them. Dealing with extremes are another. Economic costs will be higher.

    2. Dude, have you heard of something called a “paragraph” ?

      Most folks tend to zone out, lose interest in long rambling sentences
      after the first few seconds. Can’t be bothered with trying to read that gibberish.

      1. I read his comment without problems, even though English is not my first language.

        You need to read Russian classics: one sentence in Dostoyevsky sometimes covers the entire page.

      2. Attention deficit disorder is, as the term suggests, a disorder. The complexity of the world around us sets the bar for how complex sentences need to be in order to convey the full sensory and cognitive experience. The author alone decides when a text serves that purpose. In other words Dismissing a text solely on its appearance, equates to literary racism.

  4. We are in rural North Carolina and only occasionally lose power, but would be quite well prepared with our two emergency generators, if either of them worked. We have (as do so many other people) a great number of “projects” to be done. Fixing the generators is right up there on the “maybe tomorrow” list. The words from the tune Arkansas Traveller come to mind:
    … “Go away, stranger, for you give me a pain.
    … The roof never leaks when it doesn’t rain.”

    Our major worry with power is our water supply. The electric well pump gives us water for us, our neighbour, and our farm animals. We try to keep the horses’ water tanks rather full, just in case. A little generator won’t do for running a deep-well pump. Our generators are both 5kw so they have the oomph to kick the motor over under full load.

    1. This reminds me of my dad’s house. He’s up in the NC Appalachians and he’s got some kind of generator rig, plus an auxiliary 12v system wired through his whole house. No idea why that’s there. I think it might have been left over by a previous owner.

  5. One of the most useful items in my kit is a self-priming siphon hose. We use the SUVs as self-propelled gasoline storage tanks when necessary: each one holds about 20 gallons, which gets naturally rotated as we commute (no old gas problems). Storing that much in cans just for an emergency would be a real hassle. Just fill up the cars before a storm.

    1. Oh, forgot to mention – make sure your car (esp newer ones) will accept a siphon hose. Some won’t, and even those that will may need a small diameter tube. Test it before you need the gas :)

      1. Why not tap into the fuel line from the tank to the engine bay to be able to use an electric or manual pump? I’m thinking where one exists any in tank full pump will fill container as long as the ignition switch is on. So the cost of an extra pump could be replaced by a lower cost shut off valve. Alll I know I can here my truck’s in tank pump runs until it pressures up the line.

      2. I’ve found that a short 12″ section of garden water hose works great for bypassing the flap found on most vehicles. Then you need to find a longer section of smaller diameter hose that can fit down the middle of the short chunk of garden hose.

    2. Good call. I keep 2 gallons in the garage for the mower and snowblower, and every spring and fall I dump the unused portion into the car and refill ’em with a fresh batch of stabilizer. Having two small cans makes it easier to pour into the destination, and enables pouring back and forth to mix the stabilizer.

      Since this regimen means it doesn’t get stale, I could try keeping a larger can (since my car’s tank is only 10 gallons itself), which would probably be prudent. An extra five or ten gallons would buy me 3-4 days of additional autonomy in an outage. It would just be harder to catch the car with that much room in the tank to do the change-over. :)

      1. I do the same, but also make sure I buy no-ethanol gas for these. I do this because ethanol absorbs water and sitting over the course of an entire season going ethanol free should help avoid problems.

        I siphon out the mower and snow blower at the end of each season and run them until they’re out. I don’t do other “winterizing” (or sumerizing) and I’m not sure if I should. Would love to hear advice on this.

        1. I wish I could find no-ethanol gas. There was some website which revealed the nearest no-ethanol station, and mine was about five hours away. I need to go try to buy avgas at the air strip sometime.

          1. I tried buying avgas for my old Lotus that took 100 octane. Airfield wouldn’t sell it. Seems avgas isn’t subject to the road tax that auto fuel is, so selling other than for planes is illegal, at least in my state.

          2. Just a suggestion but what if you took your generator up with you? Or if it’s a big one, a photo of you stood next to it holding your birth certificate. You can use non-taxed fuel in generators. And also boats, for as much as that’s worth. Promise them it’s just for the generator, which is why you’re buying it in winter, and maybe bake them something nice or bring chocolates or something. Maybe not a six-pack cos drinking and flying is probably looked down on.

        2. > I siphon out the mower and snow blower at the end of each season and run them until they’re out.

          Yup, I never had good luck with siphons, so I have a giant syringe I use for shuffling gas around. A bit of fuel line fits right onto the Luer fitting, so I can get it into the bottom of the tank pretty easily. Suck out what I can, and run the engine ’til it’s dry.

          It’s my understanding that in cars, a little bit of gas might be left in the carburetor float bowl, but I think these gravity-feed engines with the tank above the carb don’t actually have a bowl. Been years since I’ve rebuilt one, though, and memory is fuzzy!

          I make sure I throw some Sta-Bil in the gas when I buy it anyway, so any bits remnant in the engine should still be stabilized. I’ve been doing this for years and never had trouble with the engines, so either I’m doing it right or I’ve been lucky!

          1. Especially gravity fed engines need a float bowl. If you have the carburetor above the tank I have already seen a solution where you have a pump, which fills a bowl and the overflowing fuel runs back into the tank.
            The only engines which can not have a float bowl are things like weed whackers or chainsaws which work in any orientation. The can not rely on gravity for fuel regulation.

      2. I found out that alkylate fuel is just worth the money!
        It doesn’t get stale, is healthier for me, and the engines just run as if they were used on a daily basis!

        Best value if you just use it for starting the old generator with it. Once the engine is warm and running, you can use the old stuff without problem. But it saves a lot hassle, when most needed!

        I don’t know how they are available in north america, but in europe they are quite common!

        Especially tools, I don’t use that often, like trimmers, lawn mower profit from this stuff. I don’t stink and no dizziness after using them. I put this stuff even in my mx-bike, for storing them over winter month.

        For people, who use hand held gas-engines for a living, it is even mandatory! Just because of health issues.

        Some people even run their mx maschines the hole year on this fuel.
        It costs more, but is worth all the money.

        1. It’s good idea to keep that stuff ready for starting and warm up. For normal use I find it too expensive.
          The lawn mower wants start-spray anyway if is too cold and the 2 stroke generator some “extra choke” by closing it’s air intake holes with 2 fingers – 2nd person helpful, “please hold it’s nose shut” :-) But this works with normal gas and cheap 2 stroke oil.

        2. Oh, interesting, I’m in the US and never heard of this product by name, but I wonder if I might’ve used it under the brand “Rescue”.

          Rescue was a bottle of “emergency fuel reserve” which could be stored in the vehicle since it wasn’t volatile like gasoline. If you ran out of gas, you were instructed to pour the Rescue into the tank and restart the engine immediately, then of course drive to a station and fill ‘er up. The package said that Rescue wasn’t volatile enough to start a cold engine, but it could restart a hot one and get you the extra miles you needed.

          So, just now, reading “alkylate is high in octane but has low volatility” makes me wonder if that might be what was in the stuff. ( )

          I’ll see if I can find that Aspen stuff at the store and pick it up for use as a purge fuel during my seasonal changeovers.

          1. With Aspen there is no problem starting a cold engine, I think it can be even better than standard gasoline. With the alkylation process you get basically a synthetic “perfect” gasoline, containing more or less exactly the wanted molecules without problematic stuff. Much cleaner than by distillation from crude oil. But much more expensive.

    3. I’ve got several 5G cans and the gas tanks of the ATV and summer car. I used to use non-ethanol fuel, but is is really expensive around here. I found that filling the tanks to the top with normal fuel, adding stabil, and keeping the tanks/cans properly sealed has worked fine – It all gets siphoned and run thru the summer car. The longest outage was 5 days and I made it w/o having to buy fuel by alternating between a 7000W generator in the morning when I needed to run a lot, and a 2000W honda the rest of the day (which is more efficient and doesn’t leave the powerless neighbors quite as irritated or so I hope).

  6. To be honest, I haven’t planed for a power outage at all, since in the last 20 years, the power has only been gone for around 3 hours in total where I live. Effectively giving my local power grid an up time of roughly 99.9983%, the up time of the Swedish national grid is though lower, this is thanks to the more rural places where falling trees and other fun stuff brings this figure down lower.

    So I haven’t planed anything about a power outage honestly. Even local Data centers didn’t plan for it, until we got those 3 hours of no power a couple of years back.

    Only time the power actually goes out, that is when the mains distribution fuse has decided it is time to blow. But even that were over a year ago….

    1. Ohh, I remeber those dreadful 2h of the last blackout here in northern Sweden (10 years ago)., my neighbour came by, I was watching a movie on my laptop over 3G, the ham radio was on, and I had a flask full of hot coffe and a fire in the stove, he asked me if I had power, and I said, no, but lets google it and see how long it will be down.

      He didn’t have a laptop, his fiberconverter was down anyway and he didn’t own a smartphone,
      There was no info about what was wrong other then “Looking in to it” on the powercompanys website.

      His wife was about to start dinner, and their baby needed a bottle heated, so I borrowed them my gas campingstove, some of my LED camping lights and a battery radio, just in case it would be long.

      Well, the power was back just as their dinner was ready, but it got them thinking.
      Their bigger kids saw it as an adventure, and both asked for battery radios for christmas, the oldest one also wanted a camping stove for hiking, and the parents got themself a laptop and a 3G dongle.

      Since then they also got themself a caravan with solar panels for camping, witch is just about everything you need for a mobile blackout shelter (heat and cooking ability), and a 3KW gas generator.

      But since all the cables here is underground, I doubt it will be needed in the next 10 years

      1. Yes, a caravan (or as we call it in the new world, recreational vehicle) is a good ready-made off-grid temporary house. I have a converted box truck with solar panels on it that’s pretty close to self-sufficient, but as others have pointed out, after only a couple of weeks, concerns go from comfort to hunger. This reminds me that I’m really not at all prepared. Much of Puerto Rico STILL doesn’t have power.

        1. The context here is Europe. What you’d call an RV would be a motorhome or campervan. A caravan is equivalent in terms of living space, but is a trailer, not an independent vehicle.

    2. I’m running two small server rooms in South Australia.

      I still refer to it a “The Great SA Power Outage of 2016”.

      I’ve got more batteries in my server racks than servers nowadays :)

  7. I try to keep my car above half a tank, whenever severe weather is likely (and above a quarter at all times), since I have a kilowatt inverter installed in it. That’s enough to run the furnace and fridge, and I can get a full night of runtime on a quarter tank.

    I don’t have the whole house wired for a generator inlet, and I refuse to use a widowmaker cord, so instead, I modified the furnace so it’s not hard-wired anymore. Now it has an outlet on the side of it (wired into mains power) and a cord coming out the side (which powers the furnace itself), and normally, the cord simply plugs into the outlet. During an outage, I drag an extension cord from the inverter down to the furnace, and plug the furnace into the cord.

    One thing I can’t emphasize enough is testing! Kill your main breaker and test your backup. Full scale, not just a few minutes. Let the house cool off a few degrees, then start the backup and let it run a full cycle to re-warm the house. Instrument everything while you’re comfy and warm, so you know how it’ll perform next time when you’re in a rush.

    1. @Nate – this is super sage advice. After living so long off the grid, it’s about the main thing that’s burned into your mind. Failures only happen “in a sleet-storm on the weekend when no spares are available and the roads impassable”. While not strictly true, it feels that way –

      No one remembers to test their backups…and sitting around untested degrades them. You only need them when things are nasty, which is the worst time to have to fix stuff.
      I’m lucky in a sense to be on “backups” all the time – but even then I fall afoul of this sometimes, as if my first level stuff is working great, the backups for that don’t get exercised, and this bites me at the worst possible times.

      1. Before I put in a full house transfer switch, I ran extensions which worked for everything but the furnace. I found a cheap 1 circuit transfer switch designed esp for furnaces. You wired the furnace to it, then during a power fail, you could plug the female end of the extension cord into it and flip the switch between line/generator.

    2. That “widowmaker cord” is bad in at least two different ways.

      (1) The male pins on each end mean that the thing can present lethal voltage to anyone who is unaware of its purpose, such as trying to use it as if it were a regular extension cord.

      (2) Even worse, if you use one without removing (not just shutting off) the main circuit breaker for the house, you risk putting high voltage back onto the power company’s lines where the repair crew are trying to fix things. The same transformer that’ll cut 14kv down to 240 volts for your home will turn 240 into 14kv when fed the other direction.

      Some people advocate destroying widowmaker cords regardless of whose property they are or where they are found.

      1. Personally, I’m 100% confident that I have the knowledge to use a widowmaker responsibly, but that also means I have the knowledge to understand how dangerous it would be if someone else found it. So I won’t keep one around.

        1. That’s not a bad idea. And for super-paranoid people, take one of the plugs off when you’re finished using it, and store it in the disconnected state. Only dangerous for the absolute bare minimum time. And get some stickers with a skull on them and “Absolutely deadly! Not joking!” underneath. Then it’s anybody else’s own fault for messing with mains stuff.

        1. I was surprised to see this happen and asked why, I was told “if you’re working on the blue phase and the far end is off but yellow and red are on induction makes it painful at best” it’s something I’ve not forgotten, so far.

  8. For more than 30 years I’ve kept a propane camp stove and lantern at the ready. I’ve used them many times. I grew up without electricity. I know how to cope. As for the refer, plan ahead. Don’t on the door until you know what you want. Once, about 30 years ago we managed for three weeks without power after I’ve took the lines down in multiple places everywhere.

    An overcoat, candle, and a paperback are valuable accessories for such times.

    1. “Once, about 30 years ago we managed for three weeks without power after I’ve took the lines down in multiple places everywhere.”

      So, did your neighbors find out it was you who knocked out their power?

    2. When I was living in Colorado every time there was a major blizzard some family would die of carbon monoxide poisoning trying to use a camp propane stove indoors. 100% be very careful of running significant fire in limited-oxygen environments. It’s often safe, except when it kills you. So have a working battery-powered CO detector.

      1. Trying to heat an unventilated space with fire is darwin award level folly. The real objective should be to keep the PEOPLE warm, not the house. Layers of clothing, blankets, sleeping bags, all of these are effective, at least down to 10degF (that’s the coldest I’ve tried it myself, so for all I know, it might still work at temperatures much lower than that). And I don’t mean “not freezing to death”, I mean being actually comfortable.

          1. For an outage of a few hours or even a few days, your current idea of comfort may be practical. After that, you’ll learn to set your expectations to the new reality.

          2. If you are in an emergency/extreme situation where in reality you have to struggle to survive, I don’t think you need to try to call it “comfortable” if it isn’t.

        1. While it wasn’t my preferred choice, I have spent several decades living in mobile homes. While the furnace and hot water heater draw air from the outside, the gas kitchen ranges consumed indoor air. With range hoods and bathroom fans enough air escapes through the top to draw in fresh air from any leaks in the home envelope, even with newer homes that are much tighter than older models.

      2. Like everything else it’s all relative. Using a propane fueled camp stove during a power outage isn’t anymore dangerous that me using my propane kitchen range to cook. Using either as space heater with being mindful of proper ventilation is another matter.

  9. I’ve got an even worse problem – I live in a house where all the heating devices are electrically operated. Not even sure there’s a gas feed line. No fireplace, either. So I have been a bit worried about what I’d do if I had to deal with the combination of prolonged power failure plus prolonged below freezing temperatures, other than “go somewhere else”, which might or might not be viable depending on how bad the outside weather is. Installing a wood burning stove might be an option, although it’s not cheap. I’d be interested to hear what others have come up with on that score.

    When Hurricane Irma came through, we did have the power out – but at least it was warm. The main preparation there was buying a bunch of canned food. In retrospect, bringing that camp stove I keep in the shed into the house would have been a good idea.

    1. Kerosene heaters work, stink, are dangerous, but so is freezing to death. Propane in the 10 to 30,000 btu range with a thermostat is more civilized and readily available (when there’s no emergency) and a 20-30 lb propane tank is a few days worth of heat for a room…I’ve cooked on either in a pinch, not fun but workable. At any rate, either are portable and can be stashed somewhere until needed. They keep pretty well in storage (propane better and less stinky).

          1. Indoor rated or not it’s a good idea to get a carbon monoxide detector. Battery powered ones are readily available and are good peace of mind when the power is working in case some critter decides your furnace chimney is a good place to build a nest during the warm months.
            Keeping a window cracked can help and you won’t lose too much heat, but it’s not the safest option.

      1. I’ve only recently in the past few years used propane as I grew up thinking that propane was not safe and food taste strange when cooked with. I’ve only used for cooking though looks impressive for heating with the forced air systems or other methods. Natural gas doesn’t seem as different when cooking with and is great for heating faster if available.

        K1 Kerosene is a must. I grew up with for late fall and winter camping more-so and still have in the garage for worse case scenario.

        The multi-distilled lamp oils aren’t as bad either. There are a few old heirloom lamps around the house still and a few years back I picked up two more modern enclosed lantern style oil lamps.

      2. Cooking on propane sounds not much different than cooking with natural gas. What I do on a regular basis and the fast reaction time of the heat is very nice. For cooking the only difference would be the non functioning electrical igniter, it’s mains powered. But that’s easily solved with a lighter or a pack of matches. For the heating I would have to wire an inverter in for the circulation pump of the gas heating.

    2. Try small tent inside your house. It sounds silly, but if people are inside it heats up quite fast.

      That is one of the reasons why houses in the old days were small: small volume heats up quickly, even with only human heat if necessary.

  10. We have a 5KVA gasoline generator, extension cords, and 5 gallons of gasoline (18927 milliliters of petrol, Jenny)
    some candles, and some small bottles of propane and an emergency indoor propane heater.
    And the knowledge how to hook the furnace up to the generator if needed…

  11. All of these ideas make sense if you expect to lose power for days.

    I have lived in Phoenix for 22 years, and we have never lost power for more than a few hours at a time. I have never lost the food in the freezer. So the preparations that make sense for some locations don’t seem worthwhile for me.

    1. I’ve had a nice time browsing the “alt energy” forum.
      I’d appreciate an invitation, but, maybe it would be too much of a “time sink” for me, and maybe I’m too much of a jerk to be invited!

  12. I have two 48V battery packs, made of 75Ah Gel Cells.
    They power two 3kVA APC UPSs.

    The UPSs power:
    Sump pumps.
    Gas furnace (circulation pumps, also the hot water tank).
    Well pump.
    Modem, Computers, TV, etc…
    Deep Freezer, Fridge.
    Some lighting circuits.

    If the power looks like it is going to be out for a while, then I hook up the Generator. ;)

  13. I have an old CyberPower 1500 I re-furbished to handle blips and act as a surger protector for the living room and a 4KW gas gennie to run the house if we do loose power. I keep 10 gal of gas on standby with Stabil (marine) in it, Every few months I dump one of the tanks into the jeep and re-fill it with new gas to keep it fresh.

    1. I’ve been using Sta-Bil for ten or more years now, I put in the prescribed amount before putting the gasoline in the plastic cans. I have not had a fouled gas problem since (2 or 4 stroke), even if the fuel has been sitting in the implement for several years.

  14. I’ve got a couple car batteries (not ideal, but they’re what is laying around) that are always on a maintainer and a 1000 watt pure sine inverter or 2000 watt modified sine; depending on what I need to power. This is good enough to power the fridge and a couple lights for a few days.

    For longer hauls I have a Brute (cheaper version of Briggs and Stratton) 2000 watt inverter generator.

    1. The Brute is about half the cost of the B&S version, but is almost identical with exception to lacking the plug to parallel generators and a high idle switch. The wiring for the switch is still there so it’s very easy to add one.

      My only real complaint is that the shielding had a lot of rattles so right away I ended up splitting the housing and reassembled it with some weather stripping; mainly around the fuel tank. All-in-all, it’s is considerably quieter than a conventional generator and ended up running me about $380 from the local Menards during one of their rebate sales. That said, I don’t think they’re being produced any longer and the B&S version usually runs about $650.

  15. A few thoughts based on my thinking about this same topic in the past–

    First priority: If you’re running appliances in your home, or near the exterior, make sure that your smoke and carbon monoxide (CO) detectors are functioning without mains power, and that you check on them daily!

    Second priority: Make sure you have functional fire extinguishers and that you aren’t storing them directly next to the things that might be on fire :) (as in, keep them a large enough distance away that they remain accessible if there is a fire). In an outage you may not be able to contact a fire department, or you may not be their priority, so you have to take care of yourself.

    Utility provided gas can be as vulnerable as electric, so while it’s less likely to go out, it’s still possible. Anything that relies on utility gas is vulnerable. Standby generators, central heating, cooking appliances, etc.

    Modern gas powered appliances often do need electricity to operate, in fact you might be surprised just how much it takes to start a modern oven or furnace–the electric ignition (which is often a heating element that gets glowing red hot) can use many hundreds of watts for several minutes.

    Water is very important and often relies on electricity (either your own pump, or the utility fed pipes are pressurized by pumps). Having potable water on hand is always a good idea. In the US, 5G jugs of water meant to be placed onto water dispensers are very inexpensive, a few dollars each. If you have some storage space you can easily store 20-40G of drinking water. Filling a bathtub or other large container is also a good idea–even if you don’t drink it, you can use it to bathe and force your toilet to flush.

    If you’re using flooded cell batteries in your power plan, beware the dangers of hydrogen gas that can be created during charging! Always wear at least eye protection when working on the batteries and always charge in well ventilated space.

    When I owned a home, outside of a city, my preparation consisted mostly of my central heating furnace having it’s power fed via a “pig tail” that I could disconnect from mains and plug into a small gas powered generator. I also kept about 5G of fuel on hand in a jug, and I also had a hand-powered siphon that could allow me to remove fuel from other engines like my car, lawn mower, etc.

    Anything that I needed to stay powered was put on a UPS, things like my router and cable modem. I also kept a 210Ah flooded 12V battery and 2000W inverter on-hand to provide quiet power when running the generator wasn’t possible for some reason.

    I also stored ~20G of drinking water in the basement, and had a bathtub I’d fill before any major storms.

    Now that I’m in an apartment in a city it’s a bit trickier… space is tighter, keeping flooded batteries inside isn’t something I want to do, and I obviously can not run a gas generator… so I now have a 50Ah 12V sealed lead acid battery kept topped up by a mains trickle charger, and I have a 50W solar panel + charger in a closet that I can deploy quickly inside of a south-facing window. The main purpose of this battery is to keep radios working–cell phone or amateur radio. I keep only 5G of drinking water on hand, but still have a bathtub I can fill.

    I’ve found that most of these preparations aren’t all that necessary for me now in the city–we have a few disabled folks living in our building which means that we receive priority restoration of electricity and other utilities. Last year we had a major outage in the area due to an infrastructure failure, the power company trucked in large trailer generators to run the local traffic lights but also connected one specifically to our ~40 unit apartment building–we had full lights/power while our neighbors were left in the dark for a day or two until mains was restored.

    1. I was all prepared for an electrical outage when I lived in a city… but not for the natural-gas regulating plant to freeze up in record cold temperatures, cutting gas to most of the city—and to my boiler and stovetop.

      That’s when I learned that, if you’re on a gas line, you should keep a few portable electric heaters and a portable electric stovetop in storage in case you ever need them…

      1. A lot of natural gas-fed appliances can be made to run on propane by swapping jets, might be worthwhile for you to see if you can buy said replacement jets, so that you can use propane, which unlike natural gas is easy to store.

        1. That’s true, but when I think of my gas furnace which makes hot water and central heating of the apartment, I know that’s row of about 15 jets. Swapping them is no short action. You will not do this for one day. Changing the plumbing to connect it to a propane tank is also not easy.

          1. What you are calling ‘jets’ are not jets. Those are nozzles, which are fed by a very low pressure manifold, and THAT is fed by the main jet. Of which there is one.

          2. That’s possible. I will have a look at the next service /cleaning of the furnace.
            I know, that the whole furnace is fed by about 20mbar line pressure. And I think to remember that the burner consists of a row of about 15 individual jets/nozzles which mix the gas with air. This mixture goes into copper tubes of about 60 mm length and this tubes feed individual manifolds so that you get a rectangular array of blue flames below the gas/water heat exchanger.

        2. I most cities storing large amounts of propane on residential properties is prohibit. I suppose if you have home shope ypu might get nt bluffing thode 100 l.. propane bottle are for yo gas welding/ cutting set.

        3. You don’t swap jets or nozzles or whatever you want to call them. You swap orifices. Propane has a higher energy density so you use a smaller orifice to deliver the energy flow. Having done this conversion in my house, I can tell you that how many orifices you swap is a function of the design of the appliance. My cooktop requires swapping an orifice on each burner plus one for the oven. My current boiler (we have radiant heat) has a single orifice, while the previous one had an orifice for each row of nozzles. The clothes dryer has a single orifice to swap. The tech support people at Bosch said don’t even try to convert the demand water heater. He claimed it would take so many parts I might as well sell the one I have and buy a unit made for the right gas.

          And regardless of what the law might allow, storing a propane bottle indoors is an incredibly bad idea. Propane is heavier than air and will pool near the floor until something ignites it and blows up your house and maybe your neighbor, too. Your smoke detector or CO detector won’t do you any good in this case.

          1. I was really groomed not to use propane and that’s why I’ve been researching more the rocket stove idea with some furnace/forge/kiln designs I’m working on implemented in an ammo can.

            I logged in to note I forgot about titanium dioxide as I was looking at forms for the bottom to focus the heat to where the feed is and remembered I didn’t comment about titanium dioxide in my formulas where aluminum oxide is demonstrated… I’ve not seen a demonstration video or website for titanium dioxide where I’d prefer a larger particle size to insulated better… though as a surface white wash coat smaller is better.

    2. “Utility provided gas can be as vulnerable as electric, ”

      During cold snaps (-20 F / -29 C) the compressors that keep Natural Gas moving through the main pipelines will consume almost half of the gas to keep the pressure up.

      1. Why should they do this? The highest pressure is in the long range pipelines, up to 70 bar. These compressors are basically converted jet engines. Perhaps they are a little more efficient when the outside air is colder, but the difference is probably a minor one.

  16. Here in the centre of Edinburgh (scotland) I lost power for 30 minutes, my hacked up car battery powered APC UPS kept my office equipment and diesel heater running just fine. I cant relate to the stuff in this thread, I think in my lifetime im lucky if I have experienced power outages of more than an hour twice in my whole life.

    1. Nice warm Southern England. The people are a bit crap compared to home in Yorkshire, and unlike Scotland we’re surrounded by bleeding Tories, but you can’t fault the weather. Having the sea down the road keeps the place pleasant all year round. They’re so unused to snow, a couple of years ago we had about an inch, and the main road backed up a mile or so. Up North we don’t even put a coat on if the snow isn’t past your knees.

      1. What Greenaum says about snow is true, 6inches in kent is a national disaster, 6inches anywhere north of leeds is a local difficulty.
        I can’t comment on the people, I avoid them like the plague.

        1. That’s what’s hit the main stream media. Then there’s ornamental banned pesticides, banned pesticides, stuff people don’t realize people make from common items that you wouldn’t even know about unless you watch forensics files, disclosed concentrations of pharmaceuticals and who knows what in the water. I did a clean up on the Gun River and man… was it a meth manufacturing and who knows what waste dump. Disgusting,

  17. Have a portable 8k gas/propane generator. Have it near the quick connect outside, and have it wired with a UL listed interlock that allows be to backfeed my main panel (ONLY IF MAIN IS OFF, it’s a physical interlock that does this!).

    I keep a several normal grill propane tanks around, but plan to get a 100lb’r in the future. The generator being dual fuel allows me to store a lot of fuel for a long time (propane) and also utilize other stuff if it gets really bad (siphon from cars etc).

    From there, we are 100% electric home, so we’d have no heat. So I put a pellet stove in, with a battery backup and we always keep pellets on hand. I also installed a massive cold air return directly above the stove.

    Last time we lost power for about 8 hours after an ice storm, the pellet stove on + fan running on the furnace kept the house at 72 the whole time.

    We have a large ups for servers/electronics I run so internet ends up no issue. However we had a tornado come through a few years ago that taught me a few things:
    1. I can have power, but if the phone/cable company don’t then after a while the internet will be down.
    2. My cable companies main feed is on the same poles as the cell towers. So if there is heavy line damage like a tornado my cell phone could connect to the tower, but could not dial or get internet (assuming both carriers they had were down).

    So in the end we are pretty well covered.

    I got for xmas last year, but have yet to install, a return to power alert – a device that wraps around the mains line and beeps like crazy when it detects power. So next time I lose power I can arm it and will be alerted when I can switch to street power.

  18. I’m well backed up, but the comm providers aren’t necessarily. We had a 5 day outage a few years back. The cable network plant lost power without hours, leaving smart phones the only way to get to the internet. Within 24 hours, the cell tower batteries were dead. For the next 4 days the only way to communicate was via landline. Last time I bought a base station, I made sure it has a wired phone in it so I don’t have to dig thru boxes trying to find my old princess handset.

      1. Screw food, the first thing to hit would be lack of drinkable water, since apart from a few single digit examples, municipal water is pumped by electric pumps. Followed by trash buildup, then sewage. Then the corpses start piling up…

  19. We have a 4kva auto start chinese diesel generator, it’s incredibly noisy, despite having the word “silent” in the description and on a sticker on it’s very yellow cabinet, it sounds like it’s shaking itself to death but hasn’t died in the 16 years we’ve had it, we have a propane gas hob to cook on and an electric oven, all our heat and hot water comes from a homemade wood burning stove, it was this stove that drove the generator decision, it needs to be kept cool by circulation pumps or be put out in the event of a power cut.

  20. The sexist joke about what’s needed for a power outage:
    Women: make sure we have food and water.
    Men: make sure laptop batteries are charged and drive is full of unwatched Netflix episodes.

  21. Interesting now being able to tap into the 20KW generator of the Prius and even the alternator of the Ram to charge marine deep cycle batteries. Granted, the Prius and Ram are still 12V taps and with the Prius if direct to the alternator not more than 700Watts, though with the Ram I can get up to 1600W. Then running an inverter off directly. With the Ram I picked up and haven’t installed yet an isolator with switch to always top off charge when running.

    I can tap into the 220V DC in the Prius to run even some AC power supplies though haven’t yet.

    I do have a 1750W gas generator available if needed with a subpanel.

    I was also taught to prevent moisture from building up in the gas tank so to prevent corrosion… always keep your vehicles gas tank above a half tank in the winter.

    I’ve made two designs of the rocket stoves this last year that I prefer to cook on versus the propane. I think those are a very efficient way to save on wood burning fuel. Also, they can be modified as space heaters as well as water heaters… though with water heating critical attention to detail must be made to mitigate and really eliminate potential of dangerous systems events.

    I’d like to take advantage of solar and geothermal more for water and air heating if not water or a fluid for radiant heating. I have two mirror backed entertainment center wall book shelves (~4’x6′) that I just removed one and am planning on using both for solar air heaters with insulation, a glass cover, aluminum screens and a fan type design. Thinking those will be safe to place a copper coil in also or other heat exchanger for water or a heat exchange fluid.

    Also, thinking like in the greenhouse or hoop houses, using water in milk jugs where the intake vent can blow into an area with those first to have a thermal mass to store some heat. I was thinking this for under the farm building floor joists maybe set on top of 2″ foam insulation to keep off the ground. Two different strategies… where I need to perform the math to see what is most efficient… thinking using radiant heating, an insulated heat storage container… though that is more complex and costly for now… though maybe not in the long run.

  22. Our house in here in the mountains of New Mexico is five miles from the nearest power line across National Forest land, so mains power was never a possibility. We have 3kW of PV, 40kWh of battery capacity, and a 15kW Kohler water-cooled generator fueled by natural gas straight from the well-head (with 1000 gallon propane tank as backup.) In over 10 years we’ve never lost power in spite of temperatures below -30°F and snowfalls in excess of 2′.

      1. No, it’s not my gas well – it belongs to a drilling company. But the terms of the mineral lease on my property entitle me to free gas for “cooking and lighting”, connecting at the well-head. In practice (and in my case), this means connecting to the “collector” pipelines that deliver the gas to the gas company which filters and separates the gas. Well-head gas is a mix of mostly methane, some butane and ethane, and trace amounts of other stuff. You also have to deal with volatiles that will condense out of the line (“drip”.)

        Connecting to the pipeline involves serious sphincter control. The pipelines are essentially never shut down, so the connection is performed on a pressurized pipeline – a “hot tap”. In my case the pipeline operates at about 100psi, but the crew that did the job was equipped to tap a pipeline up to 3000psi. Needless to say, you don’t stand too close while watching the operation.

        1. So the “cooking and lighting” is allowed to involve a generator. From this you should also be able to get enough heat for the house.
          Where I lived in my youth I have seen how they connect to water pipes in the street under pressure. 6 to 8 bar, also around 100PSI. They bolt some kind of clamp with a tap on, thread in a tube where a drill bit is in it which has O-rings to the shaft of the drill at the end . This clamp has slot at the side with a rubber gasket and a strip of lead. I don’ t know if they still use lead, this was 30 yrs ago. Then they drill through the pipe, pull the drill back and insert a strip of sheet metal through the gasket. After that they remove the drill tube and thread in the final connection tube on which leads to a valve. After that the sheet metal strip is removed from the slot and the strip of lead is hammered shut to protect the rubber gasket.
          And that directly leads to the topic of the article here. I remember when we had no water for several days. One of this clamps failed due to corrosion and for several consecutive times each time after the repair of one clamp another one in the system broke when they repressurized the system. After several days they even worked during the night to speed things up. And they had an ancient diesel compressor for the jackhammers which was incredibly loud, you could hear it in the whole neighborhood – but nobody complained, we only wished to have water as soon as possible.
          It’s no fun having to wait for the tank car of the fire brigade and not being able to use the toilet normally, etc.

          1. “Cooking and lighting” is language that was originally put into leases probably 100 years ago. Modern interpretation is any non-commercial household use, which includes heating, running a generator, etc.
            The tapping process you describe is similar to what is used for the gas line. A threaded collar is welded to the line and a valve is threaded into the collar. A drill with o-rings is threaded to the valve and drills through the pipe. The drill bit is backed out (without breaking the seal) and the valve is closed. It’s easy after that. The main difference between using this process on a gas line and water line is that if something goes wrong on a water line you get wet. If something goes wrong on a gas line, you might die.

            as to water – it’s probably no surprise that if I’m far enough from mains power that I can’t get a connection, I’m even farther from water, so I have my own well.

  23. Wow. Almost everybody centers their response on electricity and fossil fuels, the two things we’ve designed a reliable way to take right out permanently at the start, plus the sun can just do it to us planet-wide with two days warning at best. Y’all have great plans for a 5 or 10 day event, 30 days in though life will have to change. All you’ve got are short term plans.

    Rule of Threes. You can live 3 minutes without air. 3 days without water. 3 weeks without food.

    I’m no prepper. The fridge/freezer can take care of itself for several days if kept ready with extra ice. Dried foods are good. Canned are ok. Cooking fuel for short term only, it’ll get used up fast so make sure you are ready to use wood, can tear the porch off I guess. A sling like good ole David and Goliath shocked me at how well it works but you gotta learn it, thankfully plenty of rocks around.

    Should watch a few of the old black and white zombie movies to get an idea what people are gonna be like.

    Apologize that family lived in the woods picking/trapping food for free, then discovered electrickery and thought it was the coolest thing I ever saw… it’s been a good life but AM anticipating good sized chance will have to go back to the woods. We are organized and educated, but not civilized, and on top of is we’ve got the Sun taking random pot-shots at us.

      1. No containers please. If you try to bury a shipping container, it WILL COLLAPSE on you, it’s not designed to take load on the roof/walls, only the corners.
        Strengthening is by using additional material is also pointless, because at that point it’s cheaper and more convinient to just use those to build your bunker/hidey-hole

        1. Think of using it as the form material for the 8″ plus thick welded rebar re-enforced lining with an outer layer of straw bales, pond liner and then some maybe 4 foot of natural… whatever you’d like… woodland, cow pasture, or a pond even.

    1. Living in the tropics, our power outages are usually a result of cyclones which means gloomy overcast days during the period of the black-out.

      Our general cyclone preparation comprises of keeping no more than 3 days worth of food in the freezer and charging up a 12v gellcell to power up the “technology” (router, modem) making sure there is a spare bottle for the gas BBQ, and that we are well stocked with safety wine.

    2. 30 days with no power would make ALL large cities uninhabitable. Needless to say, the inhabitants would not want to die and would start to seek water and food outside said cities, quickly turning them into raiders and/or looters, a true SHTF situation. You do not want a scenario like that to happen. Ever.

      1. That is exactly why everything deemed important has a genset on standby built into it, take a look around any large supermarket, hospital, telephone exchange, sewage works, water pumping station even shopping malls have them, which makes me think over priced coffee and lingerie is also deemed quite important.
        As long s the blackout is less than 100 miles accross there should be no serious problems.

    3. Respectfully it has to be a bit ignorant to think going back to the woods is a viable possibility, perhaps only for a few, before murdering over resources begins. Hell there isn’t enough viable land for a return to a simple agrarian lifestyle to provide for all. Malthus in time will be proven correct. When that will be is always a moving target.

  24. This seems like a great place to mention a project idea I’ve had in mind for a while, I call it a “rolling blackout in a box”. The idea is to let a small generator run a whole bunch of smallish loads, by cycling power among them, even if it wouldn’t be able to run them all simultaneously. I envision just a power strip with labeled receptacles for various types of loads.

    Basically, offer power to the furnace circuit, and if it starts within a moment, keep giving it power until it stops. (If the thermostat enables the furnace, it’ll run a cycle, then eventually shut off.) Then, offer power to the refrigerator circuit, do the same.

    If none of the priority loads take the offer after a few moments, then light up some of the opportunistic loads, battery chargers, whatever. Give ’em power for a while and try the priority loads again. Perhaps keep the priority loads powered all the time and if they start drawing power, instantly kill the opportunistic ones. And if one of the user-driven loads (the microwave, for instance) starts drawing power, inhibit the seek sequence until it’s done.

    Seems pretty straightforward, I’m pretty sure it could be implemented on a Ubiquiti mPower strip in nothing more than a shell script, but I’ve never gotten around to doing it.

      1. Exactly. Almost everything in your house could run off an eu2000i generator, just not all at once. So you could get by with a very small, light, portable, fuel-efficient generator, if you simply had the ability to prioritize the loads so you don’t overload it.

        Invented by a hacker! Generator manufacturers hate him! haha

        1. Wrong, invented by corporate engineering staff. APC (now Schneider Electric) has just such a device (actually a transfer switch). The UTS-6BI / UTS-10BI series. I have one at my house. It is fully customizable and can prioritize, delay, transfer loads according to your requirements. So it can do “load shedding” if you configure it for such. They also have the ability to run off the generator, or a UPS (you can power the backed up circuits from a UPS in other words).

          1. No shit, THANK YOU! I’ve literally been looking for this for years! Couldn’t think of what search terms to use, but “transfer switch” never occurred to me, as I envisioned it as a portable device, not interconnected with the utility at all. That seems sensible enough, though, given their target market.

            I still wish there was a portable version, both for those of us who rent our homes and can’t install things into the walls, and for camping and field-day operations, the other place small generators get a lot of use. But still, super cool. Thank you for the tip-off.

        2. Why would the generator manufacturers and retailers hate? Anything that can make smaller power plants, fulfill the needs of more people easily, means more sales. These customers aren’t likely to purchase more powerful units anyway. The downsides of this idea would be the jungle of power cords, and rewiring the dwelling to do away with that jungle may not be feasible.

  25. We are on a fiber only section (twisted pair copper got pulled 5 years ago) for the phone/internet, my UPS lasts longer then the hub that feeds the house so within a couple hours cell phones are the only comms. Being 15 miles from the nearest sizable town in northern Minnesota we are usually the last in the area to see a power restore, in the last 5 years we have had 1 winter outage last 24+ hours and 3 or 4 summer outages that lasted 3+ days. A 4kw generator running about 5 hours a day is enough to keep the freezers cold and charge the batteries for lights and phones and propane heaters keep the house warm in the winter.

    1. I believe the boiling point of propane is around -45 F., where you live do you have to bury the propane tanks to keep the liquid fuel boiling off gas?. The coldest I have seen in my part of KS was -20 so that isn’t a concern for me.

  26. Seems odd to even bother with powering the fridge during a power outage caused by ice or snow load. At that point just put your food outside, in a cooler if you have it. Some of the really expensive modern coolers (ie Yeti or their clones) can keep ice frozen for a week.
    You could also rotate frozen water bottles to keep the freezer section of your fridge full. Unless you have a bottom mounted freezer, this should keep the fridge safely cooled as long as you don’t stand there with the door open.

    Instead of struggling to maintain a 21st century life of electric devices fall back to older tech. Crack a good book or some board games, eat all the ice cream and frozen steaks, and wait for power to come back. A couple good coolers & a small power source (your car if it’s just mobile devices) should keep modern essentials going and you pretty comfortable.

    1. Seems strange… though I was thinking at one time to save energy on heat exchange… place a fridge/freezer on a pulley like an old well with a bucket and rope. Use a super-insulating lid with a vent top on top of the well to exchange heat out of the cooler “well” maybe even an expandable tube on the vent where the other end is connected to a box around the heat exchanger on the back of the fridge/freezer.

        1. Yes, definitely if you had water. That takes more energy than a hand crank or pulleys. I was thinking the well design vision with a block sealed wall that is dry to prevent mold kind of cellar tube.

          Man, I sure did enjoy Devon when I toured the Barnstaple site for a few days. Beautiful and lovely weather. Just received a fresh coat of maybe 4″ snow this morning

        2. Neat how you use Thatched Roofs and Slate there in England. Thatched is definitely thermally beneficial. Scotland… I guess used to is more accurate… had underground housing which if can stay dehumidified is more geothermal conscious. Though I am recalling that was more Viking invasion era, at least what is coming to mind..

          1. Nah, nobody’s used thatched roofs in about 500 years. There is one a few miles from me I sometimes pass. I think the expense of re-thatching them (and where do you even FIND a thatcher?) every few years puts people off. Plus surely it’s a bit of a fire hazard, and maybe things nest in there?

            Slate yep, on Victorian houses, of which we have plenty. Building them out of local stone or brick means they last a while. Roofs nowadays though are just ceramic tiles, clay I suppose or something new, never see concrete like Americans use. We increase thermal efficiency with rockwool in the loft, or that spray-on foam. Sorry, not particularly charming I know.

            Some old buildings are Listed, with varying Grades. It limits what you can do to the place, whether it’s a beautiful old factory or a house or whatever. Repairs have to be done with period-appropriate materials and techniques, mostly. You can’t change much, and it’s basically a massive liability to own a place like that. Limits lots of things. People will make efforts to prevent their stuff being Listed.

          2. You know, now that you say that… I am thinking I was specifically taken to an area to drive by to see the plaster sided thatched roof house and the discussion was there are others and like you note. Sad how there is so much in materials to use in the U.S. and we still decide to ship in toxic building materials occasionally. If not VOC’s from materials… there was the sulfur dioxide or trioxide effusing from drywall.

            I wonder with the thatched roofs, if there could be a UV treated polyurethane or better material like maybe even tar or silicone to place over the top once installed to increase the life cycle of the roof.

          3. What you’re talking about is an ice house, normally they’re next to a large pond or lake and the ice is removed from the pond and stored in the ice house.
            commonly they’re ten feet deep and fifteen feet across with the extra thick thatch roof sitting on a low wall to keep rodents out.
            other designs are a bottle shaped and a much smaller affair but entirely underground.
            There are thousands of thatched buildings in the UK some of which are new builds, especially on the edges of old villages, luckily we have a plethora of thatchers to repair and replace them, there’s even a guild of master thattchers.
            A thatched roof can last around 60 years but will need maintaining every 10 years or so, this period is drastically shortend in woodland or under trees.

    2. Yes and no. Putting food outside, even inside a cooler, opens it up to munching by whatever critter wanders by. You’d need a pretty serious locked cooler to keep raccoons out, and they’re ubiquitous in the urban landscape.

      Frozen water bottles will extend the fridge a day or two, but not the freezer of course, and a day or two will get you through most utility outages I’ve seen, but certainly not all.

      I do plenty of reading and board gaming, but none of it is particularly enjoyable if I can’t feel my toes. My house has a fireplace but it’s mostly useless; it was designed for an ornamental gas fire-log and every time I set a respectable wood fire, it fills the house with smoke because the flue can’t keep up. Keeping the furnace going is really essential to surviving a winter here, and that means electricity. As described above, my car is able to run my furnace, at least.

      I’ve also played around with using the stove burners on 120V (what my inverter puts out) instead of 240 (their native voltage, since I’m in the split-phase US). Of course it means a quarter the watts, but that’s still useful. Full story here:

      Are there better ways to heat water? Surely. For simply making tea, there’s the classic immersion heater: and that’s more efficient, since it’s in direct contact. But it’s only good for things like tea or coffee, it doesn’t put out enough power to boil a whole pot of water for pasta, and it’s definitely not gonna help me fry an egg.

      1. I would not waste the inverter electricity to produce heat. Any butane or propane (or even ethanol) cooker has more power than a small immersion heater or stovetop with half the voltage. In my apartment I use natural gas for cooking anyway. I would just have to ignite the burner manually.

        1. You’re right, of course, if efficiency were my primary concern. However! I know how clumsy and accident-prone I can be, especially when I’m distracted, and I think of power outages as pretty distracting — even if I know the furnace is running fine on the inverter, I still have trouble falling asleep because I’m thinking about all the details, for instance.

          With that in mind, I figure I don’t want to introduce open-flame cooking appliances into a kitchen that doesn’t normally contain them, nor to a cook who doesn’t normally operate them. Cooking with gas would be more efficient, but I’m not accustomed to it, nor is the kitchen set up for it. Your kitchen is a whole different story — it’s already part of your routine, and manual ignition wouldn’t be a very big change to how you normally cook.

          That being said, as a backup plan if the inverter craps out, one of those $20 low-profile propane burners wouldn’t be a terrible thing to have on hand. It still wouldn’t be my first choice, but this whole thread seems to have a “backups for your backups” theme to it. :)

          1. You’d need so many batteries and solar panels to power an electric cooker, it’d be cheaper and simpler to just send out for takeaway. Or build a small house next to yours and pay a chef to live in it and cook for you over a camping stove. Electric heat without mains is practically impossible.

            Cooking with gas isn’t any harder than electric. It’s just heat. And gas responds much quicker, electric hobs are awful, ovens are OK. If you’re really worried you’ll burn the place down, get a grown-up to supervise! A kitchen doesn’t need any modification to cook with gas. It’s just putting heat under food.

      2. If you want something more efficient, look into induction heaters, not sure how widespread they are in US, but they’ve become fairly popular in EU…
        Because it’s essentially a switchmode PSU, many are capable of operating either from 2-phase@full power or single phase@reduced power.
        And since you already have an MCU in there to control everything, even the cheaper ones tend to have fancy features like a multi-channel timer, which can turn the cooker off. Also present are more then 6 steps of regulation, overheat prevention (like when you let all the water boil off), auto-shutoff when there’s no load (you took the pot off and forgot to turn it off)….
        The fancier ones can even integrate thermostats ;-)

        1. There’s already one on my wishlist!

          I do want to compare their efficiency, since most of the single-burner induction cookers I’ve seen have a cooling fan in the back to keep the electronics cool, and that hints about some loss. I just have no idea how much.

          I’m also not sure if their lower-power settings are compatible with a low-wattage source like an inverter. Is it bang-bang switching that draws 1800 watts one moment, 5 watts the next? Or something smarter? Is the power factor gonna murder my inverter? I’ll find out soon enough!

          1. The power factor is probably not bad. The utilities don’t like 1800W loads with poor power factor. I think there is not much smoothing capacitance, the inverter of this heater just puts out 100Hz (50Hz full wave rectified) power. Some of them you can hear humming quite “good”.
            The efficiency is quite good, perhaps 95%, but even then you have to dissipate 100W from the electronics. This is cheaper with a fan, you need less aluminum for the cooling fins.
            But I am also quite sure, they are just bang-bang modulated. It’s the easiest solution after all. They power oscillator is just designed for one operation point, full throttle.
            So you could think about getting used to the butane cooker if you don’t have or want to buy a 2kW inverter. Best without any stress before an emergency happens. I also use it often in holidays – camping, festivals or on the sailing ship are also occasions where you do not (always) have mains electricity.

  27. I have the tiny solar array to help keep emergency lights running when needed (LED variety). Modified APC UPS supplies to their own larger capacity “External” battery. Stationary bike with 2 dynamos to charge USB devices. Ham radio (HF) and portables (UHF/VHF) on standby. If we do lose power, the family knows to stay in the living room, drape off the entryways (to keep heat where it is needed), and “conserve energy.” Hasn’t happened yet in the new house. If it does happen, we will be prepared. 73 de KC8KVA

  28. It’s funny reading of the issues of power outages due to cold weather and snow – in most parts of Australia that’s a very unlikely scenario ( it does happen just not very often)
    We’re more likely to loose power due to overloading on Hot days. Than things like the fridge are a huge problem.

  29. Modern society is a grim shadow of what our forefathers were. The often quoted statistic is, in an extended grid down scenario, that extends for months, greater than 90% of the population would expire. Since they do not have the knowledge to “live off the land”. We’re accustomed to 24×7 luxuries of being able to acquire food at the local supermarket, having hot/cold running water, and a host of other “modern conveniences”.

    The “Doomsday Preppers” would probably be the most well positioned to survive such a scenario (and the need for weapons to protect oneself would be obvious). If you live in L.A., NYC, Detroit, Miami, etc… any large urban area… you are good as dead (unless you have provisions/weapons to protect yourself and your family from roving criminal gangs – which is what happened in New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina).

    Folks out in the boonies who are used to hunting, farming, living like the original settlers who rode wagon trains across the uncharted territories of America in the 1800’s would no doubt survive in an extended grid down situation. That leaves the rest of the 90% to gradually wither away and expire.

    1. Scary how different many are in the city. In regards to Katrina I guess off the record they had to HALO special forces in as I spoke with someone who got away with his team not even firing a shot though was really bad on the ground prior to negotiations with the criminal deadly gangs. I went down for a short term mission trip and later had identity theft of almost $10K, so even post event issues I assume were rough and I was in MS not LA. Some days I wonder what still is lingering because I was overt.

    2. The Doomsday Preppers would probably be the most well positioned to survive such a scenario (and the need for weapons to protect oneself would be obvious). If you live in L.A., NYC, Detroit, Miami, etc… any large urban area… you are good as dead (unless you have provisions/weapons to protect yourself and your family from roving criminal gangs – which is what happened in New Orleans during the aftermath of Katrina).

      …citation? Link?

      People survive better when they cooperate, not when they go to ground with an arsenal.

      1. “People survive better when they cooperate, not when they go to ground with an arsenal.”

        Really ? Perhaps all those shop keepers during the L.A. riots have a different opinion. Nothing like having mobs kicking in your windows and looting your goods. Please post your home address so you can host a “peace summit” for those nice chaps.

        Maybe the Bloods, Crips, MS-13 fellows will be persuaded by your diplomacy.

  30. I used to use insulated poly-fleece material on my windows as curtains. One side was white and the other black. I’d use black in the winter and white in the summer. Made using a style a girlfriend used for a blanket she gave me where you tie knots around the perimeter which made easier to place over the curtain hanger tube thing.

    1. I was thinking of building Venetian blinds that are flat black on one side and reflective alumin[i]um on the other and have them micro controlled to either reflect or absorb sunlight to moderate temperature in the house.
      But SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed) nixed that idea.

      1. Smart idea. Especially if we use a foam or more insulating material. Thinking can wire cut or even make a machine to automate the wire cutting task.

        Now that you mention… I do recall seeing on instructables or was it on here… that is… the automating of curtains. If you haven’t seen before… do a Google search of DIY Automated Curtains.

        Yes sir, SWMBO. I’m stuck doing house restoration and working where I don’t want to. :-|)

    2. Seem to remember years ago seeing something like a thick thermal blanket being raised and lowered like a roller blind. Not sure what called but you could buy them for all kind of windows and especially large doors like sliding glass.

  31. Wanted to mention for those with smaller generators… to do duty cycle math with your chargers and batteries and larger inverter required systems so you can make use of smaller generators to charge the batteries which will run the larger power systems where the generator may not by itself or even wear it out sooner than required. With proper prior planning to prevent piss poor performance potentially (8 p’s) you can keep items cool and frozen, environment dry and fans running without power issues or conerns.

    1. This is sound advice, our generator can easily run the whole house, but we have no tumble dryer.
      If the oven is on I cannot start some of the wood working machines or any metal working machines, obviously welding is out of the question, when I discovered this I changed to generator transfer switch connections, it has 2 3phase contactors but we only have a single phase supply, all 3 contacts are conected together on the mains and gen side and on the load side of the mains contactor but on the gen contactor each “phase” is separated and the workshops have no power, they have a maual generator between them.
      all this was done in response to a failed load test, best thing I ever did.

  32. On the TO-DO list here is to run light 12V feeds from my server cluster to the access point, two switches, ADSL router and the small industrial computer I use as an Internet router.

    I am also considering running a heavier feed to my room for the radio station there and another to the kitchen to power a 12V fridge. In the event of an extended outage, I can quietly power down the servers, then we have 210Ah of battery capacity there with 3 120W solar panels on the roof charging it.

    No, it isn’t winter here… and I’ve never seen snow fall in real life. (Only time I’ve come across snow in real life, it has fallen on previous days, then I’ve arrived in the area.) However, the temperatures will soar this summer, and if summer storms don’t take the power out, it’s people firing up their air conditioners and really giving the electricity grid some curry.

  33. Thankfully I live in a big city with a reliable power grid. The power to my apartment has never gone down for long enough to be a problem (even when we got hit by massive quantities of rain and flooding caused by the tail end of a tropical cyclone earlier this year, the power stayed up in my area)

    I have a powerful LED torch in my drawer if the power goes out and its too dark to see but otherwise the power has never gone down long enough that I would need to worry about it (not that I have any ability to use a generator or a gas stove or anything in this apartment anyway :)

  34. Having read the comments I’ve learned quite a lot, a few ago my neighbour showed me a short lead with a household plug on each end, I was mildly amused and shocked all at the same time, tonight I’ve learned that this practice is so common it has a name!
    I need to buy some PVcells.
    Now I’m going share something I learned along time ago.
    A full fuel tank in not the solution to water in fuel, non vented containers are a solution even with fuels that absorb water out of the atmosphere.
    Vented storage tanks and fuel tanks on generators are a major issue, many petrols and bio diesel absord water out of the atmosphere and there is some kind of algae that grows in diesel with water in it.
    My diesel storage tank is vented via a tank vent dryer, it’s basically a box full of silica gell.
    Because I live in permanently damp woodland I have fitted smaller silica gell vents to nearly all my fuel tanks be they diesel, petrol or hydraulic oil.
    On smaller machines, sawmill, lawnmowers and the likes of, I’ve soldered two small brass nuts to the fuel cap and and soldered over any vent holes then drilled through the cap in the center of one of the nus, when not in use there is a pan head screw with a fiber washer screwed in to keep it air tight.
    Obviously when this machine is in use the screw is removed and put in the nut with no hole beneath it.
    I remember a similar feature on early 2stroke flymo lawnmowers.

  35. Right now:
    • The under cabinet lighting is backed up by a battery, so when the grid goes down the house will never be completely in the dark
    • I have a generator transfer switch & a small inverter generator. The generator isn’t very powerful, but the entire lighting load for my home is LED and is about 12A with everything on. The furnace is about 2-3A and the fridge is about 2A when it is running.
    • I had natural gas installed in my home. Previously the house was all electric and natural gas was unavailable in my area until this year.

    In the near future:
    • I would like to set up a selfish-solar setup to power the critical loads that are switchable by the transfer switch. This will keep the house mostly off grid and only use the grid as a back-up.

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