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Life without Electricity

life without electricity geek-prepperIt’s winter, here in the USA, and many parts of the country just got hit with ice storms. The electricity has been on and off all night and it got me contemplating the power grid and life without electricity.

Life without Electricity

Ice storms came through town last night, and once again our power was out most of the night. Most people probably sleep right through the power going off and on, but not me. I have sleep apnea and when my CPAP machine shuts off, I’m usually wide awake.

I got up and started to make coffee, then realized that my coffee maker is electric. Bah! I have a gas stove, and a myriad of camp stoves, so I could have made coffee, but it gave me pause to reflect on life without electricity.

I’m a nerd, I work in the information technology and security arena, so I’m all about electricity and cool tech gadgets, so how can I speak about living without power or the grid?

Long ago, I worked in the construction/carpentry world, in the Midwest. Many of our carpenters were Amish, and when you work with people every day, you become friends. I had the opportunity to hang out with some of these fine people on many occasions and got to experience how they do things, first hand.

Light

Light is a big issue. Regardless of season, you will have night, and night is dark (surprise). When you have to go outside, without porch lights, or walk down the hallway to the bathroom, you will need to see your path.

Everyone in your family will have a flashlight, probably more than one.

What about lighting up a room? Sure, you could use your flashlights, but if you were hanging out with friends, or trying to play a board game, this would be inefficient, at best.

Can you imagine making a comment or point during a discussion, with everyone shining their flashlights at you? Awkward and a tad freaky.

The Amish, that I knew, used kerosene lanterns. They used some really, nice lanterns, with glass bases, so you could see how much kerosene remained in the lantern.

While kerosene lanterns are nice, LED lanterns are simpler and safer to use. The batteries last a really long time, and if you have a method to recharge the batteries via solar power, then you’re good, until those batteries wear out.

For long term use a good option would be a Solar LED lantern, so it can charge during the day to prepare for it’s use at night.

If it’s a true grid-down situation, then we need to look at longer term solutions. Candles and oil lamps will probably become the norm again, as will going to bed, when it gets dark and rising with the sun.

Cooking

Cooking without electricity will be a game changer for many. The microwave is no longer useful without power. The electric stove will sit there doing nothing, except offering additional cabinet space in it’s oven. If the grid is down long enough, my gas stove will do no good either, since the pumps to pressurize the gas lines will not work.

You can cook for a while on your propane gas grill, but those propane tanks will run dry soon enough.

Camp stove cooking may become more common, but we’ll see campfire, fireplace and wood stove cooking becoming the norm, once again.

Cast iron dutch ovens and skillets will be pulled out, dusted off, cleaned up and put back into service after all these years.

Heating

How can we heat without the grid? For a while the gas furnaces and space heaters will work. Then kerosene heaters will likely fill the gap for some. When there’s no more local kerosene available for you to use, then what?

We’re back to wood stoves and fireplaces again.

Using wood stoves and fireplaces for heat AND cooking. Yes, we once again, have those multiple use items, that we preppers simply adore.

 

While this post isn’t all inclusive of every issue you’ll face while living without electricity, it’s a good start. When the grid goes down, many will perish. This is a sad fact, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

Humanity prospered and grew for millennia without electricity, many of us have become soft and reliant.

 

3 comments

  1. First, how have I not stumbled across your site yet? I’m a techie-prepper myself.

    Second, I live so far south in Florida (on the coast, no less), we don’t get frost, but we DO get about 8 months of temps in the 90’s. (To illustrate, as I sit and type this, it is 9am on December 10th, and the temp outside is 73!) My point is with the grid down, cooling becomes and issue here, not heating.

    However, all the warm weather here usually includes lots of sun, so I”ve installed a couple of solar panels (98 watts output @peak, 335AH of storage) on a stand-alone setup to run small electronics (HAM and regular radios, battery chargers, my beloved Kindle 3G) as well as run a converted truck radiator cooling fan. It isn’t much, but it is far better than nothing.

    Water also becomes an issue with no power. Pumps are required, either locally for your own well, or for pumping stations for municipal water supplies. Very few folks will have water after the grid goes down….For us, we have 5 55 gallon rain barrels and a Berkey water filter. It isn’t a perfect answer, but it is a start. I’m hoping to eventually install either a hand pump or a 12 volt pump for our well.

    Our location is also less than a mile from the ocean, so hurricanes are a regular worry. We’ve spent weeks without power on multiple occasions because of them.

    Living without electricity is a reality, if only for a short time. I prefer to do what I can to make the situation a little more bearable for my wife, cuz if she isn’t happy, NOBODY is..

    Thanks for the post, you’ve got me thinking about improving my setup to shore up the weak points now.

    Peace,
    db

  2. With 300+ million people, how long until the wood is gone?

  3. After hurricane Sandy, you saw news clips with all the people standing in line holding gas cans waiting to get gas. I decided to have a natural gas line installed at the house and to buy a motor snorkel kit http://www.motorsnorkel.com/ (have a look at You Tube vids) for my generator. This kit allows the generator to run on gasoline, propane or natural gas. After installing the motor snorkel on my generator and connecting the natural gas line to the quick disconnect line, it started on the second pull of the starting cord and ran better and smoother than when it runs on gasoline. I would strongly recommend to all to get one. It gives you more choices should you have a long power outage.
    I also installed a natural gas log for my fireplace and a blower. Really nice to have remote control on/off (battery powered), no ashes to clean out, etc. Also “need to have” if power goes out in the winter. The entire house is electric (heat pump). Turn on the gas log, turn on the blower, warm the house.
    I also have some solar lights I picked up at Harbor Freight http://www.harborfreight.com/solar-brushed-nickel-led-path-lights-2-piece-60755.html . These have come in handy. When the power goes out at night, I just walk out front and pluck them from the sidewalk and bring them inside. One for the kitchen, living room, hall, bathroom. I also picked up http://www.harborfreight.com/solar-dragonfly-led-string-light-10-piece-60758.html. After modifying it to remove the blinking it’s great for an area light.
    Having solar chargers keeping your rechargeable batteries ready is great.
    Using solar powered garden lighting is even better.

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