Our home runs day-to-day on public utilities. Our stove and water heater use natural gas and our main furnace is electric fan-forced natural gas heat. One of the most likely threats our household faces is an extended power outage. In fact, an extended power outage in the middle of winter ranks pretty high on my list of most dreaded scenarios. Our Indiana winters are mild compared to the northernmost US states but we still have a several week period during the late winter when temperatures can dip below zero for several days in a row.
Our city produces it’s own electricity and it does a good job of keeping the system maintained. We haven’t had any power outages longer than a few hours in the past 2 decades. This doesn’t mean that the possibility doesn’t exist for an extended outage from massive storm damage.
We tend to prep in “layers”…. here’s our layered approach:
Our first line of power outage preps is a gasoline-powered generator. We use it for any outage that lasts long enough for the freezer to begin thawing. Ours is a 6500 watt “contractor’s” model manufactured by Campbell-Hausfeld. It is a barebones model with a pull-start Briggs engine and 220V capabilities. This generator is large enough to power our furnace as well as the freezer, refrigerator and the various battery chargers but not all at once. We will need to alternate between appliances to keep from overloading it. I estimated that we will need to run the generator intermittently for a maximum of 2 weeks so we try to always keep 2 weeks of fuel for it on hand. Our plan is to run the freezer and refrigerator long enough to consume or preserve what is in them. Hopefully gasoline would be available during this period but if not, any leftover fuel will be saved for our chainsaws or vehicles which means we will be relying on our solar preps and living life with much less electricity.
The generator is kept clean and maintained. We run it at least twice per year and run the carb’s bowl dry each time. Starting fluid is a must-have item.
Along with the genny, we have several portable power-packs, the kind that you keep charged up and ready to use as an emergency jump starter. We use these throughout the year as power supplies for our larger 2-way radios. They are generally kept with a full charge at all times. We have acquired several different models ranging from a simple jump-starter all the way up to the deluxe models with 110V inverters and built in air compressors. These power packs are extremely handy.
Disposable and rechargeable AA,AAA, 123 and D batteries are kept in storage and rotated throughout the year. Small solar and 12V powered battery chargers are also in abundance around here.
Natural gas is our home’s main fuel. It’s also cheap right now. Other than a widescale power outage, earthquake or construction mishap I don’t know what could actually disrupt the supply but we have a few options if that occurs.
#1: Kerosene. We use kerosene heat daily during the winter to heat our outbuildings. Prices fluctuate but kerosene is dependable and storable. If necessary we can heat our home in zones using small kerosene burners. The burners do require regular maintenance. We also have several kerosene lanterns in storage.
#2 Liquid Propane. This is my least favorite way to heat. It is extremely expensive in my opinion but it’s possible that LP would be the only thing available. We have 2 portable LP heaters, one is a small wall mounted fireplace that does a good job but is very inefficient. We also have several adaptors that allow using different sized bottles depending on availability.
#3 Wood. We already heat about half our home solely with wood. When necessary, we rely on wood to heat the whole house and use kerosene heaters in the basement to keep the pipes from freezing. We also cook with wood frequently. I enjoy the independence that wood heat provides but have my concerns about how much wood would be available after a long-term crisis so I try to conserve what we have. We keep about 3 cords split and stacked at all times. That is about how much wood we burn in an average winter.
This covers our basic back-up power and heat preps, it’s a simple plan that covers a 2 week period. I feel that the most likely disasters will be under 2 weeks in duration. In my estimation, our area has a good chance of becoming dangerous after a couple weeks without electricity and we’ll have to become as invisible and conservative as possible if that ever happens.
- Kerosene Heater Wick Replacement
- Kerosene Fuel Primer
- DIY: Quad-Pod for Wood Fire Cooking
- Prioritizing our Preps Series