Friday, May 30, 2014

Getting Prepared for Beginners #7 Basic Energy

Just for the record when I say basic energy, I actually mean it. We will not be talking about whole house generators. In fact I am not going to discuss generators at all or really anything very expensive. I am going to cover just the things that are needed to keep your family as comfortable as possible through a short term power outage. 

Around here there are really two times of year that we are most likely to have a power outage. Those are winter and spring, both because of storms. The power could be out for a couple hours or a few days. Your readiness for these types of situations will determine how well your family will come through. Most families can make it through a power outage that lasts say an hour, with very little if any, preparation. When it goes longer, then that is when you have to have an action plan. The three things you should consider when preparing for a short term power outage is Lights, Cooking, and Comfort. We are going to cover all of these and we are going to do so spending around $400 total. Ready? 


Now I am going to be honest. If the power goes off at night, it will be the next morning before I ever realize anything has happened and if it is back on the only way I will know something has happened is when I see the blinking lights of the oven clock. Well, kinda. My wife will wake up the moment the box fan in our bedroom stops turning. She needs the white noise to be able to sleep. 

When she wakes she will wake me and the first thing we do is go check on the children. In order to do that you need light. That is where you need to be ready. Now you can keep a flashlight by your bed, but if you don't keep a check on their batteries, you can bet when you need them they will be dead. That is why I like these bad boys. 
The reason I like these is because you can leave them plugged up and even set them so if the power goes out they come on automatically. Right now I have two of these, but I want three more. The two that I have right now, one is in our bedroom and the other is in the kids' bathroom. When I get the other three I will put one in each of the kids' bedrooms. Plain, simple, easy and total cost so far $44.85.

If the power is still off in the morning you may need a lantern. Since I bought this lantern they have come out with LED lighted lanterns. This one require 8 D size batteries and has been used countless times for several different applications. We have used it during power outages, checking on animals after dark, and even working on cars. Well worth the money. I put good quality batteries in and have not had to change the batteries in at least three years. I only have one of these and really do not plan on adding any more, but you may want two. Total cost with one lantern. $69.82.

Now, I have an oil lamp. Actually I have 3. One was given to me when my grandmother died. Yes, it is an antique and yes, it holds a place of honor, and even yes, I actually still use it. It produces great light and if you trim the wick produces little to no smoke.
I also have 2 inexpensive coach type lanterns. With these I can have light in both bathrooms and the family room while using the battery powered lantern for anything that requires movement. You may be able to find good quality lanterns at yard sales. I have never found one at a thrift store, but you might get lucky. If not, you can always buy one of these or try to find them locally. I have found that fewer and fewer places are actually carrying these. You will also want some lamp oil. 

In most of these lamps you can use Kerosene, but that puts out more smell than the extra refined lamp oil. Then again it is a TON cheaper. Total cost so far $108.52 and we have really done a good job on the lighting front. Remember, you may be able to find these items or similar at yard sales or thrift stores.

If used properly just what I have listed above will have lighting covered for several days.


I read somewhere that the number one food bought before a big storm, especially a snow storm, is pop tarts. Hey, who can blame them? Pop tarts can be breakfast, dessert, or even a snack. Around here though the first whisper of a snow storm means all of the bread and milk are gone from the store. I understand, but I like my eggs, sausage, and coffee for breakfast. How am I going to get these with the power off? Easy. 

As I mentioned in the food storage post, I asked my wife for a camp stove for my birthday. Camp stoves offer a lot of flexibility. As long as I have fuel ahead of time it is ready and waiting no matter what. Add to the camp stove a percolator and you have breakfast. You can also use the percolator and camp stove to make tea and cook any number of things for lunch and supper. A one pound propane bottle or a gallon of white gas (depending on what type of stove you have) will cook quite a few meals. I would buy at least 2 one pound propane bottles that are dedicated to cooking.

Total cost so far? $187.49 You can cook on a camp stove with all of your regular pots and pans. You do not have to buy anything special for that.


Comfort is actually a little easier in the winter here than in the summer. If you are farther north the opposite will be true. I am going to cover each separately. 

Keeping Warm

I do not think I need to mention good quality blankets and warm clothing. We are just going to jump into the heart of the matter. Now, here is the deal. Unless you have a wood heater or fireplace you are not going to be able to heat your entire home without getting into some major money and remember I am trying to do all of this for less than $400.00 total. The rule of thumb here is heat the person, not the space. We have a fireplace, but I also have a Mr. Heater Buddy. I love the flexibility that it gives. I have taken this little heater into shooting houses when deer hunting, I use it in my workshop and we have used it as an emergency heat source for a few years. I will be honest again, it was not this expensive when I bought mine. I like them because they will shut off if tipped over. A very good safety feature. These heaters will run on the one pound bottles, but only about 4 hours on high and about 8+ on low. If you will purchase the adapter hose I have listed below you can hook the heater to a 20# Bar B Que bottle and really extend the life of your heat. For this to work at its best you will need to close off most of your home and only heat a small section. You may be able to get the 20# propane bottle much cheaper locally if for no other reason than because it is considered hazardous material and must have special shipping.

Even though I love my Mr. Heater, it may not be the right product for you. Another option is the tank topper type heater. I have used these as well and like them a lot. Very adjustable and there are several types. The one I listed below works great and produces a lot of heat, but these come in several variations and can even be purchased for 1# tanks.

Keeping warm total with the most expensive options and not doing any price shopping so far? $401.29

Keeping Cool

The object once again is to cool the person not the space. If you are farther north than we are you might simple be able to open a window. I know that from time to time there are heatwaves, but trust me the heat down here is much worse because the humidity is 500000000% and we have had long stretches of 100 plus degree days.

Evaporation is your friend. When water evaporates it takes heat with it. Just wetting a towel and placing it over your head and shoulders will cool you a great deal add to that a light breeze and it is wonderful. Both Frogg Toggs and Mission have products that are designed to have water evaporate at an even rate providing and even amount of cooling. I have tried both and both work really well. I included a link to the Frogg Toggs item for two reasons. (1) It is less expensive than the missions item and (2) It was founded and headquarters are in my home state. Support them if you can and you will help support an Alabama company. The fan I included because it comes with an auto charger. That means you can recharge the fan even if the power stays out for a while. 

Grand total so far with the keeping cool items. (I am not including the keeping warm items) With 4 Frogg Toggs towels and 2 rechargeable fans $333.35.


Keeping warm set really close and if you buy your propane locally you will be under budget.
Keeping cool under budget no problem.
The best part is you can do all of these things a little at a time. Every time you purchase something that goes into your blackout kit you are taking one more step to being more self reliant.

One Extra Step

If you want to take one extra step and help secure yourself even further consider getting an 800 watt inverter. The reason I suggest an 800 watt inverter? You can power a lot of things with this little bugger. Can you run an air condition unit? No. Your stove? No. Your coffee maker or toaster? No. So what can you run with an 800 watt inverter? You can power your fridge, your deep freeze, your television, and some lights. No not all at the same time, but you can rotate everything so that your food stays safe and you know what is going on in the world. For more information on powering your house with your car you can listen to a full podcast on it HERE. Scroll down to How to Power Your House with Your Car and an Inverter.

I hope you are enjoying these posts on Getting Prepared for Beginners and I hope they will help someone become more self reliant.

Rural Dreams and Homestead Wishes to you.

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More Posts in this series:
#17 A Case for Long-Term Preparedness

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