At some point in our lives we are bound to find ourselves in a situation where the power goes out and we need alternative energy options. This could be something that only lasts for a couple of hours, or something that affects our daily lives for an extended period of time.
While a short term power outage is certainly more likely, it’s entirely possible that we could find ourselves without power for days or even longer.
Everything we do these days involves electricity in one way or another. On a personal level no electricity means no Tv, no lights, and no internet. On a larger level, things get a bit more serious.
Banking would be affected, hospitals would be affected, and grocery store would be affected. Even getting fuel from the gas station tanks would be a challenge if not impossible.
Regardless whether a power outage is caused by a hurricane, an earthquake, or a squirrel chewing on a power line (yes…it happens) it’s up to us to be prepared for these situations.
Basic Power Outage Supplies
Before I get into this list of alternative energy supplies to consider, I want to briefly touch on the “not so sexy” but just as important alternative energy items to consider. As with everything in life, it’s usually the little things that derail our plans. This is why in preparedness we are constantly fine tuning our plans, and figuring out where those holes might be.
While this may seem a little obvious, understanding what you’re facing is key to executing your plan. In the event of a natural disaster like a hurricane or tornado, the local news and the internet could give you valuable information.
However, the odds are you’ll have no warning when the lights suddenly go out. This is where being prepared beforehand can save you headaches down the line. You don’t want to be one of those people rushing to the store only to find they don’t have what you need.
Your neighbors can also be a great source of information. Maybe you have a neighbor that is an amateur radio operator, or a neighbor that just came home from an unaffected area. You just never know what information they may be able to offer.
If you are using a power inverter or a generator (more on these later) you’re going to need a way to get that power where you need it. You may need to run your refrigerator a few hours a day, run a space heater, or just keep a few lights on at night.
Extension cords come in different gauges, so make sure you get the right size for the job. The higher gauge cords are good for lights, while a refrigerator will need a smaller gauge cord.
While this isn’t something you need when considering alternative energy, having a little entertainment may help you maintain your sanity…especially if you have children. With no electricity our entertainment options become very limited.
Having a few board games tucked away, and books to read are good ways to battle boredom. Learning to play a musical instrument is also a great idea, and can be entertaining regardless whether you’re very good, or very bad.
Hobbies such as arts and crafts, woodworking or gardening can also keep you busy if the grid goes down. As they say, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop”.
Candles have long been a staple in the preparedness community. This is because they have no shelf life and have been used for centuries. These days there are safer electric alternatives, but their batteries won’t last nearly as long as the real thing.
In my opinion candles shouldn’t be your primary option when the grid goes down. It’s a good idea to have some candles because they are inexpensive and last forever, but they should be used safely.
While this may be a little obvious, it’s not as simple as it seems. You have your typical one time use batteries, and 4 types of rechargeable batteries. These are: Lithium-ion (Li-ion) Nickel Cadmium (Ni-Cd) Nickel-Metal Hydride (Ni-MH) Lead-Acid (Car Battery).
Lithium-ion are the flat batteries that you would find in laptops and cell phones. These are also the coin batteries found in rifle scopes and key fob’s.
Nickle Cadmium batteries are good at holding a charge, but over time they lose capacity. Their most significant advantage will be their ability to deliver their full rated capacity at high discharge rates.
Nickel Metal Hydride batteries are good for high drain devices because of their high capacity and energy density. They can also possess two to three times the capacity of a NiCd battery of the same size.
When it comes to fuel, we need to think about more than the gas we put in our vehicles. Fuel is also wood we put in the fireplace, propane for the grill, and the food we put in our bodies. Solar panels should also be considered with fuel, as long as you have a way to store that energy.
When it comes to fuel storage, the old saying holds true “2 is 1 and 1 is none”. We don’t know how long a blackout might last, so having more than you think you need is always a good idea.
Have some extra firewood, have an extra tank of propane or 2, and store a few gas cans that you rotate periodically. Fuel stabilizer can also be added to gasoline to increase the storage life.
Lanterns and oil lamps are also good to have. They are more effective than candles and even give off a little heat. When storing lantern oil be sure to check the bottle regularly, the plastic will break down over time.
Lights Out kit
One thing that Lisa and I have implemented in our preparedness plan is a lights out kit. This power outage kit have all the basic power outage supplies in it, and is easy to find when needed.
These kits are great for people in the family that don’t feel the urgency that we do about preparedness. With everything in one spot, they can just grab the plastic tote which has items like flashlights, batteries, extension cords, and solar chargers.
Alternative Energy Supplies That Smart Prepper Use
During my time running the Survivalist Prepper website I have spoken with other preparedness website owners and other trusted members of the preparedness community. This list of alternative energy supplies are some of the items that get mentioned the most.
While there are far more than 10 important supplies, you can’t go wrong with the items on this list.
Goal Zero (Portable Solar)
While this list is in no specific order, the most recommended power outage supply product is some sort of portable solar panel. This is because they are so versatile and can be used in several situations.
You won’t be able to power up your refrigerator with one of these low wattage solar panels, but they can be used to charge your phone, charge a battery pack, and most USB compatible devices. These portable solar panels are great for bug out bags, hiking and camping as well.
Another good option for portable solar is an external battery pack. These range in price from around $20 to $50 and have a capacity of 10,000 mAh (milliamp hour). At 10,000 mAh you can charge the average cell phone 2 times.
Keep in mind that with these devices the solar panel is not meant to be it’s primary charging source. It would take about a week to fully charge one of these batteries with it’s small solar panel alone, whereas a 24 watt solar panel would do it in a few hours.
The solar charging option is useful in emergency situations when your phone is dead, and you just need a little charge to get a text out. You can also throw it on your backpack to keep it topped off when bugging out or hiking.
It’s also important to keep in mind that there are a lot of junk products out there and you get what you pay for. Over the years I have tried some of the cheaper ones just to see how they perform, and they have all failed after a handful of uses.
There are a lot of options when it comes to portable solar panels, but I like Goal Zero products. They are a little more expensive, but they have built a good reputation and their solar panels have never let me down.
There are quite a few good options out there though, just make sure and do your research.
Preppers are very familiar with power inverters, but the average person has no idea that your car can be used as a generator.
A power inverter takes DC current from a battery and converts it into the AC current that we use in our homes. Even though these are one of the most important power outage supplies you can have, most people know nothing about them. On top of that, they are very simple to use. If you can jump start a car, you can hook up a power inverter.
It does get a little more complicated than that, but not much. You will also need to figure out what wattage you need, and whether you want a pure sinewave inverter, or a modified sinewave inverter.
What the heck is Sinewave?
A pure sine inverter is one that will give you current just like you get from the power company. While these are great, they are also more expensive than a modified sinewave inverter.
A pure sinewave inverter isn’t always necessary but is required for the more intricate electronics like T. V’s, stereos, and battery chargers.
Another important consideration when choosing a power inverter is the wattage. The picture above will give you a general idea about the wattage different appliances use, so make sure and get an inverter that can handle what you plan on plugging into it.
Also keep in mind that as the wattage goes up, so does the price. A 2000-watt power inverter is a pretty good size. You can plug the refrigerator in when needed, and other appliances when it’s not.
If you have rechargeable batteries (and you probably do), having a good battery charger is crucial. Some people ask “what’s the point of having a battery charger if the power is out?”
There are a couple of options when it comes to recharging batteries in a grid down event. One is using an inverter that’s connected to a lead acid battery (your car). Another is buying a battery charger that you can connect to a USB port.
With this method you can charge an external battery with a small solar panel, then take that battery and connect it to the battery charger. This may seem a little complicated, but this video explains how this process works with the XTar VC4 battery charger.
External Battery Chargers
A great way to store a little reserve power for your smaller devices like cell phones and tablets is an external battery pack. What’s also great about these batteries is that you will use them all the time.
With some preparedness supplies we buy them and wait for an opportunity to use them, External batteries are convenient when you are on the go, or can’t find a seat next to a wall outlet.
Hand Crank radio/charger
A staple of any good preparedness plan is a shortwave radio. A better option to having one that runs strictly on batteries is having a hand crank/solar shortwave radio.
The Kaito Voyager that we have can also be used to charge smaller devices. However, this would be for extreme emergency situations. The charge you would get from one of these radios would be minimal.
This shortwave radio features AM/FM/LW Shortwave & NOAA weather radio, a 180-degree adjustable solar panel with 5-LED reading lamp, and an Auxiliary input jack available for external audio devices.
You have no doubt hear about or seen the K-Tor peddel generator. While these the idea is great, I have a feeling they are more hassle than they are worth.
It seems to me that for $200 there are better options out there. This peddle generator would need to be stabilized, and from the reviews I’ve read, takes a lot of energy to generate any sort of considerable power.
Having a standalone generator is a great way to get power to your important appliances in an emergency. The down size of these gas powered generators is the noise and the exhaust.
In a long term grid down event, the sound these generators make will attract hungry neighbors like flies. With that being said, I still think a generator is a must have.
An alternative to a large and usually very heavy generator is a portable generator you can fit in your car or camper. These can get a bit pricey, but they are silent, and very effective.
While you won’t get the output you would from one of the larger generators, they can be used indoors, and your neighbors wouldn’t even know you had it.
Skills & Supplies
I preach all the time about how much more important preparedness skills are than preparedness supplies, but this is one area where the supplies are critical.
This is just a short list of the alternative energy supplies you might want to have around the house during a power outage, and I’d love to hear your thoughts.
What do you have that’s not on this list?