Grid Down Survival

A variety of natural and man-made disasters can impact your local or regional power grids.  Natural events like recent Hurricane Irene (that disrupted power to 4 million customers), along with earthquakes, tsunamis, tornadoes, snow storms, flooding, wildfires and lightning strikes cause major impacts.

Prepping for a Prolonged Lights Out Scenario

Human caused disruptions can include ground vehicle and aircraft accidents –hitting poles and lines – and acts of sabotage, terrorism and war.  A low yield nuclear explosion on the surface or as an airburst a couple miles up would generate a debilitating electro-magnetic pulse (EMP).  The EMP would literally fry most electronic devices and overload electrical distribution systems, knocking out power over a large scale area for miles.  But there is one threat in the center of our universe that most people are not aware of – our sun.

To be prepared, read our detailed guide on creating a blackout survival kit.

Too Dependent?

Solar Flare

Americans and most of the world are overly dependent upon electricity more so than oil, especially in large urban areas with mass transit systems.  Most folks never give it a second thought that electrical power could stop in a blink of an eye.  And if it did, how would it impact you?  How long could the “juice” be off before it was a major disruption to your life, your family, and your world?  (Read “Lights Out“) Could you go a week or more like many of the people impacted by Hurricane Irene?  Electricity is needed for nearly every aspect of our daily lives – from charging the batteries on our cell phones, laptops and mp3 players; to powering our coffee pots, elevators, subway cars, wireless and communications networks; to keeping the lights and TVs on, opening doors, controlling traffic lights, powering the local ATM machines, and running our water and gas pumps.

Grid Down Survival

There are three key components to the typical electrical system – generation, transmission and distribution – and a problem in any one component stops the flow of electricity.  Generation is the production of electricity from hydro-electric dams, wind turbines, steam generators (from nuclear, coal powered and geo-thermal systems), and gasoline and diesel powered generators.  Transmission is the movement of electricity from the production site on high voltage lines to substations.  Then distribution is the passage from substations on local power lines to the end users.  Usually it is in the distribution component that most disruptions occur.

Solar Threats

Grid Down Survival

The first recorded event of the sun causing a disruption to electrical systems on Earth was in 1859.  On September 1 at 11:18 a.m., British astronomer Richard Carrington was projecting an image of the sun on a screen and witnessed two brilliant threads of white light appear over sunspots he was studying at his observatory in England.  The next day before dawn, the skies over the Earth began to erupt with brilliant auroras in red, green and purple from the Arctic Circle down to lower latitudes near Hawaii, Cuba and the Bahamas.  The more significant phenomena that day was the effect upon the newly established telegraph systems in America and Europe.  The Earth received the equivalent of an EMP burst from the Sun that manifested as electrical overloads in telegraph lines and discharges from telegraph equipment shocking operators and setting paper and other materials on fire.

Carrington connected the observance of what was a coronal mass ejection (CME) or solar flare from the previous day and delayed impact electro-magnetic energy on the telegraph systems.  When a CME occurs, it is basically an eruption or ejection of a massive cloud of charged plasma from a sunspot on the surface outward into space.  On average, the distance between the sun and our planet is an estimated 93 million miles, or in light years about 8.3 light-minutes.  While the CME can be seen in about 8 minutes after it occurs, the ejected plasma particles travel at a slower speed of between 500,000 to one million miles per hour – hence the delay in the observed event and any resulting effect on Earth a day or two later.

Grid Down Survival

A large CME that is in the direction of the Earth can affect our planet’s magnetic field, as well as have a severe impact on any satellites and spacecraft in orbit, and possibly disrupt electrical and communication girds on the ground.  This is known as a “Carrington Event” and more information is available online from NASA, Wikipedia and other sources.  Much like earthquakes and hurricanes are measured in increasing scales of severity, CMEs have a correspondence scale of magnitude; with X class being the highest.

Recent Impacts

Grid Down Survival

In Carrington’s day, no one knew flares existed until that September morning when one super-flare produced enough light to reveal the explosive eruptions from the sun.  Recently, as in last 40 years, there are a number of recorded events that have caused limited disruptions on Earth.  On Aug. 4, 1972, a solar flare knocked out long distance telephone communications in Illinois, which caused AT&T to redesign its power system for transatlantic cables.  Another flare caused the Hydro Québec generating station in Canada to shutdown on March 13, 1989, disrupted electric power transmission for 9 hours to 6 million people and blacking out most of the province.  Geo-magnetic surges also caused melted power transformers in New Jersey.  In December 2005, X-rays from another solar storm disrupted satellite-to-ground communications and Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation signals for about 10 minutes.  Scientists know that solar flares can happen on a frequent basis during periods of solar sunspots maximum, which our sun is approaching in 2012 and 2013 as part of an 11-year cycle of peak flare activity.

Hopefully, this information gives you cause to consider the “what if” aspect of a massive CME triggering a SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation to some portion of our planet.  What if a sizeable portion of North America was facing sunward when a CME solar wave reached Earth?  The good news is that several U.S. Government agencies in 2010 and 2011 have started taking an interest in Carrington Events.  The bad news is that most of our country – from the federal government down through state and local levels – is not adequately prepared to deal with the effects of wide-ranging power outages or have the necessary replacement stocks available to repair damages to transformers, generation and switching equipment, and monitoring systems.  So the preparedness burden falls back on the “prepper” to figure out his or her short and long-term strategies for dealing with the loss of electricity.

Planning Ahead

A good plan starts with considering what you consider as essential or critical requirements for your home or shelter to aid in your survival, safety and comfort.  Here are some basic categories to consider:

To be prepared, read our detailed guide on creating a blackout survival kit.

* Access to money

* Operation of medical and life support equipment.

* Refrigeration of food and medicines.

* Household septic systems and waste treatment.

* Food preparation and cooking

* Home or shelter security systems

* Hot water for hygiene, laundry, cleaning and sanitation.

* Air conditioning and heating

* Interior and exterior lighting.

* Communications

Replacing Grid Power

Grid Down Survival

There are several methods that can be used to produce electrical power if the gird goes down.  The simplest solution is to obtain a portable fuel-powered generator that runs on gasoline, diesel or propane. Make sure to have a plan for long-term gasolite storage as well.

Portable generators come in a variety sizes and the amount of wattage produced.  You’ll have to do your own homework to determine what type would be best suited to your specific needs.  Prices can run from a couple hundred dollars up to several thousand.  Other options are solar power systems, wind turbines, and water generated; however, cost-wise, they can be far more expensive for larger electrical requirements then fuel-powered generators.  If you use diesel, gas or propane powered generators, you’ll need to have an adequate supply of fuel on hand to fill your tank to keep the generator operational.  How long or how many hours a day will you run your generator?  How much fuel will you initially need on hand for a week, two-weeks or a month of operation?  How will your resupply our fuel stocks?  Do you have spare parts or the necessary accessories (i.e., oil, filters, spark plugs, spare cables) to conduct maintenance or service your equipment?

Solar panels are your best bet for easy-to-setup power systems. We reviewed the top solar panel systems on the market that will work perfectly in grid-down scenarios.

Light Options

Grid Down Survival

Generators are great for producing electricity for recharging batteries, running refrigerators and freezers, water pumps and septic systems, and powering other appliances.  However, they are not as cost efficient for providing lighting.  There are a variety of cost effective low tech and high tech options to provide light at night.  New high tech light emitting diode (LED) based flashlights and lanterns can provide over a hundred hours of light on a set of AA or AAA batteries.  Low tech options are kerosene fuel lamps and hurricane lamps, Coleman-type gas lamps, and long burning candles.  Each of these methods has their “pros and cons,” and what works best for you will depend on your situation.  However, these give you options to consider.

A Stash of Emergency Cash

ATM Out of Money

Financial guru Dave Ramsey stresses the importance of having a reserve of money – typically about 6 months worth of your salary – set aside in your bank account for emergencies.  As a prepper, you should take this same principle to the next level and have a reserve of cash on hand for any emergency (see SurvivalCache article “A Real Emergency Fund“).  In the event of any loss of electrical power, the hardest thing to get your hands on will be your money from your account.  Credit and debit cards, even checks, are worthless if there is no electricity to run verifications and process purchases.  Cash (hard currency) will generally be the first choice for payment by most merchants during a crisis and a rush for goods.  Do you a reserve of cash on hand if ATM machines are down and banks are closed?

It is just not possible to cover all contingency in a short article.  But hopefully this gives you something to think about, consider and include in your survival preparations.  While the probability of a CME impacting the Earth maybe relatively low, the possibility still exists.  Being aware of this threat should help you with your planning and preparedness.  Do your own research and get smart.

Other related links:

The video link here shows footage of a CME eruption on June 7, 2011 from the sun’s surface.  This is an incredible recorded solar flare and was broadcast via the internet within hours. Although this was only classified as a medium-sized solar flare, the explosion measured over a million kilometers across and blasted over a billion tons of material into space.  The charged particles and radiation from this particular event did not have any impact on the Earth.

Information and warnings from

Risk Management and Space Weather” article:

Imagine a Blackout and the Lights don’t come back” article:

Irish article on “NASA To Discuss Impact Of Solar Flares On Earth

About the author: Bama Bull is an Army veteran and lives in southeastern Alabama.  His interest in survival preparedness are based on the threats associated with hurricanes, tornadoes, coronal mass ejections, pandemic diseases, and financial collapse.

Photos by:
Stef Thomas
Vincent Desjardins

Written by Joel Jefferson

Joel is one of the original founders of After college, he joined the USMC where he served as an (0302) Marine Infantry Officer. Joel is an avid outdoorsman and spends much of his free time in the mountains. Joel’s hobby is researching survival gear & weapons as well as prepping. Read his full interview here. Read more of Joel's articles.

64 thoughts on “Grid Down Survival”

  1. Very good article Bull, lots to think about. This article comes at a good time for me seeing that I just saw the movie "Contagion." If people have not seen it I HIGHLY reccommend it. It is the best/ most realistic movie I have ever seen about a wide spread epidemic and what people and governments would do. I think the carrington event would actually be one of the scariest things to happen. If all elecontronics are down then there is no help. local, state and federal governments would be shut down and it would litterally be every man for himself.

      • Thanks TinderWolf for comments and tip on the movie "Contagion." A small production company has just wrapped filming on a new survival movie called "The Carrington Event" and you learn more at their FaceBook page and when it will be released.

  2. A more economical approach to the generator might be to have natural gas stove, oven, fireplace, heater, and water heater (everything possible on gas).

    Most powerful generators run on natural gas and running the AC is very pricey, so the refidgerator and some lighting is what you really miss out on but the savings can be used to stock pile more valuable food. Not to mention it is hard to stock up on food in the fridge versus canned food in basement.

    Many times your gas company will switch you over for free and have some really good deals – or free equipment for entering into a term contract.

    I live in Bama and from that past hurricanes and tornadoes I can assure you that a functioning stove for good food and hot shower far out weigh the TV and hallway lights (the cable will be out too so you better have a great movie collection).

    I also would not recommend the use of generators run on dielel or unleaded. They use about ten gallons a day and you need to keep plenty of fuel on hand which is dangerous.

    • I agree with a caveat, Most natural gas systems now use computer controlled valves in the transmission and distribution systems. Those valves are set to close in order to "safe" the system should power go out. In a wide spread power outage it is quite possible that natural gas will also not be available because the valves have closed. If Natural gas is your plan A, it is a very good idea to have a plan B, just in case.

      • my rural retreat has the most optimum solution – a tank to supply the house with a month or so of propane. you can run this to the stove, gas grill, hot water heater, ect..just need to regulator since it burns hotter than gas.

        • Now I'm jealous – mine isn't set up yet … working on it but life goes on as well and I can't spend all my time and money getting ready.

          • it came with the place. i think the local gas provider actually "owns" the place and if i do not refill at least once a year the reserve the right to take it back although it has been there so long that the cost of proper removal probably exceeds the value of a used tank.

            check in with your gas compan and see if they will consign you a tank for buying their gas.

          • excellent idea – I'm working on my BOL and the thought of having the gas provider "loan" me the tank had not occurred to me. I'll look into it.
            Thank you.

    • Thanks BamaMan for your feedback. Natural gas lines are not an option in my part of Bama. I do have a large 120 gallon tank and multiple portable tanks. CaptBart is correct about the shut down of gas lines in emergencies and disaster. Got to have a "plan B." Stay ready my friend!

    • Natural gas, bah hum bug. I live in and this past winter we had a major freeze. A large part of Cochise Cty. was freezing do to the need to shut down or redirect the natural gas feed.
      I'll stick to propane.
      God forbid the world ever has to deal with an emp or major solar event.Pandimonium will ensue.
      God Bless

  3. ive known that for years that when the lights go out it might be a while before they come back on . generators wont work during an EMP event . nothing will work as far as electrical goes. good article though. thanks

    • some electrics will work, read up on using 'faraday cages' or to improvise a steel garbage can. any kind of metal sheilding will block an emp it travels 'line o sight' and dont bounce around or cloud up like gas or fog. the older your vehicle the more likely they will survive as they have more steel around and no computer to be damaged mid 80's or earlier will likely survive or vehicles in steel bldgs

  4. Thanks to Bama Bull, this article is another example of why I visit Survival Cache regularly. I'm certain many will benefit from the information you provide and the background information is great!

  5. I check every morning to see what may be coming our way. It helps with planning for radio propagation as well as prep for CME type impacts. You can get text alerts from Spaceweather as well.
    Interestingly enough, the single most sensitive item may well be the big switches used on the grids. There are only 3 grids in the US. East, West, and Texas. Texas has one switch (I think) everyone else has more. These switches are long lead time items and without power for the plants that could be years. If they are destroyed, things are really tough.
    But it doesn't have to be Nature or even an enemy. The San Diego outage was caused by a technician doing his job. Not sure how removing the monitor equipment caused the problem but it was not malicious and folks were still out of power for 12 hours.
    One of my favorite movie lines comes from Star Trek 3 (Search for Spock). Scotty is talking about the newest starship and says "the more complex the plumbing, the easier it is to stop it up". True. Very True, in fact.

    • I didn't know about that space weather site, very coo capt. I certainly love that star trek line as well. It really applies to everyday life. I am a rather young guy but prefer old tech, such as roll down windows in a car bc if a motor for that goes out thats 400 bucks. Thats just one example of many. I have also applied that way of thinking to my survival techniques. That is the one reason I prefer a pump shotgun over a semi auto, semi auto has more parts and o-rings that can break turning it into a single shot if broken. I am fully prepared, mentally, to survive WITHOUT electrial power. All the things such as generators and solor and wind power are too expensive and put you in a more dangerous situation seeing that not many people have alternate means of power. Wouldn't really want to be the only person around with air conditioning and a noisy generator inviting everyone and there brother to my safe place

      • I 'inherited' a 12 ga semi that is a single shot. Not worth repairing but I keep it around for the 'just in case' time. I agree, if I can't fix it I try not to depend on it. Even my complex stuff has a simple backup.
        I have a portable, 1 room a/c that can run off of my solar generator. I figure I can keep one room cool should TSHTF during a Houston summer. I can also live with no (not even standby) power but I sure wouldn't want to have to do so! There is a reason Houston didn't start growing until after the advent of a/c.
        Jerky, canned food and freeze dried don't need refrigeration and if my solar over doesn't work it will be because the sun has gone out and then we have a whole slew of other issues.
        A double barrel is simply two singles on one stock. Even if one fails, I have the other. Single Action revolvers are about as simple as they come, even I can fix them. Single shot or lever action rifles, double barrel shotguns, and Single action revolvers settled this country. I should be able to survive using them.

        • here here! I completely agree with you on the "simple" firearms settling this country. While I still do like ARs and modern weapson, especially for the "cool" factor, my best combo right now that I have is a 45 Colt Commander and and 45 Colt Ruger Convertable single action. When I have both of them out I feel like I have the best of both worlds. Would you mind giving me some information on your solor powered AC unit? Size of ac and panels, set up and cost? Thank you sir.

          • Tinderwolf,
            I have a 1.8 KW from . The Solutions from science is not the only one out there but mine works very well. They are not the cheapest out there but they do work well.
            I also have a home brew version that I put together for around $500 dollars. I built it for my ham radios – plenty of out put but I made a rookie mistake. I used a heavy duty truck battery for the storage battery. It works just fine but automotive batteries are not "deep cycle" batteries. I have to take care not to discharge it too deeply. I should have used something like a golf cart battery, so if you decide to "roll your own" make sure the battery is a deep cycle battery.
            I bought the solutions from science setup because it is very portable and I can use it at home or in my BOL.
            Remember that each set up is both current limited and time limited. My hundred amp-hour truck batter will put out 1 amp for 100 hours or 100 amps for 1. (OK, that is a generalization, isn't strictly true but it helps size the stuff you need. The unit I have from solutions from science has a 51 Amp hour battery. That means that at 15 amps (nominal max draw) I can run this for around 3 to 4 hours. A 3 amp load gets around 17 hours. (A 100 watt bulb is a little less than 1 amp)
            Technical digression follows – skip if not needed:
            Power equals amps times voltage in a DC circuit and is measured in Watts. It is measure in VA (volt-amps) in AC circuit but close enough to the same for what we're talking about here. Capacity is measured in Amp-hours which usually means rated voltage at a given current for a given amount of time. That is for a 12 volt battery, 15 amp-hours would be a 12 volt something, drawing 15 amps for 1 hour. Again not exact but close enough. (voltage changes as battery weakens resulting in higher current for same load). These are numbers you can use to size your home brew system. Plenty of links on the internet.
            end digression.
            Google for the parts you need. Make sure that the controller for the panels can handle the charging load for your batteries. If it has too little capacity you might never get your batteries charged. Ideally, it will allow you to charge your batteries and run a few things as well.

          • wow thanks for all the detail and advice. I have been looking into panels recently just for fun and at first it is a bit overwhelming but very doable. Thank you capt

    • I do believe they could. Also for small electronics, cell phones, thumb-drives, Ipods, ect. They can be stored in the anti static bags that computer hard drives, and other electronic devices come in, that will help if not void out EMPs. I will be storing my thumb drive with all important information in one of those bags.
      Also I’ve seen tests that were done where aluminum foil wrapped tightly around an electronic device would also block EMP’s as well as radio signals and cell signals. If you don’t believe me, try it, but it has to be wrapped tightly. And to think of all those people commenting that us preppers wear foil hats, little do they know the benefit to that:P

  6. its just amazing how many people in my state of connecticut that were not prepared for huricane irene,they all waited for the last minute to see what the storm would do including the power company .ie connecticut light and power,i have been prepaired for a situation like that for a while.i work in Rhode Island for a large tree company that is contracted by National Grid power company ,so i was working at the time the storm hit clearing trees off of power wife was at home with my kids,so i asked her when i talked to her later that day i ask if every thing was ok at home .she said that all was good an power went out in the am and that she started the generator and all was goodand she was happy that we had prepaired for things like this storm.we were without power for 7 days but we lived pretty what im trying to say that it pays to be prepaired at all times at any time.

    • Craig: Great real world example! Exactly the point! One of my former co-workers live in central Conneticutt and just went 4 days without power after Irene. She just sat in the dark without A/C, hot water and refrigeration…not much fun. Stay ready!

  7. It sounds truly-stupid, and only really works well in Summer (or VERY sunny spots w/added insulation), but hit your local Dollar Store for some big rectangular black plastic pans, usually labelled as 'oil change drain pans'. Fill with water in a sunny spot, cover with clear plastic, leave them in the sun all day, and when you wash the dinner dishes, you will probably burn your hands and swear.

    The more pans you have, the more hot (or at least very warm) water you have, and you have spent, maybe, 20 bucks on this particular prep.

    • Yep, excellent idea.
      when I lived in AZ we had a solar hot water heater. That puppy got HOT! If you look online you will find 'campers showers' that are basically a dark bag full of water hung in the sun. When I was at Ft. Sill those puppies produced a really nice shower (unless the guys mowing the field put grass covered in tear gas into the open top of the bag – but that's a war story for another time). A fish tank partially lined with aluminum foil, black on the bottom and kept facing the sun (needs to be turned every hour or so) can get really hot as well. Think solar oven.
      Good post and thank you.

  8. "Household septic systems and waste treatment."

    Glad to see that on the list of things to think about.

    Some houses have to use sewer pumps to get their sewage off the property. I know this because a house a little ways down the street from me has one and they've stunk up our entire street a couple of times. Very nasty. And a good example of why city codes are a good thing. They couldn't build that house the way it was built today. The city, thankfully, banned the use of sewage pumps in new construction.

    From the recent big power outage in So Cal:
    " Beaches were closed because the outage caused a 3.2-million gallon sewage spill."

    I'd watch where you go fishing in a big power outage.

    • Michael: Thanks for sharing. Unfortunately for us, we have a septic system that must use an electric pump. We have a backup generator to allow us to periodically pump the system when the grid power is off. So we thought others should consider this category if they have basements or systems that have sump pumps. Stay ready!

    • Yet another reason for me to thank God that I don't live in CA!!! As if the firearms laws, the state bursting at the seems with liberals, and crazy-high taxes weren't enough!!

  9. Good article Bama Bull, good, honest, straight-forward appraoch… I like it! Thank you!
    I have been considering getting a generator for my folks house (the family's "fall-back" location) for some time now. There are some other concerns that I have come across in my research, for example, I don't want everyone in the neighborhood to know my folks have a generator and the natural gas/propane/LP gas generators, at least from what I have read are considerably louder than a gas generator. Does anyone have any experience with them? Are they as loud as I have heard?

    For a short-term solution, I have several "heavy-duty" power inverters in my JEEP, and my Dad's pick-up truck. If need be, though it burns a decent amount of gas, I can run an extension chord into the house and run the fridge and freezer off of one vehicle or the other (I prefer the truck, the I-4 engine uses MUCH less gas than my 3.8L JEEP!)… It's not a perfect solution, but by running the frige/freezer for a couple hours a day, you can keep the food cold/frozen for a lot longer than doing nothing at all!

    • Chefbear58: Thanks and glad you liked it. Personally, I not a fan of propane powered generators. I prefer gasoline over diesel for my own personal reasons (cost, availability, storage, other uses, exhaust, etc.). While more expensive, I would suggest you look into the new "quiet" generators. Honda builds a couple models. Google "quiet generators" on the shopping page. Light and noise discipline is something to consider in your operational security planning and I'm going to provide an article on this topic to SurvivalCache in the future. You can also research this online. Stay ready!

    • Chefbear,
      I have seen a few of the "all house" generators that run on natural gas or propane. They are MUCH quieter than the gas generators. That said, grid down with very little noise even the low hum from them is quite a noise signature. I have a solar generator (batteries through inverter) that I can use and it is noiseless. I'd still run my generator some during the day but OPSEC is always an issue.

    • A 'semi-redneck-tech" solution that actually works well for small power loads could be based on a system built by an architecture-professor friend, back in the early 80's, when photovoltaic and wind sources were outrageously expensive. After he got divorced, he built (built, not had built) a downsized house which was wired for 110VAC, for later sale, but not grid-connected. All of his appliances were 12VDC (mostly from truck-stops catering to over-the-road truckers – primarily stereo equipment and a coffee-maker). He had his pickup truck fitted with a heavy-duty RV alternator and double-battery setup. When he got home at night, he would plug the house into the vehicle electrical system.

      This would probably work even better now, with 'modern' lower-drain 12V appliances and LED lighting.

    • Thanks for the input guys! I have decided that I am gonna try and purchase a military surplus trailer-based deisel generator. I have seen several of them for sale online, and a friend of mine has a couple of them. I was running a restaurant a few years ago, long-story-short, a storm knocked out the power, he brought the generators down for me, we hooked one up and ran everything in the restaurant off of one! Plus my brother works for Catterpillar as a deisel mechanic, so he can rebuild and maintain it. The best part IMHO, is that it's portable!

      I have seen them advertised online for under $2k, and some refurbished ones up to $5k, but if it can power everything/almost everything in the house it would be worth it to me!

      • Chef, The military generators are designed to run for 12 hours per tank, figure 8 hours. To reduce the noise, build a "bunker" around it with sandbags or whatever it needs. You can also manufacture the sides and use fire retardant insulation for sound deadening and extend the exhaust out of the enclosure. We built sandbag walls surrounding our gen sets (make sure to leave enough room to move around for maintenance checks and refueling) while deployed and in field exercises. Having trailer mounted gen set requires a higher wall or digging a "tank pit". Military gens already built for "quieter" running is called a TQG, Tactically Quiet Generator. Also, most of the technical manuals are available in digital format as well as hard copy. Also, military gens are designed to run at optimum performance carrying an 80% load. If you have a 10kw, then ensure you will be needing to use 8kw for most of the time or the gen will "wet stack" and you'll have higher maintenance costs or ruin the engine.

    • Chef, also figure on keeping replacement electrical fuel pumps on hand. If you run the gen out of fuel, the fuel pumps burn up very quickly. The fuel pumps aren't very dependable in dusty enviroments either (lessons learned from Iraq). I recommend getting the "secondary" fuel pumps, as these can be used in place of the primary pumps but not easily vice versa, extra wire, solderless wire connectors and rubber fuel line, in case you need to move the pump to a more reachable location. If build the "tank bunker" to set up the gen set, try and place a larger fuel tank to supply fuel to ensure a constant supply. Also make sure you run the gen at least once a month, with a load on it, to "exercise" the engine to keep gaskets and other parts lubricated; be a bad day to find out the engine seized when you need it most.

      • Thanks Regulator5, you brought to my attention a few points my brother the mechanic didn't even think of. I figured out for the bare-essentials we wouldn't be using alot of the power the generator is gonna put-out, so my brother and I are going to set-up a battery bank to store a big portion of the power generated and save the fuel to charge it up and run the electrical systems while it charges. I am not looking forward to doing all the wiring though!

        • One thing I know is military gens…lol. Even take a look at the military load banks. You can build your own but they are simple and work well. Make sure to use the correct guage wire also, probably 2 guage if running any distance.
          Something else to consider is a "sump" if building a tank trap to house the trailered unit. This would be in a corner and have the ground slope to it in case of a fuel spill or other liquid leak. This will help keep you from having to walk thru a spill and track it all over your AO. Let me know which military gen you get and I will try and get you the TM on it if you don't have one. I think I have every one on digits (electronic copy). Most surplus stores have or can get them in hard copy as well.

      • Thanks again Regulator5! Man you are a "mountain" of info! I appreciate it… I have 2 field manuals for generators. My Dad would bring them home for me when he was in the Army, he was a "Field-grade" logistics officer, so he used to bring home manuals for everything from weapons to armored tractors! While most kids were still reading Dr. Seuss, I was cutting-my-teeth on "Counter-Guerrilla Warfare" and "Camouflage Techniques"! I also appreciate the offer to send the digital-manual, It will probably be a while before I can afford to purchase the generator, but I will be sure to let you know. Right now the priority is putting new tires on my JEEP before winter hits VA!

  10. Rescue7,
    thanks for the link. That is a nice looking little system. could be used to charge cell phones, batteries or run my portable radio. I'll have to check it out.

    • Recharging is what I was thinking. The beauty of direct current is that you can store power while the conditions are right and use it as needed. We do not get many cloudy days without wind.

  11. "Overly dependant on electricity " is amazingly understated. Last week when San Diego, CA went dark I was astonished at how quickly things deteriorated. Within the first few hours lines streched down the street from the gas stations, folks ran out of few on the roads. Stores closed immediately leaving people milling around outside. Reminded me of all those living dead movies. Even saw 8 people lined up at the RedBox movie dispenser 3 hours after the lights went out. ?!?!. The outage was short lived and most had power back before dawn. I guess I was caught off guard at how unprepared people were and how quickly things turned upside down over the loss of electricity.

    • The good news was that it was short lived … image if it had lasted for 5 days! I suspect somewhere around the end of day 2 things would have gotten interesting.

      • If you can find a copy, the movie “The Trigger Effect” is an interesting study of how fast things can go bad for an average family during a power outage. I found it a very believable scenario, and watch it periodically just as a reminder of what I want to be ready for…

    • My buddy was calling me for info, what a mess! He was caught unprepared, and learned that having some cash stashed around the house can be critical.

  12. Has anyone here checked into the solar generator option, their expensive but in an emergency they pay for themselves, no fumes,no fire danger, and quiet. Take a look at and give me an honest opinion, I'm really considering one of these to supplement my gas and diesel generators.

    • Beenthere4real,
      I have the 1.8KW system from solutions for science. It has been used a couple of times, short term, and worked extremely well. As long as you realize its limitations and don't ask it to do more than it was designed for, an excellent system. We've had ours about a year and no complaints.

      • Thanks CaptBart, I've been looking into altenatives to the traditional gas and diesel generators that I already have. I wanted some real input and not product hype from the company website.

  13. As for generator sets, gas/natural gas/propane/diesel, Generec is probably one of the best civilian companies I have found for stand by power. I recommend diesel, only because you can produce your own fuel (biodiesel). It's not the best fuel, but it's better than NO fuel. Diesel also has long term storage, unlike gasoline, without the additives. There are also less maintenance parts to worry about; spark plugs, plug wires, etc, that gas powered engines will need for long term use.
    You will need a transfer switch to leave the system wired in place. these switches can be manual or automatic, depending on budget. The automatic switches are nice, as they will start the generator and keep power supplied to your house when a power failure occurs, but are susceptible to an EMP. manual switches are better if an EMP is a concern, but requires you to go start the generator and turn the power supply from the power company to the generator. Even if using an automatic transfer switch, keep a manual switch in reserve.

    • John Deere also has generators and their engines held up well in Iraq (better than the other suppliers the military uses). We would get about 15 months of use with a JD; running 24/7/365, with only shutdowns occuring for maintenance (oil changes and air cleaner element changes). Get the air cleaners that can be cleaned and reused and have at least 2 for constant use, plus a couple spares. ou can clean them with an air compressor or a water hose and then just let dry.
      You must also "exercise" the engine. I suggest running the engine, under a load, for at least an hour every month. I left some more comments under Chefbear's initial comment on other ideas and some of the requirements for setting up for biodiesel.
      Most households will need a minimum of a 5kw gen to operate their main appliances. On each appliance, there is an info plate that gives wattage/amp usage. A generator has 3 legs, which produce 60amps each. You will also need to balance the load between each leg and find out if any appliance/tools (air compressors, some A/C units) need 3 phase and not just single phase.

      • Also, ensure that every electrical connection is extremely tight and use a solid brass or copper rod for grounding, or attach the ground wire to your house's grounding rod; never ground to your water pipes as this can lead to electrical shock, severe injury or death. Also, do not use the black iron gas pipes, as this can cause fire or explosions. Your grounding rod needs to go at least 3 feet in wet soil, but I recommend 6 feet and much deeper if in dry soil. If the soil is dry, you will have to pour water over the ground to keep it wet. We used "gray" water in the desert and poured 5 gallons a day on it.

        • I'm glad you are sharing your expertice with us, thank you! What really turned me to the diesel was the fact that you can make "bio-diesel" from almost any fat (either animal/plant based) with limited equipment/experience. I don't know if anyone on the site is familiar with a show called "The Colony", but in the 2nd season they made bio-diesel and used it to power a tractor, which they used as a generator. A more in-depth explanation is given in a show called "After Collapse" (I think that is correct) which aired on History channel a while back. There are also generators and even vehicles which can be made to run on "Wood-gas". It's pretty interesting, the military even researched using it before WWII. My uncle and his son built an old 60's model Chevy pick-up that ran off wood-gas. It wasn't fast, clean or quiet, but it ran off 1/2 burned firewood!

          • Sorry for the T.V. refrences… I had back surgery not long ago and have been watching MUCH more T.V. than I usually would!

  14. For people who live in Maine and states like it , this is a regular occurrence in the winter time . Granted it only lasts for days or a week for the folks that live in the city , the rural mainers can depend on grid down for weeks and weeks . Its just a way of life and people know how ( and expect ) to deal with it . Just try to get butane , propane or bulk goods in the store when the weatherman tells of a storm coming in ………… good luck !

  15. so is anyone else paying attention to the off grid movement??? How about useing the one thing everyone has or can get easy,Wood.can you say Gasifyer……City..wood skids are a wast product that people want rid of,easy to cut up..Country..ok so your splitting wood already. use it to produce the electricity you will need….
    Please look at FEMA,they have free plans even I can understand..One of the leaders by understanding and research is..
    He is a young man on a mission …tons of stuff on u tube..Lets get informed on what we realy need ,dont reinvent the wheel just make it better..Its what made America great..
    just my 2 cents..

  16. I always thought that if a smart terrorist or enemy of the US wanted to make the biggest impact for the lightest effort. It would be by destroying the electrical grid (Power Plants). The amount of panic and chaos from a nationwide extended blackout would be massive. The absence of electronic necessities like food storage, and communication would cause widspread panic and inhibit any Authorities' ability to organize an effort to maintain or regain control of the situation. Especially when the lower ranking pawns of the Authority are panicing themselves. I dout that any enemy of the US would to use EMPs, but who knows. All I would really want electricity for in this scenario would be to power a CB radio or HAM Radio. I want to get a Kindle with a nice library of general knowledge (encyclopedia) and other necessary survival books. I don't need either but they could come in handy. Perhaps a solar panel and a couple of marine batteries could do the job. I regularly leave the city JUST to get away from all the electricity. Sometimes I don't even use my flashlights. Its my own form of relaxation therapy.

  17. 13 days with no power during Isabel. Gas generator worked it's little butt off, but we ate well, had internet most of the time and cell phones stay charged. Kids learned a bit of what it could be like when SHTF by watching others not as fortunate or prepared. Hooking up small solar system for shop to keep tools charged & listen to the radio. Continuing to prep. Love the site.

  18. I think it was 1992 in Western Kentucky and surrounding states, area was hit by a KILLER Ice storm. THe storm lasted about 36 hours. It took a couple months for the power company to get many people back up and running. No one had power in the area for at least a week. Trees feel and roofs collapsed from the wieght of the ice. SO there were maybe 250,000 people in the region without power for at least a week, in the middle of the worst ice storm in 100 years and temps/wind chill well below 0F. THe only thing that saved many of these people from total disaster is that they are 'Country Folk', of whcih maybe 70% of the households hunt/fish, and alot still burn wood for heat. Water was out with the power, but then again, everything was buried under a FOOT or more of ice. Not many survivalists, but nature provides. ANd many habitually can food in the summer from gardens. Its just the way people live in that area. If this had occured in a large Urban area, with no power for a week. I belive there would have been some civil unrest.


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