Sooner or later, the power will go off, and chances are it will never come back on. For most of us, the loss of power means the complete loss of normalcy and we will have to adapt to a new world. There are five primary areas that are disrupted if the power goes off and you need to know what to do in order to live without electricity.
Our lifestyle is so dependent on electricity that we don’t know how to function without it. How do you keep warm when the power goes out? What will you drink if your water system is dependent on electrical pumps? How will you cook your food without an electric ignition? These are just a few of the things you have to consider if you will have to live without electricity.
It’s scary how easy our power grid can be brought down and yet, we don’t really think about this and we take electricity for granted day by day. Anything from a local ice storm to a hurricane can become a serious problem for the local power grid. Not to mention that there are those major disasters that can destroy the national power grid for good.
We have to learn how to live without electricity because no one will help us if the world changes tomorrow. Ten years ago the Red Cross suggested that learning how to live without electricity for three days or more should be common sense. The main threats back then were common events such as storms and hurricanes. Nowadays, there are threats far more serious, threats that should make us think about how we would live without electricity and how to become self-sufficient.
The main threats that will leave us in the dark for good and will force us to live without electricity:
- A Solar CME (Coronal mass ejection)
This event is one of the most probable natural disasters that can hit our planet and it’s a major concern for many governments, including the government of the United States. A coronal mass ejection (CME) is a sudden eruption of plasma from the surface of the sun, what NASA calls “Solar Storms”. You’ve probably seen recently in the news about how the White House stated that this has become a major concern for our country. The NASA warnings are no longer being ignored and hopefully the government will start to prepare.
- A high altitude EMP attack
If a nuclear warhead or any other device that can create an EMP is detonated dozens or hundreds of miles above the Earth, the situation will change dramatically and the effects will be devastating. There are many scenarios being analyzed by governments from all over the world and although a nuclear detonation is a real concern, it is not the main threat. What worries our government the most is the fact that terrorists organization such as ISIS, are looking for ways to develop and smuggle weapons that will create a long lasting effect. These ruthless terrorists are getting smarter and the bomb planted in the Russian plane that was destroyed over Egypt is just an example of their evil dedication. The IED that brought down the Russian airliner was a can of soft drink. How long do you think it will take until they manage to create an EMP device and trigger it at high altitude?
- An attack on the power grid
When it comes to attacking the power grid, there are two main scenarios that are being analyzed by the government: a cyber-attack or an act of terrorism. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) reports that cyber-attacks on the electric grid system are increasing in both frequency and sophistication. The main sources for these type of attacks are nations such as China and North-Korea and sub-national terrorists organizations (ISIS has many followers schooled by countries that were eager to help “refugees”). An act of terrorism carefully planned would cripple the power grid in minutes and what scares me the most is that it’s much simpler than one would think. Many people think that the assault on California’s power station was just a rehearsal for something much bigger. Not many people know that in only 19 minutes, unidentified snipers managed to destroy 17 giant transformers. And the worst part is that it took utility workers 27 days to make repairs and bring everything back to life. Imagine if a scenario like this would occur during a time when the power grid is already being used at full power, like the holidays.
Regardless of what will happen in the future, we need to be able and live without electricity and the sooner we learn how we can survive without power, the safer we will be.
The five primary areas that are critical to daily survival are: light, water and food, cooking, heating/cooling and communication. Besides these needs, there are also some secondary needs that we have to consider and learn how to deal with. We will discuss about the secondary needs in a following article.
Even if you live without electricity, you will still need light!
For many of the people out there, rising with the sun and going to bed when the sun sets will become normality. The problem is that your family activity doesn’t stop when the sun goes down and to live without electricity doesn’t mean you have to stop whatever you’re doing when there’s no more daylight. You have to carry on with the activities of daily living and the most simple and familiar form of lighting is a flashlight. You need to have one for each member of your family and you should have an extra set of batteries for each. Even better, you can go with dynamo flashlights if you don’t want to worry about batteries. The flashlight should be always in reach and you shouldn’t go anywhere without it. Each child old enough to walk should have his or her own flashlight and should know how to use it. If you plan on stockpiling batteries, invest your money in rechargeable batteries and learn how to recondition them. Don’t let them get completely drained and always have a fresh set available. Make sure you recharge the ones used and always buy chargers that use multiple sources of power (solar, crank operated, car’s cigarette lighter outlet, etc.).
Candles are a cheap alternative of light and you can find them in various sizes and shapes. They never go bad; they are easy to use and are very familiar. The light is soft and it’s recommended to use them during the nights you keep watch. Your eyes will adjust easier to the dark if you stay in a room illuminated by candles. The problem with candles is that you must be careful where you place them if you have small children or indoor pets. The safest bet would be to use some metal candle holders, some that can catch drippings (the wax drippings can be used to make more candles).
Oil lamps produce a steadier light than candles and are a good alternative if you need to live without electricity. They require lamp oil and although it’s not expensive, you have to calculate your needs and take into account that a lamp oil can burn one or two cups of oil per night. The downside is that the smell of burning oil can get heavy in a closed room and you need to keep good ventilation. A good alternative to a classical oil lamp is the Aladdin lamp. The light given off is better, it burns hotter and there’s less odor.
Solar power LED lamps are typically the best lamps you can get because you can charge them during the day and use them at night. You won’t have to worry about batteries or fuel and they are pretty consistent.
You can live without electricity but you can’t live without water and food.
The loss of power will not immediately affect your water pressure, but it will affect the purification process or allow contaminants into the lines. If you have a home water pump the water stops flowing the moment the power does. The easiest way to guarantee the quality and quantity of water is to store it right now. The typical American uses around 70 gallons a day, but if you are forced to live without electricity you will have to use much less. For long-term survival 5 to 10 gallons per day per person would be reasonable amount. Consider investing in some water bricks for water storage and in a rainwater collecting system. If your living area allows it, consider a drilled well since nothing beats it in the long run. You also have to think about how you will purify the water if it gets contaminated. You can use bleach or you can buy a water filter, it all depends on your budget.
When it comes to food, you have two options: you store as much food as you can or/and you learn how to produce your own when the supplies run low. Storing food is a basic need of emergency preparedness and we store food for various reasons. Having a well-stocked pantry that can keep you alive for one year or more is not an unusual thing in these uncertain times. Storing food can be done on any budget and you just need the proper knowledge and the will to do it. Start today and avoid being trapped in the “I’ll start tomorrow” mindset.
Producing your own food is another thing and it’s certainly not an easy tasks. From gardening to raising livestock, it all requires a lot of work and knowledge. There are all sorts of books on farming,hunting, fishing and other methods of procuring food. You can get them from the internet and build your own homestead library. It’s true that there are some shortcuts or ingenious methods like aquaponics and aeroponics , but they also require a particular knowledge in order to be efficient and exploited successfully. Regardless of how well you are prepared, a life without electricity will force you to go back to the old ways and produce or procure your own food.
How to cook when you live without electricity.
Eating cold beans for meals is not ideal and it sure isn’t satisfying. In any emergency situation, a hot meal goes a long way toward soothing the morale. If you are forced to live without electricity you have to consider both outdoor and indoor cooking. You also have to think about cooking alternatives that are not fuel dependent.
Outdoor cooking like grilling and barbecuing work well during an emergency situation, but it’s difficult to cook much more than meats and firm vegetables over open fire. Campfire cooking works great if you have a Dutch Oven and there are many recipes you can try with this method. You can even bake with a little bit of practice.
Portable propane and butane camp stoves are like ordinary home stoves and there is no difference in the cooking results. There are many models on the market and you can opt for the ones that are the most efficient. It’s an investment you won’t regret and it will provide you with a hot meal.
Multi-fuel general camp stoves are a good option if you can use them outdoors or on a covered porch to prevent carbon monoxide buildup in your home. All cooking options that are fuel dependent can be used for a short time, until you run out of fuel. It’s very important to know the efficiency of your appliances and BTU output of the fuel you are using.
Solar cooking is another option if you have plenty of sunlight and if you are willing to adjust the cooker to face the sun. A professional solar oven is a good investment because it doesn’t require fuel, it doesn’t create smoke to give away your position and it’s easy to carry. You can also build your own solar cooker if you are the handyman type and Youtube can help with your DIY projects.
Improvised cooking will play an important role in a world without power and especially if you have to travel from one location to another.
Heating and cooling when there is no power
If you have to live without electricity, you need to learn how to prepare for season changes. When it comes to heating, woodstove heating is probably the best alternative as it is more common and comfortable to use today, than it was three decades ago. You need to plan in advance and wood cutting should be on top of your to do list. Besides cooking, you will need a good amount of wood to heat your home. An average 3 bedroom home that is properly insulated requires 8 to 15 cords of wood throughout the winder. The quantity may differ from region to region, but this provides you with an idea of what you should expect when heating your home with a woodstove. Always go for hardwoods such as oak and walnut as they burn better and longer than softwoods.
Propane heaters work just as well, but you will need a propane tank for them to work. You will eventually run out of fuel and you will have to procure some more. The same goes for kerosene heaters and sooner or later you will have to learn how to make do without them. These are just short term solution that one can use since they are already in place.
Solar heating is a method that works even during winter and Earthships homes are the proof for this. The trick with solar heating is to be able and capture the sun’s heat during the day and release it slowly at night. There are various materials that you can use to build your home, materials that are designed to capture the sun’s heat. Another option would be to build a solar heater from soda cans, it’s quite effective and it heats the air directly.
There are also other emergency heating solutions that can be improvised, like the terracotta heater, but these work only for short period of times.
Cooling can become a problem if you are forced to live without electricity and it may take a tool on your batteries supplies. Battery and solar powered fans will keep air moving and shading the windows will help you cool down. You have to keep air flowing and you have to stay in the rooms that are facing away from the sun. Hanging a wet sheet in front of a breezy window will help cool the passing air as well. Planting trees and fast growing vines in the vicinity of your home will also help in the long run.
Reaching out to people when you are forced to live without electricity
In a time of distress, keeping in contact with others and knowing what’s happening in the world will maintain continuity and confidence. Communication methods will all depend on the disaster that forced you to live without electricity. A HAM radio is probably the best option to listen on the outside world and get the unfiltered information. If an EMP attack will hit us, communicating with others will become a problem for most of us. Many HAM radio operators have considered a protection system for their devices and it usually involves building a Faraday cage. Another method of gathering information would be to get it from travelers or domestic refugees. The people that are migrating are the best source of information and you should be able to find everything you need to know from them. The best way to approach this is to infiltrate among them and travel together for a short period of time, until you find out what you need. If government structures are still standing, you will be informed about what is going on and what “you need to do”. This is not the best approach, but you will at least know how you’re standing and what you should be doing next.
Learning to live without electricity is not easy and it requires practice. You should experiment to live without electricity for a few days and learn from that experience. It will be a good occasion to find out what supplies you are missing, what skills you need to develop and how your family reacts to this break from normality.