A Primer for Extended Power Loss

It’s the emergency situation no one wants to think about: An extended power outage lasting two or more weeks.

The thought of losing lights, refrigeration, heat, washing machines, and hot water understandably leaves some people paralyzed with fear. If you’ve never lived without these resources, then their long-term absence is not just inconvenient, it’s potentially dangerous. Modern conveniences are wonderful; but when they fail, it’s worse than never having them in the first place.

But living without modern amenities – and living comfortably – is more easily achieved than you might think. To find out how to handle a prolonged power outage, it’s best to turn to those who spend their lives without electricity, including the Amish and those living off-grid.

The secret is to realize what you would suffer most going without – such as heatlights, bathing, washing clothesrefrigerationcooking, etc. – and figure out what’s needed to provide those things without electricity. Fortunately there are modern, efficient options available to supply these needs.

waterford stanley cookstove
A wood-burning cookstove is a reliable choice for cooking AND heating your home! Visit Lehmans.com or our store in Kidron, Ohio to see our wide selection.

Consider what tools provide the most bang for the buck for supplying basic needs. A wood cookstove, for example, not only heats the house, but it cooks and bakes food and provides hot water for laundry, dishes, and bathing. A non-electric clothes washer and a couple of drying racks can make one of the most time-consuming chores far quicker and easier. That’s a lot of benefits and sustainability from just a couple of items!

There are other things to consider. During a prolonged power outage, emergency personnel are busy helping those in need. The best thing to do is stay off the roads and out of their way. But that doesn’t mean you should stay home and ignore everyone else. It’s also a time to reach out to those around you who might need an extra hand or perhaps shelter: the elderly, the disabled, families with young children. These are people who would suffer the most without assistance.

the grand double wick lamp
Oil lamps are a tried-and-true way to light your home, no electricity needed!

This is why it’s important to be on good terms with neighbors. The Plain People, including the Amish and Mennonites, know the value of community. They know no one can go it alone, and there is strength in numbers.

In many ways, preparing to be without power for a long time is merely learning to pare back to a simpler way of doing things. Rather than depending on complicated and far-away infrastructure, it’s often better to depend on one’s self and one’s neighbors to provide the essentials. True sustainability occurs when you can be comfortable even without modern essentials.

But a simple, sustainable lifestyle doesn’t come without planning, which is why it’s important to set up in advance the means to be comfortable – wood heatnon-electric lighting, human-powered tools, the skills needed to grow and preserve food, even off-grid refrigeration options. It’s more work than pushing buttons or shopping at the grocery store – but far more satisfying. And when those buttons don’t work and the grocery store is closed, you and your neighbors can still be warm and well-fed.

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1 year ago

[…] When facing a major power outage (a week or longer), you will need a plan: A Primer for Extended Power Loss […]

John
John
8 months ago

My list is somewhat longer but it has details, such as “Lamp oil at bottom of cookware closet” – out of the way but immediately available. For outside lighting use, I’d probably be using the kerosene in the shed out back with the lawn equipment, generators and treated gasoline. As long as the natural gas lasts, we have heat (gas logs with battery-operated remote AND gas valve so they always work), can cook (grill lighter works fine for gas cooktop) and have hot water. Alternate power starts with the silent backup system that’s good for 8-12 hours (fridge, freezer, furnace) depending on the season, then adding solar panels if there is sun and there’s that gasoline in the shed and more than one generator (two is one and one is none if there’s a failure you can’t fix).
Lighting starts with solar charged and hand-cranked LED lights of various sizes and brightness, plus oil lamps and lanterns and don’t forget the candles – there are even a couple of candles and a grill lighter by the rack that has the solar equipment, batteries and 2000 watt inverter – just in case.
Alternate water is 40 gallons in 5 gallon jugs, but the water heater and the pipes in the house can also be drained and then there’s 250 gallons of rainwater – the filters for the last two options are in basement. The county’s 30 year rainfall records say we’d have the minimum 2 gallons per person per day in almost any year.
The other backup heating is a kerosene heater that we’ve used several times – three days during an ice storm and 14 days when the almost new furnace ate its controller board and the “3 day” turnaround took 14 days with highs in the 30s and lows in the teens (kero heater plus gas logs plus small fans to move warm air). I also picked up a truck/RV heater (about 17,000BTU) that burns diesel and it’s an option if other heat sources don’t work. If there is no more propane for the grill, I could fire up a generator to run power tools long enough to convert a 20lb tank into a small wood stove that will fit in the 48″ x 31″ fireplace – we’d just be heating a much smaller space – but a 4-man tent erected in a room with a fireplace night be a decent place to sleep.
And we keep a deep pantry – there might be a “There’s nothing to eat” grumble from either of us at times if we can’t nuke something but being married more than 50 years means either of us can cook a few things from scratch and memory and both of us can read recipe cards and cookbooks ;-) I turn out decent meats on the gas grill and even got compliments on the turkey breast I smoked in the grill a few years ago: “tender” and “moist” are not things expected in a smoked turkey breast but I got both positives. We won’t go hungry if there’s nothing “instant” available ;-)
Backup cooking is a Coleman stove with burners for Coleman fuel, unleaded gasoline and propane. There are at least four full 1lb cans in the basement and I have the adaptor to refill those cans from a 20lb tank.

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