What Will You Do When the Lights Go Out?

SHTF Plan – by Daisy Luther – The Organic Prepper

Some people believe that we are hurtling towards physical disaster with our delicate electrical grid. Just how that disaster might occur is open for debate, but we need only look at major power outages over the last few years to see how precarious our grasp on electricity is. It isn’t a matter of “if” the lights will go out, but a matter of “when”.

Severe weather has given the grid a walloping over the past few years. For example, three years ago, parts of Kentucky, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Indiana, Illinois, West Virginia and Missouri suffered through 3 weeks sans power after a record-setting ice storm. Last summer, people in the Washington, DC metropolitan area were without power for a week during a heat wave as the result of a severe thunderstorm accompanied by high winds. And most recently, of course, we have witnessed the plight of the victims of Hurricane Sandy as they have struggled to function in the most populated area in the United States without electricity and running water, all while attempting to clean up the detritus of the massive storm.

Mother Nature could have other tricks up her sleeve with the possibility of a solar flare-related coronal mass ejection that could cause not only outages but irreparable damage to items powered by electricity. Many countries have developed EMP (electromagnetic pulse) weapons that could perpetrate the same type of damage.

Yet another grim possibility is that as the economy continues to degrade, more and more people simply won’t be able to afford to keep the electricity on in their homes.

However it happens, whether it’s for 3 weeks or for the long haul, we need to learn to function differently than we do right now. We need to reduce our dependency on municipally delivered power and either create our own power or simplify to the extent that we need less power.

Many preppers spend hundreds to even thousands of dollars on generators. Most of these are powered by gasoline, although some are fueled by propane.  These investments would certainly be handy during a short term outage but are they really worth the money? This really depends on two things: your ability to store fuel and your budget.

  1. If you live in surburbia, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to have hundreds of gallons of gasoline stored in a shed in the back yard – not only will regulations prohibit this, but there simply won’t be the space on a typical in-town property.
  2. Will purchasing a generator mean that you have to sacrifice other things in your prepping budget? Will you still have enough food to get through an extended supply emergency?  Will you be able to afford a water filtration system? What about first aid supplies, seeds, books and home defense items?

The next consideration is the probable length of the emergency. Many people in New York and New Jersey had generators, but only enough gasoline for 2-3 days. Who can forget the long lines where people waited for hours to only be allowed to purchase 5 gallons of gasoline? Depending on the generator and what appliances are being powered, 5 gallons will supply 3-8 hours of electricity. When you do the math, in the event of a long-term emergency complete with fuel shortages, a gasoline generator is not going to be a long-term solution for most.

Other options (I have not researched these methods because they are currently out of reach for me, so I can’t go into detail on the pros and cons) are solar power, wind power and harnessing the energy of nearby running water. Consider your environment before investing in these systems in order to purchase the one that will be most in line with the area in which you live.

So what can you do? If you can’t afford to have an off-grid electrical system installed at your home, does this mean that you are destined for an over-crowded shelter, or worse, doomed to failure in the event of a down-grid situation?


This just means you have to adapt your requirements.

First, check things out at your home or retreat. Make a list of the items that you use every day that require electrical power.

Then, look at your list and scratch off the items that are absolutely unnecessary – the television, the video game console, the microwave in the kitchen, etc. (If you have those things – we downsized a great deal before relocating here.)

See what you have left.  Of these items, how can you supply your needs without electrical power?  Here are some examples from my family’s list and the solutions that we either have or have planned:

  • Lights:  Solar garden lights, candles, kerosene lights
  • Heat: Wood stove, small propane heater for the bathroom or kitchen for the coldest days, 2 large canisters of propane
  • Cooking: Wood stove, nutritious home-canned meals that only require reheating, small and large cast-iron dutch ovens to use on wood stove, sun oven, outdoor fireplace
  • Refrigeration: Large cooler to be packed with snow in the winter and used indoors, a plastic storage bench that is lockable to be used outdoors in the winter (the lock is to keep 4 legged critters out of it), root cellar for summer, change of eating habits in summer
  • Water:  (our well runs on an electric pump and we rent, so unfortunately we can’t modify this) 1 month supply of drinking water stored, Berkey water filtration system, buckets along with a sled or wheel barrow depending on the season, for bringing up water from the lake for flushing, filtration and cleaning.

Anything else, we can really live without. These are the things which are vital, and the solutions are all long-term.

Now, apply this to your own situation. Find as many solutions as possible for the issues you would face if going for weeks (or longer) without power. You must stay warm, eat, and drink. Everything else is a bonus.

Some people like to give arguments as to why they can’t resolve these issues. They live in an apartment, they rent, they have a limited budget….the list is as long as indefinite detention. The fact is, by realizing these things are necessary and refusing to face them and find solutions for your particular situation, you are setting your family up to suffer, and possibly even die, when it could be avoided.

I like electricity. I like the convenience of turning on a light at the switch, of putting ice cubes in my water in the summer and watching a movie after making popcorn on the stove. But will I die without those things? No. Anything electrical that is vital to life has a back-up.

This article has been contributed by Daisy Luther. You can follow her daily tips, strategies and prepping ideas at The Organic Prepper and Girls Gone North.


5 thoughts on “What Will You Do When the Lights Go Out?

  1. If you do have an off-grid solar system then you need to learn how it works, what can go wrong, and simple servicing. We have an off grid system and after spending thousands to get our top of the line generator fixed something has gone wrong with the inverter and now the circuit that connects the generator to the system to charge the batteries has given up the ghost. This means that on cloudy bad solar days we have to run a generator. Not the good one(wasteful if it isn’t charging the system) a small spare for emergencies and i can assure you that fuel consumption even for a small (2400W) generator is something that you could not keep up with when the SHTF.
    I am expecting a bill of thousands to fix the inverter and if the S had HTF then I would be totally out of luck. It’s not like I can afford it anyway even while doing fairly well.
    Electricity is a want and not a need.

  2. I DID do a little research into wind power, and my arithmetic would have warned people to be real careful about putting a lot of money into one of those things. It takes a lot of wind to make electricity, and they’ll only pay for themselves in locations that have a fairly steady breeze above 12 mph.

  3. Frio packs for insulin if you need that. Can go for 4 days with just room temperature water. Also, Butane for cooking. Inexpensive. Put black fabric on the inside of windows to keep light in. Enzyme tablet portable toilet. camper Heat Packs for hand heat or if you have tropical birds, one for each cage. They last 24 hours. Night Vision Goggles that run on batteries. died vegetables and fruits. Rain barrel in yard. Hurricane lamps with lamp oil. clean Kerosene heater. Battery Short wave. Bicycle and Air pump. Hatchet and Axe. Wood burning stove. Wind Up alarm clock. Extra eyeglasses. All the normal medicine and hygienic items

  4. I have a small 3 panel solar system and a deep cycle battery. I have several small inverters (40 watt to 800 watt) enough to supply a few 12 volt lights and several LED’s. Trying to maintain your home as if it were still connected to limitless power is very, very costly as uninformedLuddite has pointed out…..However a small solar system ( mine was under $400) will supply lights and run a few small appliances and recharge batteries for use in flashlights and radios etc…..
    Solar security lights are available at Harbor Fright for about $20 and even on cloudy days will supply about 6 hours of light and 8 to 12 on sunny summer days. You can attach it to a window and run the small cord thru the window. 5 or 6 of these will provide light for you whole house/apartment.
    A can of shorting with a stranded candle placed down the middle will supply about 48 hours of emergency light
    A coffee can with a roll of toilet paper placed in it and filled with rubbing alcohol will supply several hours of heat.
    A long term heat source that will burn small twigs and chips of wood is a key stove….it gasifies the wood and puts off no smoke or bad fumes…
    An emergency solar heater can be made from cardboard boxes and plastic wrap….a solar cooker can be make from a cardboard box and tinfoil….or a satellite dish and tinfoil or silver mylar….
    All these SHOULD be made and tried before you need to depend on them to sustain your life.
    I know a VET who gets $850 a month pension and he has all of the above and more on his meagar income so it is possible and in reach for most….The key is DO IT NOW and if you never have to use it it was cheap insurance…..that lasts for many years…..If you do need it….it may well save your and your family’s life…

    1. $400 I wish. Ours was $52,000. Really our only expense has been for generator and generator related stuff(not looking forward to finding out the cost of the inverter related charging problem). As far as generators go it is like we have a curse. Think 8 generators in 9 years.

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