Prepping For the Financially Challenged : Homes and Open Spaces part 2
By: Tom Chatham – Author of The American Dream Lost
Heating and cooking are concerns during a grid down situation. The best longterm solution would be to have a wood stove and a good supply of wood. If you live in a home that cannot have a stove for some reason but it has a fireplace then you might want to have a fireplace insert. This would not work very well for cooking but it would keep you warm. With a fireplace , it is almost impossible to heat a room because most of the heat is siphoned out of the chimney. While the fans in your insert may not work , it will provide thermal mass to radiate heat without losing it all to the outside. Depending on the type of insert you have , you might be able to connect it to a power inveter which is connected to your car or have a small battery powered fan that sits in front and blows through the air chamber to circulate warm air. If you cannot have a woodstove in your house maybe you can put one in your garage or detached building to act as a backup shelter. The ultimate backup shelter would be a well stocked RV , camper trailer or boat.
Woodstoves and fireplace inserts are expensive , so you may chose to go with propane appliances to get you through the situation. The cheapest way to start is with a one or two burner camping stove and lantern. A supply of 1 lb propane cylinders will be easier to handle inside the home than larger ones. These can be refilled from a larger 20 lb cylinder with a Mac Coupler. The lantern should only be used when very bright light is needed otherwise a candle should be used for general lighting. Small portable propane heaters are now available for a reasonable price and can heat a small room during cold weather. If you plan to use propane for extended heating you might want to get a large tank placed outside your home connected to a wall unit inside. If you plan to use the smaller portable units , you are going to need 2 or 3 20 lb cylinders a month even for limited heating. If you have a propane BBQ that you can also use for cooking then having several extra tanks may seem logical. How large your propane system is will depend on your needs and financial capability. In some areas of the country , a solar cooker might work well most of the year.
If the grid is down but you still have use of your electronic equipment , a generator would be very useful for limited use but you will need to keep a good supply of fuel to last the duration because supplies may be limited after an event. Generators can be expensive and only provide you with power when they are running . A good alternative that will be cheaper to set up would be a battery system. You can mount one or two deep cycle batteries in the trunk of your car and connect them to the vehicle charging system with a battery isolator to keep them charged while you drive but they will be isolated from the vehicle battery. You will then be able to connect a power inverter to the batteries and provide continuous but limited power to your home. Depending on the size of your inverter , you would be able to use a small hot plate or microwave oven for cooking and to run your refrigerator or freezer for limited periods to keep the contents cold. You would then have the ability to provide some lighting with CF or LED bulbs and provide power for computers , radios , or TV’s to get information. It could even provide power to run a small AC unit for short periods but would not be very efficient for heating. A good feature of this system is that it will not produce the generator noise to alert your neighbors that you have power. For long durations you will need to run your car for a few hours a day to keep the batteries charged. This will require you to keep some extra fuel on hand. A vehicle engine uses much more fuel than a small generator but the difference is you will only need to run it for a few hours a day to have uninterrupted power all day and night. Since this system is mounted in your car it will go with you in a bug out situation providing you with many more options. This system would also lend itself to adaption to solar and wind charging as well. You can also build a generator to charge your battery pack by combining a 3 hp motor with a car alternator to give you a very cheap generator. This type of system is what I use when the power goes out so I know it will work. Some good plans can be found at www .theepicenter.com/tow082099.html.
For long term sustainability you need to have a plan to produce your own food at some point. Even if you can afford a 20 year supply of freeze dried foods , at some point that supply will run out. If the situation normalizes within that time so that you can buy food as before , you won’t have anything to worry about. But what if things do not normalize or food is hard to aquire and expensive in the future? If the dollar collapses , what will you buy it with? Even with a supply of storage food you need a plan to produce your own. Depending on your situation there are many ways to go about this. You can plant a regular garden in your yard, do container planting , used raised beds , grow vegetables vertically , hydroponics , aquaponics , raise sprouts , grow fruit trees , raise livestock or a combination of all of these. Once you produce your food you will need to preserve it until the next harvest. This is accomplished by canning , freezing , dehydrating , pickling ,salting , smoking or deep storage ( root cellar). Since the variables in producing and storing your own food are so numerous , each person needs to evaluate their resources and determine what will work best for them. By listing the different foods you can produce , the different ways you can preserve them and listing the equipment you will need to accomplish this , you will be able to see the cost of the different methods and determine what makes the most economic sense to you. When planning your crops you need to keep in mind perennial crops and seasonal planting such as having a summer garden and a winter garden and planting things such as long keeper tomatoes to provide fresh produce for most of the year. For someone just starting out , making several lists will aid you in making the most productive use of your time and money. Also keep in mind when you make your list , the things you will need to continue your production and storage every year. Things like open pollinated seeds , fertilizer , spices and reusable canning lids can keep your production going when those things might not be available at the store or your financial situation prevents you from buying them. The initial expense to get set up can be a major hurdle to many but once you have the infrastructure , producing your own food can be a very rewarding experience.