MY Grid's Gone Down - now what do I do!?

Hey guys
Over the Christmas week I checked out from the library and watched the National Geographic’s 2013 “American Blackout” video.
I am not much into the info(not!)-taiment, suck-you-in, video shows on the cable-nets. Too contrived.
This one however was actually multi-scenero’s, good, and relevant. And they used real-looking people actors and actresses. The four year old child DID burn down the house with the candles by the fourth day. Seen that for real, twice now. The yuppie DID hand slice himself but good 10" butcher knifing open a can of peaches on the seventh day. Seen that for real too.
Real-life lessons in power outages says like this presentation shows is: Do Not Panic.
Reconcile quick to your situation.
Then husband out stretch your on-hands resources.
These are techniques. You think through visualize practice techniques.
One; have a personal light on you at all times. Key chain LED, pocket LED, cell-phone. Something. I do.
Two; have a pocket knife on you at all times. Small sharp two blade folding pocket, up to a SwissArmy/Leatherman style is all that’s needed. Pocket. Belt. Purse. I do. My wife does.
Three; have a small AM/FM/Weather portable radio. Points for a hand crank style with a built-in LED light. Have (with earjacks and a casset for music choice).
Four; DO HAVE A MANUAL CAN OPENER in each and every location one could ever be needed. Wife insists.

And just finished reading the book “Lights Out” by Ted Koppel.
This is new, 2015.
He is not a doomsdayer/prepper, survivalist type guy.
He asked the question looking out over his rural Maryland property what could I do for my wife and our grandchilden if the power stopped coming long term.
He’s seen that events happen a lot on his overseas 50 years reporter postings around the world.
Then he spent 18 months traveling around the US/Canada interviewing individuals; local, state and federal people; and power companies higher-ups on the plans for a long-term Grid down event.
There were none feasible, deemed affordable for “us” masses.
He found that there were three very credible today possibilities for our three North American grid-nets to be long term disabled. NOT speculations. But based on actual kill-their-power intentional events in the last ten years.

Not in his book but based on some of his interviews he then accepted the personal responsibility and went out an got a gasoline sipping inverter/generator set. Added a six months fuel supply. Added in foods, medications for six months for him and all their family members.
Wife and I do one year here.

Fellows when a very center of the road guy like Ted Koppel all-events prepares now for six months it is time to get off of “idealism’s” pinheads, take off the grand, glorious, bio-mass high-hats and go get inverter/generator set up too.
The Honda’s are still $200 off sale through the end of this month.
Local Ag store has Generac inverter/gnerators for $399-599.
Local pawn shop has a used Honda for $229. A large Honeywell branded inverter/generator for the same $229.
Why the new inverter/generator styles?
Most fuel use effeinct. Have to streach out what you have and could maybe get.
Light enough, portable enough for a reasonably fit person to quickly move around.
When the water comes high like IT WILL in multiple-events posibilties like the Illinois/Missouri events currnetly only things you can toss/herf into a boat will be saved. Your rah-rah BIG cheap-assed Harbor Freight /COSTCO special will get too heavy, too bulky left behind, water immersed, ruined. You do not hunker down from water; you do not AK/AR shoot your way out from water - you concede and move.

Former Homeland director Tom Ridge quoted from his interview in Ted Koppels book,
" . . . just accept that there are two permanent conditions that are going to affect future generations: one is the global scourge of terrorism, the other is digital forevermore."

No excuses anymore. Even if you would chose to “arr-arr” live for a time by candle light and cook in a fireplace that inverter/generator could keep a neighbor alive needing refrigerated medication. A baby needing respiratory support alive.

Steve Unruh


Hmmmm, good information… Better yet, could you helps us out with picking out a good water purifier…? Don’t know beans about them… :cold_sweat:

Well, home early and heading out to work on the tree cub… :relaxed:

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Hey JeffD
Yes clean potable water was the problem shown in both of these presentations.
What we do here:
We are mandated on a town central supply system. Two huge up on the mountain reservoir tanks. Proven now to be good for all-town use out to ~three days/72 hours. These resevoirs are refilled from two active and two older reserve deep well pumps. MY 11.5kW Miller/Kohler welder/gnerator is volenteered to needs-must power one of these community wells.
And us community old-grey hairs will make sure that the community members WILL vehicles fuels contribute to pump the wells. Should buy 30-60 days. Then my gen-set will be over onto woodgas with community want-waters cutting prepping the fuel wood. Me. Old-man gasifier operating.

Our actual home water plan is metal roof water good for ~200 days of the year - charcoal filtered.
Needs-must we can boil purify on the top of the woodstoves. Creek runs seasonally ~150 days of the year.
Immediate needs in a very bad we-all-fall down here (9.0) earthquake and we have two 72 gallon hot water heaters to tap into. Stupid NatGeo DID NOT show this posibilty.

My Wife is a go-to-your home traveling nurse. She covers five counties in two states. Odds are she will get caught, away, out and about. She has at any time 10-24 bottles of Desanti water in vehicle. Her “come-home” back pack has yukie water purifing tablets inside. Enough for ten days. She has four day to get her ass back home before I come looking. If I have to go find her I go three guns, three dogs loaded up. No expectation we will all be coming back. So a nice clean tasting portable water filtering/purifying system has not been a priorty for us.

On PBS last night saw an excellent segment how in modern suburban Puerto Rico houses they are dealing with adapting over to supplied house water rationing this last year.
5 gallon plastic bucket with a low edge spicot edge set onto the kitchen sink.
55 gallon dark plastic barrels set outside that they rubber bag scoop out a fill from then taken in and hung from the normal shower head.
“Caught” waters then used for toilets flushing.
Their water service supplying the hardware and instructions.
As I said.
Reconciling quickly to your changed situation is key crucial.

Steve Unruh


hey JeffD
Just popped back into my head:
UV water purification.
An American-India fellow has a system out there.
So does the Gated Foundation as a prizewinner.
We’all are into making woodpower for purposes.
These showed as using only ~500 watts electrical.
Ha! Just about the same to run a pellet stove electrics

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Steve, an alternator would supply 500w for short amount of time BUT using the wood to boil water wins hands down. Can first filter out the bugs and frogs. I have to admit that nothing tastes better than a nice cool class of clean water. Maybe colloidal silver, easy to make, or food grade hydrogen peroxide. Can scoop water out of a well with a capped PVC pipe about a gallon, cap would have a hole and a ball inside to plug the hole when ya pull it up with a rope.

But no matter how much one plans the plan will have to change big time when the real pooh hits the fan.

No idea how you find your loved one unless radio/cell-phone thingie…


Steve, here is a no electric pellet stove:

My black willow live stakes showed up for new years planting party of one… :relaxed:

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For north American water filtration dealing with bacteria I vote ceramic cartridge. Long lasting no power consumption cleanable. We have one on both sinks. For hiking I have an old Katadyn ceramic filter; lighter then a liter of water. We uv our well water but still you never know… Love the scenario Steve.


I’ve lived most of my life in L.A. I’ve travelled around the world, mostly by road but, I come back here. In spring of 2005, I moved for final to Bend Or. to my log house that I left empty for the 15 years since I built it. In summer of '05, I concluded that we were going to go into a big economic downturn and I reluctantly moved back to L.A. in the fall of '05. I didn’t want to be pushing a shopping cart and eating dog food.
I stared writing at Burning Man to tell other people.
I also started looking for supplies. While A.C. is good, D.C. can be even better. Gas is good, diesel is better. We have arrow-boards on the highways. They are LCD or LED or something like that. Previously, they used a VERY nice Yanmar or Lister one cyl diesel enging to run an alternator. I got 2 of them cheap. They aren’t rpm dependent like the old style A.C. gens. The can run on cooking oil or trans fluid. I have everything set up for 24 VDC. I bought lots of panels, etc. I also bought the Berkey water filter. I found real good surplus 24 volt LED panels. I have the 24 volt freezer, inverters, converters, chargers, etc
I found a VERY nice 4 cyl propane gen with a HEAVY Wisconsin engine. They couldn’t get it to run right and sold it to me running for $ 95. Since it is propane, it should be a good candidate for woodgas. They had it hooked up with a regulator/expander from a BBQ.
I bought a couple of 7kw. kohler gens for cheap. They use the same engine as my 2 JD 400s so, I put together a spare engine. I have a couple welder-generators also.
I bought 10 acres on the Coquille river East of Myrtle Point Or. It runs salmon and steelhead. I also have a WONDERFUL spring that has quite a bit of head. The property has FREE ENERGY everywhere. It grows right out of the ground. I’m at 220 ft. elevation so, when the cascadia subduction zone takes another lurch (9.0–9.4) , I wont catch the tsunami. I bought a wood cook-stove and built a couple of wood-fired water heaters. I just need to convert my Farmall 560 to woodgas. if I could get it to run on tweakers, I could kill 2 birds with one stone.


I’ve been living here off grid since August. I bought 2 inverter generators from Home Depot so I had one as a backup. 1800 Watts has been sufficient for my needs here and the ‘Eco’ switch is nice. The gennys are quiet but still make noise pollution in these tranquil woods. After I installed solar, the sun went away but the 8 six volt 200 amp hour battery bank is still nice to have. Now I only need the run the genny a few hours a day instead of all day, unless the sun decides to show itself. I found out these $600 Ryobi generators don’t stand the test of time and brought them both back to Home Depot to get fixed. The compression is down to 25&30 so I’m guessing I will be getting new ones instead of being fixed. The Ryobi’s were built for everyday use.
My wife moved up here permanently at the end of November and has been a big adjustment for her but is accepting now. This week the power lines went down in town due to the heavy snow on the trees. She looked at me and smiled. She then expressed how grateful she was to know that she won’t be subjected to that as long as we live where we do.
This week I acquired two of the same generators from Two different people. They are Coleman 5000w 240 volts. I will see if they are good enough to power my welder. If so, I know I can be back in business making stuff this spring.
Through all this we have learned what we can live with and without. We prioritize the fridge and freezer first and foremost. Everything else, just luxuries. Wood gas will be high on the priority list when the weather cooperates and the snow is gone. I will use it to charge the battery bank.
Filling gas cans really sucks when I live in the middle of 80 acres of fuel.


Bill, they made zillions of refrigerators that run on propane, like the Servel. They use an ammonia absorbtion cycle. if you look at the guts, they use a small flame to supply the hot side. RV fridges have a “cal rod” that supplies a bit of electrical heat as an option. They just push a bit of hot air up a chimney. It wouldn’t be too difficult to supply hot air from a wood-burning source.


Off grid is a good way to be, even if it’s a hobby system in town, you never know when it could come in handy. After being away from civilization, what strikes me as the greatest miracles of our age are: electric lighting, and safe hot and cold running water. TV is pretty awesome in the second tier, and food refrigeration. The thermal fridges have to be the best possible solution, and shold last almost forever. On the physical power side, electric motors, and IC engines have done more for humanity than most all the inventions of the last 10,000 years.

I have an off grid setup on my land, solar, sure is nice to be able to walk into my cabin, turn on the inverter, and bask in LED light, and watch LED tv. Hard to leave in fact, and one day soon I won’t. To round out the power situation I need wood or other bio sources for gas and diesel engines, also there’s adequate hydro and wind potential… Lots to tackle. The advent of LED light bulbs, and LED tv’s has been one of the greatest advances for off grid power - an LED 60w equivalent bulb draws 10.5 watts, and a 24" tv draws 56 while playing a dvd. Very satisfying to watch a movie on recycled sunshine.

I guess my 2 cents on the issue is to prioritize. Being warm when it’s cold is the first priority, decent shelter, with a heat system, wood, of course. Light is the next, then a water supply, various options there. A good toilet / bathroom shouldn’t be overlooked, and is pretty simple to arrange. I strongly suggest that anyone going down this path look into Jenkins’ Humanure Handbook, I am very pleased with how well his system works, should be made the standard everywhere in fact. No sewage issues, no septic tank to pump, no contamination of ground water, ever, just simple grey water drains, end of story, never call a plumber again. And, a hot shower or bath sure makes a place feel like home. Gas fired hot water tanks can be readily adapted to heat with wood, as they have been doing in the third world, or passive solar in the warmer weather.

That’s been my track so far, slowly getting it all together. My philosophy is that our corporate culture has sold people a bill of goods, far more complex and costly than necessary to lead a good life, which is actually leaving the population in great danger, and betraying our fundamental needs. I feel that people are beginning to wake up to this reality, and feeling pretty insecure at times. If we are lead down the corporate road long enough, we will lose it all. If we prioritize, I feel we can salvage 90% of what we prize, with maybe 20% of the use of resources.

Garry Tait, MB


Yes, LED lights are the best! I have a 2500 lumen LED outdoor floodlight and has a minimum draw on my system but will light up everything around the house. This is important to us because of wolves and such that wander nearby.
I opted against the propane fridge because I would need to depend on propane of which I can’t make. I have access to a free propane fridge on our property. I do have a 250 gallon propane tank which operates a camper stove/oven. If ever I can’t afford propane, I have wood to cook with. But for now, it makes coffee faster with propane and that’s what we use. :smile:
2 years ago I realized how dependant my home was on outside utilities. We had the coldest year ever. If the electricity went down I wouldn’t have heat or water. I kept this in mind when setting this place up. A plan A,B and C in all areas. It gives me peace of mind.


Yeah, I agree about the dependence on propane, though you can’t beat the convenience of it for cooking, infinitely handier than wood. I have a hundred pound tank for that, for cooking it lasts a very long time.

I was part of a discussion about storing wood gas, I can see running a heat powered fridge or freezer on a system as I describe, which would be a great option, I will certainy be working on that soon.

Good point about the grid reliability, a shocking number of people don’t realize that their natural gas heat won’t run without ac power, and the way houses are built, things can get cold very fast.

That peace of mind might extend one day to staying alive, or not having to make crisis decisions, which is worth more than money.


Bill, I use some 40 year old stainless steel Stanley Thermos Bottles to store hot water for the morning coffee. Just before I go to bed, I remove boiling water from my basement wood stove and fill several thermos bottles, first pouring a cup or so of hot water into the thermos to get the steel hot, then dumping it out and immediately filling the bottle with boiling water. I screw the cap on, then use a beer “coolie” insulator to cover the cup, followed by two old heavy wool socks, then a hunk of old wool shirt, and perhaps a towel if one is handy. Wooden clothes pins hold the wool wraps onto the bottles. * hours later, for coffee, I pour this very hot water over grounds in a paper filter that sits on a mason jar. These thermos bottles use carbon particles between the inner flask and the outer shell. (I picked up one at a garage sale for $2, but it would not keep the water hot, and Stanley sent me a new one, and told me to recycle the old one, so I took it apart. Yep, a fine carbon powder!) They have a lifetime warranty. I sent them an email, with photos showing two bottles and the water temperature in each bottle (after 8 hours) to prove my point, and they shipped me a totally new bottle immediately.


Thanks for the tip Ray!
I do have a Stanley thermos too. I may have try that.

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Hi Bill, cutting out the driveway in winter is when the wood “warms you twice”. I suspect the second warming will be more fun. I bought a 5kw 110-220 volt, Coleman 10-15 years ago with a 8hp B & S. The only problem I’ve had is the carburetor. I did have a friend with one, and a wire on the winding broke. Luckily we could see it, and re-solder it, problem fixed.


Good reply’s guys.
These solutions all fall into the Boys Scout’s “Be Prepared” like mine and the wife’s last 23 years of home energy independence projecting.

What I’ve found though is 99.99% of the actual readers even here on the DOW:
ONE; do live in suburbia (so have NO access to trees, space, a-n-y-t-h-I-n-g except like living neighbors)
TWO; agonize far too long dithering over idealism’s and then DO NOTHING at all except keyboard
THREE; have not been shaken away from the delusion that “someone will make things go back to normal - it’s their jobs, what we pay them to do”.

Back in the 1962 Columbus Day storm I my family and all our nieghbors were grid down without power for 60 days. Wife and her family without for 90 days. Long time to be rope bucketing water out of still then remaining large case wells. Hasn’t been a single year since she or I haven’t had to ride out power outages from 4 hours to four days. Last year it was 9 outages events. So far since May been now four events 12.5 hours to 24 hours.
Ha! Ha! Practice makes perfect.

Within 30 miles of us I/we have adult nieces and a nephew suburban lot living without any backup plans at all.
They are spoiled jaded only having at most one outage a year for merely hours.
Oh, l give them books from FEMA, American Red Cross, individual writers.
We give them stories at family get-togethers.
And when pressed to talk about it they will say, “We will just come up and live with you guys.”
Yeah. Right. After hunking down for 72 hours waiting for the power to come back on (and like after Katrina -it does NOT becuase too many of the emergncy services folks had to go back to their own homes to take care of thier own folks); after you and everyone else suburban around you are out of candles, water, food and fuels you going to join the urban-crushing-out stampling crowds and try to get up here?? I will not even be able to sort you out of the already planned turn-back at gun point, blocking out, choke points.

So any urban/suburban “man”, “woman” too damn cheap and non-family loving responsible to put down the pizza’s, turn off the streaming 150 channel sports: fiber optic log off; and go out and at least set up for under $1000 a quality inverter/gnerator, the fuel cans, a hand siphon pump for 60 day worth self-power is flipping irresponsible, bug-nuts.

I point out to the one niece and one nephew now with house installed pellet stoves “saves money over the electric furnace” that a Honda iq2000 would 1/4 power 500 watt power those pellet stove to operate for 9.5 hours on a single gallon of gasoline. Four hours for that that same gallon at full out 2000 watts then the pellet stove, the refrigerator and freezer, the video player AND recharge the car battery YOU DID RUN DOWN radio playing!
So . . . on the gasoline already in your car or pick up truck, just one five gallon can, and in your lawn mower you could workable self-power for at least 30 days independently.
Just as long as you remembered right at the power outage even to fill up ALL of the sinks, bathtub and every bucket with water while you still could.

Your reaction responses in the first two hours of a power outage event will determine how well you will soldier on through the next 72 hours.
And what you DID do then ahead of time, and how well you adapt over yourself and others in that first 72 hours will determine if you will even make it for 30-60 days.
e.g. when you allowed the 11 year old grand niece to bucket out and modesty flush after every single time she pees!! Poo-flushes ONLY darling! Let yours, and others pee-adds stack up.
Mr Kitty and Mr Dog now get to learn to use their own water bowls.

A quality brand Honda, Yamaha 800-2000 watt inverter/gen set is an investment that if needs-must can be sold/bartered.
An non-supported store or distributors brand is a boat anchor. They do not put out to spec. They do not last. Watch the user youtubes.

Remember guys. NO POWER GRID then no take back exchanges to Harbor Freight, Princess Auto, Home Depot, COSTCO.
With the NET down then ALL on-line retailers and bid sites will be gone too. No more Criags list, No more E-bay.
Told my wife that her new Amazon Prime membership did not even give her a decent plactics card to use as an windshield ice scraper.
Really really hard not to get sucked into made too easy, too cheap dependencies.

So far as retiveiving my wife back home. The biggest hurtle to pre-plan for has been the Columbia River. Only two bridges that will be event disabled, road blocked, emergency services use only restricted. First had to convince her she would be vehicle abandoning. Then set up with two Oregon distant cousins her riverside possibly showing up. (SHHH. She has six silver Liberty dollors, and two certified gold pieces to buy a boat ride across.
And we’ve layed out and walked most of the power line and rail bed pathways accroos the county. She has twice the packable goods she actually needs to have as give-aways, please-let-me-pass.
And push come to shove her glare/stare is damn scary and she can very convincingly explain an experienced hunter/killer husband who will find her come what may.

For my family who instist on being literal Seattle penthouse live’ers - I ain’t got nothing for you except MOVE!
If the power is not back on within 72 hours the odds of you even surving out to 10 days approces ZERO.
It’s in all of the real events histories.

Plus this is all part of my sneaky old man teaching plan.
Introduce folks to living down from 34,000 watts at flip switchs beck and call 24/7/365 and getting along on just 2000 watts just fine is the first intro step.
Then once learned to live down and tired of fueling even that m-a-y-b-e onto solid wood fuels. Sweating out 20 pounds of chunks/chips a day is doable.
Every thinking Joe Friday full “modern” lifestyle 34,000 watts woodpower substitute making is a never-will-do.

Steve Unruh


Instead of likes, we need a “love” rating for this post including comments ;~) Clean efficient power, long term sustainable, surrounds us, grows on trees. Why use anything else?

Great point on small gensets being the best because they are transportable. I had been going back and forth on size issues. This post is convincing that small and portable is the logical choice.

In a presentation at Mother Earth News Fair in Topeka, Oct 2015, “Grid down to home power in 8 hours using local materials” I presented a two step process:

Step 1. Use a micro-gasification stove/kiln to replace propane needs while making charcoal.

Step 2. Use the charcoal to power a home scale generator.

This isn’t theory, it is easily do-able, has been done, was done there in 8 hours, but without firing anything since indoors. It just works.

Charcoal has many uses besides downstream energy. Water filtration, sand/gravel/charcoal filter using 55 gallon drums for 200 liters per day of drinking quality water from a decent source is documented by Josh Kearns.

Charcoal medicine, books have been written, my favorite is an 18 page flyer easily sealed in a plastic lunch sak to keep it dry and handy.

Charcoal in the garden, charcoal as a catalyst, etc.

Pocket knife, flash light, hand crank radio wi shortwave, check, check, check. Hardly a day goes by the pocket knife and flashlight aren’t used because they are handy.

None of this is particularly difficult even financially. Payback, ROI is priceless. To change the world, change your world.


Bill, interesting exchange. But being here in Minnesota I dont understand why you have placed the fridge and freezer as your top priorities. I have found, while living off grid off and on since '69 that both apliances are unnecessary, especially in the winter.
I have also discovered that the most disconcerting part of the grid is the part they have set up in my mind. And i suspect in yours as well.
Actually its very pleasant out here. And there is plenty of sun to run a few leds and a phone.
I have been hoping and dreaming of catastrophy seems like my whole life. But everything continues pretty smoothly here.
Along with the appliances Steve prioritized (knife and flashlight) I would like to add a good dog. If you dont spoil the dog it will teach you most everything you really need to do out here.


John, it’s very nice to see you still check in here.
This is the way I have it set up because…wel I don’t know any better. I also barely had enough time to move in n here before it got cold and snowy.
If you have ideas I can implement at this time and/or next summer I am open to suggestions. The guys on the Hangout gave me a good idea with an underground shelter/storage that I will make next summer. Mind you, we have wolves and bears up here I would like to keep from consuming my provisions. :smile:
I do appreciate your input and do want to come visit you this year. I have so much to learn.