Surviving a Power Outage

by Ragtimelil

What would happen if we had a major power outage like we had up north some years ago? What would you need to get by besides your cache of food and water?

I lived off the grid for a couple of years in New England. During that time there were some major power outages. I barely noticed since I didn't depend on the grid anyway, but for many people it was a real disruption to their lives. Electric heat was out as were any electric stoves and refrigerators. Most people wouldn't have water since everyone was on a well run by an electric pump. That was in addition to the lack of lights and other things that are often taken for granted. Even little things like making a pot of coffee become difficult if you are used to using your programmable electric coffee maker. Would you have the tools to get by until power is restored?


If you lose power during the winter, you will absolutely need to keep warm. If you have electric heat, this can be a major factor in whether or not you can stay in your home. Even with oil heat, the thermostats often require electricity to work. I've always tried to have a wood stove in my house whether it was the main source of heat or just a backup. 

If you just need spot heat or if it's not too cold, I love the Mr. Heater propane heaters. They are safe for indoor use as they have a automatic shut off if they are tipped over or the oxygen is depleted. It can be used with a one pound propane tank which makes it really portable, and also can connect to a 20 pound tank.  I would not, however use them while sleeping. 

There are direct vented propane heaters like the Rinnani which are safe but rather pricey for someone on my budget.

Keeping Food

Unless you happen to have a propane refrigerator, one major concern is preserving food. I've tried many systems including the Zeer pot, an evaporation cooler, which did not work well for me. It was designed to work in a dry climate and it was too humid where I was. 

Most people resort to coolers. I developed a system in the winter in the north of leaving the cooler on the porch in the daytime to cool down. At night, when it was really cold, I brought it inside. Things stayed as cool as a fridge without freezing. In the summer, however, you would have to use ice  Block ice will last much longer than the cubes.

These unusual coolers are a lower profile than most, making good use of space. They also stack and come in a varity of colors. Perfect if you have a lot of food you are trying to save from your refridgerator


 If you have a gas stove, you should be fine. If you have an electric, you will need another way to cook. There are all kinds of camping stoves but I like something a bit more substantial. If you have a gas grill, you can use that, but if it takes actual charcoal, it will take a long time to get it to cooking temperature and be hard to control.

I like this style of outdoor cooker that attaches to a 20 pound tank of propane gas. It also comes in a two and even three burner cooker.

I have used both the butane and alcohol stoves and they do indeed work great. The advantage to that type is that they can be used indoors. The drawback was the cost and availability of fuel. A 20 pound tank of propane gas at this writing costs me $15 and lasts about 3 to 4 months. 

Radio and Emergency Lighting

 I’ve always been a little leery of the hand crank lights and radios. Many of them don’t work well and wear out quickly. Yet it is the one way to have emergency lighting and radio that doesn’t depend on batteries that can wear out.

I did some research to find the best rating on this emergency radio. This one has AM and FM as well as 2 shortwave bands and a LED emergency light.

I've used solar garden lighting indoors and been amazed at how much light you can get from them in the right setting. If you're having a winter storm, however, you might not get much sun. Still, I think this WakaWaka light is worth the investment since it takes such little sunlight to power it. It has rave reviews from campers and preppers alike.

More Essentials

One thing you really don’t want to be without is a non electric can opener. In fact, you will want more than one. I’ve had them break and been left with trying to cut through a tin can with a knife. Get a good one that won’t hurt your hands.

An essential item in my kitchen is a non electric coffee maker. I depend on my coffee to start my day and this stainless steel percolator does the trick. It's not breakable and doesn't need paper filters. You might decide to use it every day.

Updated: 10/02/2012, Ragtimelil
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What is your essential item for power outages?

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Ragtimelil on 01/31/2013

Very true. Candles can be expensive though for more than a few hours.

AngelaJohnson on 01/31/2013

Candles for light AND heat. You can burn a candle in a small room like a bathroom and it really keeps it warm. If you have more candles, you can heat a little larger room. Of course, you need matches and must be careful about where to place the candles so nothing catches on fire.

Ragtimelil on 10/09/2012

Good for you! Glad to hear you're prepared. It really makes a difference.

DuchessOBlunt on 10/09/2012

We lived through 4 days with no electricity. Living in the city we depended on it for everything. That was an eye opener for sure. Now we have a generator backup, a wood stove, a coleman stove, lots of coolers and the BBQ. If that were to happen again, I think this time around it would be a little easier to cope. One thing I don't have is the non electric coffee maker - great idea!

Ragtimelil on 10/03/2012

Great stories. Yes, it can be fun when you're a kid. But when power is off for weeks at a time it can get worrisome. Thanks for the comments!

JohnTannahill on 10/03/2012

I remember the UK power cuts of the 70s, during the Miner's Strike. They were a daily event but only for a few hours. They were quite good fun. We had to do our homework by candlelight, and then we could listen to the battery powered radio. We had to wrap up warm because it was always winter and our gas heating was controlled by electricity. There was also a candle shortage. Imagine that! It wasn't any hardship but it teaches you what things are like without electricity. Things you take for granted don't work. There was a big power cut after the English 'hurricane' in 1987. I walked miles before I found a cafe open so I could buy a cup of tea. Even then, I had to wait an hour. It was the best cup of tea I ever drank.

Ragtimelil on 10/02/2012

I remember that. It was a bad time. You survived, I take it?

BrendaReeves on 10/02/2012

Lil, about four years ago, Kentucky had a severe ice storm. We were without heat and electricity for a week. It was 30 degrees in our house. When the heat came back on, I felt like we'd won the lottery.

Ragtimelil on 10/02/2012

Yikes. Tornados are scary! Hope it wasn't too bad!

BrendaBarnes on 10/02/2012

Thanks for the wonderful and helpful tips. I learned to be prepared when we experienced a freak tornado in January of all times. I do need more items and shall look at some of your suggestions.

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