October 1, 2014

Propane for Fuel Storage

Propane for Fuel Stroage

 
Energy is one of the five basic human needs. We use it to cook, to see and for power, among other things. For many reasons, propane is my fuel of choice to store and use if/when the grid goes down for any length of time.
 
Storage

Propane does not go bad like some of the other fuels and has an indefinite shelf life. There are multiple storage sizes; the 1lb, the popular 20lb and even some 200lb tanks that are available at various hardware stores. Many use propane for their primary fuel source and have the much larger tanks that are filled only once or twice a year. Before you decide to store larger tanks of propane, you should check local laws.
 
Availability

I’m sure this is not the case everywhere, but where I live there are two propane companies within walking distance, and a couple more within twenty miles. That’s not counting all of the self-serve propane stations scattered at various gas stations and other businesses. A note about these self-serve stations; they are much more expensive here than taking the tank to a company to have it refilled. They are, however, a good way to trade in your older tank for a new one.
 
Utility

This is one of the major reasons I decided to go with propane. There is just so much you can do with it. There are camp lights, camp stoves, grills, portable heaters, generators and even some appliances that can run on propane. Here are some instructions on filling the smaller 1lb tanks from a 20lb tank.
 

Power

As stated, there are some generators that run on propane and some can also be retro-fitted to accept propane as a fuel source. I have heard that generators will use more propane than gas. If that’s true, in my opinion, the point is negated because of how much easier it is to store large amounts of propane versus gasoline. I checked on the conversion for our generator and was told I needed to send them the carburetor, that they would modify it and send it back for $150.
 

Final Thoughts

I personally believe that if we were to see a prolonged grid down event, propane would be available longer than gasoline. The main reason for this is that gas would be used to run most generators and to fuel vehicles (if they’re running). In suburbia, people generally only use propane for their grills and usually have just the one tank.

 
If you liked this article please think about sharing it on the social media listed below, thanks!

PreparednessClubOne

Preparedness and Batteries

battery

Have you ever considered how many things you come into contact with every day that use a battery?  How about the items that are in your various preparedness kits?

I remember reading a few news stories that spoke about cities providing generators so people could recharge their cell phones.  Because we have become so dependent on technology and the items that use batteries, both in normal times and when “it’s hitting the fan”, not having the ability to use an item can make a bad situation worse.  Whether it’s a remote control, weather radio, cell phone or flashlight, these devices only work if they have a charged battery.  Below are some things I have discovered over the years.  If you have something to add, please do so in the comments.

 

Disposable Batteries (Alkaline)

We try to keep a good supply of the various sizes of batteries.  Over the years, I have heard various prepping tips about batteries and have looked into them.  Unfortunately in my experience most have turned out to be false.

For example, have you heard that storing your batteries in the fridge or freezer can prolong their life?  According to Energizer, this isn’t the case!  In this FAQ on Non-Rechargeable Batteries:

“No, storage in a refrigerator or freezer is not required or recommended for batteries produced today. Cold temperature storage can in fact harm batteries if condensation results in corroded contacts or label or seal damage due to extreme temperature storage. To maximize performance and shelf life, store batteries at normal room temperatures (68°F to 78°F or 20°C to 25°C) with moderated humidity levels (35 to 65% RH).”

I also read on a Prepper site that someone said they had compared the life of name brand batteries against the cheaper batteries found at dollar stores.  They said the life of the batteries was relatively the same.  I mentioned this to Trudee, who then purchased some batteries from the dollar store.  It was our experience that they only lasted from ½ to 2/3 as long as the better known, name brand, batteries.

How often have you reached for the remote or another electronic only to discover the batteries were dead?  Something you might not be aware of is that batteries don’t necessarily lose their charge at the same rate.  There could be one battery that is dead and another with ½ a charge left.  To remedy this there are several inexpensive battery testers on the market that will show you how much life is left on a battery.  I haven’t purchased on yet, so I won’t make any recommendations, but make sure that the one you buy will test a variety of battery sizes.

 

Rechargeable Batteries

The technology and terminology can quickly get over my head, so here is a novices explanation: There are six types of rechargeable batteries.  Only the following three; Nickel Cadmium, Nickel metal hydride, and reusable alkaline are found as replacements for AAA, AA, C, D, and 9 volt batteries.  Since these are the most commonly stocked battery types, I will give some pluses and minuses of using them.

 

Reusable Alkaline

Reusable Alkaline batteries hold their charge longer than any other type.  However, they have the lowest amount of charge/discharge cycles of any other reusable battery.  (A charge/discharge cycle is one complete depletion and recharge of the battery.)

 

Nickel Cadmium (NiCd)

This is the oldest type of rechargeable battery.  The technology has been improved over the years.  A nickel cadmium battery has a long shelf life and can be stored in a discharged state for long periods of time.  When it is needed, it is recharged quickly.  It also has a high number of charge/discharge cycles, numbering over 1,000.

Nickel Cadmium batteries have a high rate of discharge.  Just while sitting on the shelf, they lose 1% of their charge per day.  Due to this, batteries would need to be recharged after storage.  Nickel Cadmium is also subject to memory effect.  According to Wikipedia, memory effect is an effect observed in nickel cadmium and nickel–metal hydride batteries that causes them to hold less charge. It describes one very specific situation in which certain batteries gradually lose their maximum energy capacity if they are repeatedly recharged after being only partially discharged. The battery appears to “remember” the smaller capacity.  This has been corrected with newer technology.

 

Nickel Metal Hydride (NiMH)

This is probably the most available and lowest-cost option of the three.  They have 30-40% higher capacity than a NiCd battery and are less prone to memory effect than NiCd batteries.

NiMH batteries have a high rate of discharge losing up to 4% a day, more in warmer climates.  It also has a limited service life, probably around the 500 charge/discharge cycle range.

 

Low Self Discharge Nickel Metal Hydride (LSD NiMH)

This type of reusable battery loses significantly less charge than any other type, roughly only 15% a year.  They also have a high charge/discharge rate.  LSD NiMH batteries can be charged with a NiMH battery charger.

 

Battery Chargers

There are many different ways a battery can be recharged; trickle, simple, timer based, fast and pulse.  There are also battery chargers that are intelligent.  These should not be confused with “smart chargers”.  A Smart charger has a microchip, as does the battery, from its manufacturer and they are designed to work together.

A charger that is intelligent can monitor the temperature, voltage and other characteristics and stop charging when the battery is fully charged.

There are chargers on the market that accept not only the 110 volts from your home, but also 12 volts DC from your car lighter or from a solar charger.

 

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, I think a good set up for Prepper’s might be to keep some disposable alkaline batteries on hand, and a battery tester to go with them.  It’s also a good idea to have a supply of LSD NiMH batteries with an intelligent charger and a small solar panel to go with it.  There are also solar chargers that can charge your cell phone as well.

The power these batteries provide might not cover all of your needs in a blackout, but it could very well provide for a radio, flashlight, cell phone and other small electronics. This would be enough to keep you informed and your loved ones in another part of the country updated. If you store LSD NiMH batteries charged and top them off once a year, they’ll always be ready for use!

 

If you liked this article, please think about sharing it on the social media listed below, thanks!

PreparednessClubOne

Fuel Storage

Fuel storage is something I don’t know a lot about but it was something that was on my list to research.  I recently received an email from a representative of Power Research INC. the makers of PRI-G and PRI-D, fuel treatments.  He asked if I would like a sample to do a review on.  I let him know that I don’t have a way to do a review on his product, but that if he sent me some information I would include it in my research for an upcoming article on fuel storage.  The offer sparked my interest, so I decided to write the article now.  When I say “fuel”, take it to mean both diesel and gasoline.  I will say “diesel” or “gasoline” if I mean a specific one.

Disclaimer; check with your local authorities on how much fuel you may store in a residential area.  Storage of too much fuel can lead to fines.

 

Fuel Storage

Fuel storage has the same enemies as food storage; light, air and moisture will cause it to go bad faster.  Because of this, it should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place that is not easily accessible by children.

 

Fuel Containers

Because the fumes are combustible, fuel should be stored in air tight containers that do not vent.  If you walk into the area where you store your fuel and can smell it, it is not air tight.

 

In The Survival PodcastEpisode-980- Steven Harris on Long Term Fuel Storage, Steven Harris (an engineer and all around guru on fuel and energy in general) said he stores his fuel in HDPE15 Gallon Water Storage Barrels (food grade bucket quality) drums.  He said they will expand in the summer and contract in the winter, but that these barrels can withstand it.  He said he had dropped his from the bed of his truck and they handled it just fine.

A 15 gallon barrel full of fuel will weigh almost exactly 100 pounds.  Steven said he had 2 year old gas in one of these containers with no additives and it worked just fine when used.

Caution: These barrels do not meet DOT standards for fuel transport and you do risk a ticket and other fines if you transport fuel in them.

 

Another option is the smaller, one to five gallon, containers.  The red ones that you buy from local stores are often low quality and fuel vents through the plastic as it heats and cools.  There have been improvements made to newer ones, but the older ones are not a good idea for long term fuel storage.

 

5galNATONato Jerry Gas Can 20L/5.28G Military Spec. containers are often very high quality and their price reflects it.  This Nato Jerry Gas Can 20L/5.28G Military Spec. is available on Amazon for $90.  I did some digging and this price is comparable to other vendors.  There are some out there that are much less expensive, but in reading reviews you can often find out why. The metal is often very thin and the spouts either don’t seal right or don’t work well.

 

Fuel Treatments

My first introduction to fuel treatments came from prepper fiction stories on the Internet.  I hadn’t really looked into them until I received the email from the gentleman at Power Research INC..  It looks like there are two big players in this marketplace; PRI products and STA-BIL.  If you know of others that I have missed, please link them in the comments and I will change the article.

Both products say they will keep the fuel fresh for up to twelve months. PRI-Products, however, say that you can treat them yearly to extend the fuel out many years.  However, they recommend testing the fuel yearly.  In this post on SurvivalBlog.com, Mr. Morton from Power Research INC claims they have stored fuel for 12 years and that it is “still refinery fresh”.  PRI-G is for gasoline, PRI-D is for diesel.  STA-BIL is for gasoline while Diesel formula STA-BIL is for, you guessed it, diesel.

Power Research Inc. has a site dedicated to preparedness where they speak to the importance of making sure your fuel will work when an emergency happens.

In terms of how much fuel treatment is required; STA-BIL states on their FAQ “A: One ounce (30mL) of STA-BIL® Fuel Stabilizer for every 2 ½ gallons (9.5 L) of gasoline, gasoline/oil mixtures, or ethanol blends is the recommended dosage level.”

From the PRI-G downloadable flyer: 16 Ounces treats 256 gallons; 32 Ounces treats 512 gallons and 1 Gallon will treat 2,000 gallons.  PRI-D will treat the same amount.

Here are some examples of fuel treatments;


PRI-G 16 oz. Fuel Stabilizer or PRI-G 32 oz. Fuel Stabilizer

PRI-D Fuel Stabilizer- For Diesel 16oz or PRI-D Fuel Stabilizer- For Diesel 32oz


STA-BIL 22214 Fuel Stabilizer – 32 Fl oz.

Sta-Bil Diesel Formula Fuel Stabilizer and Performance Improver – 32 oz.
 

Refreshing Old Fuel

What are your options when fuel isn’t stored properly or rotated and goes bad?  STA-BIL does not treat old gas, but they do have another product called Start Your Engines, which is geared more at the small engines of lawnmowers, chainsaws and snow blowers.  From the FAQ for PRI; “PRI has been independent laboratory tested on 10-13 year old fuels, and has restored the fuel to usable condition.”

As I mentioned, this subject is fairly new to me, but from the research I have done, I am a bit more impressed with PRI-Products.  They are a bit more expensive but with the ability to use it year after year to keep fuel usable, as well as the ability to refresh old fuel, it seems like a lot more bang for the buck.

Fuel storage isn’t something I have done, but once we get a new home, it is something I want to make sure I do, and I will use PRI to make sure the fuel is usable when it is needed most.

Diesel does not go bad nearly as fast as gasoline.  The one exception I was able to find is diesel fuel that has fungus in it.  Fungus can grow when the fuel has been exposed to the air and moisture. PRI does have a product called PRI-OCIDE.  It can be added when the fuel is stored and will fight the fungi.

 

Fuel Rotation

I have come across a few different ways to rotate fuel.  The way that I think makes the most sense and is probably the easiest I found, I heard on The Survival Podcast Episode-885.  In it, Tim from Old Grouch’s Military Surplus says he has twelve five gallon NATO style cans, one marked for every month of the year.  Each month, with a little bit of gas in his vehicle already, he empties that months’ can into his vehicle.  He finishes filling his vehicle at the gas station and refills the NATO can as well.

 

Disposing of Old Fuel

Some counties have a hazardous material facility where you can drop off old fuel and other hazardous materials.  Where I live, I believe it’s free for most things and a small fee for others.  This may not be the case where you live.

 

Fuel With Ethanol in it

I have learned the hard way that fuel with ethanol in it can be a bad thing for small engines.  I had one mower that I had to take in to have the carburetor and fuel system cleaned out.  I honestly don’t know if fuel with ethanol in it will be harmful to stored fuel.  If you are storing the fuel with a generator in mind, I guess I would say err on the side of caution and store fuel that does not have it.  You can visit this link to get a List of Ethanol free gas stations in the United States and Canada.

 

If you liked this article please think about sharing it on the social media listed below, thanks!

 

Oil and What it Means For Our Future

 

For better or worse our economy is tied to oil, so I want to connect a few dots and explain, in part, why that is and what it means for our future.

 

Why Are We So Dependent On Oil?

To fully understand this, we need to go back to oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller.  Mr. Rockefeller believed that oil was a gift from God and he was determined to find as many uses for it as he could.  Don’t get me wrong, he wasn’t completely altruistic.  This also meant higher profits, as he could make money from the parts of oil that many other people were dumping in rivers and lakes as waste.  Some of the uses they discovered were gasoline, tar for paving streets, lubricating oil, Vaseline and paraffin for making candles.  Today oil and oil byproducts are used in those things listed above as well as polyester and other clothing blends, many plastics, many medications, such as cortisone and aspirin, not to mention the gasoline, diesel and jet fuel, which is reported to make up 2/3 of the oil that is used.

 

Harvesting Oil

The theme song from the Beverly Hillbillies said that Jed Clampett was “shooting at some food, missed and up from the ground came bubbling crude”.  While this is an exaggeration as to how easy it used to be, it’s not a huge one.  It used to be very easy to find and drill for oil, and the very first attempts to refine it weren’t much more than boiling it.

The same cannot be said today.  All easy to harvest oil has long been harvested.  Crews have to drill many miles deep into the ocean, which is dangerous and expensive.  There are vast amounts of oil shale, but oil shale is mined in the form of rocks that have solid bituminous materials that are released as petroleum like liquid when the rock is heated in the chemical process known as pyrolysis.  So, while it is there, is it harder to get than traditional oil deposits.

Due to several federal regulations on oil exploration, drilling and refining, the United States will always be a net importer of its oil.

 

Peak Oil

There is some confusion when it comes to this term, so let me define my use of it.  Peak oil is simply the point at which we have reached the peak of oil production.  This could but doesn’t necessarily mean that an oil field that has hit peak oil is running out of oil, just that it has hit the limit in the amount it can produce.

The problem that peak oil causes is that, in the last decade, China, India and some other developing countries, have seen a massive increase in the amount of cars and drivers, which means a massive increase in the amount of gasoline and diesel needed to fuel them.

This is nothing to worry about as long as the largest oil fields and the world’s leading oil producing nations stay out of peak oil.  As you can see from this story, Mexico’s Cantarell oil field, which is the world’s largest oil field, has reached peak oil and is, in fact, declining in production.  This report from CNN says “WikiLeaks cable: Saudi oil estimates may have been exaggerated”

It reports that:

“Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves may have been grossly overestimated and its capacity to continue pumping at current capacity exaggerated, according to a U.S. diplomatic cable sent from the kingdom in 2007.”

 

Alternative Energies

I don’t know of any alternative energy that could replace oil.  Some might say “what about solar?”  Solar panels are very expensive to make, thus very expensive to purchase and install.  I have seen estimates of $20,000 on the front end, which could take 20 years to pay for themselves.  By that time you would need to start replacing panels and would have already been replacing batteries.  There were several solar companies who were given millions of tax payer dollars by our current administration.  We have all seen the reports of them going bankrupt.

Wind just doesn’t produce enough energy for it to be viable to replace oil.  Sure, it could be used in tandem to reduce some of the oil consumption, but I haven’t seen enough information to know if this would be cost effective or be like solar and pay for itself near the end of its life.

Don’t get me wrong, I think we should keep looking for ways to make alternative energy a viable option.  I have to be realistic and say that there is a very good chance that America will be tied to oil to meet our energy needs forever.

 

What Does All OF This Mean For Our Future?

Simply put; higher prices for everything.  Remember all of the items I listed that oil are used in its production?  That was just a fraction of the many items.  I have seen lists with over 6,000 items on them.  Even if you find an item that used zero oil in its production, there was still fuel used to bring the parts together or to ship it to its destination.

Remember that I said an estimated 2/3 of oil is used for fuel, including the fuel you use to drive your vehicle.  It is also used to power the ships, planes, trains and trucks that deliver goods all over the world.

There are places in the world right now where a gallon of gas costs $7.  I don’t know about you, but I don’t have that much in my gas budget.  That means if prices ever get that high here, the money will have to come from something else.

 

What Can We Do?

I think the best thing we can do is pay attention and be thinking about it.  Be conscious of the electronics that are left on 24/7 and how much power they soak up.  As gas prices rise it may be prudent to look for car pool opportunities to get to work.  I know MNDOT has initiatives to put car poolers together and your state may as well.

What other ideas do you have on things we can do to prepare for rising energy costs?

 

If you liked this article please think about sharing it on the social media listed below, thanks!

The Five Basic Human Needs

There is a lot of talk about “preparing for economic downfall” or “getting ready for an EMP or solar flare” or “societal meltdown”. The problem with preparing for specific events is that the events you’re preparing for might never happen, or if it does, it could happen differently than you expect.

It doesn’t matter what part of the world you live in, how old you are or even how much money you make, there are five basic things that every human needs to live, let alone survive. If you prepare for meeting these five basic needs, you will have a higher level of overall preparedness and ability to face a variety of situations.

Whether you’re preparing for your entire family or just making a new BOB (Bug Out Bag) or car kit, you should work toward meeting these five basic needs first. Once they’re met, if you want to add in specialty preparations for a specific type of event, more power to you.

Water

I covered The Storage, Filtration And Purification Of Water pretty thoroughly in that article. Here I will just say that people need one gallon a day to drink, more if you want to bathe. Water is so much more important than food. The Rule of Three’s says we can last three weeks without food, but only three days without water. Having some stored is great, but I highly recommend you find a way to purify water that works for you. Boiling will kill any bacteria but will not remove chemicals such as arsenic or chlorine. For that you need a water purifier. I own and reviewed a Big Berkey. The Storage, Filtration And Purification Of Water lists many other ways to purify and filter water.

Food

There are many ways to approach food, from using Copy Canning to build your pantry with the “eat what you store, store what you eat” foods that your family eats most often, to storing staple foods with a 25+ year shelf life or planning long term with gardening and Permaculture and many things in between.

Water might be the most important, but food is the insurance policy that ensures your self-reliance and independence. In a survival situation the more food you have stored, or available in your land, the less of a drain you are on the system and the longer you can go without taking a handout.

I have covered food storage in depth in the articles linked below:

Food Storage Part One: Why Store Food And The Rules For It.
Food Storage Part Two: The Kind Of Foods That You Can Store
Food Storage Part Three: Shelf Life of Staples.
Food Storage Part Four: The Process and Enemies of Food Storage.
Food Storage Part Five: How much food should you store and where should you put it all?
Food Storage Part Six: Tips On Stocking Up and Affording it all.
Food Storage Part Seven: Food Boredom to Survival Cooking .

Shelter

The importance of shelter depends on your situation. Of course, if you’re lost in the wilderness and it’s raining, it takes on more importance. For most of us however, our shelter is our home. There are things you can do now to protect your home, such as general fire safety, or to harden your home with a safe room.

When you’re in your car, it is effectively your shelter. Having a car kit and AAA are ways to make sure your car can be an effective shelter should the need arise.

Energy

This is an area that doesn’t get as much attention as the others, I think mostly because we are so used to always having power, that we take it for granted. You can ensure you can meet your energy needs with a portable generators. A low end unit can cost just a couple hundred bucks. I covered off grid fuels. You can find backup ways to heat and cook for relatively cheap.

If you have no power, it is still possible to keep food cold without electricity. Make note of it now and have a plan just in case.

Energy and shelter often go hand in hand. If your car does become your shelter, or you do get lost in the woods, do you know how to make fire? Do you have a car kit? Do you have a mini kit? I’ll cover fire starting in another article, but knowing how to make fire can be a lifesaving skill; to make heat and a signal for others to see.

Security

I want to start by pointing to an article I wrote on whether or not Christians should practice self-defense for those of you have reservations on the subject. My personal stance is that I pray for my enemy now, but if he attempts to do me or mine harm, I will be a danger to my enemy and will use as much force as is necessary to stop the threat.

The first part of self-defense is situational awareness, Proverbs 27:12 tells us:

“A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

Because the danger cannot always be avoided, using the Cooper Color Code we can be ready for a possible threat ahead of time. I suggest everyone one of us decides now what we’re willing to do to protect ourselves and those we love, because you will not have time to make a plan in the midst of violence.

Find a means of protection you are comfortable with and get training in it. If that means carrying pepper spray or training in real world self-defense, fine.

If that means using a current handgun, or getting a new handgun and getting your conceal and carry permit, or just being armed at home, then get training and go for it.

 My Take

No matter where you are or what situation you are in, these needs do not change. Preparing ahead of time and building redundancy for these five needs will help to mitigate many situations.

 

Our Endangered Electrical Infrastructure

Every year hundreds of thousands (sometimes millions) of people go without power for a variety of reasons. It can sometimes be from storm damage, as was the case in 2003, during the worst blackout in U.S. history; power lines were taken down by trees, which led to a cascading failure. This left an estimated 55 million people without power, as well as an estimated 6 billion dollar business loss. It can also be caused from routine operation of changing out a piece of faulty equipment, which led to a blackout, leaving 7 million people in the dark.

Why is there such a propensity for failure? There are multiple reasons. Much of our electric grid is fifty years old or older, running on parts with a thirty to thirty five year life expectancy. There are power plants that cost millions of dollars to build and no one inside America even builds them anymore. Another reason is, there are interlinked dependencies that no one seems to understand. In both of the blackouts that I linked above, there was a failure that shouldn’t have bled into others, but did.

Another reason is our insatiable appetite for electricity and the things it powers. Don’t get me wrong, I’m far from an eco-hippie, but there is a ton of juice being used to power “fluff”, even when it is not on. It seems like every year there are rolling brownouts due to supply not meeting demand.

The article U.S. Electric Grid Is Reaching the End Game goes into great detail on the problems of our failing infrastructure. If you’re interested in more information, it is worth the read.

What are the dangers?

As I mentioned above, weather is a cause; in fact it’s probably the biggest cause. I wrote an article on another threat called EMP’s, Solar Flares and CME’s. I explain what these events are and how much of a danger I think they actually are. There are always things getting old and breaking down, as commented on in Recent Blackout Highlights Nation’s Aging Electricity Grid and in Aging Gas Pipes at Risk of Erupting Nationwide.

Another threat I think is very real is from other countries hacking into our grid. China and Russia hack into US power grid This doesn’t have to do with our electrical grid, but most recently Foreign hackers targeted U.S. water plant in apparent malicious cyber attack.

What Can We Do?
We can take responsibility for what we use and how much we use it. I’m not saying unplug everything that isn’t in use, though for some items that might not be a bad idea. Turning off lights that aren’t in use, or turning the PC off if it’s not going to be used for an extended period can’t hurt. Don’t tell me about the hibernate feature; I’m pretty sure the devil invented that right after software user agreements and hold music.

We can also provide some of our own electricity at whatever level we can afford. If that’s a full scale solar panel system, wind turbine or a portable generator to provide off grid electricity, so be it. I can’t afford to do a full scale solar panel system, but I have thought about getting a small panel and battery to learn the ropes and scale up slowly.

If you have any other ideas that we can do, please post them in the comments.

 

Portable Generators

To go with the last article Off grid fuels, here is a look at using portable generators for emergency power. I know I had some misconceptions about generators. Maybe this can clear up some you might have as well.

Price
A portable generator is one of the most economical ways to provide electricity in a power outage. It’s true they can be expensive and the more you spend the more power you’ll have and the quieter it might be. If you’re selective about what you use it for, you can spend as little as a few hundred dollars. This would be great if you just want to run it for an hour in the morning and evening to keep the freezer cold.

Fuel Types
I mentioned in Off grid fuels that I chose propane as one of the fuels I store. There are generators that are available off the shelf that will use propane and there are companies that will make after-market modifications to permit its use as well. I have read that a generator will go through more propane than gasoline in an hour. If this is true, I can store a large propane tank that doesn’t need to be rotated as it doesn’t go bad; the same can’t be said for gas. I have also read that propane runs quieter. I don’t know if this is true. I was able to find a company that will take the new carburetor and modify it to use gasoline, propane or natural gas. There are kits to do this, but that’s a bit out of my depth.

Noise
Noise is a factor that many people don’t take into consideration and is often a later complaint. I have read how some people will take the generator to the edge of their property line and run extension cords back to the house, just to limit the noise. Honda generators boast some of the lowest decibel ratings on the market, but Honda’s can be expensive. Review Portable Generators reviews many different generators and they look at noise as one of the factors.

Security
If your neighbors can hear your generator, you may be asked to help keep their food cold. If Joe Dirtbag can hear that you have a generator, he might try to make off with it. If you have it away from the house, chaining it down might be a good idea, if for no other reason than to slow Mr. Dirtbag down.

Wattage Calculator
Review Portable Generators has a decent Watt Calculatorbut here is a sample one. There are some items such as a refrigerator, freezer or washer that require more power at start up and require less as it runs.

You might not be able to power everything in your home at one time, but a generator of even 2000-3000 watts can simultaneously power multiple smaller electronics such as a TV, DVD player and microwave for popcorn. Or it could power one or two larger items such as a washer or dryer.

If your main goal is to keep food in the fridge or freezer from going bad, you don’t need to run the generator 24/7. A couple of hours in the morning and evening should suffice. Also, the fuller the fridge and freezer are, the longer they’ll take to thaw out. You can take up empty space with 2-liter bottles of water.

Connecting to Your Home
There are two ways to do this, either run extension cords from the generator to your appliances, or with a power transfer switch. To connect a generator directly to your home you’ll need to have an electrician install a power transfer switch (As can be seen below). This will allow you to connect the generator to the power transfer switch and then select which breakers you want powered. This will also prevent you sending power back down the line, which could harm a utility worker.

Final Thoughts
You’ll also want to store oil and filters so that you can do maintenance as needed. I was asked once about whether or not a person should start their generator or just leave it new in the box. My answer was that if you leave it in the box, you won’t know if it works and you won’t know how to use it. If you take it out of the box then you’ll need to run it once or twice a year to exercise it and make sure it runs and you’ll also need to do maintenance on it.

Generator Joe is one resource that you can use to delve deeper into the subject, there is a huge amount of information under the resource and Information tabs at the top.

Off Grid Fuel

One of the five basic human needs is energy. We use energy to cook, to keep us warm and, in the modern world, to keep our food cold and provide entertainment. In a grid down situation some of the dependencies on this need might be scaled back or removed completely. With some forethought you can provide warmth, hot food and a maybe even a running TV and DVD player to help occupy some time.

All of these needs require fuel in one form or another. Here is a breakdown of some (I know I am missing some) types of fuel, broken up by what need they can help meet. As I am writing this I am thinking of an event such as an ice storm that has brought down the overhead power lines and my entire town is without electricity. The power company will be able to fix it, but it could take as long as a week.

Cooking
Wood, Charcoal, Propane and Natural Gas

Heating
Wood, Charcoal, Propane, Natural Gas and Kerosene

Emergency Power
Diesel, Gasoline, Propane and Natural Gas

Wood
Wood can take 6-12 months to “season” or dry out before it is best for burning. You must have a wood burning stove or fireplace to utilize it indoors. If you have an indoor fireplace, please have it inspected and don’t just keep it as the “I’ll use it if I have to” plan. It takes a lot of work to get wood to the usable size sold in local stores. Unless you have the tools and know-how, going out to get wood “if it hits the fan”, isn’t a great fall back plan. You can buy wood now and pile it, let it season until needed, but then you still need to have an indoor method to use it.

Charcoal
In my opinion charcoal is great for grilling. Having a bag or two stored might not be a bad idea. However, in my opinion, it’s not great for a grid down situation. It is for outdoor use only. You can cook with it outside but that’s about it. I don’t have much experience with storing charcoal for long periods but I have had trouble starting some that was left in the bag from the last season.

Kerosene
In truth my knowledge of kerosene is limited. What I know is from the little research I have done. I believe you can buy kerosene at Home Depot or similar stores. Other than that I can only think of one place I could buy it in bulk quantities. I have read that it can store for a very long time in a metal drum but in plastic containers, only for months. I think that has to do with the plastic leeching, but that is only a guess. The heaters that I have looked at are expensive and most say they are rated for outdoor and indoor use, with proper ventilation.

Diesel and Gasoline
Diesel stores better then gas does but neither store indefinitely, even with additives. You could use a rotation system similar to having four, five gallon containers full in the garage. Each week before you go to the gas station to fill up, you pour one of the 5 gallon containers into your vehicle. You would then take that container and put it in the back of the rotation. This way you always have 20 gallons of fuel and it should all last the month it will be in the garage. These two would primarily be used for a generator or extra fuel for the vehicles.

Natural Gas and Propane
Natural gas and propane have a lot in common. Many homes use them as their primary fuel now. Here is an article that explains some of (–link the differences between propane and natural gas–). One important thing to be aware of is that both gases store indefinitely, without any additional additives.

My home uses natural gas; for the furnace, water heater, stove and dryer. If you’re in the same boat, as long as the gas company has power, we’ll have natural gas. In the ice storm scenario with no electricity, I am faced with some of the appliances having an electric start, such as the stove. I would have to carefully use a lighter on the burner to get flame. The blower in the furnace is electric as is the ignitor, so a means of powering the fan, lighting the ignitor or an alternate way of heating would still be required.

From my research on the two, natural gas is most commonly used to fuel households and some vehicles. Because propane is more easily available in smaller tanks, it is used for both of those as well and small heaters, generators, camp stoves and camp lights. It is also much more readily available. I can think of one place to get natural gas and multiple convenience stores as well as two businesses that sell propane, all within a 5 minute drive.

A warning about using the propane quick exchange machines at convenience stores, often they will only fill a 20lb tank to 15 lbs. My guess is they think they could over fill it and explode. Using those machines would be a good idea if you have a beat up tank and you wanted to exchange it.

Because of the storage life, the variety of things it can be used for and the availability of it, propane is the fuel I have decided to store.