I love my grid. Right now, I’m sitting in my climate-controlled, illuminated office. I was working outside earlier, and I took myself a nice, hot shower before sitting down to eat a dinner. We had breakfast for dinner, which is a thing we sometimes do. My wife made waffles, eggs, and bacon. I had ice-water with it. Now I’m on my laptop, blogging it up in the world-wide interwebs. After this I’ll probably take a leak. My wife prefers that I flush the toilet, then put the lid down.
You probably know where I’m going with all of this – Everything in the preceding paragraph depends on a functioning grid. As we all know, that grid occasionally doesn’t function. Since this is a prepper site, we have to talk about preparing for the grid going out.
What is the Grid?
‘The Grid’ is short-hand for all of the infrastructure that we take for granted in our modern lives.. For my emergency prepping purposes, The Grid is:
- The generation and transmission of electrical power
- The distribution of clean water
- The disposal of dirty water (and the yucky stuff that we put it in)
- Various communication networks, to include the Internet
The Thing About the Grid…
The Grid presents a unique challenge to emergency preppers for three reasons:
- The grid’s reliability and performance can be impacted by many other emergencies. We rarely talk about power outages outside of the context of what causes them. Similarly, without power, we lose water, sewer, and communications.
- The range of grid impacts could go from mildly uncomfortable (a brief power outage caused by a thunderstorm) to apocalyptic (catastrophic, permanent, and widespread Grid failure due to a solar flare or a nuclear war).
- It’s difficult or impossible to replicate the grid. You CAN take huge steps toward ‘Off Grid’ living, but you’ll eventually have to make some compromises. This is because the Grid is prohibitively expensive to recreate.
That last point really limits our “BASIC” Emergency Preparedness for the grid being down. Basic Preparedness is really all about a 3-day event. We’ve already talked about three days of clean water. If you have three days of drinking water, then three days without the tap running is actually not a huge problem. (It might get stinky, but it’s not going to kill you.). We’ve already talked about staying warm and staying cool. We’ll save Communications for another post. Which leaves us electricity. Let’s talk about how we can prepare for a blackout.
Preparing to Be Without Electricity for a Few Days
If we’re talking about long-term “Off the Grid” living, then we’re talking about big investments in solar, wind, or maybe hydro / geo. To survive a brief blackout, all you really need is a few batteries. Of course, if you are reading this from Nome, AK or Death Valley, CA then you really need pay attention to how you’re going to regulate temperature without power. Otherwise, preparation is simple:
1. Figure Out What you Need to Keep Powered if the Grid is Down.
Many of your electrical appliances eat a LOT of juice. Your AC, Hot Water Heater, and Microwave are probably not worth the expense to power. For a 3-day event, you should consider:
- Your cell phone – Preparing to power your cell phone during a 3-day outage will cost you about $20 if you’re careful.
- Your computer – Maybe a bigger battery bank, and check compatibility (my Mac uses USB-C).
- Some lights. Another $10.
- Maybe a small fan. Battery-powered fans are about $40, but they can really chew through batteries…
- A radio. Batteries for your radio should be less than $10.
- Consider your fridge. You can keep your fridge running for 3 days for about $250, if that is a priority for you.
- Think about any medical devices you may have.
2. For Everything That You Don’t Need to Keep Powered, Figure Out How You’re Going to Live Without it:
- If going without central heat and cooling is a problem, figure it out how you can stay warm or cool without electricity.
- If going without your fridge, make sure you have shelf-stable food.
- If your kitchen runs on electricity, figure out how you’re going to heat food, or decide to buy shelf-stable food that you can eat cold.
3. Figure Out HOW You’re Going to Power What You Need to Power:
- You might consider a single, large power supply to handle all of your needs. If your refrigerator is in the mix, then this is probably the way you need to go.
- If you don’t have huge power demands (say just you phone, a few lights, and a radio) then it might be better to just buy some smaller batteries.
- Don’t overlook some of the capabilities you may already have:
- If you already have a rechargeable battery bank, GREAT! That takes care of your phone, at least partially.
- If you have power tools, see if a USB or 110V power outlet is available for your kit. This way, you can use your existing (and expensive) rechargeable batteries to help with power in an emergency.
- You may already have a large battery (maybe for an electric scooter) then consider purchasing an inverter to use that power capacity.
- Similarly, you may already have a small solar setup or a generator for your RV.
- Purchase the batteries you need, along with any other items (charger, inverter, flashlights, radio, jet boil, etc.)
IMPORTANT: Maintain your batteries.
Keep rechargeable batteries charged. Check them to make sure they hold a charge.
Don’t leave batteries in your flashlights or radios for long periods or they might corrode and damage the devices.
I like to buy new Alkaline batteries every year.
CR123A Batteries have a 10-year shelf life. I use those in flashlights.
- Charging Brick (I like 'em big)
- Flashlight - Rechargeable
- Flashlight - Low-Discharge Battery (CR123A Battery)
- Flashlight - Standard Battery
- Battery-Powered Fan (Mine is Ridgid)
- C123A Batteries (10 year shelf life)
- Amazon Basics Batteries
- Deep Cycle Battery (For use with Inverter)
- Krieger Inverter
- 12V Charger / Maintainer
- First, evaluate what you REALLY need to keep running when the power goes out.
- Second, figure out how you're going to live without whatever you decide NOT to keep running.
- Third, Figure out HOW to keep your stuff running that you need to keep running.
- Finally, take a look at our posts on food, water, and communications. (These are other parts of the grid that we cover separately.)
- I won't recommend something I don't own and use.
- The items on this list are more expensive than other options, but they're build to last. I'd rather buy it once and pay extra so I can count on it when I need it.
- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.