An important purpose of this website is to help you be self reliant. We do this in a number of ways, the end result being for you to learn how to do-it-yourself. At the very least, to get enough knowledge to know when someone else is doing a good job. The more self reliant people are, the stronger a community can be. Dependent people do not add up to strength.
Preparing an ‘electricity dependent’ lifestyle to be ready for an extended power failure (72 hours, plus) is one of the bigger challenges of crisis management. With electricity so abundantly available and generally so reliable, it can be difficult to even get motivated to do something.
The best thing you can do to raise the issues that surface when the electricity goes down is to turn it off (all homes have an internal or external main switch). In this case, in particular, experience is the most effective teacher.
Meanwhile, take an organized approach to self reliant energy preparations.
Before designing a power system for a home, you first need to know how much power you use and when. The less electricity you use to maintain your level of comfort, the easier it is to design (and the less expensive) an alternative power system for your home. Also, an assessment makes it easier to determine which appliances can be made more efficient. And you can make choices as to which electrical loads have more priority than others.
• Determine Ways To Reduce Energy Consumption.
Start by evaluating your home, where is energy lost? Then make a plan to fix those areas. There are a lot of energy saving appliances that can be phased in; and be sure to consider self reliance as you choose your options.
Make choices about which ‘appliances’ you can convert to alternative power (human power; battery power; solar power; wind power . . .)
• Recognize Which Devices You Can and Can’t Do Without
Some things are not needed to support life, you’ll need to determine those. To some, the coffee pot is a life support system. I’m talking about your heat, lights and plumbing. People got along quite well without electricity and plumbing for centuries (even I lived like that when I was a boy on my Dad’s ranch); but no one will argue that the modern conveniences are nice.
Try to think of ways to maintain your level of comfort…What must you have (can you power these alternatively?), what can you do without (make it easy to shut those off).
• Determine the most viable solutions for a back-up power plan.
This will be determined by your circumstances, where you live, your skills, how fast you can learn, what resources are available (local labor, materials and components), how much time you have, how much money you can spend, etc…
• Consider installing a back-up generator, preferably with a battery bank and an inverter to maximize your fuel efficiency. It is more efficient to operate a generator at about 80% rated power for a two hours than to operate it at 20% for eight hours. So you operate it to charge your batteries and to do heavy electrical loads, then shut it down and operate off your batteries for extended light loads.
• Consider converting to ‘off-grid’ living.
All the above statements lead to this, true self reliance means not having someone else controlling your electric switch. It also means not having to pay someone else for your power and not being dependent on their maintenance procedures.
• Some Conserve Energy Tips
• Choose energy efficiency (light bulbs, appliances, heating systems,
vehicle (there’s lots of information on fuel savers elsewhere on this site)…
• Turn off lights when not in (This function can be made automatic)
• Use pedal power whenever possible. At the very least you’ll develop a sincere appreciation of how much energy it takes to produce electricity.
• When cooking is nearly done, turn off the oven and allow cooking to continue.
• When boiling water, always turn down the heat to where the water just barely boils. Water never gets hotter than it’s boiling temperature and adding extra heat just makes the water turn to steam faster.
• Be sure the hot air from your dryer is directed indoors in winter, this adds both moisture and heat into your air (both are needed in the winter); but you’ll want to put a filter on the air to collect the lint.
• Generating Your Own Power
The fast fix for home power is to purchase a 220 volt power generator. If you need the generator only occasionally, a gasoline or propane one will do. If you use it a lot, diesel is your answer.
We recommend using a receptacle to plug the generator to your home (instead of hard wiring). The plug in method allows you to bypass a bunch of electrical regulations, and allows for safe, easy generator portability.
It is vital that you have an electrician install a double-pole, double throw switch so that your generator is never providing power at the same time you are connected to the utility’s power. Why? First, your generator will not be in ‘phase’ with the utility and will burn up. Second, if the utility went down, whatever caused that will likely kill your generator too. Third, you don’t want to shock, or kill, some innocent lineman.
• True Eco-friendly Home Power
There are several levels of self-reliance and lots of eco-friendly choices. All of them tend to be pricey, but the peace of mind is hard to beat. Further, if you’re willing to do much of the work yourself, you can lower the costs while learning valuable skills. As further incentive, some people can actually sell their excess power to their local utility. And with your new skills, you can make a living helping others become self reliant.
• Traditional’ Alternative Power Systems Include: (in order of preference)
• Solarvoltaic (solar cells)
• Wind power
• Hydro power
• Thermal power has several categories: (get heat with solar or bio-fuels)
internal and external combustion engines operating on bio-fuels; solar parabolic, for powering a heat engine; direct conversion of heat to electricity with thermocouples and direct conversion of heat to electricity with infrared photovoltaics.
• Power System Design Thoughts
Generally independent power systems operate on 12 or 24 volts DC, because batteries have been the most practical means to store electricity. Storing electricity is important for many reasons, including:
• It allows you to have a smaller power producer (a smaller hydro generator for example) which reduces initial cost of the power system while allowing the power system to provide your peak power needs. The power system stores up a little power over an extended time when you are not using it to use at higher power rate when you do need it.
• It allows steady power availability when the power supply is intermittent, many power systems operate only when the sun shines, the wind blows, the water flows or when you are burning a fuel. Storage allows you to efficiently gather a bunch of energy when it is available to use later when it is not.
That said, back to design: If you are going with an ‘off-the-shelf’ system, you will need to carefully choose your system components to fit your personal situation, we list resources that will help you get started.
Here at Eagle-Research, we go a step beyond; for example, building our own 220 volt battery storage and inverter system. This is simpler and more efficient than most of the low voltage battery-inverter systems. So we’ll be teaching people how to do their own, from scrap and surplus parts. And then there is our innovative generator technology, which allows people to build their own generators that will run on any fuel, interface with the utility grid and turn their electric meter backwards.
And lastly Eagle-Research is exploring gathering energy from sources not utilized by conventional utilities; like directly gathering electricity from the earth and sky; and using gravity to power generators.
There are a lot of resources that will teach you all you need to know to develop your own power system, find some of those resources under the link button at the bottom of the page. In particular I recommend the ‘Solar Living Sourcebook’ published by Real Goods.
Here at Eagle-Research, we are developing alternative free energy sources which you can review on other pages in this site. These innovative technologies will drive the civilization of our future. Some of the spinoffs of this research are practical products NOW; see the eagle products button at the top of the page.
• Fluorescent lights use a lot of power to start, then use a fraction to maintain. Use them only in areas that are lit for extended periods.
• Electricity rule of thumb: never use it to heat anything if you can find an alternative method. Electricity is the highest grade of energy and the most expensive.
• Diesel engines, on generators and in vehicles can also be powered by eco-fuels like butyl alcohol and fast food oil that has been treated.
• There are fuel saving systems that can cut some vehicle fuel bills by 50%.