Power outage lessons learned

Hi, folks! We recently went through a 3-day power outage, and I wanted to share some notes on things that worked and things that would have made the whole thing easier.

Worked really well

  • Wood stove for heat, as per usual. House was normal temp throughout.
  • Water barrels and this hand pump (OEMTOOLS 24472 Fluid Pump ) for sanitation water. I keep water barrels in the sunroom for watering plants, and have gone through a lot of pump and siphon trials before finally getting one that works well for filling watering cans.
  • Jerry cans of water for flushing toilets. The handle on top AND back is key. This Midwest Can Water Container is the closest I can find to what I have.
  • Single burner butane stove. For outdoor use only; I set it up in the sunroom. Half a can of butane let us heat soup, water for hot water bottles, etc. for two days. I’d count on one can of fuel for day – and stock up; I can’t find fuel locally anymore. We did heat some stuff on the wood stove, but it’s not a great cooking tool because the soapstone disperses the heat.
  • Battery-powered, motion-sensitive lights. Cheap hardware store model. Great for dark rooms and hallways.
  • Charging phones and lanterns in the car and at work.
  • Our usual coffee press worked fine, because we had other ways to heat water.
  • Food in the freezers (small chest freezer, and fridge freezer) remained icy, and therefore safe, for 3 full days.

Made life way more pleasant

  • Good reading lights. Ours died halfway through – death by static spark, it seems.  We were left with other lanterns, and it was awful for two people who read so much. Task lighting – from above the work – turns out to be more important to us than area lighting. The NanoGrid gave good light, but was always a pain to use, and of course died about 10 uses in, so I’m looking at other options. These are on their way (with a bigger power pack to recharge); we’ll see how they go. Headlamps might be practical, but a pain to wear for days straight.
  • Using phones for Internet access, and rechargeable power packs to charge phones. I beat myself up about “internet addiction” for several outages before admitting that Internet access is crucial to fighting boredom and restoring a sense of normalcy. Not to mention, it’s super useful for reporting outages, finding places with needed supplies, checking weather, and whatnot. I’ve not been able to get an iPhone to work as a hotspot so other devices can connect to it.
  • Buying a 5-gal jug of drinking water. We have good filters, but found the mistrust factor (If we filter water that’s been stored for 2 years, is that safe?) and the convenience factor (pouring water into the Berkey is rather tedious) made it totally worth it to just get a big jug of water from the store. And we already had a crockery base with a stand and spigot, so boom…drinking water solved.
  • Putting a small squirt of toilet bowl cleaner (pine scent) into the toilet, as we were only flushing 2x/day.
  • Once the food in the fridge had officially gone off, I just cleaned out the fridge and quit worrying about it. It was oddly liberating.

Wished for better

  • I need some kind of kettle with a spout that can heat on the woodstove and the burner. I sloshed a lot of hot water on my hands trying to pour from a saucepan.
  • Wanted to know temp of fridge/freezer to determine how long food was good. Perhaps a thermometer with a record of high/low and how long it’s been above a critical temp will help.
  • Oh, how I wish we could run the well pump through a power outage! Showering and dishes just seemed like too much trouble, so we ate out a lot and didn’t really bathe. (I need to see if there are showers at work we could use – I know the students have locker rooms, so it’s not impossible.)
  • Felt we couldn’t use any frozen food, because opening the freezer would let the cold out, and then you’d have a block of something frozen with no safe way to thaw it!
  • So much quick/easy/instant food is so salty and carb-heavy. I’ve been thinking about getting a vacuum sealer for garden veg; I might experiment with packaging my own “just add water” meals and seal those up, too.
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