On a Saturday afternoon...you float about your home doing your weekend chores. Then...without warning...the lights go out. You've got no power to your house. There are no storms...and there is no indication of what made the power go off. You just shrug your shoulders and go about your chores...figuring that it will come back on soon...but it doesn't. Hours pass and now you start to wonder..."What's going on?...When is the electricity going to come back on?!..."What's going to happen to all of the food in my refrigerator!!?"
Some would say..."Well...make sure you have a gas generator to keep your refrigerator running." Personally...I say...forget your refrigerator!! Spending $500 on a gas generator and storing a bunch of gas for the purpose of running a refrigerator...to save $100 worth of food doesn't make a lot of sense in my mind. The first thing I would do is to pull out our spoons and enjoy every last bit of ice cream we have! Then I'd fire up the barbecue and start eating some of the food that would spoil! I wouldn't open the door of the refrigerator for more time than I absolutely had to. The food would remain cold for a good while. In fact...the limited amount of food in most people's refrigerators will more than likely all be able to be consumed...before the refrigerator completely cools off...or the food spoils!
Here is the heartburn I have with gas generators....
1. They are loud. Some or most of them are deafening loud. Not only is their noise annoying...if times are really hard...that sound can be heard a LONG ways...and it would be like a homing beacon to potential undesirables saying "I'm here...and I've got supplies!!" Also...if you are going to run a movie or something like that to try to calm down your children....how's that going to work out with that loud sound in the background?
2. They require gas. Sure...you could store gas to use it for a while...but what about when that gas runs out? When a true emergency comes...there is a good chance that gas will be unavailable. The gas pumps at the station run on electricity!! Do they have backup power...and will it work? That gas is shipped via tanker trucks. Can those trucks safely make it to your gas station? How are you going to get that gas? I've seen photos of people walking with gas generators on wheels trying to find a gas station that can fill up their generator. That generator sure would get heavy after a block or two. Or are you going to take some cans to the station? How many can you carry? Is it safe? There was a blackout in the Detroit area back in 2003 where after 24hrs of having no electricity people were getting into fistfights for gas!! Are you a good fighter...and are you willing to fight for gas?!!
3. They require maintenance. If you are just going to let your generator sit until a disaster happens...you may be in for some disappointment when you go to fire it up when you need it. Did you let untreated gas sit in the tank? I hope it didn't varnish and clog stuff up. There are moving parts that if broken...will need to be fixed...do you have those parts on hand?
4. They are generally really big and heavy. It can take up a bunch of space trying to store it...and if you need to move it...if it doesn't have wheels...it may take two strapping men to make it budge!
Now don't think from this that I am anti-emergency energy. Just the contrary...I think that it would be wise to have a way to power all kinds of things in your home. Here are a few you may or may not have thought of...
1. Enough power to run a grain grinder! Hand grinding grains can really wear you out...it would be nice to be able to have that done mechanically.
2. Power up rechargeable batteries to run things like flashlights...etc.
3. Power a lighting system so that you don't have to live with just candles.
4. Power tools...appliances....etc...
There are really a lot of things that would be handy to have powered...so what are the options...
Solar is a great option. It makes no noise...doesn't need gas...don't require maintenance...and can be small and manageable (usually the larger the item you want to power...the larger the system will be)!
There are really two options available for solar. Buy a pre-made system...or build one yourself. Pre-made systems can cost a hunk of money...but then you don't have to try to figure out all of that amperage...wattage...photovoltaic cell...confusing talk. It's just plug and run. Here is one guy who makes a system...I know nothing of what the quality is...or if this is really a good buy for what he is offering...I just show it to you as an example of what people out there are doing. Here is a video with some info on his product.
Here is a kit that comes with everything you need...but isn't on a fancy cart. I read that same is available through Costco. To give you a taste of what solar/electrical people sound like....I offer this...that a knowledgeable person said about this system...
"Just add 2 batteries (6v each) like http://store.altenergystore.com/Batteries/Batteries-Flooded-Lead-Acid/US-Battery-US250-6V-250AH-20HR-Lead-Acid/p2009/2 of these will give 250 amp-hrs of battery for a net usage of 125 amp-hrs. The charge controller that comes with this package will support up to 30 amps of charge, or some 360 watts of power (360w / 30a = 12v). The package has 160 watts, so you have a "reserve" of doubling your panels over time.This system comes with a 175 inverter."
So if you want to build your own system...you will have to learn to talk like that.
A couple more things that I want to mention on solar are that...there are solar panels now that will collect...even if there is no visible sun. There is also a lot of solar technology on the horizon...that if released...will make solar a lot cheaper of an option.
There are also people out there doing stuff with hydrogen generators. People are selling plans on how to make them...but it doesn't look like too many people are selling them...or if they are....they are really expensive.
There are other technologies out there that work with wind....and who knows what else. Here is a company that can help you convert your gas generator to propane. Propane can store indefinitely...but then you are still left to ask what you will do when it runs out.
Steven Harris who is an energy/preparedness/biological warfare expert has a method of using your car to be your generator. He uses a simple ac/dc power inverter (all you need is one 300w or under) available for $20 to $50 at walmart or electronics store...plugs it into his turned off car (some cars have to be on) and runs an $8 cheapo extension cable into his house. He runs small items on it...like lights...and then goes out and idles the car for a short time to re coupe the power to the battery. If you want more specifics...you should buy his book.
The most feasible at this point...from my studies is the solar option.