What to Do When The Lights Go Out: Immediate, Short-Term, and Long-Term Strategies

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by High Country

When the power goes out, it usually happens at the most inopportune time. Like, when it’s dark. And suddenly, you have to look for that flashlight that you put in the drawer in the kitchen. Or, is it in the hallway closet? 

 It’s important to have strategies to meet your immediate needs, as well as short-term and long-term strategies.

Check out The BlackOut Book by Daisy Luther.

Suggestions to help keep you lit up.

Having additional light sources readily available is crucial in the event of a power outage. Always make sure you have extra batteries and that these light sources are in good working order.

Headlamps: Every member of the family should have a headlamp. It’s challenging to hold a flashlight and try to work or cook with only one hand available. Try getting pots, pans, and ingredients from different locations in a dark kitchen. Guaranteed, you will be much happier with some light, and a headlamp allows you to use both hands. 

Headlamps that use rechargeable 18650 lithium batteries and can also use two disposable CR123a lithium batteries are best. The CR123a batteries have a shelf life of ten years. You may have a heart attack trying to buy them in a store. I recommend buying in bulk on Amazon. Top off the 18650 batteries in a charger every 90 days. 

Be sure to purchase the batteries recommended by the manufacturer. Unregulated, cheap batteries can damage your LED Flashlights and Headlamps. There are several good manufactures of Headlamps. 

Here are just a few: 

**Stationary Lighting: I do NOT recommend anything that has a flame, Propane, or Kerosene. If knocked over by a person, dog, or aftershock, you could have a house fire rather than a power outage.

LED Lanterns: We keep a Streamlight Siege Lantern in all our vehicles. It uses three D cell batteries and has different levels of light. Here are two others I highly recommend: 

  • UST (Ultimate Survival Technologies) LED Lantern: Their 30-day lantern (meaning it can last 30 days on the lowest setting) is very similar to the Streamlight Siege lantern. It also uses three D cell batteries. 
  • UST 60 Day Lantern: This lantern can put out up to a thousand lumens of light. It uses six D cell batteries. This one is a good one to put on the kitchen table when everyone is eating.

*All of these lanterns have a hook so they can be hung upside down.

Energizer makes the D cell batteries that these particular lanterns require with a shelf life of 10 years. You can get a box of 12 Max D batteries on Amazon for about $20.00 delivered. 

Ultimate Survival Technologies says you should leave the batteries out of the light until they are needed. However, I have kept the batteries in my UST 60-day lantern for five years, and it works fine. If there is a parasitic drain, it must be minimal.

For more suggestions on lighting options, see this article.

Need more than just light? Buy a generator.

We live off the grid on a ranch. Anywhere on the ranch, other than the house which has a solar system, requires a generator. I’ve used many generators, and I have some strong opinions on what works well. 

Here are some suggestions for you to consider: 

Small Generators: Get a Honda. Nothing else compares to their reliability and ease of operation. I have two friends that are small engine mechanics who say the same thing. Get a Honda. 

Small generators are generally gasoline-powered. The primary problem with small generators is if you leave gas in them without rotating the gas, it gums up the carburetor and needs to be taken apart and cleaned. Being diligent about changing out the gas means you are continually pouring a flammable liquid in and out of your generator. If you store your generator in the garage and your water heater is in the garage too, a gasoline leak could cause a big problem.

However, there are exceptions. Last year I learned about a propane conversion kit, made my Hutch Mountain, for the Honda 2000i, 2200i, and 3000i generators. With the conversion kit installed, you can use 20lb, 30lb, or 40lb Propane cylinders. The regulator and hose screw onto the port on the propane gas cylinder, the same location you would screw in the hose from your Bar-B-Q. The hose then attaches to the port installed on your generator.

The Honda 2200i uses about 1 pound of propane an hour at a 50% load. A 30-pound cylinder would last about 30 hours. (Propane at sea level weighs 4.11 pounds per gallon.) 

Note:  When you see 2200i or 3000i, they do not put out 2200 or 3000 watts. That number is a surge load. At sea level, the 2200i puts out 1800 watts continuous, and the 3000i puts out 2800 watts. A non-turbo engine will lose power at higher altitudes at a rate of 2.5% per thousand feet of elevation gain. For example, if you live at 4,000 feet in elevation, the 2200i would put out 1620 watts.

Standby Generators: These generators run on propane or natural gas and put out more power than portable generators. Standby generators are bolted down to a pad or concrete slab. (We don’t have natural gas in our remote county, only propane tanks.) If you have natural gas in earthquake country, you might want to consider a propane generator with a dedicated propane tank. Why? Because a big quake may cut off natural gas supplies for a significant amount of time.

Air Cooled Standby Generators: The least expensive standby generators are the air-cooled ones with 3600 RPM engines. The service life of an air-cooled 3600 rpm engine generator is about 1,000 hours. That should be fine for most people who expect short term electrical outages.

These generators come with a transfer switch that detects when the power goes out. About a minute after detection, the generator disconnects from the grid, then turns itself on and powers your house.

The 7Kw generators have only eight or so circuit breakers, so you will have to decide what you want the power to in your house when the grid goes down. I have seen 7Kw air cooled, 3600 RPM generators for about $2,000.00.

Liquid Cooled 1800 rpm Generators: These Generators have a service life of 8,000 to 10,000 hours. We have one of these generators that is 15Kw with a dedicated 575-gallon propane tank. When we have two or three days of cloudy, snowy weather, we will fire up the generator and top off the battery bank.

The two 4Kw Solar Inverters connect to the generator, so when the generator is on, the inverters charge the battery bank. Mostly I use the generator for powering my 250 amp MiG Welder. Our generator is about 16 years old now and only has about 1500 hours on it.

A few standby generator brands to compare and consider: 

For more information on generators, check out this article.

The best thing about propane is that it never goes bad in storage

We have a 1,000-gallon propane tank for our small house that we keep topped off. Propane tanks filled to 80% hold about four years’ worth of propane. Since we heat with wood, we use propane for cooking, an on-demand water heater, and the clothes dryer. We use about 16 to 17 gallons of propane a month.

I hope that you have found this article useful and helpful with your preparations. Are you prepared to power up and light up when the power goes down? If so, let us know what your methods and equipment are! 

About High Country

High Country retired after 30 years from Law Enforcement, where he served as Detective Sergeant with many years as a Narcotics Task Force Agent. He was also the Department Range Master and Firearms Instructor. Working with solar energy for 15 years, he and his wife have lived ten years off the grid full time at their ranch on the Great Basin’s edge. 


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