(Continued from Part 4. This concludes the article.)
I’ll refer the reader to My Ten-Day Test-My-Preps Adventure – Part 4 for the details of how my system works and what I am able to do with it. In a nutshell, during sunlight hours I can take the available 1,500 watts and feed them into my home/shop wiring system and run nearly everything including the freezer.
On Day One if the SHTF, the actual switchover process from grid-tie to off-grid takes just a few minutes. In a simplified explanation, I activate the SPS switch at the inverter and plug a suicide cord (male plug on both ends) into the 120-v outlet next to that switch. I plug the other end of the cord into the nearby 120-v outlet where my air compressor is plugged in. At the breaker box just above that outlet, I install a short jumper wire to connect the two bus bars. With that, the SPS back feeds electricity into the breaker panel and the system is up and ready to power my house and shop.
[JWR Adds This Safety Warning: See the many warnings that have been published in SurvivalBlog over the years about the risk of backfeeding the grid. Readers should consult a qualified electrician to install a safe and approved transfer switch. The lives of utility company linemen depend on this precaution!]
Update: St. Funogas Added:
As per JWR’s warning about accidental backfeeding into the grid in a non-TEOTWAWKI situation, it’s not only unsafe if the proper safety measures aren’t followed but also illegal and you can be hit with heavy fines, liability lawsuits, and the power company can disconnect your service permanently. Before electric providers will allow grid-tied solar panels to be activated, they require installation of their approved shutoff right below the meter which has the capability of being bolted or padlocked in the off position. The comments in my article were referring to a TEOTWAWKI permanent grid-down situation and the safety steps were outlined: the main shutoff is locked in the off position, then the main breaker turned off before backfeeding solar panels into the home wiring system. All of these precautions apply to home generators as well. To be prepared ahead of time for backfeeding if the SHTF, adding a transfer switch as mentioned by JWR is recommended. A less-expensive option is a generator interlock plate ($15-50). These are approved by the National Electric Code and consist of a plate which attaches to the breaker panel and makes it physically impossible to have both the main breaker and a backfeed breaker on at the same time. Also safer than a suicide cord is a code-approved generator cord and inlet box used for home generators and RVs. Mine are already on order and anyone prepping for a long-term grid-down situation may want to consider doing the same.
Since it only works when the sun is shining there are some inconveniences. These inconveniences become negligible compared to having no electricity at all. While the sun is shining water tanks can be filled, washing machines operated, laptops and batteries recharged, shop tools can drill, cut, and sand, electric chainsaws can make firewood, sewing machines and kitchen appliances can work, and the electric mower can be used to maintain that firebreak around the house and trim the garden paths. As a huge service to neighbors, you can also recharge everything from their car batteries to their laptops.
I can also conserve cooking propane by cooking using my George Foreman grill, hot plates, waffle iron, rice cooker, slow cooker, and an Instant Pot among others.
During my summertime preps test the SPS couldn’t quite keep up with the freezer requirements due to its inability to provide nighttime electricity. During the winter months it should have no problem keeping up since the freezer is in my unheated shop.
My DOM To-Do List
1. Buy or make a transfer switch for generator/solar panels.
2. Make and post a diagram to hard wire SPS to breaker panel.
3. Check auctions for 1,200-watt hot plates.
4. Finish simplified off-grid electricity preps.
5. Buy lithium batteries for a small battery bank.
6. Trial some 12-v blowers for the woodstove.
Very few if any of us will be as prepared for Day One as we’d hoped. This first inventory will be important to get a handle on what we have to work with over the next year.
1. Take inventory on Day One – Assign a person to take this responsibility and make weekly updates. This is especially important with food reserves. They’ll probably get used up more quickly than we’re anticipating. We’ll also need to get a realistic grasp on how much we can share with others without jeopardizing our own survival.
2. Inventory sheets – Keep the initial ones in the DOM box and a computer file to print more.
3. Items on list – These lists should be as complete as possible with room at the end for miscellaneous forgotten items which can be added before printing a new batch of lists. The lists should include every imaginable commodity such as food, ammo, fuels, batteries, etc.
My DOM Action List
1. Check water level in 500-gallon water tank.
2. Top tank off with generator.
3. Activate 12-volt backup plumbing system using the instructions on the wall.
4. If winter, check backup well-house and plumbing heating systems.
This DOM plan will easily get me through Day One and Week One. After my preps test I now top off the water tank when it reaches 80% instead of letting it get almost empty first. With my generator out of commission during that test it could have been a serious situation had my water tank been clear down to 10% at the start.
On average a person can only last three days without water so this is the single most important thing to prep for. Do we have a long-term water source figured into our preps?
My DOM To-Do List
1. Buy a 120-v well pump
2. Buy a 12-48-volt well pump with option to run off battery or directly off solar panel.
3. Investigate pumping capacity of current 240-v pump if converted to 120-v
4. Install both pumps in the well one above the other, spring/summer 2024.
5. To conserve propane, research alternate ways to heat well house: sand battery, small outdoor rocket stove furnace, trombe wall, etc.
6. Add a second float switch to water tank to turn a light on once the 80% level is breached.
Generator Usage for Plumbing Systems
Many with their own water wells feel snug as a bug when it comes to supplying their post-SHTF water. Some of them should probably be worried instead. Understanding how home well systems work can help to resolve issues ahead of time to ensure our water supply will continue without a hiccup to supply all the water we want. In order to do so requires a water-storage tank, preferably a minimum of 500 gallons, which must be installed in a frost-free location such as a well house.
Aside from pipes and faucets, a home well-water system has two components: a well pump and a pressure tank. A 30-gallon tank containing an air bladder maintains water pressure in the plumbing system. Every time 7 gallons of water is used in the home, the well pump turns back on to re-pressurize the system. This irregular on/off cycle all day long is why it’s impractical to use a generator to power our water system. The generator can’t be started up every time 7 gallons of water is needed. At best, the pump could be turned on long enough to fill the bathtub or barrel and then water used from there. Not a very pragmatic solution to supply water.
The only practical way I know of to resolve this problem is to add a water-storage tank to the system. With it, a home-plumbing system can function as it always has without a noticeable difference after the SHTF.
My system uses a 500-gallon water tank. When the water level gets low, I manually turn on the well pump to refill the tank though I could automate this step. From the tank, each time 7 gallons of water is used in the home, a small pressure pump turns on instead of the well pump. The pressure pump can be as small as an RV 12-volt water pump and can be run off a 12-volt battery. The well-pump only needs to be turned every few days or so to fill the 500-gallon water tank, or once or twice a month during the winter. The end result is, with a 500-gallon water tank I won’t notice the slightest difference in my plumbing system after the SHTF. No hauling water from the creek, no filling the bathtub, no rationing water.
I’ll refer the reader to my article An Emergency Household Water Supply to see one way such a system can be set up. For those concerned about the possibility of a long-term grid-down event, the cost of this system vs. the benefit makes it more than worth installing. Aside from food and electricity I believe the thing we’ll miss most after the SHTF is our plumbing system not working as it used to, giving us as much water as we need whenever we need it. For those with their own well, it’s easily attainable.
Most preppers will have sanitation higher on their priority list than I do. These include:
1. Those with limited water after post-SHTF municipal water systems quit functioning
2. Those with their own well but no water-storage tank.
3. Those without a backup toilet system such as an outhouse or composing toilet.
Sanitation is 13th on my priority list because my composting toilet and gray-water system will continue to function as usual.
My DOM Action List
1. Instruct housemates on the composting toilet routines.
My DOM To-Do List
1. Cut out another Loveable Loo but don’t assemble it until necessary.
There’s more to building an outhouse than putting a small building over a hole in the ground. Do some research to found out the best process. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t look nice inside so the best advice I can offer is to do what a family member of mine did: use paneling or sheetrock and paint on the inside and clear Lexan or polycarbonate greenhouse panels for the roof (available at Home Depot). Nice-looking walls and a skylight do wonders to make an outhouse less dreary inside.
14. Garbage Management
My DOM Action List
1. Garbage disposal continues status quo with a few tweaks.
2. Everything possible must be saved for future repurposing: cans, jars, plastic containers, etc.
3. No more limbs in burn pile.
My DOM To-Do List
The amount of trash during TEOTWAWKI will be greatly minimized. The majority of the items I toss in my burn pile today will no longer be burned. I currently burn branches from pruning and storm damage but after the SHTF every bit of these can be used as kindling, bundled together for burning in the woodstove, rocket stove water heating and cooking, and even the tiniest twigs for the bee smoker.
Repurposing – Every time I throw away a heavy-duty container like a peanut butter jar, orange juice jug, #10 can, 15-oz vegetable can, jars and bottles, etc, I think to myself, “Wow, what the ancients would have given for this piece of garbage.” Those containers which we have in our food stores will all be saved when empty for a future repurposed use of some kind. Anything that has any possible use, whether or not we can think of it right away, should be stored.
15. Copies of this DOM for Select Friends and Neighbors
My DOM Action List
1. Give DOM copy to certain friends
2. Reproduce this article (“Hey, look what I found on the internet a few weeks ago.”) for acquaintances and ne’er-do-wells
3. Decide when the time comes which to give to who.
This topic is tricky at best and I still haven’t come to any good conclusions. I’ll have to prepare for every possibility I can think of and then implement which one appears to be the best option when the time comes. There’s obviously no way to test this prep, hence the difficulty.
What to do about friends and neighbors to get them to conserve their resources after they realize the S has hit the F and life will never be the same? The main reason for wanting them to understand the basic principles in this article is so they will avoid getting stuck in normalcy bias and imprudently wasting what few resources they have, then come begging for mine.
Some questions to consider: If we let them know we’ve been closet preppers are they going to swamp us with requests that will be unsustainable when the math is figured in, thus jeopardizing our own survival? How to deal with those renegades up the road? How much of my DOM do I share with the neighbor who has pastures of cattle and who could be a good barter/joint defense buddy when the grid is down? Since he and his wife are upstanding characters, it’s an easy decision to share these principles I’ve been thinking about for so long.
For the majority who aren’t prepared and have little to offer in return, especially the ones I don’t trust, possibly the best procedure would be to just give them a concise copy with the pertinent points of this SB article. It will look like something I found on the internet at the last moment. If I give them my own DOM they’ll think I’m a prepper with tons of tuna and toilet paper and then what?
Entire articles could be written on this topic so I’ll cut it short and say this is one more important topic we should be thinking about and prepping for if we think there’s a chance TEOTWAWKI may someday be a reality.
This uber-important prep subject will be moved much farther up the list once I’ve made some progress.
My DOM Action List
My DOM To-Do List
1. Fill in blanks 1-3 above, then 4-25 after that.
I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few years thinking about a defense plan for the homestead. I haven’t gotten far. The biggest hurdle is the indefensibility of my homestead without a larger group of people and how to even begin to assemble such a group.
If we end up in a long-term grid-down TEOTWAWKI situation through whatever means, IMO the only realistically workable defense system is the kind described in Patriots. Desperate people do desperate things and if we can’t protect our preps, especially food, we’ll soon be pushing up daisies along with everyone else. Can there be any question that during a long-term grid-down event some will eventually resort to cannibalism in fairly short order as did the Donner Party, an Argentine rugby team, and the Israelites during the siege of Samaria as described in 2 Kings chapter 6. Will it be any different in our day? When people get to that stage, they’ll do whatever it takes to commandeer our supplies unless we have a fortification we can defend. I’d just as soon not end up on someone’s barbecue spit if I can avoid it.
The first roving hordes will be our friends, neighbors, and those reprobates down the road who only have two week’s worth of food on hand at any given moment. How are we going to deal with each of these? It’ll be the trolley-car problem on steroids.
Enough said. I’m still working on a plan of defense but it’s time to get more serious about it. The SurvivalBlog archive stick is a good place to start with hundreds of articles and comments on defense as well as dozens of military manuals in the Bonus Materials section.
17. Nuclear Preparedness
This is another topic I’m not even remotely prepared for which I need to be researching. Anon-6’s SurvivalBlog article “A Nuclear Attack Quick Actions Checklist” (Part 1, Part 2) is a good primer. This is another area where special preps need to be purchased ahead of time. This scenario would require much more rapid action than will taping our freezer doors shut.
The most important lesson learned from my 10-day preps test was the need of some sort of an instruction booklet on how to proceed on Day One of TEOTWAWKI. I had the preps, I knew how to use them, but knowing the priorities and how exactly to apply those preps in the first critical hours after the grid was shut off hadn’t been adequately considered. Mistakes were made, resources wasted, and I spent way too much time trying to problem-solve instead of acting to fulfill a well-thought-out plan of action made ahead of time.
By preparing my Day One manual, I was not only able to come up with a plan to accomplish what will need to be done on that day, but I also came up with more priorities to think about and plan for. My manual also contains to-do lists which I have been chipping away at over the past year. The manual has caused me to focus more on how I can apply new things I learn from daily reading SurvivalBlog and which ones should be added to my DOM.
It’s been a fun work in progress. I can’t emphasize enough how important I think it is for those who are preparing for the possibility of a TEOTWAWKI event to begin working on their own manual. With world events shaping up for a very rocky 2024, the sooner we start, the better.