Author: Finan Adamson

Last Updated: 03/2022



This doc goes into details on how to maintain electricity if it’s important to your survival and flourishing even when the power goes out. It may not be necessary to do anything here if you don’t depend on electricity to live. If the electricity is out for many weeks or months, you’ll likely go elsewhere so you don’t need to prepare on that scale. You may also want to do some minimal amount of preparation so you can charge your cell phone. 


If you need to have electricity when the grid is down your options seem to be generators and/or batteries. What setup you want will vary depending on your needs. 

  • Generators:
    • Need to be run outside.
    • Noisy
    • Can consistently get power as long as you have fuel.
    • Must be able to acquire or store fuel.
  • Batteries:
    • Can be run inside.
    • Quiet
    • When you run out you’re done unless you have a way of charging. 

You may want both so you can charge your batteries off the generator, but this can get expensive so you may want to skip this unless you really need it for medical reasons. 

Providing Power during an Outage

I just want to charge my phone for a day or two

  • If all you want is a way to charge your phone. Getting a little external charger would fit your needs. It would cost $20-$50. You could charge it and store it with your other emergency gear.Then you just hook up your phone via USB charger.  
  • If you want to go a little harder on this so you can keep recharging things every day. You could get a portable solar panel. Wirecutter has solar panel recommendations. These would mostly be for charging things like phones, not laptops. 

I want to charge a few things, but not my whole house

  • You’re going to want a power station. Basically a big battery that you can recharge when you have electricity. Wirecutter’s recommendations that cost between $500 and $1,400
    • In determining how much battery you want. You can figure out the watt hours(Wh) of the things you want to charge. 
      • A watt hour (Wh) is the watts per hour a battery can produce. So a battery with a capacity of 300 Wh could charge a 60 Watt (the amount a typical laptop charger would pull) for 5 hours. 
  • For most purposes a large battery probably meets your needs, but maybe it’s essential for you to have power, so you want to store gasoline and be able to charge your batteries from the generator. 
    • If you need to do this. You should read through the wirecutter article on portable generators. They go through many options, but generally you can get a 2,000 Watt Generator for about $1,000. 
    • Figure out the wattage of all the things you need to run to see how many watts you want your generator to be. According to the wirecutter article a 2,000 watt generator can run a few small appliances or a full size fridge in a pinch. 
    • Remember, generators are loud and have to be run outside. So you’ll need extension cords to run anything in your house if you just have a generator without battery storage. 

I want to provide power to my whole house

  • No don’t.
  • OK, if you’re willing to spend many thousands of dollars retrofitting your house to run in the apocalypse, you could . . . 
    • Get house sized solar panels and install batteries.
      • A Tesla Powerwall costs about $6,700
      • Installation of solar panels (including the cost of the solar panels) is about $30,000
    • Find a generator that fits your needs and consult a professional.

Example Solution

Finan has sleep apnea and needs to use a CPAP to function well.

  • Finan bought a battery and solar panel so he can charge the battery with the sun each day if he doesn’t have power. 
  • The battery lasts about 1.5 nights with my CPAP as long as the humidifier is turned off. The battery can be charged during the day, but it may not reach full charge depending on how much sun there is. Finan is ok with the slight unreliability because he won’t literally die from missing a night or two on the CPAP. 

How to store gasoline

If you are running generators you will need gasoline. In preparation for emergencies you’ll probably want to store at least a little bit at home in case gas stations get shut down. 

  • The good people of wiki how have instructions for the proper storage of gasoline.
  • Highlights:
    • Store your gasoline in a container meant for storing gasoline.
    • Store your gasoline away from heat sources and out of sunlight.
    • Don’t store your gasoline in your house. 
    • Store your gas in a well ventilated space.
    • Don’t store your gasoline next to appliances. Sparks could ignite the gas.
    • Don’t store more than 25 gallons in one place. 
    • Consider getting a fire cabinet to store your gas in.
  • If stored properly. Your gas can last for up to one year. Old gas will not work well and may damage your generator. Old gas smells sourer and looks darker than fresh gas. 


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6 comments, sorted by Click to highlight new comments since: Today at 12:50 PM

I grew up in Pakistan. We had more days with blackouts than without, and there were often multiple per day. Everything in this post checks out (except we had a diesel generator, not gasoline, which is easier to improvise fuel for). Incidentally, Pakistan has been in a Cold War-ish situation with India for over twenty years, so we had lots of flour in the basement, and we had on-site water tanks (as opposed to tap water).

A few comments on generators:

  • Occasionally emptying a gas can into your car and refilling it can be a good idea, to avoid the gas going bad.
  • If you don't have a car, lugging gas around is a pain.
  • Don't assume you can just siphon gas out of your car. Anti-siphon baffles are a thing.
  • Do check that your generator starts and runs every once in a while.
  • Don't leave gas in your generator long-term.
  • Don't assume a 1500W generator can run a 1500W load.
    • Anything with an electric motor can draw a substantially higher current while the motor is starting, for instance.

For most people, an off-the-shelf battery solution may be the best bet. Pre-made battery systems lessen the risk of making a mathematical or didn't-read-the-manual error that introduces hazards to you or the system.

However, in a community of mathematically inclined nerds willing to follow rules that make sense, many readers may prefer to build their own battery setup.

For introductory reading in deciding whether it's a project for you, I highly recommend the Overkill Solar ("more is better") BMS instruction manual: PDF link. For those with disposable income and moderate tinkering skills, going fully off-grid and becoming electrically self-sufficient can be surprisingly attainable.

For ways to replace electrical needs with non-electrical systems that offer comparable quality of life, Low Tech Magazine is a good read.

I have a little experience with this. I'm a type 1 diabetic and insulin needs to be kept refrigerated or it denatures and doesn't work.

  • I've just gotten a bunch of EcoFlow products for this. They work well together, but are maybe not the cheapest. Many are out of stock at the moment, anyway.

  • My 400W portable solar panel appears to actually generate around 140W in bright sunlight when pointed in roughly the right direction. This is a substantial amount for powering phones and probably even laptops! Not so much for refrigerators, air conditioners, electric water heaters, or other electric heating or cooling appliances, though.

  • A car plus an inverter can be used as a generator in a pinch. It probably isn't very efficient, but if you just need a little electricity, it can work. (Also, typically cars have heat and cooling so they could be an emergency conditioned space, but DO NOT use it this way inside a garage; carbon monoxide can kill you very quickly.)

  • I would highly recommend metal cans for storing gasoline. The typical plastic ones are junk.

  • For longer storage you might want gasoline without ethanol. Ethanol is especially volatile and will evaporate.

  • Based on my research, Sta-bil might extend the life of gasoline by a meaningful amount.

  • If you have and regularly use a car, it's probably best to just put the gas from one of your cans in the car after you've used enough to have room for it, and then re-fill the gas cans at a station, so you rotate through your gas stock.

Why didn't you include solar cells in the calculation?

I did talk about getting a solar panel to charge devices (containing multiple solar cells), but maybe you know more. Any suggestions on the cost and use of solar cells?