Homeware stores report a 60% year on year increase in website searches like hot water bottle, candle and flashlight. These are baby steps. You don’t need to become an off-grid survivalist to learn a few of our tricks. This head torch (In the UK – https://amzn.to/3ATUbfG) for example – may look a tad eccentric, but its more convenient during a blackout than candles or a handheld flashlight – you are walking around in your own pool of light!
Batteries last a month of daily use, wich is fortunate since the UK National Grid warned lights could go out on “those deepest, darkest evenings in January and February” because of reduced gas imports from Europe. In the US, major cities are finding that extreme weather can easily disrupt their utility supply, randomly and with increasing regularity.
Both American and British grid-tied households are apprehensive about what to expect. The ideas and products in this list will help you take back control of your power bill, and save money from reduced energy consumption.
1. Work and comms
Top of the list for the WFA generation is a reliable internet connection and long battery life. If you have a laptop make sure its low-energy – (the latest HP https://amzn.to/3XLHhdN, or Apple 13” Macbook https://amzn.to/3ipApSS, both last over 13 hours of use). Mobile phones with a good battery life include the Android Asus https://amzn.to/3UgKO0I and this Apple https://amzn.to/3OP0SFy
You can connect the laptop via your mobile phone’s personal wifi hotspot. Alternatively, buy a data dongle that plugs into your laptop (and feeds off its battery) to connect it to the internet via the mobile phone network- best for international is the Huwai https://amzn.to/3Fd03mO – A mifi dongle does the same thing, plus allows several devices to wirelessly use the connection. Both these options require a data plan from a mobile phone provider.
2. Uninterruptible power supply
For your home broadband connection, Most most modern gas boilers need a permanent electricity supply, so if your power goes down then so does your central heating you need an uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which has a battery. A mid-range model can keep a typical 12V router seamlessly connected for a day, and a hot water pump in the evening. An APC UPS by Schneider Electric https://amzn.to/3EO6jQK for around £380 promises to keep a router and smartphone charger running for almost a day The more devices you plug in the shorter the UPS will last.
3. Battery pack
Either get yourself a big battery or a small one that fits in your purse or pocket – dont bother with the ones in between
Small portable battery packs charge your mobile phone, (like this one from Anker – https://amzn.to/3ucfDsB )when you are on the go, but are less handy in a blackout. Just make sure the power pack itself stays charged.
Big batteries like Bluetti and Jackery can set you back over £1000. But a fill charge will power your home office, lights and a central heating pump for a couple of days.
Any electrician can join the power supply at a switch on the wall – you plug in a battery when the mains power goes down, and you still have your hot water and central heating. As long as the water supply and the gas supply aren’t also affected.(see woodburner below)
Dont bother with the mid-sized batteries like the multiport powerbank Goal Zero 100 PD Powerbank (£199.99 https://amzn.to/3GWqFtD), which has four sockets promising up to seven charges for a smartphone, three for a tablet and one and a half for a laptop.
Further up the scale for independent power is the combined battery and solar panel. Costing £1500-£3000, gyou et a 20kg workhorse to carry round with you in the back of the car, and power your entire home in an emergency. Plus a 400W solar panel that can charge the battery in 4 hours of weak sunlight. You could also charge the battery at work, or a friend’s house. If you have two batteries – one charging and one in use at any time, then you have several days of energy in the can.
The EcoFlow range of portable power stations, such as the Delta https://amzn.to/3gQsXjh (over £1,000), is big enough to run a desktop computer through the dark hours. It can be charged using solar power, and claims to go from zero to 80 per cent charge in 50 minutes from a wall socket.
4. Woodburner Let’s get the elephant out of the room:– wood is good energy – meaning it doesn’t add to the long term warming of the planet. There are all sorts of ways wood can be misused – like turning it into pellets and sending it up the motorway to Drax power station – but you cannot argue with locally sourced, bone-dry firewood in a good woodburner. However a good woodburner is £2000, and it has to be installed by a professional — the cost of the labour and the flue is another £2000 because it has to not cause any fires and also not emit any fumes that will damage you or the environment. The best stoves are deceptively simple – their 200 year old design ensures fuel burns at the hottest possible temperature, with almost no chemical residue in the fumes.
If you can pick up an old Charnwood or similar for a few hundred then it is worth the effort, but for those on a budget – we follow the 80-20 rule – if you cut your CO2 by 80% at least 80% of the time you are doing way more than everyone else. Then you can get a £300 woodburner, which burns at a lower temperature and is less good for the environment – https://amzn.to/3VEbVnu
5. A Bicycle? How novel!
https://amzn.to/3XJE9yT –energy saving device that hugely increases your personal efficiency at a very low cost.
£100 a year with repairs etc. Petrol stations would not be working during a blackout.
6. Solar power and lights
Prices have shot up recently, but If all you want to do is charge a couple of phones and power some LED lights, then a £495.00 set of parts should be all you need, if you dont mind putting it together yourself.. Solar panel, battery, wiring, lights. https://amzn.to/3isRds8 for the Renogy panels and controller and batteries and wiring – lights extra
A head torch (flashlight)
If you’re a dog walker you may already own this essential, and inexpensive, piece of kit. But if the lights do go out, battery or even solar-powered head torches (such as the Fdit Solar Rechargeable Waterproof Head-Mounted Searchlight, ) for all the family are a good idea. You’ll be able to read as you while away the hours, and the kids will have no excuse for swerving their homework with a Black Diamond Kids Wiz Head Torch (£25, cotswoldoutdoor.com). Or buy second-hand head torches from eBay.
And we mean indestructible. What you’re looking for is a heavy duty, ultra-reliable model that won’t shatter if you drop it. There are hundreds on the market, but one sturdy choice is the Varta Indestructible F10 Pro LED Monochrome Torch (£26.21, northcentraloffice.co.uk). You might also think about a super-strong but lightweight Maglite to kept in your back pocket or bag (from about £15).
7. Kitchen essentials
Water – If the power goes off then the water sometimes shuts down as well.
Blackwall Rainsaver diverter kit- https://amzn.to/3Fcv5LB is just £10 to splice into your down pipe and then any kind of water butt will get you at least a 100 litres for when you need it most.
Low energy fridge – Sunfrost are the best – http://www.sunfrost.com/ – otherwise our reccomendation is to get a freezer and turn it off at night –
Camping stove – The Bright Spark BS100 is gas powered and a good back up to electric cookers
Useful to warm up dinner if your hob is electric — and for camping, come brighter days — is a gas cartridge portable stove such as the Bright Spark BS100 (£19.18, nisbets.co.uk). Stock up on spare canisters too.
Non-electric slow cooker
You need to bring food to the boil before placing it in a Wonderbag https://amzn.to/3idUefU
— so plan ahead — but this drawstring wraparound bag then retains the heat to slowly cook stews, casseroles, spag bol and other hearty favourites to perfection in about eight hours (£62.99, wonderbagworld.com).
Two ring hob – if you think about it most of your cooking takes place on two rings – its rare you use all 4 at the same time. The camping gaz is good for anything from a paella for 8, to coffee and a fry-up.
As the threat of blackouts increases, stocking up on these essentials will make light of any winter power cuts.
You can tour our off-grid show-home on the Youtube channel and learn lessons for your on-grid existence. From composting to woodburners to rainwater harvesting,