Turn off your power for a week… what would you learn?

So, you are sitting in your climate controlled home, with lights, refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, heaters, fans, TVs, computers, home theater systems, running water, sanitary systems and all the other things that go along with modern life. Now, go into your garage, or whatever room where your power panel resides and shut off the main switch. Now walk through your home, look around at all the electronic appliances and gadgets that are now nothing more than lumps of worthless metal and electronics. Now imagine how you would live if none of these things came back on? What if this was not just your home but your neighborhood? City? Country? World? Sounds drastic doesn’t it? Could you live, could you survive without all of these electronics being powered from the grid?

A little example that happened to me. True story, about 4 months before we went off-grid, we were still living in the city, it was August in north central Texas, so the heat and humidity meant you have an air conditioner and fans or you were more than miserable, it could be dangerous and even life threatening. It was a Friday, I was at work, I received a phone call from my hubby, our power had been cut off, we were late on the electric bill and they hadn’t received the payment that we had sent. When I got home that night, I found our home to be more lit up than it ever was normally, I expected to find a dark home with perhaps a flashlight to light my way. My hubby met me at the door, he was laughing like a crazy man, quite happy that we were going to be just fine in spite of the fact that our power had been shut off for the weekend during the hottest month of the year in Texas.

In the weeks and months before this, we had been buying up solar panels and the other things needed for our off-grid home in west Texas. What I came home to was a small window unit air conditioner in the bedroom, fans blowing, lights on, the refrigerator running, the air pump for the fish tank. We had 4 fully powered deep cycle batteries, a couple of inverters, we also had a generator and we did just fine over the weekend. Yes, we had to wait all weekend, until Monday afternoon before the power company came out to turn the power back on. I will never forget the look on the technician’s face when he arrived to find us refreshed, not suffering or complaining because of the heat and humidity. He questioned how we still had power (the air conditioner was running right there), he checked the power pole to make sure we hadn’t reconnected ourselves, then he asked us to turn off all the powered appliances and unplug from our power source before he would turn the power back on. That weekend, those 3 days let me know that we could survive just fine without grid power, it was quite eye opening, and empowering.

Fortunately it is possible to power most if not all of your electronics without grid power, it’s just a matter of using solar, wind or other such alternative power sources, but many of the people living in the USA today believe it cannot happen to them, those who already know the truth of what can happen are probably (hopefully) working toward becoming energy independent (on a personal scale, not talking about national stuff).

So back to the test, turn off your power and walk through your home, try living that way for a few days, you don’t even have to do it for a week, you will quickly realize what you need to get through losing power for periods of time. What is important? How about lights? That part is easy, as long as you have thought ahead of time, that means flashlights and batteries. LED lights are the most efficient. Candles and oil lanterns should be a last resort.

What time of the year it is will greatly influence what you need, if it’s summer, you will need fans, you might even be able to run a small window unit air conditioner like we did. If you live where it’s dry (not humid) then you can get by with a swamp cooler, they don’t usually require much in the way of electricity to run. If it’s winter, you will need a way to heat your home, electric heat is pretty much out of the question, anything that uses electricity to generate heat will pull more power than you are likely to have right then via solar & batteries. You can, in a pinch use electric blankets if you have enough of a battery bank that is powered up. If you are lucky you will have some other method of heat, like natural gas, propane or maybe even a wood stove. You might want to go ahead and stock up on some cold weather gear, like down or wool blankets & jackets, wool socks, quilted coveralls.

Another true story, the night we arrived at our off-grid home, it was 3:30 in the morning, Dec 22, 2007, it was blowing a gale and the temp was about 14 degrees F, we had no heat in our cabin yet, just a couple of low wattage lights. The wood burning stove we were going to use for heat was still on the trailer we had just hauled across Texas. Once we hiked up to the cabin and got inside, we put on our quilted coveralls, these kept us more than warm enough for that night and the following nights until we could get the wood stove installed.

If your power is only out for a few days or less, you shouldn’t have to worry too much about the food in your refrigerator and freezer. Any longer than that, and you will need to do something about it. An ice chest, with ice if you can get it will keep your foods in good shape for a while, especially if you can continue getting ice. You will need other sources of food, perhaps you thought ahead and have some dry goods and can goods, do you have a can opener that is not electric? How terrible would it be to have cans of food and you can’t get into them because you hadn’t thought to buy a 99 cent can opener? I carry a P-38, it’s a military issue can opener, it fits on my key ring, I use a tiny magnet (I scavenged it from a broken pair of ear buds) to keep the hook part of the P-38 from swinging open and snagging everything that it goes past, this little ingenious device has come in handy on more than one occasion when I needed to open a can and didn’t have a can opener available.

Look around, you need to decide now what is most important to you, for most of us that means shelter, heat (or cooling if it’s summer), light, water, food, these are the necessities, first work on getting the necessities taken care of, then you can start working on your wants. Do this, and you will be so far ahead of everyone else if and when something happens that interrupts your electricity.

If your power did go out for a few days, perhaps over a weekend or longer, would you be sitting in the dark wondering what you are going to do or will you be sitting in relative comfort, with lights, food, heat or air conditioning and the other necessities for living?

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8 Responses

  1. I have been without power at my house for four months because I just couldn’t afford the bill. I want to go completely off the grid but everything I see costs so much money and I am a very poor person. Yes I may have my own small business and a laptop but doesn’t mean i have money. Last year I only grossed $3,000+/- a hundred. I was about to close my doors this year until I met a guy who needed some work done but still yet not enough to pay the bills. I am looking for easy and low cost ways to power my home without ever giving another cent to the power company. So far I haven’t found any help on this site.

    1. Hi David,

      Sorry you have had so much trouble, or perhaps it’s not trouble, suppose it all depends on your point of view… anyhoo, I have lived on that much money (annually) and less for many years, we live 100% off-grid in a small house we built ourselves, didn’t need much money, of course everything is paid for, cheap property, cheap home, did everything ourselves very much on the cheap, started out small and stayed small. We are less small now, but still considered small by most standards. I don’t know how you could run an entire standard American home on solar without having to spend a lot of money. You could start out small though, a few solar panels on the roof, going to a small bank of deep cycle batteries, when I say small I mean one or two batteries to begin with and add to your system as you can. Put in enough to run a few lights, and a few other necessities, you have to decide what is necessary and what isn’t, no one else can do that but you. :)

      It costs money to get started, I was fortunate that I had a little savings, very little, but it was enough to get us started. I do wish you the best, hope you are able to get things going for yourself, please keep me updated, I’m interested :)


  2. We are learning to be more self-sustainable and working towards a more OTG lifestyle. Thank you for this post. We may try something like this soon, who knows. Even if w don’t, it’s great to at least ponder and know what you would do… and what to do without.

  3. I am living in Europe, The Netherlands, also known as Holland (Tullips, wooden shoes, windmills.

    It is my dream to get off the grid. I have seen the message from Adrian Rudge date November 11, 2012. He is off the grid. Adrian can you give information how you succeeded to live off the grid?

  4. treasure gift its desert deb. cant log to forum right now but wondered about the medical care issue posted there. would like to see a write up about what is available for off-grid low income households. i know certain counties have discounted care with qualification and states also provide income based policies but i can see where this could be a stumbling block for off-gridders. we arent known for high incomes, just wondering if anyone has info for a write up to contribute. could
    be very important if children are involved.

  5. great write up also a good test for potential newbies and all those want to goes. learn from this test. its excellant at evaluating what you personnally need to make your off-grid life function for you. i got up at 5 this am. temp dropped to the low 20s last night. had it warm and comfy when i went to bed but it was low 20s inside when i got up. that means do it over. i was tickled there were still orange glowing coals in the wood stove. what a time saver. coffee on and sun warming by 7:00. i dont do without anything that i need out here. it just gets provided in a different way. i dont like 5:00am but it seems to be dog kick off time and i do need them. all of you have a good trial run.

  6. hiya think this is a great write up, im off-grid myself and i know how easy a comfortable it is. its only ever as hard as you make it. i will be sharing this link as i think the idea off people turning off for a week would be a great eye opener.

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