The things that you need to survive and thrive in an emergency fall into broad categories:

  1. Records: Documents, photographs, and other needed items. I include a moderate amount of cash on hand ($300 or so) in this category.
  2. First Aid: Medications, drugs, bandages, disinfectants, etc. Nothing elaborate. Simple is better here.
  3. Heat and cooking: You can live on cold canned goods and MREs, but they are simply not tolerable for more than a day or two. Hot meals are best.
  4. Light: Flashlights, lanterns, fire, batteries for them, chemlights, and other ways of creating light.
  5. Tools: People are tool users. Screwdrivers, knife, hammer, hatchet, etc.
  6. Communications: There are many ways to communicate. Cell phones, radios, flags, spray paint, chalk or grease pencil markings left on buildings, signs stapled to telephone poles, etc.
  7. Food and water: Obvious. From half liter bottles of water to reverse osmosis, MREs to farming, we need to consider short and long term food and water needs.
  8. Shelter: Tents, homes, hotels, tarps, even your vehicle. Any way to get out  of the weather.
  9. Security: Weapons, cameras, sensors, rotating watches.
  10. Energy: Solar, fire, electric, generators, etc. Anything that helps us power our equipment or our selves that is not cooking or heating related.

My latest endeavor is to secure a source of backup power for the new house. I originally was looking at a standby generator. The problem is fueling it for more than a couple of days adds to the logistical complexity of preparedness. The cost of installing such a generator (including buried propane tanks) is in the neighborhood of $10,000-15,000. Then you have to fuel it, and you only benefit from it when the grid is ,down.

Then I looked into solar. An 8kw solar setup with a Tesla wall to get you through the night or cloudy days will generate about 1200 kilowatt hours a month. The system will cost about $20,000 after taking the Federal tax credit into account. There is no fuel needed, and when times are good, you sell power to the electric company which zeroes out your electric bid, thus subsidizing the cost.

So I think that solar is the way we are going to go for our backup power needs.

Categories: Electric and Power


Elrod · March 25, 2024 at 6:54 am

I’d suggest considering a dual approach – the solar solution is mucho dinero – but it’s a one-time hit. If you have the space, adding water heating to the array is a winner in Florida. Does benefit from a MUCH larger water heater tank, which create space issues.

The 2nd leg is a small generator – mine is an ultra quiet 3K watt Honda. Uses gasoline, so fuel storage is an issue, but it got me through the 2004 hurricanes on about 2.2 gallons/day (fans and fridge daytime, fridge and window AC at night, 3 hours on, 4 off daytime, 6 on 0000 to 0600); I had 25 gallons of non-ethanol in cans, and the truck had a pair of 22 gallon tanks (I kept the rear tank full of non-ethanol). There will be times when solar doesn’t quite cut it for keeping the batteries full and a “recharge boost” will come in handy. Joel uses his 2K Honda that way, and for power tools because he’s waaaay off grid.

StBernardnot · March 25, 2024 at 7:00 am

Hooking your solar to the grid leaves you with no backup. You need to hook it to a battery bank.

    StBernardnot · March 25, 2024 at 7:06 am

    Tesla will only last about 24 hrs. If that seems like enough for your needs then ok.

    Divemedic · March 26, 2024 at 9:26 am

    That’s what the Tesla powerwall is for. 13.5 KWH for each one. The cost is high, but there is a reason why they are considered the best.

      StBernardnot · March 26, 2024 at 4:40 pm

      I thought you were going with 8kwh. 13.5 x 2? That ought to do it! lol

        Divemedic · March 27, 2024 at 7:21 am

        8kw of solar panels is what I am looking at.
        13.5 kwh of batteries.

It's just Boris · March 25, 2024 at 7:10 am

Keep in mind, both the battery and the solar cells have limited lifetime and will need replacement at some point in order to keep energy storage and production at acceptable levels. And the cells will need periodic cleaning. It may still be worth it for you; but solar is not the limitless, maintenance free source of energy it’s often routed as.

    Divemedic · March 26, 2024 at 9:26 am

    The guarantee is a 10% loss of output within 25 years. This system will outlast me.

Lori · March 25, 2024 at 7:13 am

Check the regulations about solar. I read a while back that you had to be connected to the grid in CA to sell power to the electric co., but when the grid when down so did you solar. Don’t know if this is true in your state or not. We have a great solar system, but we are not in California. We have solar with a manual disconnect from the grid, so that we can disconnect any time we want.

    Divemedic · March 26, 2024 at 9:27 am

    I heard the same thing. It turns out that isn’t the case, at least here.

    Max Wiley · March 28, 2024 at 8:31 am

    It often depends on the equipment that is installed. Most residential grid tie systems use an inverter that is only designed to do exactly that, produce when it detects the grid. They are required by electrical code to shut down when the grid power is no longer detected. Having a disconnect is also required by code, and has nothing to do with operating the system as a stand alone.
    A solar system that can operate on its own uses something more akin to a transfer switch (like a standby generator) and a battery bank.
    Before anyone asks, you can’t operate a solar system in conjunction with a generator to provide the input current. It will burn up the generator. (Unless the system has a dedicated generator input.)

It Is Written · March 25, 2024 at 9:20 am

Pineland bud has a Generac and a fenced in LNG tank to power it and it has its own enclosure behind the house.
Forest behind outbuilding is watched by trail cams.
Outbuildings and house have alarm.
Lot next to his is a horse ranch with some beautiful animals who will eat carrots out of your hand.
I’ve convinced him to plant food crops even though the soil in the back yard isn’t very fertile, we’ll try a different spot.
And soon an extra set of eyes for overnight watch of property.

    Scott Norris · March 27, 2024 at 11:07 pm

    Pile the pretty horses manure in a pile and compost it for a year and add it to your garden spot. Way too hot in Nitrogen to use fresh.

Feral Underclass · March 25, 2024 at 9:32 am

My situation is different from yours. I’m in the US about as far north as you can get without being Canadian. When we built the house and moved here three years ago I went all in on security and alternate power. We have an LP powered 22kv Generac generator. The LP tank is 1,000 gallons and feeds the generator, house and workshop. I fill it about twice a year. You’re right on with the cost of the generator system. It came in at just a few dollars under $10,000.00.

I built a cabin on the same property about ten years ago and it’s completely off grid. I learned enough from that to know solar is not the answer here. There’s just not enough sun throughout the year to be practical. It’s ok for a long weekend but even with an outsized solar system it just doesn’t have the legs for long term consistent use.

I even thought about a wind generator but after running the numbers that didn’t make sense either.

The Generac paid for itself last winter when we got 2 feet of wet, heavy snow that took down trees and powerlines. The power was out for 56 hours in the dead of winter. It got so I was driving around checking on neighbors. One guy was heating his house with a small wood burner in his basement that he hadn’t fired in over 20 years. He had no generator. He wouldn’t accept any help but made it through anyway and didn’t burn his house down.

The Generac ran steady for those 56 hours and used about 5% out of the 1,000 gallon LP tank. Once the weather warmed up I did oil change and tune-up service on the Generac. I’m ok with basic stuff like that but if it came to an electronics problem or serious mechanical issue I’d probably have to call someone.

I think the weak link in all this is the fuel but if LP deliveries stop I’ll be screwed in more ways than just out of power along with everyone else.

So the LP powered Generac works for me but YMMV.

Rob n AZ · March 25, 2024 at 11:26 am

Transportation, I think having a functional bicycle available is a good idea.

D · March 25, 2024 at 11:46 am

Relating to number 7…about 5 years ago I bought a Freeze Dryer.
It changed my prepping life completely.

Whereas something like “Mountain Home” meals cost ~$13 for two portions, you can easily make your own meals of around 50 portions for the same cost.

The biggest three benefits from it are the longevity (properly vacuum sealed packs can last up to 30 years), the weight (no water in the food means significantly reduced weight), and the quality/content of the food.

MRE-style pouches are run through a pressure canner in the same way you use normal canning jars. It’s called Retort Canning. Canned food apparently loses a significant amount of nutrients during the process where Freeze Drying doesn’t.

A few days ago I popped open a 5 year old bag of Corned Beef and Cabbage soup, added hot water to it, and it tasted like I just pulled it off the stove.

Due to the package sized and lack of water weight, it’s trivial to carry several weeks worth of meals in my pack. I even toss them in the back of my car for when I’m on long trips to client sites. If I get hungry, I can just pop ’em open and eat them dry (with a watter bottle nearby), drump the water bottle in and eat them cold, or find some place with hot water and have a warm meal.

If you add something like a Kelly Kettle to your kit, you can easily find/boil water in my neck of the woods.

In a lot of cases we freeze dry complete meals so you can just warm ’em up. In other cases we’ll freeze dry raw ingredients–like eggs from our farm. You can open a pack and pull out a measured amount for cooking (just add a little extra water) or toss them in a pan with water to cook up some scrambled eggs. We also freeze dry our local beef. We cook it, drain it, rinse the hell out of it (fat doesn’t freeze dry and can go rancid if there’s a lot of it), then add seasonings (salt, pepper, taco seasoning or whatever) and then freeze dry it.

One of the fun ones is buying the gallon jugs of tobasco chipotle. That stuff freeze dries. We pack the powder into small pouches so it’s available to add to any meal you want.

Freeze Drying has been a game-changer for my family. Over the past ~5 years or so, we’ve managed to fill most of a 20-foot cargo container with freeze dried meals and ingredients. Because they last so long, when the kids turn 18 (or 30) and start moving out, we’re going to send them with tons of emergency food.

D · March 25, 2024 at 12:16 pm

Oh, and I forgot to mention the solar stuff.

I’ve been playing with it for about a year now. My cliff notes are:

If you have a company do it, you are going to pay through the nose verses doing some of it yourself. I’m not comfortable with construction and wasn’t willing to potentially screw up my roof, but I’m fortunate to have plenty of land. I called a company out to put in a “ground mount” for panels. After that was in, I purchased panels myself and wired them up, trenched from the mount over to the side of my house, and bought my inverters and batteries. I wired everything up except for the grid connection, then I called an electrician out to finish it and handle all the permitting crap. I spent around $20k where a professional solar company was going to charge around $60k.

We are pretty heavy power users (lots of servers in my office, and the kids have lots of electronics). We average ~100 kWh per day. While I can’t afford all the panels and batteries I would need to be completely self sufficient, I do occasionally buy another battery or another pack of panels for the rack. My power bill is slowly dropping, and I’m able to run for longer and longer in the evening.

I’m a huge fan of the 48v batteries, and I found a few inverters where I can tap directly to the battery bus and down-convert to a reliable 12v bus for my radio gear.

Use an inverter that can take HVDC in. The higher the amperage, the larger the wires have to be…so find a system where you can parallel a bunch of low-amperage high-voltage panels together to give you something like 12A 500V into your inverters. Saves a ton on wiring costs.

Check if your local utility has a metering agreement. Some places will pay you to send power back to them. Mine doesn’t. They basically keep track of how many kWh you use and how much you send back. If you send more than you use, they “bank it”. On March 1st of every year, whatever you’ve banked gets given to the utility for free…but you still have to pay a ~$30/mo connect charge. But if you use more than you send back, you’re gonna be billed for it. So there really isn’t any winning with most PUDs. In my case, I decided to not send them any free power. Once the inverter estimates I’ve sent as much as I’ve used, it stops sending them free power.

Automation is useful. Open source tools like Home Assistant can be coupled with a lot of inverters (maybe through Solar Assistant) to automatically turn off heavy loads when you’re running on battery, the sun is down, and/or grid power is unavailable.

The northern states suck for power generation because it’s frequently cloudy/rainy/snowy for 8 months out of the year. Buying more panels than you need will help, and extra batteries will help you ride it out until the next sunny day. Florida is probably spectacular for solar.

If you want a generator for backup power, do not skimp out and get a cheap generator (like a portable Champion). While they’re decent, most inverters can’t deal with the fluctuations from cheap generators. You need a whole house generator wired into the inverters. Cheap generators also typically don’t support 2-wire start so they need to be manually fired up when you need them. If you go with a cheap generator, investigate the “EG4 Chargeverter”. It handles dirty power and pumps it directly into the batteries bypassing the inverters.

Be weary about the tax credits the companies are offering. You’re probably more qualified to talk about it than I am, but before I put solar in, I was getting taxed out the ass. Nothing changed after installing solar. I just owe slightly less in taxes and utility bills. The solar companies try to make it out like your monthly cost will only be $x after factoring in credits…but in reality you will pay the full amount every month and they are assuming you will take a big tax check from the government and plow it into your loan every year.

If you’re slightly OCD, you will potentially waste hours staring at graphs and watching the system work. It’s pretty cool to generate your own power.

Most inverters need to be connected to “the cloud” in order to view anything from your cell phone…since most inverters come from China, this also means China can control your inverter remotely and adjust settings remotely…not just you.

In my area, the ROI is about 15-20 years if you DIY it. It’s more like 30 years if a company installs it. …but…power bills always increase. I paid ~$400/mo for power before putting in solar, now I’m paying ~$300/mo. If everything stays the same except for utility rates, in 20 years I will probably be paying ~$500/mo for power making the savings stand out even more.

    Divemedic · March 26, 2024 at 9:29 am

    The Federal Income tax credit is a non-refundable 30% credit.

      D · March 26, 2024 at 10:56 am

      > The Federal Income tax credit is a non-refundable 30% credit.

      That’s greek to me.

      Years ago, I hired an accountant and said “Taxation is theft. Every time I hear about it, it makes my blood pressure shoot through the roof. All I want from you it to save me from paying as much in taxes as legally possible, and the only thing I want to hear from you is exactly how much money I need to toss into the ‘tax account’ every month to meet whatever stupid obligations I need to meet.”

      It’s been nearly 10 years, and I rarely hear from him except a monthly email that says “Toss $10k into the tax account this month”, and the yearly “Drop by and sign paperwork”. And importantly, I’ve never been audited and I’ve never had the occasion to think “why is my accountant spending so much time vacationing in foreign countries without extradition treaties”…so he’s worth his weight in gold to me.

        Divemedic · March 26, 2024 at 11:08 am

        So you are telling me that you make more than a quarter million a year, but don’t know what a nonrefundable tax credit is?

          D · March 26, 2024 at 12:03 pm

          Some years yes (2020-2022 were drastic reductions due to COVID), and no I have no idea about nonrefundable tax credits.

          I can’t tell you how much I despise our tax system and want nothing to do with it. It’s just not my thing. I spend ~12-15 hours per day glued to my computer solving problems for clients. I don’t need to spend even more of my day dealing with government bureaucracy. If I’m conscious, I’d rather be improving the lives of my clients.

SoCoRuss · March 25, 2024 at 12:35 pm

Like your list and agree with it mostly. But I disagree with the $ amount of cash to stash. Its pretty clear the grid will be hit during the coming shit show. Shutting down comms is a big force multiplier. The only issue is who does it our own .gov or one of the millions of invaders. My own personal decision is to add a zero on that and in my case I upped it to higher 4 digits. Cash will be king at the beginning when the systems go down and before store managers figure out they are sitting on both a target and a gold mine and money might be worthless if its a long term thing. When things go down and a store run is done immeadiately, even if the walmart manager or maverick conv store guys are resistannt, you thrown in a couple hundred to them in their pocket and you walk out with carts full and since most folks have no ready cash at all, they remember you as a guy that can pay.
As for backup, I have a gas genny but I’m debating adding to that now also. Thought about built in solar but if you have to leave its non portable or can be damaged by storms or someone trying to steal panels plus its hard to hide from prying eyes and can draw the wrong folks to you. Been leaning more towards the portable solar gennys like Bluetti or Eco flow. They use sections that can be added or removed based on needs, can be smaller where you can take them camping or as large as you need for a whole house. They can recharge off the grid when you have power or use portable solar panels to recharge when power is down. Seems like a good deal to me, yea you don’t get the solar tax credits and power company’s penny’s on the dollar pittance for your power into their grid though.

    Divemedic · March 26, 2024 at 9:29 am

    My thought is that, should the entire grid go down, other things will be more valuable than cash. PMs, weapons, liquor, and the like will be useful items for barter.

Sorry · March 25, 2024 at 12:59 pm

Don’t solar cells drop in efficiency over time? And same for lithium batteries?

    Divemedic · March 26, 2024 at 9:30 am

    10% loss in 25 years.

ModernDayJeremiah · March 25, 2024 at 2:04 pm

A good list to start with. Thanks for posting this, DM.

Fishlaw · March 25, 2024 at 5:18 pm

One crucial item is missing from your list: prescription meds. Of course, you are referring to a temporary disturbance in the force. I am thinking of how to get along once the system collapses permanently. My first ‘one stop shop’ would be a pharmacy for my rx meds. Second stop will be a battery store. Unfortunately, your wall of solar cells will be an inviting target for those who did not plan.

Carrie · March 25, 2024 at 6:54 pm

Excellent list and good food for thought.
I’m sure all of us (since we are reading this blog!) have some smattering of a few of these things in each category.

But as we all know : “there’s always more to do.”

Thanks for the great reminder.

Only thing I might add to this list is sanitation. And that depends on where one lives.

    Divemedic · March 26, 2024 at 9:31 am

    There are TMs on sanitation located on the “Training Materials” link at the top of the page.

Jonathan · March 25, 2024 at 7:48 pm

You can get a larger solar system for less if you give up the Tesla name.
If you want it for backup, make sure you specify that or make it off grid only – most on grid systems have no off grid usability.
You should start with off grid calculators to decide what you need to power and for how long to find what size system you need. Running only essentials will reduce the system you need.

One option is to install a transfer switch and then you have the option of a generator or a solar system in a box or on a trailer.

Anonymous · March 25, 2024 at 8:54 pm

Almost got sucked into the solar power route. Here in Idaho it doesn’t get connected to your house, only the grid. Also, the utility company pays you way less than what you pay for power. Payoff is about break even with system lifespan. If you want it to power your house you’ll have to do it yourself and add a breaker system that separates it from the utility company, and, I would guess, you then wouldn’t be able to claim the federal monies. Too many deal breakers for me. Your mileage may vary.

dragonslayer · March 25, 2024 at 9:04 pm

I almost got sucked into the solar power route. Found out it only gets connected to the grid, not my home. So, if the power is out, I get nothing from the solar panels. Also, the utility company only pays you a small fraction of what they charge for power. And the lifespan of the system was about equal to the payoff time if you went with payments. I would assume if you wanted to power your house you’d have to do the system yourself and add a breaker to separate it from the utility lines. You also probably wouldn’t get the federal subsidies, either. I can’t afford my own standalone system so that created far too many deal breakers for me. Your mileage may vary.

    Divemedic · March 26, 2024 at 9:33 am

    My utility does a 1:1 credit until your production is equal to your usage. (They won’t ever owe you money). I am paying cash to avoid the interest on the loan. This means an 8 year return on investment. If you finance, that pushes it out to almost 11 years.

C · March 25, 2024 at 9:38 pm

I’m assuming you have a plan to make the solar work during a power outage? IIRC solar setups tied to the grid are installed with an automatic shut off in case of lines going down and requiring repair.

    Divemedic · March 26, 2024 at 9:34 am

    No. I thought that was the case as well, but it isn’t.

Anon24 · March 25, 2024 at 9:48 pm

Our local utility just changed their payout one January with no warning. Went from retail pay for solar to wholesale pay, so watch out.

    Divemedic · March 26, 2024 at 9:35 am

    The law in Florida says that, should this change, previous holders would be grandfathered. The only thing that could supersede this would be one of those stupid state Constitution amendments that get put on the ballot every few years.
    The power companies have tried that a few times, but it has failed each time.

Bridge Go Brrr · March 26, 2024 at 11:11 am

O/T-Saw something in a comments section that is just too absurd.
Munilla Construction Management who built the diversity bridge that collapsed in FLA during the Year Zero reign of the Chicago jesus messiah has scored another contract to build a bridge.
Maybe the mean girl bosses of FIU can be out there working like the stronk wymyns that they are.
I want the ocean horn off the Dali ship for some good honkamania in this steaming fourth world turd.

Anonymous · March 26, 2024 at 11:33 am

> should the entire grid go down

Then the liberal cities will starve, then burn. Suburban and inner-city liberals will perish along with their votes. Then rurals can turn the power back on. The “new dark age” idea is horror fiction, it’s not a realistic prediction.

    Will · March 27, 2024 at 8:17 pm

    “The “new dark age” idea is horror fiction, it’s not a realistic prediction.” Says who?

    The engineers are fairly sure that there are two ways for it to go.
    1) Nukes in the high atmosphere, ie: EMP They expect some grid damage, but are unsure how widespread, and whether standalone systems like vehicles, phones, etc will be effected.

    2) Carrington Event, ie: Solar Flare
    The only “grid” in existence was various Telegraph systems. There was so much energy hitting earth that they were able to operate for several days with no batteries connected. I think some personnel died by electrocution.

    A major problem is that one of the effects expected is the destruction of most/all of the transformers that are in the grid. This is a problem because most of them are custom built, and almost all of them are made outside the US. Typical order delivery time frames are over a year, and very few are sitting around waiting for a purchase order.

    The good thing about a flare is that it can be seen ahead of it hitting, so there should be time to shut down the grid and disconnect the sensitive components until after it hits and dissipates. Not a feasible idea for EMP’s, as the time frame is too short. No idea if any plans are in place to accomplish this, but there damn well better be!

      Jonathan · March 28, 2024 at 1:39 pm

      There is a third way that we’ve gotten close to a couple times recently – too many generators drop off the grid too quickly (or their connections do) and the rest of the grid goes down under the strain.
      I think this is more likely in an unrest scenario – a lack of fuel and parts could shut down some generators, riot damage could take down power lines or substations, and quickly a chunk, if not all, of one of the 3 US grids goes down (East, West, and Texas).

      Oh, and going off grid? not legal in some states – last I read, several years ago, Florida law required a power company connection of a certain minimum size to run lights, fan, fridge, and 1 window AC.

Max Wiley · March 28, 2024 at 8:38 am

So much bad information out there about residential solar power. I don’t even know where to start.
I am an electrical industry professional and off grid systems are the prime focus of one of the companies I am involved with. I also deal with residential grid tie systems daily.
You want to see some reasonably priced equipment for doing solar power, check out EG4 stuff at (That is not a company I am financially connected to except as a happy customer.)
DM you can see my email, you want any free third party consult hit me up.

A Lineman · March 29, 2024 at 7:01 pm

You must have found the Holy Grail of solar panels. The utility I work for calculates a 2% loss of productivity per year and a 25 year lifespan of the panels at which time they will be scrapped and replaced. Their hope is that by the time they replace them the technology will have improved to the point that solar actually becomes an asset, for now the green credits and Uncle Sugar subsidies are the only thing making solar a viable investment.

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