Alternatives to Electricity

Most disasters threaten our city’s electrical system. Since many of the devices and appliances we use run on electricity, there’s no doubt that a significant power outage can wreak havoc on our daily lives.

Being able to produce our own electricity, or becoming prepared to live without it altogether, is very important in our ability to adapt and make the most of our circumstances.

In this section, we’ll discuss four of the main dependencies we have when it comes to our source of power and how to maximize our resources to meet our needs.

These dependencies include:

  • Staying cool in hot weather
  • Staying warm in cold weather
  • Methods of lighting our homes and charging electronic devices
  • Methods of cooking

Safety tips to consider!

In each of these sections, you’ll read about the use of generators, candles, and other alternatives. Be mindful of the risks involved in using any of the suggestions provided.

  1. Be wise and knowledgeable. It is imperative that you have the understanding and capability to use certain appliances, for example generators and space heaters.

  2. Proper ventilation is necessary. Some of the alternatives we mention require proper ventilation to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning and the depletion of oxygen. It would be wise to install carbon monoxide detectors. Be sure to follow the instructions on where to install them.

  3. Always keep your eyes on open flames. Whether you’ve lit a candle or have the fireplace going, make sure someone is always attending to it.

  4. Do not leave functioning appliances unattended, such as generators. 

  5. If you’re using a generator, be sure that you know how to properly connect it to your house and appliances.

Cooling Methods

Tips for staying physically cool

  • Rethink your wardrobe. Use loose-fitting clothing that is in the light-colored tones. Breathable fabrics are the best for hot weather, such as linen and cotton.

  • Drink lots of water. If you’re dehydrated, your body won’t be able to produce enough sweat, which is your body’s natural way of cooling itself down. Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic drinks since those dehydrate you.

  • Eat cold fruits and vegetables with a high-water content. Some options include watermelon, strawberries, and cucumbers. Do not eat spicy foods, since those cause the body to heat up.

  • Use wet bandanas. Soak bandanas (or towels) in cold water and place them over your wrists, ankles, and the back of your neck. If you’re able to freeze the bandanas, that’s even better! You can use ice cubes if you don’t have extra bandanas. 

  • Use battery-powered fans. Fans come in several sizes, including small travel ones. If anything, a fan helps to circulate the air around you as well as helps to dry off some of your sweat. Inevitably, it’ll feel like you’re cooling down. Be sure you have a method of re-charging those batteries!

  • Hang out downstairs. If you have a two story home, hang out in the lower level. Heat rises so the upper story will be the first to get hot and stuffy.

  • Do not exercise during peak-heat hours. Workout during the cooler times of the day, or go to an air conditioned gym. Avoid doing strenuous activities, especially outdoors.

  • Take a cold shower. Or go for a swim, if you can!

  • Sleep with cooling sheets. Cooling sheets are made from cotton, linen, silk, bamboo, microfiber, and lyocell. Their thread count should range from 250 to 300 (ideally) but should not exceed 500. Don’t have cooling sheets? Make your own by soaking a sheet with water, wringing it out, and covering yourself with it.

  • Cool down with aloe vera. Aloe vera is a succulent with cooling properties. Mix 100% pure aloe vera gel with a few drops of peppermint or spearmint essential oil for a super amazing cooling sensation. Do not use this around your eyes or mouth.

  • Camp outside. If your room gets unbearably hot, the next best alternative would be to sleep under the moon. Perhaps you’ll even catch glimpse of a few shooting stars!
  • Make a misting spray. In a spray bottle, mix two cups of cold water with 20 drops of either peppermint or spearmint essential oil. If you don’t have essential oil, you can use mint tea instead (after it has cooled down). The menthol in mint has properties that provide you with an instant refreshing relief.

  • Pay attention to vulnerable people in your home. Kids, elderly people, and pets are especially vulnerable to heat stroke, so be sure they remain safe. If pets refuse to drink water, use a plastic syringe to manually hydrate them.

Tips for keeping your house cool

  • Get heat-blocking or blackout curtains. Keep the curtains shut during the sunny hours of the day. If you only have blinds, keep them (as well as the windows) closed during the day and open them at night. During the night, hang a damp bedsheet over an open window to let in a cool breeze.

  • Get thermal-pane windows. This could be a worthwhile investment for homeowners. Thermal-pane windows are energy efficient because they reduce the amount of heat coming in from the exterior, while maintaining the internal temperature of your home.

  • Install awnings over your windows. These are effective at reducing some of the heat. 

  • Get cooling plants, both for the inside and outside of your home. In the inside, you can get aloe vera, snake plant, and Boston fern. In the outside you can plant deciduous trees, ferns, and add mulch around your plants.

  • Do not use the oven or stove top. Any open flame will naturally warm up the environment, so cook outdoors— barbecue, anyone!?

  • Paint your house. If you’re looking to spruce up the exterior of your home with a fresh splash of color, consider painting it light colors. Light colors reflect the sun, whereas dark colors absorb it.

  • Install solar panels. This solution is expensive up-front, but in the long run it will save you a lot of money (plus, some states offer rebates on solar panel installations). You can run your air conditioning system off of your solar power.

Heating Methods

Tips for staying warm

  • Bundle up. Wearing the right layers can be lifesaving when you’re trying to stay warm. Materials that keep you the warmest include wool, flannel, and fleece. Wear a beanie, wool socks, or wool-lined slippers. And while you’re over there getting cozy, remember your pets may need a sweater too!

  • Drink warm liquids, like teas and soups.

  • Use hand warmers. Hand warmers last several hours and can be used inside your gloves, in your boots, or around your body. They’re pretty effective in keeping you warm, at least temporarily. Buy hand warmers in bulk to get a better deal!

  • Upgrade your sheets and blankets. During the cold winter months, use fleece bedsheets and wool, flannel, or fleece blankets. An emergency blanket can help too!

  • Build your own Japanese Kotatsu. A Japanese Kotatsu is a short table that has a heat source located below it. A blanket is attached around the perimeter of the table, long enough that it touches the ground. Essentially, you would light the heat source and cover yourself with the blanket. This method will centralize the heat to the area inside the blanket, thereby keeping you super warm even if your house is freezing.

  • Cuddle. Pets are generally very warm and great to cuddle with. Humans too!

  • Exercise. Working out is not only good for you but it helps your blood circulate, which in turn warms you up quickly. Double the benefit!

Tips for heating your home

  • Make sure your home is properly insulated. If it’s not, you’ll be wasting a lot of money trying to maintain the temperature inside. Check the weather stripping around your windows and doors, the insulation in the attic, and the floor insulation. Thermal-pane windows are an expensive investment but they’re amazing for keeping the warmth inside during the winter. Seal and insulate the heating vents, and close the vents to the rooms that are not in use.

  • Use a wood fireplace. This is by far one of my favorite methods of staying warm during the winter. When it’s not in use, however, keep the damper closed.

  • Produce your own electricity. Although some options require a larger financial investment than others, these are all viable options: solar panels, solar generators, small portable generators, large residential generators, and wind energy. Some generators require fuel as well as the knowledge of how to operate them.

  • Kerosene space heaters. These heaters are popularly used in Japan as the main source for heating homes. As the name suggests, this device uses kerosene instead of electricity. Always keep your home properly ventilated when in use.

  • Gas catalytic heater. These heaters create chemical reactions that produce heat. Proper installation and operation is required. Keep these away from combustibles. 

  • Use the sun to your favor. Open the curtains during the day to let the warm sun in, and close them before the sun sets so the cold stays out. Another way to keep the cold air out is by installing air draft stoppers on exterior doors.

  • Cover your windows with painter’s plastic sheeting. I’ll be the first to admit that your house might look a little tacky with plastic-lined windows but we’re talking life-saving heating tips here, not interior design. Plastic helps to retain the temperature indoors.

  • Use rugs as decorative insulators. Now, if you’re looking for a little decor with a lot of purpose, look no further than a fluffy rug or carpet. These are much better at retaining heat than tile and wooden floors.

  • Heat small rooms only. Resort to using less rooms in your house and only heating the ones that are absolutely necessary.

  • Heat the rooms in the upper level. If you have a two-story home, spend more time in the rooms upstairs. Heat rises, so attempting to heat the rooms on the lower levels might be more difficult and expensive.

  • Build a Terra cotta pot heater. Although this is not the most effective method of heating a home, it works alright for small rooms. Learn how to make your own here!

  • Get more houseplants. Houseplants, as well as a humidifier, increase the humidity in your house which makes the environment feel a few degrees warmer. Large-leaf and rainforest plants are ideal for this, such as bamboo palm, rubber plant, Areca palm, spider plant, Boston fern, and peace lily.

    Lighting & Charging Methods

    Lighting your home

    • Produce your own electricity. Generators and solar panels can power up some or all of your home lights, depending on what you purchase.

    • Solar indoor lights and outdoor lanterns. There are numerous light options that come with a mini solar panel. You can charge them all day and use them at night.

    • Flashlights. For temporary loss of light, LED flashlights and headlamps will work great! Be sure to keep a backup of batteries.

    • Candles. Candles provide a surprising amount of light, especially in small rooms. Be sure to keep the room well ventilated and always keep an eye on the flame.

    • Gas lamps. Gas lamps burn natural or propane gas and are deemed safe for both indoor and outdoor use. Keep the area well ventilated while in use to prevent suffocation. Kerosene and oil lamps are other similar options.

    Charging batteries and electronic devices

    • Use your car. Go for a drive and plug your phone to the 12V socket. Driving around is important so that your car battery doesn’t get drained. Newer car models allow your device to be charged via a USB connection.

    • Use solar power. There are several options when it comes to using solar powered devices. One of my favorites is the portable power bank that can be used for hiking and camping. These will charge your devices quickly. Another option would be to install solar panels in your house, or to get a solar generator.

    • Get a generator. Generators come in various sizes and price ranges— some are portable with the capacity for small devices and appliances while others are large enough to power your entire house. These require the use of fuel, typically either gasoline or diesel. Generators should not be used indoors, nor in enclosed places!

    • YouTube ideas. Go to YouTube and type in the phrase, “Charge phone without electricity.” There, you will find several clever alternatives, requiring a strange assembly of things, such as charger cords, quarters, 9V batteries, pen springs, tape, potatoes, lemons…you name it! Keep some of those ideas in mind for future use.

    Cooking Methods

    • Eating raw. To clarify, I’m referring to raw fruits, veggies, and nuts. A fresh salad during a summer power outage is a nice alternative to a warm and heavy meal.

    • Gas stove. You’ll be able to use a gas stove if you have a way to light it. Electric stoves obviously won’t work.

    • Bobcat Cooking Stove. The Bobcat cooking stove is a portable aluminum stove that uses cans of ThermaFuel allowing you to cook indoors because it doesn’t release toxic fumes. This is a great backup to have in your home or to take as for camping trips and outdoor adventures. You can find it here.

    • Outdoor fire pit. During summer power outages, take advantage of preparing your food on the grill while enjoying a pleasant evening.

    • Grills with a side burner. When you’re looking into buying an outdoor grill, consider getting one with a side burner which is connected to a propane tank.

    • A fireplace. My family loves to barbecue but our winter conditions make it nearly impossible to cook outdoors. During winter months, we use our wood fireplace to grill or cook anything we want. It’s a double win: you get warm and eat delicious food at the same time! In a power outage, you can boil water in the fireplace too.

    • Coleman Stove and Propane. The Coleman stove is very common among outdoor enthusiasts. Follow the instructions on the appliance and take extra precautions if you’re using it indoors.

    • Solar grill. I recently heard about this cool gadget. It’s a pricey option but an interesting way to cook food with the sun. Some people use them for hiking or in place of an outdoor grill.

    • Disposable or Instant grill. This is a cool and cheap alternative to store with your bug out supplies. An instant grill will provide you with the ability to cook a warm meal if you don’t have any other way. There are biodegradable options available.

    • Jet or Rocket stoves. This is yet another awesome gadget to look into! These stoves provide you with a strong flame and the ability to boil water quickly. The difference is that jet stoves use fuel and rocket stoves use wood.

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