Hurricane Preparedness Experience- Part 3, by N.K.

Cooking was interesting. I had a propane gas grill with two spare 20-lb cylinders, a dual-fuel Coleman camp stove, a couple of single-burner butane units, and the ability to build a fire in the backyard. The gas grill got used, because it was easiest. It did take a couple of days to learn how to cook more than simple camping meals on it. We have an old style coffee percolator for camping, and getting the heat to it correctly on the grill took some learning. Cooking on the grill was something we should have practiced before we needed it. A tip: The standard size propane tank for grills holds 20 lbs of propane, which is about 4½ gallons. Many exchange tanks are filled only to 15 lbs; it’s faster and easier to swap out an empty tank for a filled one, but I’ve found … Continue reading

How to Use Old Cooking Oil: The Floating Wick

A few months ago, one of my consulting clients mentioned that she had over-stocked her supply of vegetable oil. She had also neglected to store it in her freezer, to extend its storage life. The result after four years was 10 quarts of corn oil and two quarts of olive oil that had gone rancid. She asked if there was anything she could do with the oil. (She bemoaned the fact that that olive oil was particularly expensive.) My reply: Buy some floating wicks, and burn up that oil as a source of light and heat, during power failures.

Floating wicks (also known as “water candles”) are particularly popular in Israel, as a replacement for more expensive traditional candles, for Chanukah celebrations and at weddings. These are simply short pieces of waxed wick that are passed through a thin disc of cork with an aluminum heat shield on one side. … Continue reading

Letter Re: Emergency Lighting

Good afternoon, Hugh,

Two recent experiences drive me to write– a recent overnight house guest and a link today on Instapundit about surviving disaster (

My house guest commented on the number of my night lights and the fact that I have a floor lamp powered by a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply), which is a “battery backup” typically used for computers.

First, the night lights are what I prefer to call “target identification lights”. They’re not used just in the bathrooms; they are positioned to ensure anyone moving through the house must either cast a shadow or be silhouetted. This is convenient for the residents (and guests), because it allows easy navigation as well as aiding in identifying potential threats without requiring hand-held lighting that will tell an intruder where you are. (Note: I keep a high-intensity light– a 500 lumen Surefire– on the nightstand just for that purpose as … Continue reading

Scot’s Product Review: Streamlight Weapons Lights

Bad things can happen in the dark, and one of the great comforts we have is being able to make light. Light allows us to perceive our surroundings and make our way without stumbling. One thing I am seldom without is a good compact flashlight in my pocket.

Over the last few years, weapon-mounted lights have become popular, especially in law enforcement circles. They are probably even more popular in Hollywood entertainment, and if you can stand the stuff, you will probably see at least one scene in almost any action TV show or movie with the hero searching about with a blinding light attached to his/her weapon.

On some levels, this gives me the creeps, since I’ve had Colonel Cooper’s Four Rules of Gun Safety burned into my brain. One of them tells me not to cover anything with the muzzle I am unwilling to destroy. The way … Continue reading

Letter Re: Alternate Lighting


I’d like to tell you about a product I recently bought at Costco the other day. I have no stake in the company. It’s from Sunforce; it’s a 80 LED solar motion light. It has 900 lumens output from 80 white LEDs. It has a separate solar panel that’s connected by a 15 foot cord to a battery pack in the light fixture. It has a motion detector and a three position switch: on, off, auto. I charged the batteries for three days, per the instructions for the initial charge. I put the switch in “on” position, and it ran for about three hours. The output was not bright enough in my opinion to use as a outdoor security light (its intended purpose), but it would be a perfect backup indoor light. I now have one mounted to an inside wall with the solar panel in sitting inside one … Continue reading

The Leader’s Recon: Planning the Homesteader’s Defensive Battle Space, by Tim R.

Today, I did a leader’s recon (reconnaissance) of my small homestead.  While I was in the infantry, I would plan my future ground defense by walking the terrain with my small unit infantry leaders.  Today, I did the same, minus the team leaders.  Twenty years in the infantry, and now several years retired, and now I look at how I am going to protect my family and defend my rural homestead.  I feel that the day may be coming soon.  President Obama stated that our nation’s deficit does not concern him.  This nation is on a mad printing spree, conjuring up money out of thin air to pay for our debts.  Any student of history knows that you cannot print your way to prosperity.  This will not end well.  Social upheaval is inevitable when you rapidly devalue your currency.  To prepare for this coming storm means analyzing and planning … Continue reading

Anderson Powerpoles: The Legos of DC Electronics, by Dan in Alaska

To say that I’m a neophyte in the electrical world, or as we say here in Alaska a “Cheechako”, is making a big understatement.  So, a couple years back my co-worker and friend got me into Amateur Radio, also affectedly known as Ham Radio.  I studied my ARRL Technician book and passed my test, but it just barely rattled what I had in my head 20 years ago from my only electronics class I had back in High School where we studied Ohm’s law, identified a resistor, and made a strobe light.  So, I’m on a big learning curve. 

I searched around and studied lots of reviews and settled on a nice hand held radio, a Yaesu VX-6R.  It works great for VHF and the 2M repeaters that I have in my town.  As with anything, you always strive for bigger and better!  … Continue reading

Letter Re: Low Voltage DC LED Strip Lights for Disaster House Lighting

Dear JWR:
This might have been thought of before, but I just stumbled into something called LED strip lights. Here is a sample.

They come in 15 meter rolls, are about 1/2 inch wide and have 300 individual LED lights. They can be cut into segments between every third light. They run off of 12 volts DC and are actually rather bright while using little electricity. If you purchased one of those little strips the reloading companies sell to mount inside the press so you can see what’s going on, it is probably this stuff. There are several versions. Some have 150 light and some have larger LEDs that put out more light. There are several colors available including multi-color ones for holiday lighting.

I’m seeing a lot of possibilities for emergency use. A strip with six LEDs on it will light most … Continue reading

Letter Re: Natural Gas Powered Generators in a Disaster–Their Compressors, and Yours

Thanks for the information you deliver every day. I have recently gone on Social Security Disability and have some money to further our preps. My wife and I will hunker down in place, that being said, we have done what we can to make this as easy as possible. We can heat our home without electricity, but still need a solution for limited electric needs in the event of power outage. We are looking at the Honda EU2000i portable generator with the multi-fuel upgrade. In our years here we have never lost our natural gas supply, but have often lost our electric power. We propose to hook the genny up to our house gas supply, ready to go into service when the lights go out. 15 amps of 110 AC plus the 12 DC power would be a great addition to our supplies. Given we have beans, band … Continue reading

Home Power Systems: Energy Efficiency and Conservation, by L.K.O.

(Note: This article is part of a series of feature articles about alternative / sustainable / renewable energy solutions for self-sufficiency. Previous related articles in SurvivalBlog that complement this one are “Home Inverter Comparison: Off Grid and Grid Tied” and Home Power Systems: Micro Hydro. Upcoming article topics in this Home Power Systems series will include: Photovoltaics, Batteries, Wind generators, Solar Water Distillers, Solar Ovens, and Solar Water Heating.)

Overview of Energy Efficiency and Conservation : The First Step in a viable Home Power System The most recent article in this series, Home Power Systems: Micro Hydro, in a way ‘jumped the gun’ a bit, since the foundation of a cost-effective, sustainable home energy system is an honest and accurate appraisal of both average and peak energy requirements. While often not as important in many micro-hydro systems – due to abundant year-round falling water … Continue reading

Letter Re: Not All Kerosene Lamps Are Created Equal

Mr. Rawles;
As a young researcher in the field of indoor and household air pollution, I felt compelled to respond briefly to the commentary on kerosene lamps in today’s “Odds ‘n Sods”. Additionally, having met two and worked with one of the authors of this paper, I feel that I may have a perspective on the article that is unique among your readers.

While it may be true that a natural disaster contributes more to atmospheric carbon levels than emissions from kerosene lamps in the United States, it may not be true when considering kerosene lamps in other countries — which I believe was the focus of the article.

Kerosene lamps and lanterns in developed countries are much more highly engineered than in third-world areas. I have personally worked with and tested Ugandan kerosene lamps, which are nothing like the hurricane-style lanterns here in the US. The Ugandan lamps, … Continue reading

Letter Re: Common Ground With Greens

James Wesley:

While the compact fluorescent bulbs are good at saving energy, even better are LED bulbs. I know they are expensive, but they are coming down in price and can be had at very reasonable prices on eBay. Not only that, but they “burn” cool to the touch and contain no mercury. A broken CF bulb practically warrants a HAZMAT crew! L’s last even longer than compact fluorescent bulbs and are made of plastic so there’s no worries about breakage. I’m building a solar power system for my home, and plan on switching to LEDs. – Dave, RN

Discovering What We Needed in an Actual Time of Need, by M.M.

There has been much talk on many survival/prepper blogs about when and if our electricity goes out. Lots of speculation by folks who have experienced short power outages. My husband and I have experienced numerous, long power outages. They are very common in the remote area where we live. As we are the last house on the power line, when the power goes out we are the last to get our power restored.

Our most recent long lasting power outage was in January, when our area experienced a rare ice storm. In 17 years of living in our present home, we have witnessed only three ice storms. One minor (three-day outage, minimal damage) and one pretty big  (10-day outage and some significant damage) to the major storm we had in January. The tri-county area was completely out of power and phone (land lines as well as some cell service) and … Continue reading

Three Letters Re: Battery-Powered House Interior Lighting

I enjoy your blog and support you in a small way with the 10 Cent Challenge.  After reading your response to the Battery-Powered House Interior Lighting letter, I want to add some information that I learned at a FAA seminar that I attended.  The FAA is now endorsing blue or green lighting in the cockpit of all aircraft (general aviation and commercial).  The green and/or blue takes less energy output for the eyes to see details.  Also, red lighting can be seen from further away than blue/green (red is used to designate towers and tall buildings at night, where blue is used for taxiway lights because it stands out less at a distance).  I would strongly advise the use of controlled blue or green lights for interior lighting and keep the bulbs/LEDs out of direct line of sight of windows.  – Carl

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Letter Re: Battery-Powered House Interior Lighting

James Wesley:
We have frequent power outages.  We bought a [deep cycle] marine battery from Bass Pro Shops that was intended use with a trolling motor.  We keep this battery continuously trickle-charged.   A small inverter from Radio Shack provides 120 VAC for three strings of white LED Christmas lights attached to the uppermost part of the most important wall.  A charged trolling motor battery will keep these efficient lights on for a very long time.  All we have to do is to plug the lights into the inverter socket. Very safe. – Anonymous

JWR Replies: It would be much more efficient to buy strings of DC LED Christmas lights. This is because going from DC to AC and back to DC is inefficient and adds an unnecessary layer of complexity. (You never know when an inverter will fail.) BTW, if you buy the LED strings in red and/or blue, … Continue reading