I read with interest the after action reports for Sandy and the ice storm in the South, and I wanted to let people know what I have learned after three natural disasters, two ice storms, and a microburst. They all came on with little notice. The ice storm in January wasn’t supposed to be much of anything until it covered the area with over two inches of ice. In some areas there was no power for 42 days after that one! The microburst came at 2am in July and knocked down every power pole on the main road for miles. Recovery took five days for that one. It wasn’t bad because it was in the summer, and we didn’t have to deal with heating. Then there was ICEMAS 2013, Christmas week. Four days there were temperatures down to -17°F.
If you are on municipal water, don’t trust it after the power goes down. Fill your jugs and bathtub from the treated water in the pipes. Then don’t use any without boiling or treating it because having no power means you have no treated water. If you are on a well, after the power goes out is not the time to think about storing water. If you have time to prepare, get that bath tub filled to the overflow line. Not having a flush toilet just because you didn’t store some flush water is just one more thing you wish you had.
If the disaster comes on suddenly, like a microburst, there is no time to prepare at that point. The preparation happens when you purchase a storage tank and keep it filled. This can be done easily with a “Temper Tank”. This is a 42-gallon, fiberglass pressure tank that is installed at the point just before the water enters a hot water heater or an on-demand, instant type heater. The tank’s job is to even out the differences between summer and winter water intake temperature. If you are on municipal water when the power goes down, close off the valve to this “Temper Tank” to prevent contaminated water from entering. Then, the water is always fresh because you have been drawing hot water every day, thus, refreshing the “Temper Tank”. All you have to do is open the drain valve on the bottom of the tank and draw off potable water as needed via gravity. Located at the top of a “Temper Tank” is an air admittance valve that allows air into the tank as you draw off water, so the tank doesn’t implode from vacuum.
If you don’t have a generator, you should have at least four gallons of frozen water stored in your freezer to keep your fridge cool for short power outages (up to a couple of days). Move two of the frozen 1-gallon jugs from the freezer to the fridge to draw out warmth. These can also be used as potable water after they have melted. If you do have a generator, only operate it four hours at a time to stretch your fuel reserve. Swap your gallon water jugs between the freezer and the fridge each cycle. If it’s cold enough outside, simply re-freeze the jugs outside overnight.
I decided to optimize my resources by utilizing only one fuel– kerosene– for heat, lights, hot water, and cooking. It can be stored in large quantities safely, and it will not deteriorate if kept in a sealed container and out of the sun. Heat is obvious with kerosene. Open a window 1″ in each room where there is an operating kerosene heater and you will not die! Really! The portable heaters are available everywhere. I use a mixture of modern portables (non-pinned wicks, 22,000btu) and antique Perfection brand heaters (11,000 btu). I like the Perfections because they heat up faster than the modern units and shut down with way less smell. Additionally, you can fill the founts away from the heater, and the heaters are easily carried about. However, you must clean them between every tank of fuel. Don’t worry; it only takes about two minutes. Wick replacement can be accomplished without any tools, and you don’t have to spend an hour without heat. Wick replacement should only take five minutes. For more information: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/KeroseneHeaterandStoveCollector & http://heatburner.websitetoolbox.com/ See Miles Stair for replacement wicks.
Military Thermo-Electric Kettle Fans keep ALL the heat from these heaters on the floor. They pop up as new surplus all over the Internet from time to time, but be aware they are pricy yet essential for not heating the ceiling (unless you live on the ceiling).
For everyday on-grid use, I use a Toyotomi Direct Vent kerosene fueled heater as my primary heat source. My water is heated by a Toyotomi kerosene-fueled water heater. Why these? Both can easily operate on a generator or, for a day, on a battery inverter/charger/switcher setup. (I used Dual Optima 8050-160 D31T batteries and a Surefire Heater Sentry 600w inverter/charger/switcher.)
For emergency cooking, few people use kerosene. It seems everybody turns to the Coleman portable propane or white gas, twin-burner camping stoves, but you can’t use them inside. I prefer to stay indoors to cook when it is -17°F!
A hundred years ago if you didn’t have access to gas, kerosene stoves were the preferred stove. Sure people can and do heat things up on a kerosene heater, but a kerosene stove produces a more concentrated heat with a blue, gas-like flame. There are several modern Korean multi-wick kerosene stoves available, Alpaca being the most recognized. These are tiny portable single-burner stoves. They can be purchased and ganged together in a stand for multiple burners. There is also a single-wick, #2688 Sockwick stove by Butterfly. It is a modern version of the Kerosun portable stove.
I prefer the vintage single-wick Perfection kerosene stoves in either the stand-a-lone cooktops or portable stoves, which can be purchased with one to five burners. The top of the line stoves have a built-in oven. I personally use an antique (1950’s) Perfection dual-burner portable kerosene stove. New reproductions are available from Schwartz Manufacturing, 1261 W 200 S, Berne, IN 46711-9779. You have to write them because it is an Amish concern. These stoves are also available through Shetler’s Wholesale, (260) 368-9069, fax: 260.368.9902 P.O.Box 8, 630 High St. Geneva, IN 46740. The single-burner portable stove is the 600MFG-Q model, and the double-burner portable stove is the 620-WQ model. New selected stand-a-lone models show up from time to time at Lehman’s https://www.lehmans.com. While kerosene stoves do produce a flame-like gas, you will heat things slower because the pot or pan must sit atop the tall chimney of the kerosene burner to produce the correct burn without smoke. Unlike the Alpaca’s, Sockwick’s, or the Kerosun models, you heat with an intense column of heat rather than a flame. By the way, the food doesn’t taste like kerosene either, if you were wondering.
There are also portable ovens that set on top of the kerosene burners. Perfection was the most famous cook-top oven. Boss made them as well as Griswold. Modern reproductions of the Perfections are still available from the above stove links and Lehman’s . I have found the portable stove-top ovens bake superior to a modern oven because of the flow of heat. There are no hot or cold spots. Don’t be fooled by the knock-down camping ovens. They’re not in the same league as a true Perfection or Schwartz reproduction. Kerosene stoves can also be used for emergency heating and will produce heat for over half a day on a single gallon of kerosene. Antiques are available on Ebay and generally cheaper than new, if you don’t mind rebuilding them. The fuel for these stoves (and lamps/lanterns) is water clear kerosene ONLY. Do NOT use pink stuff because it clogs up the wicks. In a pinch a SAD heater can also be used for cooking with kerosene only; do NOT use Kleen Heat for cooking. The best emergency lighting, off generator, is accomplished with Propane-powered wall lights by Humphrey. You get 50-60 watts of light per mantle with 2000 Btu of heat. One pound of propane delivers 11 hrs of light. If you use gas for cooking, it is easy to tee into the gas line and place a gas light above your cooktop. Make sure you have extra mantles on hand!
For portable light, I use kerosene with both wall-mounted and table models, burning Kleen Strip’s Kleen Heat. You can turn the wick higher without smoke and obtain more light with the Kleen Heat, plus there is almost no smell. It is basically Low Odor Mineral Spirits with the flash point raised to the kerosene level of 140°F. In kerosene carry lanterns, I prefer the Dietz #90 D-Lite style. They output less light than the tall style Hurricane lanterns, but for walking with a lantern as your only light, the #90 D-Lite puts more light on the ground and runs for a really long time between fillings. You can get them from W. T. Kirkman. Either antiques or modern reproduction lamps or lanterns work fine. For maximum light with flat wick kerosene lamps, not lanterns, I recommend replacing the 7/8″ (antique) or 1″ (modern) wick of a #2 Queen Anne or Eagle burner with a #3 Queen Anne Burner that utilizes a 1-1/2″ wick for more light. It will retrofit the #2 oil lamp collars to #3’s with dual size threads. This jumps the output of a single burner from 12 CP to 20 CP. They are available from http://www.Oillampparts.com . Duplex burners, if American and using 1-1/2″ wicks, can output up to 45 CP. A Rayo center-draft lamp can output 80 CP but only if you have a borosilicate glass chimney (e.g. Pyrex) and ONLY when using Kleen Heat or Low Odor Mineral Spirits (not kerosene) in center draft lamps. See Miles Stair for the premium chimneys . He also has high quality OEM-style replacement wicks, not the poor quality ones found at the local hardware store.
Why kerosene? During a storm power outage, it may be impossible to get your propane tanks refilled or if you have a large tank, getting a home delivery. Kerosene can not only be stored safely for years but with five gallon cans you can obtain it yourself. I prefer to store my kerosene in recycled plastic drums. If you hunt around, these can be found intact with bungs. Get drums with a minimum capacity of 30 gallons, preferably 55 gallons, and in blue color to keep the light out. Then, purchase 5-10 gallons of kerosene every pay period. You will fill that 55-gallon drum in just a few months. Speaking of kerosene cans, the California mandated CARB gurgle cans are a POS! Please spend the $ and obtain real high-flow cans. My recommendation is the military “Jerry” cans. Usually things were made better years ago. However, with military “Jerry” cans, unless you already have the metal ones, look at the Scepter plastic 20 liter/5 gallon plastic cans. The first time you pour out 5 gallons of kerosene, you will wonder how you ever got along without them! Ebay is the place to acquire used Scepter cans. You can legally own the Canadian versions but not the ones marked as U.S. military. Note: Scepter is a Canadian company, so they all come from Canada anyway! Look here for Scepter accessories: http://www.jagmte.com/index.php?route=common/home. These are two websites with instructions for making a DIY high-flow pour spout: http://www.tacomaworld.com/forum/off-roading-trails/224756-scepter-jerry-can-alternate-spout.html and http://www.expeditionportal.com/forum/threads/56733-2-quot-to-1-quot-PVC-fitting-for-Scepter-Military-Fuel-Container-Spout.
I am fussy about my kerosene. You can use K1 from “locked” pumps. However, if you can find it, Canadian #1 Stove Oil is the best due to its 15ppm sulfur content. I then add .5 oz of Kero-Kleen Scented Kerosene Treatment per five gallons of kerosene. I like vanilla. I use the Kleen Heat Kerosene Substitute in all my lanterns and lamps.
One tip for finding food after a disaster, stay away from the grocery stores. They are most likely all picked over anyway. Hit the convenience stores for fast food and drug stores for canned goods. Most of the drug stores are just convenience/grocery stores that happen to sell drugs. Also, always take a flashlight with you. Most times the store personnel will let you in unescorted, if you have your own flashlight. Also, always have cash! Have lots of it and in small denominations because without power or banks, change will be hard to come by. Have another way to charge your cell phone besides plugging into the wall, too. Either a car charger, USB, or solar work okay. I notice that the crank units don’t seem to work all that well.