Keeping Up With The Preppers

Simple and easy to understand prepping ideas that just may save your life.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Security During A Grid Down Scenario

SECURITY DURING A GRID DOWN SCENARIO







Natural or other disasters can bring out the best in people, but unfortunately, they can also bring out the worst in people. As much as some don't want to admit it, this is something you must prepare for in the event of a long term disaster such as a grid down scenario.

Once the grocery store shelves are cleaned out within days and it's clear that they will not be restocked, people will become desperate and begin looking for food for themselves and their families elsewhere. While most people will simply be looking for food or supplies for their families, there will also be those individuals or groups that will prey on weaker people. That's just a fact of life. Remember to have a decoy supply of food.


Security Assessment 



Do a security assessment of your home and/or bug out location before such an event and gather the materials needed.  Simply look around your home, property, or bug out location and try to determine your weakest points of security.  Try to imagine you are the bad guy and determine where you would attack.  At our home, we have rolls of metal fencing and barbed wire along with "U" nails that we could put up around the house within a few hours.






Another issue to consider is the fact that no one can stay awake guarding their home 24 hours a day so it will be good to network with friends, family, and/or neighbors so that guard duty can run in shifts.

Booby traps or warning devices are easy to set up as well which will assist during the night time hours.

Here's an excellent article on warning devices booby traps by Richard Maida from Survivalist Daily.


http://www.survivalistdaily.com/booby-traps-can-help-you-survive-and-win/#sthash.86AvrYml.dpbs


Night vision rifle scopes or binoculars are also very useful for nighttime security. Night vision devices are relatively inexpensive these days. Look for night vision that uses batteries you can recharge as it may become difficult to find replacement batteries once things go bad.


Why did the lights go out?



The three main scenarios that are widely talked about that would cause the grid to go down are a massive computer hacking on the nation's power grid and, of course, the dreaded EMP (Electromagnetic Pulse).  Sniper attacks on the Large Power Transformers (LPTs).

The effects of these three scenarios differ in that a computer hacking attack would not necessarily destroy all unprotected electronics like an EMP would. Overloading the power grid could damage electronics that are plugged in at the time of the event and may even start localized fires.  Your car would still work unless you have an electric car that has to be plugged in, of course.

We'll go into these topics a little further in future postings.

Just briefly, one thing you can do to protect your communications and other electronics from an EMP attack would be to build what's called a Faraday Cage.  This can be a simple metal box that is lined with material that will not conduct electricity such a foam rubber. I have found metal military surplus containers on SportsmansGuide.com.


Have a plan!



Since it's most likely the average citizen would have little or no warning prior to such an event, each family or network should discuss possible scenarios based on everyone's normal daily routine.  Even during a massive hacking attack, you have to plan for the fact that traffic lights will not work which could bring traffic to a stand still. Alternate routes to your rally point should be researched.  It's also a good idea not to let your gas tank go below a half tank. I usually fill up well before I'm at half a tank.  Imagine such an event occurring only to find you only have a quarter tank of gas with no way to fill up. 

In the event of an EMP, everyone will most likely be walking. This presents many dangers, and it's best to have an emergency backpack with you at all times. What do you put in your emergency pack? Well, that's up to you. I know what's in mine. You might at least have a pair of comfortable shoes because you may be walking for quite a while.

I believe there will be a fairly narrow window before the predators realize that emergency services are overwhelmed and  they take advantage or the situation.  In an obvious long term event, I estimate there will be a week to three weeks before normal folks become desperate and dangerous. 


"The art of fighting without fighting," Bruce Lee, Enter The Dragon



The best case scenario is that you never have to physically engage marauders or looters. Use your imagination to become as invisible as possible by not drawing attention to yourself.

Communications will become important to gather information and intelligence. Obviously, you most likely won't have access to internet, cable TV, or maybe even TV using your old rabbit ears. I believe, at least for a while after a grid down scenario, there will still be communications over citizen's band (CB), Ham and shortwave, and possibly regular AM radios. I wouldn't actually transmit to anyone, but it would be good to have access to these radios to listen about what's going on in the world.  A good antenna for the CB and/or Ham radio would good to have for a greater range. Do your research and find the best antenna for your radios.

I've been impressed with the BaoFeng radio. You can use this to scan frequencies.




BaoFeng BF-F8HP (UV-5R 3rd Gen) 8-Watt Dual Band Two-Way Radio


Make your home a hard target



Having boards on hand for windows would be good to fortify your home and create another layer of security. Adding longer heavy duty screws to your door frame as well as "C" clamps would also make it tougher to gain entry to your home. Chicken wire along with "U" nails can also be used to fortify windows.  Nothing will prevent people from making entry into your home, but fortifying your doors and windows will slow them down and make them a huge stationary target while they are attempting to defeat your fortifications.

Materials for blacking out windows to keep anyone passing by from seeing lights on at night may keep you from being targeted as well.  Along the lines of light discipline is to try and only use small fires or Sterno to cook with ans keep in mind that smoke can be seen and smelled for a great distance.

Wireless security cameras and motion activated lights that run on rechargeable batteries will assist folks that don't have a great number of people in their groups for guard duty.











Thursday, January 19, 2017

Weapons, Silencers and, Use Of Force

WEAPONS, SILENCERS, AND USE OF FORCE


What good does it do to accumulate food, water, power systems, etc, if you could lose it all to a punk who is armed? Without proper training, having a firearm won't necessarily mean you're completely safe, but it is a start.




MP5 9mm With A Liberty Mystic Suppressor (Silencer) 


GUNS DON'T KILL PEOPLE,
STUPID PEOPLE WITH GUNS KILL PEOPLE!

Having served for eight years in the U.S. Army as well as a combined twenty-five years in law enforcement, I will start by saying that I am not a 100% expert in this area of discussion  However, I have been fortunate to have received advanced training by some of the best tactics and firearms instructors out there. Many of these courses are available in at least a watered down version of a good amount of that training. I do believe I can relay information that some of you may find helpful in defending yourself and your families.

Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground Laws


Most states have some sort of Castle Doctrine or Stand Your Ground laws currently on the books. Each states' laws differ so learn and know the laws in your state.  If you live in a state or county where the so called authorities value their criminals more than their citizens, too bad for you.  District Attorneys LOVE making examples out of good citizens that have the nerve to defend their homes and families.

The Castle Doctrine generally covers a person defending their lives, or the lives of a third party from imminent serious bodily injury or death.  Keep in mind in most of those states, you'd better be able to articulate WHY you felt the need to use deadly force.

Stand Your Ground laws pertain more to folks with a concealed carry license any where a threat may present itself.  Most Stand Your Ground laws also cover the defense of a third party from serious bodily injury or death.  Again, you'd better be able to articulate WHY you felt the absolute need to use deadly force.

Obviously, in a total break down of society, where law enforcement is extremely thin or non-existent, all bets would be off at that point.  You'd pretty much have to defend yourself and your family since there would be no 911 to call.


Force Continuum 






Depending on the size and scope of the event, it's always best to take a page from law enforcement training that is used all across the country. Most people are not trained to use force and therefore may not be prepared for such a situation. The following are some ways to handle a situation without resorting to deadly force.


Presence and Verbal Commands



Look like you know what you're doing! Most criminals look for easy targets so if you are able to control a situation by making would-be looters or criminals feel like it's in their best interest to simply move on, that's the best case scenario for all involved.  Loud and firm verbal commands beginning with, "Show me your hands!" or "Get off of my property!" may be enough to make people move along.  The potential looter's body language and general attitude will hopefully let you know if they will comply or attack.  Presence and verbal commands are usually more impressive with some sort of weapon visible if not pointed at the looter.


Empty Hand Control



Empty hand control for anyone with no training is VERY risky and should never be attempted while alone. If you are going to go "hands on" with a potential bad guy, you should always have someone armed to "cover" you while you make contact with the subject.

Soft Empty Hand Control - Soft empty hand control basically consists of take downs, "goose neck" holds, arm bars, etc.

Hard Empty Hand Control - Hard empty control consists of strikes and kicks without the use of weapons.


Impact weapons, Stun Guns/Tasers, or Chemical Agents (Pepper Spray)



Keep in mind that all of these Non-lethal weapons are very close range with the exception of the taser.  As with empty hand control, it is imperative that you have someone with lethal cover in the event things go wrong while attempting to subdue a subject. Impact weapons (clubs), stun guns, and/or pepper spray could be taken from the user and used against them.


It may not be a bad idea to have large zip-ties to take a subject into custody as a last resort.


Deadly Force - SAFETY, SAFETY, SAFETY!!!!!



If you are a beginner at handling firearms, please attend firearms safety classes. Bringing a gun into a home with no training or common sense can be worse than not having one at all. I really can not stress this enough.


What's The Best Weapon For Self Defense?



That is a question I can not answer. There is no one size fits all firearm for everyone. If you have never owned or shot a firearm, you should find one that you are comfortable operating. For instance, if you have never fired a firearm, it may not be the best idea to run out and purchase an AR-15 or a Desert Eagle .50 Caliber pistol.

Many gun ranges have multiple types of firearms that you can rent and test fire to see what is most comfortable for you.  In my opinion, the 9mm handgun is the best weapon for most beginners simply because of the low recoil or "kick."  The ammunition is relatively inexpensive and plentiful at this moment in time.

I would also recommend that beginners do not purchase a handgun that doesn't have a hammer on the rear of the gun. Why is that? Well, I have known veteran cops who have had accidental discharges with handguns without hammers such as Glocks or the Smith and Wesson M&P.  (Note: the M&P .40 caliber issued to me broke twice on me while at the range on two different occasions).

The reason for the accidental discharges were simply because when a Glock or similar weapon is charged (bullet in the chamber), they have a very light trigger pull. There are no safeties on most of these weapons so just a slight bit of pressure can make them go "Bang." Another user error issue was having his finger on the trigger in a high stress situation. Your trigger finger should always be along the bottom of the slide on the lower receiver frame of the weapon until you are ready to fire.




                          Sig P226 9mm with an AAC Ti-Rant Suppressor (Silencer)


Weapons such as a Sig P226 do have hammers and also has no safety, but with the hammer "de-cocked," or in down position, the first trigger pull is a lot tougher and a lot harder to have an accidental discharge. After the first round is fired, the remaining shots have a much lighter trigger pull similar to the Glock. Don't get me wrong, the Glocks are excellent firearms. They are very durable and reliable, I just favor the Sigs.


Simple Drills Anyone Can Do Anywhere



A few drills you can do anywhere include:

  • Rapid Reload Drills
  • Stoppage Drills
  • Barricade Drills
  • Shooting And Moving (Probably available on a private range)
  • Point Shooting drills

Rapid reload drills are simply what it sounds like. Assuming you have a standard 9mm with fifteen round magazines, load three to five rounds in your spare magazines and practice shooting while conducting multiple magazine changes. After a while, changing the magazines will become part of your muscle memory and you'll find yourself getting faster and faster.

Stoppage drills are simply simulating a malfunction while shooting. You can purchase "dummy rounds" which are a plastic rounds shaped like a real rounds. Load the dummy round somewhere in the middle of your magazine.  When you come to that round while shooting, obviously, it will not fire. So, what do you do? Slap and rack is a phrase to remember. Slap the bottom of the magazine to ensure the magazine is seated. Next, pull the slide back to eject the bad round. In the case of a failure to eject or feed or both, you may have to pull the slide back and and hold it back while tilting the gun to one side to allow gravity to assist the round or casing out of the chamber.

Barricade drills are good for practicing shooting from behind different types of cover. This may sound simple, but you never know what situation you may find your self in or what kind of cover you will have so practice both sides of you barricade, over the top, prone position, and kneeling.

Shooting and moving drills are good to practice while simply shooting or while practicing any of the above drills simultaneously once you are comfortable doing these drills while standing still.

Point Shooting is close range shooting, usually from the "low ready" to "high ready" positions.  The shooter does not utilize their sights during point shooting. This helps the avoidance of "tunnel vision" and allows the shooter to use their peripheral vision to acquire additional targets or threats.






Point shooting is good up to ten to twenty feet, depending on your level of skill, which is well within the distance of most shootouts.  Begin at about three to five  feet from your target and simply add additional distance as your skill and confidence increases.


Silencers Are Golden



If you haven't noticed, I really enjoy weapons with suppressors or silencers as they are commonly known..  For experienced shooters, other than a full auto machine gun, the firearm sound suppressor (silencer) is the most fun you can have firing a gun. I am fortunate to live in a state where suppressors are legal provided you obtain the federal tax stamp. Any shop that sells silencers will most likely complete the proper Class III FFL paperwork for you if you purchase one from their shop.

I'm not a huge expert on suppressors, but I do own a few with seven years of experience playing with them and I can share a few things I've learned over the years.

Firearm suppressors do not actually silence a gunshot, but they do suppress the sound of the gunshot drastically enough so you will not need hearing protection.   Think of a firearm suppressor much like the muffler on your car. Silencers do suppress almost 100 % of the muzzle flash from your weapon. Subsonic ammunition MUST be used with silencers or you will still hear the crack of the bullet breaking the sound barrier a few feet out of the barrel. For 9mm ammo, look for 147 grain ammo. Any smaller grain 9mm round (124 grain, 115 grain, ect) will generally not be subsonic. It's pretty easy to determine the speed of the ammo by researching it online. A good rule of thumb is ammo that is rated at 1050 feet per second or less. This goes for any caliber from .22 long rifle up to .45 caliber. The 300 Blackout Subsonic rifle round is probably the best rifle round as far as quietness while still maintaining knockdown power. I have fired AR-15 with standard .223 rounds. Sadly, it was still pretty loud and did require hearing protection.




Ruger .22 Long Rifle 22/45 Mark III with Custom 1/2 X 28 threaded barrel and NFA Investments Suppressor

If you decide to purchase a suppressor, you should also get a .22 suppressor. There are many .22 pistols and rifles on the market that come standard with a factory 1/2 X 28 threaded barrel. It would be in your best interest to buy a suppressor that is easy to break down for cleaning. The .22 long rifle round is a very dirty round meaning the gun powder doesn't burn as efficiently and leaves carbon inside the baffles of the suppressor. That along with the lead from the projectile itself can over time cause problems. It's recommended to clean the suppressor every 300 to 500 rounds.



HK (Umarex) MP5 A5 .22 Long Rifle with the same NFA Investments Suppressor

This little rifle comes with a fake suppressor, but you can easily remove the fake suppressor and attach a Walther P22 Pistol thread adapter and just attach your suppressor.  This rifle when suppressed is extremely quiet and good for up to approximately 100 yards.  Great for hunting small game.  This is a very well made and reliable weapon, but is difficult to break down for cleaning. The Ruger 10/22 rifle or the Savage bolt action .22 rifle are probably the most quiet rifles when suppressed.


Maximum Effective Range



When choosing your weapons, it's good to know how far they can reach out and touch someone.  An example would be the 9mm pistol which realistically is deadly out to 100 yards using high powered supersonic rounds.  Subsonic 9mm rounds would most like have less of a range with significant bullet drop at 100 yards.. The maximum effective range of a 12 gauge shotgun loaded with a slug or buckshot is good to maybe 50 yards. So, these weapons are excellent close range weapons for self defense.

Once you've learned about gun safety and have become proficient with firearms, you might think about getting an AR-15 or SKS or AK-47 7.62 mm type rifle.

I prefer the AR-15 just simply because that's the road I went down years ago. The AR-15 or M-4 fires a standard .223 caliber round and most will accept NATO 5.56 mm rounds. The American Eagle 55 grain rounds travel at approximately 3,240 feet per second and strikes with 1,282 foot pounds per square inch.   The range of an AR-15 is well over 300 yards, further with a scope.

Compare that with the American Eagle Subsonic 147 grain 9mm round that travels approximately 1,000 feet per second and strikes with 325 foot pounds per square inch.

In case you're wondering, the average .22 long rifle round strikes with approximately 110 foot pounds per square inch.

With an AR-15, if you can see it, you can probably kill it. The ammunition for the AR-15 is plentiful and relatively inexpensive at the moment.


Weapons Using the Same Ammunition



When purchasing our firearms, we've chosen to have multiple weapons that use the same ammunition just to keep things simple. For instance, we have a 9mm carbine (MP5) as well as several other firearms that all fire 9mm ammo.


I have extensive experience testing subsonic .22 long rifle and subsonic 9mm ammo and plan on doing a post in the future breaking down which is best for both.  In the meantime, please feel free to email with questions at KeepingUpWithThePreppers@gmail.com.




Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Bug Out Locations And Shelter

BUG OUT LOCATIONS AND SHELTER




Monster Deer Blind by Texas Wildlife Supply

Maybe Just Stay Home?


Most people will choose to stay at home rather than take a chance on venturing into the unknown en route to their bug out location.  I totally get that. If at all possible, it probably is best to stay put in your home. You might have too many prepping supplies to transport and hopefully, your security network including friends, family, or neighbors will be stronger where you are.  

There could be situations where you may have no choice but to bug out so it's not a bad idea to have a plan.  If you live in a city, especially in an apartment, you really should have some idea where you could bug out to complete with alternative routes and security measures. Remember, there is strength in numbers.

Where Do We Go now?


In a temporary emergency situation, such as a hurricane, flood or other natural disaster, you should know if and when you really need to evacuate to a safer location. 

But what if there was a long term emergency situation complete with civil unrest, looting, or the breakdown of civil services such police, fire, and emergency medical services? 

It's estimated that in a total power grid down scenario, civil services and society would breakdown within a few weeks. Depending on your circumstances, things could go quite bad quite quickly. 
That being said, it might be a good idea to at least have some place in mind where you believe you would be safer.

In my opinion, you and your family would be safer in a more rural location than in the city. It might be a good idea to consolidate your resources with friends or family in a location that would be easier to defend than say an apartment building.  Make an emergency plan with your friends and family so in the event there is such an emergency, you'll have an idea what to do to keep your family safe. This includes different escape routes to your destination in case you encounter trouble while en route to your bug out location.




Some things to consider when choosing your bug out location certainly include shelter, water source, and the ability to defend the location.  As discussed in previous posts, this is where it would be a very good idea to have some sort of filtration device and water storage.

Shelter





After buying raw land that is mostly a flood plain, we spent a lot of time trying to figure out a way to elevate a cabin. After researching the issue, we stumbled across a company located in Brady, Texas that builds custom "Monster Deer Blinds."  They are well insulated, elevated, and made out of metal. We use heavy duty magnets for hanging lights, holding screening on as well as many other applications. Our monster deer blind is twelve feet by eight feet with a five foot by eight foot balcony all elevated six feet. These monster deer blinds can be elevated up to twenty feet and full wrap around balconies are available.




We've outfitted the deer blind with a solar generator that can run a small refrigerator and charge our other gizmos during the day. We also have a stand alone air conditioning unit that we run off of a small gas Honda generator.




MPPT Solar Controller And Battery Bank




We found that putting up camo netting helps conceal the deer blind while at the same time providing much needed shade from the hot summer sun.  We use five 100 watt solar panels to power three large RV batteries in our solar generator.




We outfitted the monster deer blind with extra insulation as well as curtains to help trap in heat around the full sized bed.

You can do the same improvements with any structure including wood portable buildings. Just use your imagination.





Having a tent in your prepping inventory is a must have item in the event you either have no set bug out location or can't get there.



Deer Blind Set Up Per Request




Arrived on a flat bed put together except for the supports for the elevation.




This guy was so professional working with this machine.




He held up the 3,000 blind with this machine while we put the frame together for the elevation.




He then just picked it up and moved into place where we cleared. We were very impressed.




We call this the kill zone. One way in and no way out.






With the cammo netting.




We've installed a rain catch system so we don't have to haul so much water up from the creek.




We've planted nine assorted fruit trees as a renewable source of food.








Emergency Food / Storage, Getting Hungry?

EMERGENCY FOOD / STORAGE
GETTING HUNGRY?


Many of us take food and the ability to obtain food for granted. Almost every day, we all hear commercials or read articles on how the average American family only has enough food in their home to last a few days. I know many people that keep saying they're going to stock up on food, but never get around to actually doing it.


When talking about emergency food, most people think of the tubs of the dehydrated 25 year shelf life foods that, unfortunately, are becoming increasingly expensive. I do recommend having at least a few of these, but there is another way of stocking up on food in case of an emergency. 

A simple suggestion is to buy a bag or two of rice and beans as well as canned food every time you go grocery shopping. This is an inexpensive way of stocking up on food over the years. Keep track of your expiration dates and rotate new food into your stash.

What if I Don't Stock Up On Food?


Ever been in a situation where a hurricane or other natural disaster is predicted for your area? Ever go to the grocery store thinking you'll just grab a few things to get through the storm only to find out the store shelves are being clean out? We have and we live about 200 miles from the nearest beach.

What I saw going on at the store made me wonder how much panic and sheer danger there would be if the situation was a more long term event, rather than a short term event such as a storm.  




If there was a long term event where it appeared that the grocery stores would not be feasible any longer, I would rather already be prepared and not have to put myself or my family in that situation in the first place. Once that event begins, it will be too late to stock up on food. 

What's In Your Fridge?


Unfortunately, in an emergency situation where power is lost for even a few days, most people will lose most of the food in their refrigerator. Even if you have an alternative power source, I would plan on eating the food in your fridge before cracking open your long term emergency food. 

If your refrigerator is still being powered by your solar or gas generator, and if you know and trust your neighbors, you might offer to let them store their food in your working fridge. That's obviously something you have to think about depending on your situation. I believe most of your neighbors will not have a working refrigerator during such an event. 


Expired Canned Food


If you have expired cans of food, do not throw them away.  (Unless, they're bulging or obviously bad.)  Most canned food is still safe to eat long after the expiration date stamped on the can. You can also use that can of food to barter with or even keep as part of a decoy stash of food in case you find yourself confronted by bad guys.

Learn To Be Self Sustaining




Although we do recommend having at least some emergency seeds, it may not be realistic to think you'll be really be eating well very quickly, depending on the region you live in. It's better to have them than to not have them and wish you did.

It would also be good to have fishing and hunting gear as well as the knowledge to be able to process what you catch or kill. If nothing else, it might be a good idea to have books on how to clean your catch on hand.


Next Blog: Bug Out Locations And Shelter

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Water Emergencies and Storage

WATER EMERGENCIES AND STORAGE



Water is one of those things that we all often take for granted until we don't have it.  Ever have a water pipe near your home break, leaving your home without water service for days? Or how about a boil water notice issued in your area because chemicals or sewage has leaked, threatening your water supply?

Storing water isn't difficult or expensive.  However, it is something you need to do before there is an emergency. Most people just don't think about it until it's too late.



One simple and inexpensive container you may already buy every week is a cat litter container. Whether you have a cat or not, you may want to think about buying some cat litter for use with a Luggable Loo.  These containers hold almost three gallons and most people just throw them away. If you do buy cat litter anyway, simply wash the container out and fill it up with tap water.

This water will stay perfectly usable for quite some time for anything from washing dishes, clothes, or yourself, to flushing the toilet in a home with a conventional septic tank. Boiling or using any gravity fed water filter such as a Big Berkey water filter will make the water stored for a long period of time perfectly potable. Even soda bottles are better than nothing for storing water. 


What in the heck is a Luggable Loo?




As mentioned above, cat litter is excellent to use with a Luggable Loo or similar camping / emergency toilet.  If you live in a home with city sewer services or have an septic system that uses electricity to function, you might want to have a way to go to the bathroom.  Sewage can back up into your home and flushing your toilet in certain circumstances may not be advisable. A Luggable Loo or similar camping toilet are great.  

The toilet seat detaches from the bucket. Once the seat is off, use a large garbage bag to line the inside of the bucket and put the seat back on to hold it into place. Next, fill the inside with cat litter a few inches and you've got yourself a toilet. As it's used, add another inch or so of little to cover and this will reduce or eliminate any smell coming from your toilet.

This is a very inexpensive way to have a camping or emergency bathroom.   Again, this is another thing we take for granted and don't think about until it's too late.

Rain Catch Systems




Rain catch systems are an effective way to collect water and are relatively inexpensive, especially if your home already has gutters installed. We have three 50 gallon rain barrels which fill up quickly during a rain shower.

Although the water collected in the rain barrels is not safe to drink do to bacteria and other contaminants, it is good for utility purposes such as flushing toilets (with conventional septic systems), watering your garden, and even drinking if boiled and properly filtered.

We have to wash our rain barrels out at least twice a year due to pollen and other contaminants that get into the rain barrels.

Bug Out Location water Source



We were fortunate enough to find a piece of land that has a spring fed creek.  The water from the creek can be boiled and filtered for drinking and is good for washing up and other utility purposes.


We have purchased several of these Life Straws and so far, no one we know who has used these during camping or hiking trips have gotten sick using these without boiling the water first. We would be interested in hearing from folks that have used these or other filtration devices.


Next Post: Emergency Food / Storage 

Monday, January 16, 2017

Emergency Power Alternatives Made Simple Part III

EMERGENCY POWER ALTERNATIVES MADE SIMPLE PART III


Rechargeable Battery Packs




Keep in mind that during the day, the power coming in from the solar panels will be shut off by the charge controller once the battery bank reaches its full charge as not to over charge and damage the battery bank. Once that occurs, your panels are doing nothing for your system, so why not use that wasted electricity to power other devices for use over night such as a stand alone battery pack?




Suaoki Powerhouse 220Wh/20,000mAh Portable Generator

I've been very impressed with this product. Unlike a standard Lead Acid Emergency Battery pack, this product uses a Lithium Ion Battery combined with a built in pure sine wave power inverter (meaning it is safe to use with sensitive electronics). The Suaoki Power house can power any device that uses less than 220 Watts and has two AC (Alternating Current) plugs as well as USB ports for charging phones, tables, and other rechargeable devices.

I have run a 22 inch LED television AND a DVD player at the same time for over six hours on a single charge with no problem and there was still power left over. I've used this to run a regular household  lamp with an LED light bulb equivalent to a 60 Watt bulb for well over a day, and there was still quite a bit of power left over.

This device can be recharged by either plugging it into your main solar generator during the day while powering your refrigerator at the same time. I also bought a folding 60 watt solar panel set that plugs into this device; however, I was not that impressed. I charged the device for over eight hours with the fold out panels in full sun and it did not completely charge the power pack.

I have two of these power packs and I plan to get more. There are other similar products on the market and technology improves daily.  Do your own research and read reviews.

Rechargeable Devices / Batteries





Night Vision Scope / Binoculars, Flashlights, Wireless Camera, and Radio


When choosing your prepping gizmos, it's best to find devices that are rechargeable or that use easily obtainable rechargeable batteries such as night vision scopes, flashlights, wireless security cameras, radios, etc.




All of these items can be recharged during the day time using your main solar generator. These rechargeable handheld radios are great and come with rechargeable batteries. Always remember to buy at least one extra battery for each radio. The solar powered lanterns pictured above have also been very impressive. They can be charged using a USB connection, but the built in solar panel seen on the top of the lantern works very well.

Use your imagination to think up with devices that will add to your prepping needs.

Back Up to the Back Up




Of course, it doesn't hurt to have at least a small gas generator as an overall back up to your system in the event of a thunderstorm when your system will most likely be disconnected. While the panels will still charge your battery bank on a cloudy day, it may not be quite as efficient as a day with full sun.

Your solar generator will allow you to have power while conserving your gas for when you really need it. We use a Honda 2000 Watt gas generator to power our stand alone air conditioner at our cabin (Pictured below).  This generator works perfectly and is very quiet.  





Whether for a short term emergency or for simply having an off grid power supply for your hunting cabin, it's not a bad idea to invest in your own source of emergency power sources.



Next Post: Water Emergencies and Storage


Sunday, January 15, 2017

Emergency Power Alternatives Made Simple Part II (Battery Bank/Power Inverter)

EMERGENCY POWER ALTERNATIVES MADE SIMPLE

Part II

Battery Bank / Power Inverter




The battery bank is the most important component of your system. Once the sun goes down, the battery bank will provide electricity throughout the night if built correctly.  The trick to the battery bank lasting throughout the night is to obtain the correct ratio of solar panels to the number of your batteries in your battery bank. It's equally crucial to have the correct number of batteries in your battery bank. Your battery bank should provide enough power storage to run your refrigerator over night until the sun returns to fully charge your batteries during the day.

Building the battery bank is the most intimidating part to most people, but it's really not that difficult. There is plenty of information on how to build a 12 volt, 24 volt, or 48 volt system, but I will be illustrating how to build a simple 12 volt system.

Types of Batteries 


There are several different types of batteries on the market that will work with your system. These batteries range in price and efficiency, so it's best to find the right balance between your budget and your power needs.

The batteries used in any solar or wind generator must be deep cycle type batteries. Regular car batteries are not made to charge and discharge like a deep cycle marine, RV, wheel chair, or golf cart batteries. Regular car batteries are not designed for this purpose.

Lead Acid Batteries (Pictured above) - Lead Acid batteries are probably the most inexpensive but are not the most efficient. I am using five Lead Acid batteries for the battery  at my home. While they do work just fine, when they start losing their efficiency, I will replace them with AGM batteries such as the batteries at my bug out location.



Vmaxtanks Vmaxslr125 AGM Deep Cycle 12v 125ah SLA rechargeable batter for use with Pv Solar Panels

Absorbent Glass Mat (AGM) batteries (Pictured above), in my experience so far, has been the most efficient.  However, they do cost significantly more. While the AGM is still considered a Lead Acid battery, the construction of the battery is superior to a regular Lead Acid battery and tends to be more efficient. The Lead Acid RV batteries cost approximately $100 each while the AGM batteries cost approximately $250 per battery.

You will have to do your research and determine your budget for your batteries.

Wiring Your Battery Bank


First, you will need battery cables that will run from your charge controller to your battery bank. I recommend using two gauge battery cables or lower for this purpose and zero gauge cables (The largest cables available) to run from your battery bank to your power inverter,

I wired my battery bank in parallel  meaning that the positive cable from the charge controller goes to the closest positive terminal on the first battery in your bank. The next cable runs from that first positive terminal to the next positive terminal on the next battery and so on.

The negative cable coming from the charge controller will run to the negative terminal on the LAST battery in your battery bank. The cables running from your battery bank to your power inverter will be connected just the opposite.

The positive cable from your battery bank will be connected to the positive terminal on the last battery in your bank and the negative cable will be connected to the negative terminal on the first battery in your battery bank (Closest to the charge controller).

The ground wiring will attach to the same negative battery terminal where the negative power inverter cable is attached.  It's best to run that cable to a grounding rod obviously outside your home.

By wiring your battery bank together as described above, this will cause each battery in your bank to charge and discharge evenly and maximizing the efficiency and life of your battery bank.





Pictured above is my battery bank prior to adding a fifth battery and purchasing a cabinet to put them in.


If you place your battery bank inside an enclosed cabinet or container, make sure that the batteries get proper ventilation.

Note: Do not let your batteries fall below 11.9 volts as to keep them from discharging to much and possibly damaging the.


Power Inverter:


3000W Pure Sine Wave Power Inverter 6000W Peak 12VDC to 110VAC

When choosing your power inverter, I would recommend purchasing at least a 3000 Watt (6000 watt peak) Pure Sine Wave inverter.  The pure sine wave inverters along with the MPPT charge controller will provide a much more stable current for running sensitive electronics and appliances.

Unfortunately, like the MPPT charge controller, the pure sine wave power inverters are more expensive, but again, you'll thank yourself later.

Do your research and read reviews on all of the components.  I haven't had any trouble from the one I use at my home (pictured above).

Volt / Amp Meters and Fuses


There are all kinds of other things you can attach to your system such as meters and fuses. I have a simple volt meter attached to my battery bank to make it easier to read the voltage of the battery bank.  I simply disconnect the cables from the solar panels if there is a thunderstorm coming as to not take the chance on frying my entire system.  

There are plenty of different types of systems out there from all inclusive, to pieced together the way I built my system. I like my system because I can purchase the components a few at a time, and I can expand the system as needed very easily.


Next Post: Rechargable Battery Packs and Devices




Friday, January 13, 2017

Emergency Power Alternatives Made Simple Part I

EMERGENCY POWER ALTERNATIVES MADE SIMPLE

Part I

Solar Panels and Charge Controller



Building an off grid power source for your home or "Bug Out" location is not as difficult as you may think. Having power can drastically improve the quality of life during a long or short term power outage. After losing all of our food during a three day power outage after a severe storm, we learned quickly that taking the power grid for granted was not a good time.  

Please keep in mind that we are not experts and there are always dangers when dealing with electricity. 


HQST 100 Watt 12 Volt Monocrystalline Solar Panel


The solar generator constructed at our home is basically the same as the generator constructed at our bug out location.  

First, determine what it is you wish power and determine how many watts you're going to need. As an example, I use eight 100 Watt panels and five large RV batteries to run my full sized Maytag refrigerator. My set up allows me to run the refrigerator throughout the night if I turn the ice maker off and settings down on the fridge and freezer sides. I turn them to setting "two." 

There are four major components to our 12 volt solar generator:

 Solar Panels
Charge Controller
Battery Bank
Power Inverter


Solar Panels and Charge Controller will be discussed here.


Solar Panels: 


Solar Panels generate power during daylight hours to charge your battery bank. I use eight 100 watt panels to provide up to 800 watts of power to my battery bank. Generally speaking, the power generated by the panels are less than the advertised or rated watt output meaning eight solar panels probably put out 10 percent less power than the full 800 watts as advertised.

While the panels do in fact still provide power on a cloudy day, they will not be quite as efficient as full sunlight.

The solar panels I used are found on Amazon for about $114.00 each seen above.

I have been impressed with them but keep in mind the technology improves almost daily so do your research and read reviews. 

These panels are very easy to connect. The male and female connections are clearly marked (+) and (-) for positive and negative respectively. You will also need Y branch connection cables to connect more than one panel for your system. You will need a long set of cables run run power to the controller. I used a 100 foot cable with a male connection at one end and a female at the other end. Cut the cable in half and expose the wires.  This will give you 50 feet of wire. Of course, depending on your situation, you may need a longer cable or shorter cable. The shorter the cable the better. The longer the wire, the more electricity you will lose in the transmission of the power going inside to your charge controller.



Solar Panel Cable 100ft - Mc4 Pv Extension - 10 AWG - 600vdc Sunlight Resistand and BTSKY Y Branch MC4 1 Male to four Female (M/FFFF) and 1 Female to 4 Male (F/MMMM) Solar Panel Cable Connectors

Charge Controller:

 



The charge controller simply regulates the amount of DC (Direct Current) coming in from the panels in order to keep from over charging the battery bank which could damage or destroy the batteries. 
Once the batteries are fully charged, the charge controller will cut off the power coming in from the panels.  This means that the panels are doing nothing until the batteries require more power whether under load or need more power to be completely full.

The exposed wires will plug into the charge controller. Please make sure you have the positive and negative plugged into the correct ports on the charge controller or you will have a bad time. The ports are clearly marked on the controller.


Renogy Tracer 4210 40 Amp Charge Controller, 12/24V 100DC Input

From the left, the first two ports are the ports for the positive and negative cables coming in from the panels.  The Next two ports (Middle) are where the positive and negative cables leave the controller and go to your battery bank. The two ports on the far right are for running a 12 volt load such as a light directly from the controller. I do not use these.
There are many brands of charge controllers, however, I do strongly recommend using at least a 40 amp controller that uses MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) technology for running electronics.  The MPPT charge controllers will provide a more stable current which is less likely to damage sensitive electronics and appliances including your refrigerator or computer. The MPPT controllers are more expensive, but again, you will thank yourself later.


NEXT POST: Building your battery bank and Power Inverter.