Prepping for 2022.
The energy crisis and rising fuel costs are soon to be a huge issue, as our humour and short-term resilience start to be replaced with ongoing restricted travel, and heat and food rationing due to the economics of consumption.
Here are some tips for preparing for a reduction of your energy based resources in 2022. Whether you are preparing for a bit of belt tightening or a full-blown apocalyptic scenario I hope you find some useful ideas below...
Warmth and Light
In your home, shut off any peripheral rooms, halve the number of bedrooms you use, with some or all of you moving in to the lounge/central room to sleep with one heat source.
Bring a notebook/pen, a game, a reading book, one craft each plus a solar charger and mobile phone per person, into the central space. Swap occasionally what you are doing/reading/playing. Now is not the time for excessive resource-based individualised consumption.
Ensure you have your glasses, meds, i.d and payment/ownership docs, car keys to hand but hidden safely, maybe get a 'book safe'.
Treat those house rooms you have shut off as 'outside' - shutting curtains and draught proof/insulating the doors to them. Shut the curtains in the rest of the house, and even to your new 'central area' the minute it gets cold outside. Day light is important but use curtains now to regulate heat loss from your central space through windows as heat generation and conservation becomes a key activity.
If you can, ensure you fit a wood burning stove in this central family area- it's a common misconception that you need a chimney, you don't - a flue can go out the house wall (as high up as possible to make most of the heat radiating from the flu). Choose someone who knows how to fit stoves safely (HETAS)
A stove conveys many benefits - always keep a lidded pot of water on the top eg. a large stock or crock pot this way you have warm water to hand when you need it without having to keep lighting a fire. Plus it acts as a thermal mass to radiate heat out after a stove dies down. In emergencies you can burn ANYTHING on it to keep warm - make 'logs' by cramming rubbish-bin contents, dried grass or anything with a kilojoule value into bundles and stuff tightly into empty cartons to make 'junk logs'. Keep a metal handled pan with a metal /or glass lid for warming food on the top. Think one-pot wonders that the whole family will eat. Now is the time to be training anyone out of fussy eating. You only really need one bowl and one spoon each, I like tin mugs that serve as both bowl and mugs. A tin mug can also be placed directly on the stove top to heat the contents for individual servings. So, at the most basic a tin mug and metal spoon each, will save washing up (heat and water).
Keep useful things to light the fire, in a corner of your new 'central space' ie. hair brush combings of human hair will start a fire, mop head strands are basically candle wick, dip in nail varnish remover for extra oomph, gather seed-down from natural areas around you, and keep in dry bundles to start fires in your stove. Where your tv once was, will now live a big pile of 'burnable stuff'.
Have twice weekly whole family wood collecting walks and let no one back in the house unless their bag is full. I have left my teenage son in the woods around the corner as his bag wasn't filled, from now on if they want heat they have to contribute to its generation. In the same way you once expected them to hoover occasionally now child tasks have changed to fuel collection. Use the walks as a way to walk the dog so it's pleasant and wood collection is an incidental activity in a dog/family walk, rather than seen as a chore.
The best form of electric heaters are NOT oil filled, or those with a fan, ensure you get rid of these now and get simple convector heaters , add a timer, and set it, or if you are in the space ongoing, then keep the heat on low. A heater with fan or oil will eat up your money but using the natural laws of heat will make money go further. Traditionally electric was the worst way to make heat but with gas and oil prices rising it may be cheaper to spot-heat using an electric convector heater than have 'whole house heating' on. Ultimately; have several alternative heat sources.
Gas bottle heaters are good back-ups. The price of a gas bottle will also have increased but the ability to spot heat with gas will still be better than heating unused rooms or if you end up disconnected. It is the blue gas bottles for inside use, not orange, and also ensure you have a good air flow. Ultimately you should aim for at least two independent heat sources so you always have a back up.
Saving on Electricity for Light
You only need one light bulb on at a time... so take all but one light bulb out per room, and add a sticker to the switch 'turn off' when leaving. Buy lots of cheap candles and light sparingly. Use them to take the edge off the dark rather than create a romantic candle lit home. Cheap paraffin wax candles will burn longer than pure beeswax as they have added stearin, hence for emergencies I say this choice over beeswax. But remember to open a window for air change, during your open curtain phase of the day, even if it's chilly. iI you are all in one central space, changing the air daily with a few minutes of open window during a breezy moment will keep air in a small space healthier.
Note. You will go through a heck of a lot more wood than you realise. Think five to ten times as much as you actually think you will need if your stove is ticking over most of the time.
Water Use - Washing, Toileting and Laundry
Everything you need for a a couple of weeks can be brought into the central space, so no need to keep using the other rooms. They are just weather buffers now in an unheated house. Clothes are no longer worn for choice, keep dark coloured, warm items and wear an outfit for a few days, you can't expect to be laundering daily. Wash dirties all together on a dry day in the bath tub and use the line, rather than have constant wet clothes drying in the central space. If it rains hang wet clothes in a shed with door and window open for a through-draft, to get the worst damp out of them, before bringing inside to finish on a line over the stove.
If water supply goes off, keep a bucket that is a separate colour to all your other buckets and keep a damp cloth draped over it. This will live outside near your back door for peeing/poop, to be emptied daily or more at the bottom of the garden into a compost bin and forked in. A tad of bleach will not harm your compost too much for the sake of cleanliness of your new loo. Being clean is still important. If you should run out of space for bucket contents, you can then make dung cakes of dried grass/weeds and humanure - made into bricks, dry out, to burn on your stove.. this gets rid of a waste whilst giving you heat output from your waste.
Water Collection in Power Down Scenario.
Our mains water doesn't require much energy to get it to us, but it does have pumps in water towers that require some electricity... no power at source would eventually mean no water. I'm not currently worried about this but in order to prepare for an emergency situation we can always be ready with...
A minimum of five x 20 litre jerry cans of water (one or two per family member - it's heavy to carry them full) and fill them now, buy-in some water purification tabs, if you haven't got a stove. Virtually any water can be made drinkable by filtering through a folded t-shirt then boiling for two or three mins (one will usually suffice but for safety add more time). So, if you can't get a fire inside the house or in the back garden get a camping stove or water steri tablets. Toilet water is drinkable, but take from the cistern (approx 9 litres) not the bowl (in emergencies you can rolling boil water from the bowl for drinking!). Our loo water has already been purified to be good enough to drink before it hits our loos. When it comes to collecting water to refill your cans, you don't need to be too fussy where it comes from as long as you have the purification methods of filter first then heat or sterl tabs after.
Water Use In Power Down.
Use water sparingly. To wash in a water-down situation; have each family member own their own flannel and dip in the warm pot of water and wash with one hot cloth, without wasting the water, then pour this water on your veggies/wormery/compost/hens water/dogs water bowl. Or if super short of water you can boil and cook pasta/rice in it in washing water. Water is no longer a single use item in a power down situation.
Teeth brushing - if you can't afford toothpaste or need to ration it, and don't have water to spare, don't worry it's more about the brushing anyway than commercial brand toothpaste. So still brush!
Making Freezer Stocking More Efficient in An Energy Rationing Situation.
Fill your freezer; a full freezer is more efficient at using energy than an empty freezer. Use this food-store space sensibly and put in fresh fruit, veg and protein that can make a family meal, rather than eg. Single use icecreams. Carbs have no place taking up freezer space in an emergency as they can be stored dried via pasta, oats, flour (corn; rough-milled stores best), smash potato. Even greens can be sacrificed for freezer space in favour of protein and other coloured veg, as we live surrounded by edible green weeds.
Get to know the edible weeds in your immediate area so you don't need freezer space for greens, or to drive to the shops to buy them fresh.
Food Security Tip: Have a main store of food in the kitchen and a secondary hidden store of food in the loft. The 'cache'.
Communication in a Family Power Down Situation.
If you can carry on working from a laptop from home, get a window solar charger and tether your laptop from your mobile phone sat on a window sill. Invest in a good laptop and mobile solar charger now. I have one that charges a phone five times from one solar charge.
Most landline phones use electricity, I always ensure I have a cheap old fashioned wired phone rather than a modern cordless one, as this needs no electric to work, so we should have phone coms longer, if power goes out or is in short supply.
We won't go into radio communication here, as there aren't that many people with it, and there are better qualified folk than me to tell you about that.
Economic and Practical Survival Go Hand in Hand
Our main issue will be one of economic not practical survival as we live in a world of low home ownership so with hugely rising costs on top of rent and mortgage we may need to negotiate a rent or mortgage payment break based on past good behaviour, if this new life sees income channels dry up. You can ask employers for a pay rise, but don't forget business too is experiencing the same crunch.
Don't stick your head in the sand buy some time with upfront negotiation on rent, mortgage or income fronts. Is there anything practical on your doorstep work-wise you can pick up in the meantime, in a barter and exchange system if need be. Can any teenagers in the house go and get part time jobs now? Everyone in a home needs to pull their weight economically or practically.
Things to get:
- Solar window mounted chargers for laptop/phones.
- A wood burning stove
- Combination of alternative heat sources inc. electric Convection heater with timer, gas bottle heater (blue bottles are for inside), wood burning stove, camp gas stove. Always have at least two heat sources.
- Water steri tabs and jerry cans
- Bags for life to collect wood in on wood collecting walks
- Insulating strips.
- Metal handled pan with lid
- Heavy stock or crock pot with lid 10 lts.
- Tin mugs, one or two each.
- Freezer full of protein, fruit and veg.
- Knowledge of edible weeds
- Washing line
- Wired Telephone
- Dried foods/uht drinks with long shelf life
- Wool blankets and 14 tog duvets.
- Roll out/fold out sofa beds in the central area.
Whether you view the current situation as needing mere belt-tightening or full-on 'prepper-mode' planning, I hope some of the tips here have been useful!?
There are loads more tips in my book for a power down life, including how to's and recipes to live with less; just using what is around you. Get 35 pages FREE from my book here:
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