Can you think of a more important modern discovery than electricity?
Electricity has shaped life as we know it and paved the way for technological advances previously thought impossible like space travel, advanced healthcare procedures, and the internet. Electricity is so ingrained in modern society, it’s pretty hard to imagine that only 200 years ago, people lived their lives without it.
So what do you do when the power grids shut down...and never come back? Can you live your life as they did back in the 1800s--- with no electric lights, appliances and communication devices?
Thankfully, you don’t have to. Thanks to said technological advances, we’ve found alternative sources of energy to supply us with electricity even when the conventional power sources go down. You can use these alternative energy sources to power your own home. These can also save you tons of money from electric bills and help you become self-sufficient in the long run.
Alternative Energy At A Glance
Energy sources that do not use coal or fossil fuels are referred to as alternative energy. These sources are usually renewable and produce less or no by-products at all. Because they don’t contribute to pollution, they’re also called clean or green energy.
There are many types of alternative energy sources out there, but not all of them are easily viable. Some require sophisticated equipment and manpower. In this article, we'll take a look at the alternative energy sources that you can harness on your own, with little equipment and manpower used. This will be solar, hydro and wind energy.
When someone says "alternative energy" it's usually solar energy that first comes to mind. Due to its efficiency, a lot of people are counting on solar to replace coal in the near future. Recent times have also seen the cost of solar energy dip to an all-time low, making it more accessible than ever.
Solar energy is thermal or electric energy harnessed from the sun. Since radiant light and heat from the sun is vastly available and renewable, many preppers are looking at solar as an appealing source of energy. It’s a great alternative energy option, especially if you're planning to live off-grid, or are simply looking to cut electric bill expenses. It doesn’t require any moving parts, is potentially unlimited, doesn't emit any harmful by-products and involves a relatively simple set-up compared to other sources of alternative energy.
There's actually a lot of ways to turn solar energy into electricity, but the most common one is through the use of solar panels or photovoltaics.
- When the sun shines, photons hit the solar panels which generate direct current (DC) electricity
- DC electricity is fed into a solar inverter that converts it into alternating current (AC) electricity
- AC electricity goes through the main switchboard/ breaker box and is used to power your home or building
- Excess energy is fed back into the grid
Things to consider:
- Location - solar power works best in areas that receive a lot of hours of sunshine. You should also consider the position of your solar panels since they’re unmovable. Are there things obstructing direct sunlight from hitting the panels? Do you have any roofing problems? You’d probably want to fix that before installing solar panels.
- Cost - while solar power would save you a lot in electric bills in the long run, installing the panels and inverters will cost you a lot of money upfront. You have to determine how much power you’ll need to keep your home running. You should also be able to calculate your “payback period” or the amount of time it takes for your investment to return as savings.
- Manpower - Will you hire technicians to install your solar-powered system? Or will you do it yourself?
DIY Solar Panels
Not sure where to start? This helpful video teaches you how to set up your very own solar panels at home.
Water’s kinetic energy has been used to aid civilization for centuries. In the ancient times, people have used it for irrigation and milling. But we’ve found a better use for it: water and gravity have allowed us to generate clean and sustainable electricity.
Hydro is a great option for preppers. When done right, it could supply you with clean, renewable energy 24/7 for the rest of your life. Like solar, hydro doesn't have any harmful by-products and the water used to generate electricity can be reused. You can also use hydropower to supplement your solar energy reserves, especially during rainy seasons when sunlight is scarce.
One significant disadvantage of using hydro as an alternative energy source is that your water sources may run dry or freeze, depending on the season. A lot of people also think that hydro only works with large and sophisticated machines, as seen on hydroelectric power plants. There’s actually more than one way to harness hydroelectric power. While dams and reservoirs are meant for large-scale commercial use, preppers can generate hydroelectric power using simple run-of-the-river systems or micro-hydro power. Micro hydro systems can generate 5kW to 100 kW of electricity, which can already power a home or a small village.
- Kinetic energy from flowing water is used to turn turbines
- Turbines transform kinetic energy into rotational energy
- Generators turn rotational energy into electricity
Things to Consider:
- Location - hydro is more dependent on location than solar. You must be near a running water source, like a stream or river for hydro to work. How far is your water source from your home? Since power output also depends on the flow of water, you also have to consider other risks like drought or flooding in your area.
- Equipment - micro hydro systems rely heavily on equipment like water lines, turbines, and inverters. There is an initial cost for equipment and the labor needed to set it all up. You will also need to set up a budget for your equipment’s regular maintenance.
- Local policies - in some areas, setting up your own hydroelectric system is prohibited by law. Check federal and state regulations before setting up your system.
DIY Micro Hydro
Get some great ideas for setting up your micro hydropower system with this video:
Wind power is something most European countries have nearly perfected over the years. All of The Netherlands' trains, for example, are operated by wind energy. The wind industry has also been steadily growing this side of the pond, employing about 88,000 Americans to date. But what if you’re a prepper looking to power a single home? Can you still harness wind energy on a smaller scale? It will cost you a bit more than solar and hydro, but let’s take a look and see how it works.
- Inflow of wind spins the turbines
- Turbines spin the shafts located within the gear box
- Gearbox powers the generator and creates electricity
Things to Consider
- Location - Much like hydropower, wind energy greatly depends on your location as electricity produced will depend on the wind currents. You have to live in a relatively windy area with at least 10 mph wind speed or install your equipment at a higher elevation to get best results.
- Equipment - The energy you produce will depend on the efficiency of your turbines. These are pretty costly, with small wind generators ranging from $700-$1200. These can produce around 50 - 200 watts, according to this source.
- Manpower - Installation of larger turbines will need the help of technicians and require regular maintenance. Of course, you can always opt to assemble your own windmill generator at home.
This informative video gives you the low-down on wind turbines and how you can set up your very own wind power system at home:
Modern society relies on electricity so much, it's pretty alarming to consider what will happen if the power grids were to go down permanently. What's more alarming is that this event is very possible. It's aftermath? Debilitating.
So, start looking into alternative energy sources that fit your location, consumption, and budget. Even if the dreaded SHTF scenario doesn’t come, these clean energy sources can greatly help the environment while helping you curb your current electric bill. It’s like hitting birds with one stone. In the long run, solar, hydro or wind will enable you to become self-sufficient.
Any tips about running your own alternative energy source? Let us know in the comments below!