Sunday, January 31, 2010

For what it's worth, here's what I did before the storm

Two things in particular were a problem in the big ice storm a few years back: heat and food. I had friends I was able to crash with on several nights, which made a big difference. I'm still thinking about some kind of indoor-safe propane or other heater(not worried about being toasty, just a bit more comfortable). I've also got the Aladdin oil lamp I picked up last year; if you've never used one, they produce about as much light as a 60-watt electric light and a fair amount of heat. You can burn kerosene in them, but for indoor use you're better off getting lamp oil: little or no smell. Yeah, the stuff costs a lot more.

Damn, I was just thinking of getting a spare mantle, and they're sold out; apparently a lot of people bought them recently.

Be aware, a lot of the oil lamps that have a wide, flat wick are good for some light, and a little heat, but not something you'd want to do work by if you could avoid it.

The heat part of cooking I was ok on last time, I used the two-burner unit I use for bluing and melting lead(yes, I cleaned it off VERY thoroughly). It hooks up to the same propane tank the grill uses, so I just made sure I had a full tank before the weather hit(I've got two). It was the food part, as in 'can't open and close the fridge or freezer or it'll let all the cold out'. So what I did was pick out some stuff that'd be easy to cook and give lots of calories; then the day before the storm hit I got a couple of bags of ice, and when the storm started put the selected stuff in the ice chest with the ice. I figured that if the power was off for long, I could use that stuff and not worry about the fridge/freezer. Experience shows that in this weather, the freezer will keep everything solid for a good three days before you have to start worrying about it, the refrigerator not quite as long. So if it was off more than three days I know where to get dry ice; unplug or turn off the unit, then put the chunk on the top shelf, if you leave the door closed that's good for another three days in my freezer, about the same in the refrigerator(chunk in the freezer compartment).

Yes, I've got non-cook food around, it's just kind of encouraging to be able to turn out something hot when it's so cold and dark.

I do need to plan out my bugout supplies better; BRMs posts give me some good ideas there. I've never been in a situation where I needed that, but this is tornado country; if need be having some stuff ready to go in case the house/neighborhood gets hit would be a very good idea. For some reason I hadn't put any clothes in; a really dumb oversight.


Anonymous said...

Check out at the Toyoset or Kerosun type kerosene heaters made in Japan. They are used as primary heat sources there. Very little if any odor, and quite efficient. They have glass fiber wicks which last for a very long time.

Those type heaters retail for about $125 to $200 around here, but I've gotten them off Craigslist at prices right down to free. I've also gotten several for friends. The most I've had to do to get any of them running is a new "D" cel for the ignitor and fresh fuel. My living/dining rooms are about 250 sq feet and my Kerosun cube shaped heater has kept them up to 70F when outside temps dropped to below freezing. The kitchen is somewhat separate and two flat wick lamps and the overflow heat from the front room keep it comfortable.

We have a fireplace, but as a heat source it is worse than useless. I reach up into the flue and shut the damper when it's not in use.

I've got a couple of sheet iron tent stoves which could be adapted to the fireplace fairly quickly with the included stove pipes.

A technique that will allow one to heat one or two rooms at a time is to wall off portions of the house not in current use with bedsheets or old blankets held up with pushpins. The missus and I have done that with good results several times.

Aladdin lamps are good, but require fairly constant attention and it's a good idea to have dedicated fuel for them. Lamp oil lifts poorly at low temperatures, so I prefer Type K Water Clear Kerosene. For general illumination two flat wick lamps use far less kero than one Aladdin.

A propane mantel type camping lantern will give excellent light with no odor and provides useful amounts of heat. I have several, they can be had for pocket change at flea markets, garage sales and off Craigslist. I always have a case or two of 16.4 oz. propane canisters set by as well. Turning the light down conserves fuel to an amazing extent.

A 1500 W. portable generator keeps my refrigerator and freezer down to temp. I simply run each in turn until it comes down to temp and shuts off its compressor. I made up a professional grade Kentucky Credit Card for siphoning fresh fuel from my vehicles. I also keep the tank on the genset full with Stab-il added. When running, I set it in the back yard, 30 or 40 feet from the house, and build a sound shield around it from whatever's handy. I also run it only during daylight hours. I use the genset for light only in further emergency, I've found the kerosene and propane lights are sufficient for normal lighting.

A few candles and holders are good for intermittent lighting too. I'm so damn cheap that my main source of candles is Goodwill. Paying more than a dime for a 10" or 12" candle is silly. Get ordinary candles like dinner tapers, pillar candles are worse than useless as illumination as are votives. If you've got tea light lanterns, they are better than nothing. Hiker's candle lanterns like the UCO's sold by every outdoor outfitter from REI to Lehman's Hardware are quite good, as they can be hung from overhead light fixtures and are better than stumbling in the dark. They are a bit spendy.

Gerry N.

Fire said...

Or, you can get a generator. A couple years ago, when the wind storm came through, we were without power for 7 days. I was getting pretty bitchy because I was missing basketball games left and right, AND, it was starting to warm up again. I get cranky when I'm hot. I had a generator by the time the ice storm came through a couple months later. It was awesome.

Sigivald said...

The Petromax is pretty good.

Should be less fragile (but more work to use) than the Aladdin, and you can get a cooktop adapter for the big (500cp) one.

And they're aggressively multi-fuel.

Mark said...

The Petromax (my private name for it is PetroBomb) is a very old design. It has its' good points, one of the bad points is that if the mantle develops a hole in the bottom, a jet of very hot plasma splashes off the fuel tank, which is assembled with lead solder.

An alternative - Coleman made indoor lamps up into the 1950's. Safer than the petromax, less finicky than the aladdin (and mantles are available - alladin mantles have been on back order for almost a year now), fairly easy to work on, and available at a reasonable price from E-pay or your local yard sale.

I collect and restore these lamps. Love the light and heat they put out. Some were made to burn kerosene, most burn unleaded gas.