Going without electricity for a few days can throw off the whole balance of a family. When living in an apartment or condo there are simple ways to keep the family in clean clothes, power electronics and provide decent cooking options. You just have to know a few things about preparedness for power outages.
READ MORE: If the power outage happens in cold weather, you’ll also need to know how to stay warm without power.
Most apartments or condos don’t come with an emergency power generator. Not only are most generators are expensive to buy (portable or not) but they also require fuel. Between the two, that’s a good deal of resources and space used up in your home. Luckily there are other ways around a generator.
I have seen so many things that can be run on a car battery. I have even found an adapter with electric sockets so items can be plugged in. If you have access to your car battery you can run anything from a shower to a stove. With the above-mentioned adapter you could even run an electric fan if you needed to.
When you choose to use a car battery as a power source, you have the ability to use the item you are powering without needing to keep a generator running. This is particularly helpful if you have built your own generator. Best of all, a car battery can be charged and used again.
Solar power can be useful for charging those little things we have trouble living without in our lives. Depending on the size of the solar charger you can power anything from a phone to a laptop. Some solar chargers are also made to be mobile. They come as a pad you can roll up and take with you or are small enough to store in a purse. If you rely on electronic devices to stay in touch with people, organize your schedule, pay bills, or for your livelihood, this is an important part of preparedness for power outages.
Exercise Powered Generator
YouTube has many creative ways to produce power using treadmills, exercise bikes, and mountain bikes. Rather than chemical energy (in the form of fuel), you are using kinetic energy (in the form of body movement) to power a device or to charge a car battery (a car battery is fully charged at around 12.6 volts).
Building these generators may require other components such as energy adapters, alternators, and serpentine belts depending on which type of generator you choose to build. It’s important to use a video, book, or website that shows very detailed instructions about building your generator.
Being without power or stuck in our homes for a while doesn’t suddenly make us happy to wear dirty clothes. There are some options available to help us get our clothes clean.
Hand Cranked Machines
I have seen a couple of models of hand-cranked washers. They usually cost somewhere between fifty and one hundred dollars. There are even models that have a built-in spin dryer. The Wonderwash is one that we reviewed, and a simple plunger-and-bucket method is described in The Survival Mom:
My recommendation is a child-powered washing system. This can
be as simple as two 5-gallon buckets with lids, two new toilet plungers,
and round holes cut in the center of both lids for the handles of the
plungers. Fill the first bucket with water, a little soap, and a few pieces
of dirty clothing and put that kid to work! You can explain that the
process is the same as for churning butter. Boys, in particular, might
be enticed to work harder if they realize it’s a great exercise for building
their biceps. Either way, in a few minutes you’ll have clothes that are
ready to be rinsed in clean water in the second bucket, wrung out, and hung on a clothesline.
If you don’t have laundry facilities (or don’t want to shell out five dollars per load) these sweet little machines also reduce the amount of laundry that you will need to take to the laundry mat when there isn’t an emergency. If you have a larger family they are great for keeping up with socks and undergarments. Smaller families can just keep up with clothes daily.
When using these items it’s important to consider:
- Upper body strength,
- The amount of soap you plan to use and
- Load size
Overloading a hand-cranked washer may not break it, but your clothes won’t agitate well and will remain dirty.
In a long-term power outage, you’ll want to completely re-think the way you and your family dress. There’s a reason why, for many decades, women wore aprons and pinafores. They protected the clothing underneath, which stayed clean-ish for weeks, if necessary. Made of lightweight cotton, aprons were much easier to wash and quicker to dry than heavier pieces of clothing.
Believe it or not, the type of drying rack you choose matters a great deal. You want to make sure to choose one that has a good solid base or can hang from the ceiling. Also, make sure that you can space your clothes far enough apart to maintain airflow. Without airflow to help your clothing dry, they may just mildew on the rack.
Without A Balcony
When your condo or apartment has a balcony, you can get away with a lot when it comes to laundry. You don’t really need a spin dryer because your clothes can drip dry from racks placed on the balcony. This is particularly true in hot, dry areas.
When you don’t have a balcony or you live in a colder or more humid climate, having a spin dryer is the best way to go with an electric-free laundry program. Small spin dryers can be powered by a car battery, although it’s possible to make your own hand-powered version. If you don’t have access to a spin dryer have a hanging drying rack over the tub in your bathroom. This will enable your clothes to drip dry without you needing to put down a tarp. Just make sure that the bathroom has plenty of airflow. Open windows and doors or set up portable fans.
Here are my top tips for making off-grid laundry easier no matter what method you choose.
Two more important considerations
There are a couple of other items that can be easily stored and be useful in an extended power outage. These items make living conditions more comfortable for your household.
There are battery-powered portable showers on the market, and there are some that run off of a car battery. Just plug it into the cigarette lighter. This is ideal for a camping trip but can get complicated when you’re indoors.
For indoor showering, there is a portable shower that pumps water out of a bucket. The one I found can be recharged from a laptop USB, filters water, and has a water filtration system.
There are many options for cooking without electricity. A simple one is the BBQ grill, and some apartment complexes provide them in the common areas. The very basic models fit well on a balcony. If you don’t have a balcony, there is even a mini BBQ grill that is easier to store indoors. It’s perfect for grilling on a porch.
Watch for sales on charcoal around the major outdoor/picnic holidays, such as Memorial Day, Independence Day, and Labor Day. One year I was able to stock up on 8 gigantic bags at a huge discount at Lowe’s.
There are a few varieties of camp stove that are also an option, such as the dual-fuel EcoZoom stove. Kerosene stoves are a tried and true option, and there is also a stove that will run off a car battery.
If your cooking or heating source uses an open flame, whether with wood, kerosene, or some other fuel, it’s absolutely vital to never leave that fire alone, have at least 2 fire extinguishers in the house (and everyone knows where they are and how to use them, have plenty of ventilation, and a carbon monoxide detector/alarm.
Solar cookers are a long-time favorite of those wanting an alternative way to cook food and heat up water for emergencies. They are also a far safer option than anything that requires a flame. You can make your own, but the Sun Oven is considered to be one of the best.
Whatever you use to cook your food will need a power source. Determine which fuel or power source works best for your family and with your available storage space, and stock up on that fuel and lots of it.
Resources mentioned in this article
- Adapter for car battery
- Carbon monoxide detector and alarm
- Battery-powered shower
- DIY solar cooker plans
- Drying rack
- Home Generator Selection, Installation, & Repair by Paul Dempsey
- Kerosene safety information
- Lodge Charcoal Grill
- Portable solar charger
- Practical aprons
- Spin dryer (electric)
- Sun Oven
- Survival Mom: How to prepare your family for everyday disasters and worst-case scenarios by Lisa Bedford
- The Wonderwash