Preparation: Fuel and Energy

I don’t know if this will be a regular column, but I feel the need to examine all of my preparedness categories and make sure I’m covered. I’m sure everyone has noticed the inflationary hill we’re chugging up right now as food, clothing, and fuel are all getting more expensive. I feel like our time to ensure we are prepared for coming events is being shortened at a faster pace. I hope this information might help some to take similar considerations toward your own state of preparedness.

Most of the readers here are LDS and may remember the council to store a year’s supply of fuel where possible in addition to the counsel to have a year’s supply of food. I used to think this was just something I’d never be able to do because of living in a town and I couldn’t store that much gas for our vehicles. I recently realized that this wasn’t just about gas for our cars, but fuel also includes being able to cook and have power.

Now I’m not saying go out and suddenly buy all this stuff, but I found a couple of products that I think are cool and I bought a couple of them. We already had a small charcoal grill which anyone can pick up at the store pretty cheap. They aren’t big propane grills, but they are handy in a pinch and you can store bags of charcoal to give you a near years’ supply of daily heat.

One of the cool products someone pointed out to me is this solar oven.

It’s a good sized basin with a floating table inside it. Plexiglass or something locks into place on the front panel around a rubber seal. Extending the 4 reflectors and pointing it at the sun generates over 300 degrees in the box. Pretty awesome for doing basic cooking. There is a thermometer in the upper corner so you can tell how warm it is in the box. A friend of mine wanted to get a “lazy-Susan” type of spinner to set it on so you could rotate it with the sun if needed, but I don’t know that you’d be cooking for hours with the sun moving that much. Anyway, pretty cool device.

The second one which looks really cool is the Rocket stove here.

The design of this is really neat. You have 2 cylinders that are welded together so the heat inside the center cylinder is insulated from direct contact with the outer temperature. It takes very little fuel to generate cooking temperatures. You can use twigs and small pieces of wood and even reuse unused wood. Check out this video.

Then you just need a supply of wood and an axe or hatchet to break wood up into long splinters and you have a great source of heating.

Of course there are Dutch ovens and other things, but these are very efficient tools. One other super efficient fire starter is the Spark Lite. My dad actually invented this one and sells it to the U.S. Military as their official fire starter. It’s a highly efficient, one handed, flint and steel method for lighting small tinder. It comes with 8 waterproof cotton tabs that you can peel open and ignite even after being wet. You can also use other small substances to ignite. Every backpack and emergency kit ought to have one of these.…

Now I have a question for you. Have any of you used solar power equipment you can recommend? I’ve bought a couple of solar battery chargers and was pretty unimpressed. I would love something that would give a decent rate of charge to a regular battery charger or a laptop. Any other cool ideas on efficient power needs?

9 Responses to “Preparation: Fuel and Energy”

  • I tested my solar oven a year or two ago when I bought it. Even from 9-11 in the morning I was able to boil a medium pan of water (a quart or more) in a few hours. I was impressed.

    As for solar batter chargers, I was similarly unimpressed. However, I did buy a solar powered battery pack/inverter/power-station. While most solar battery chargers have panels in the few-hundred-milliwatt range, this one has a 5W (5000 milliwatt) panel, and is a little more practical. I got it for much less than the $299 it’s currently on sale for at Amazon, but that’s the only price I see right now. Consider something similar.

    That unit is nice and compact and portable. Plus it has regular 110v and USB outlets for charging or power anything you might have. I suspect it would be possible to hook it up to a large, high-efficiency panel for more practical recharging. With the 5 Watt panel, some simple math will tell you that to charge an 80 Watt laptop for an hour, you are going to have to expose the 5 Watt panel to good sunlight for more than 16 hours. That’s probably only a few hours of use per week, unless hooked up to a larger panel.

    Keep in mind, that most electronics, including the diode that many solar panels have, will not survive a large EMP, unless shielded in a Faraday Cage. There are lost of instructions on the web for how to make Faraday Cages of various sizes.

  • Also, Parley’s Hardware in Orem, has Rocket Stoves for $60-70.

  • Be careful about using charcoal indoors. It must be well ventilated and should not be considered a heating fuel. Orem Costco has Goal 0 products (or did the last couple of weeks-not a permanent item there but the outlet is in Draper– Emergency essentials also carries them.) You can charge a battery with a relatively small solar panel and you can have light continuously using their low watt lamps (even run your lap top for a few hours, recharge cell phones etc.)

  • Anonymous:

    The stove tech video is a little pc, but I think the stove is a great idea. It uses small amounts of fuel, so you don’t have to store as much. They are creating these stoves to reduce climate change issues. They produce them in China, so I guess the carbon foot-print of the factory doesn’t affect climate change. ;)

  • twinmom:

    I love my Sun Oven! I use it in the summer to do my baking so my house doesn’t get so hot! I’ve been able to cook anything in it that I can in my regular oven. It works great in the winter too, I just don’t use it in the winter as often because I like my inside oven heat then! Locally Bee Provident Supplies has been selling them (where I got mine) and they’re hoping to do a sale in May because the owner of the Global Sun Ovens is coming to Utah. Might be worth looking into.

  • Thanks for posting this Dave. You gave me some immediate buyers remorse. :) I decided to call both companies and now understand the differences. The one I got has 2 steel cylinders with perlite insulation in-between them to keep the heat on the inside cylinder very efficient. The one you linked to has an inner ceramic layer, and then the outer shell is steel. If you drop it, you risk breaking the ceramic layer and ruining the stove. Parleys will start to carry a new model in about a month that has the dual metal cylinders and their price will be $129 (which if you have to pay for shipping on top of that makes it more expensive than the one above which has free S&H). Now that I have mine I am glad I paid the extra for the quality. It’s very rugged and the handles are welded on instead of being floating handles like on this one you linked to.

  • That’s the one Dave mentioned above at Parleys. See my comments there to understand the difference from it and the one I mentioned.

  • Deltameta2:

    Oak, Does burning Oak cook faster? Sorry about that.
    Re Solar Power: Harbor Freight Tools has some nice Solar Panels. On Sale with coupon for $150. regular $225. they mail out coupons in places like Readers Digest mag. etc.
    These are 45 watts. Have 3 panels about 30″ by 16′ approx. I tested them on a “dark” snowy day and they put out power. They have a nice controller box that can put out 3 Volts, 6 volts and 12 Volts. also includes 2 12V fluorescent lamps. I ran system into a 12v car battery that was really low. Couldn’t charge it. I brought it up to reasonable charge with a plug in charger 10 amps for an hour plus. then the HF system worked well. So as long as car batt isnt too dead HF works. has auto detect alarm to tell u when batt charged. These so good I bought 4 HF sets. I can transmit all over world on my Ham Radio off 12 V car batt. Gary N7JZN. Ham class taught every month by is a free 1 day class, no morse code no electronics needed.
    Solar panels this size usually run $500 to $1000. they do have somewhat higher efficiency per square foot, but not worth it.

  • Actually Oak burns slow because it’s so dense. :)