“My Prepper Story” Contest – Bill F.’s Story

This article has been written by Bill F. for Survivopedia’s contest “My Prepper Story“. You can vote for this article until March 29, 2015 using the “Vote Up” box at the end of the article.

My Prepper StoryMost preppers know they need a “Bug-Out” place for when things start to happen. A person is very fortunate if they already live in such a place. I live several miles outside of a small rural SC town, in a house ¼ mile off the road on 200 acres. I have plenty of trees around for firewood, and make use of logging debris and storm damage wood.

I drive an old Mercedes diesel which is tricked out with a Greasecar kit to enable it to run mostly on used cooling oil. It has separate diesel and cooking oil tanks. It starts on diesel and I toggle over to cooking oil when the engine warms up. I toggle back to diesel to purge the lines before a prolonged shutdown. I harvest my cooking oil from the local Mexican restaurant. They have the cleanest oil in town since they only fry tortilla chips, chimmichangas and French fries.

They give it to me for free because I eat there often and tip very well! I filter it through 150 micron nylon bags, let the fine silt settle and pour it into my tank through another filter bag. Yes, it smells like French fries or BBQ when I drive by. I call it a “Poor Man’s Hybrid”. The oil supplements the diesel so that I get over 250 miles per gallon of diesel purchased!

I have 4 “junk-yard” dogs for security. (Rescued them from Death Row at the local pound!) I have well water and grid power. If the electricity goes out, I’m out of water. I don’t like that vulnerability. I looked at storing water in jugs under the house. Well water has benign bacteria in it, but they metabolize the sulfate salts in the water and the water smells bad after long storage. I learned it needed 8 drops of chlorine bleach per gallon for storage, but that is still inconvenient, and limited in quantity.

I looked at a generator to run the well pump. Generators need fuel. Gasoline does not store well, especially with 10% ethanol. If the outage is prolonged, you run out of fuel. If the outage is widespread, the gas stations don’t have power to pump fuel. In a real bad fix, you’re still up the creek.

I looked at running a water line from the water main by the highway. It would cost around $6000.00 to tap on, dig a trench, lay the line, plumb it in and cover the trench. I’m then dependent of the water utility keeping power to pump the water. If the outage is widespread, they are relying on a generator with similar but larger scale limitations.

Then I looked at solar. I could put in solar panels, control/charge components, a battery bank and inverter and have my own independent power source. I could size it to run the essentials- well pump, refrigerator/freezer with ice maker and a little extra. I’ve had on-line classes and hands on work-shops on solar panels and battery banks which made doing the work with confidence possible. I learned a lot from SEI (Solar Energy International) in Colorado.

If the grid goes down for storm, accident or terrorist, I still have power for essentials. But how is my solar electric system still vulnerable? The electrical components contain circuit boards. These can be fried by a severe solar storm in which a coronal mass ejection overwhelms the earth’s protective magnetic shield.

This is a type of electromagnetic pulse that induces a current in wires and computer chips. These are rare events, but have happened in the past and can happen again. Nuclear devices exploded in the atmosphere 20 or more miles high can also produce destructive electromagnetic pulses. So, how can components be protected from electromagnetic pulses?

I learned about Faraday Chambers and rooms. The protected device is placed in an insulating container inside an electrically conductive container. A simple Faraday Chamber would be a plastic bucket with lid snapped on placed inside a metal trash can with tight-fitting lid. A closet could be lined on floor, ceiling walls and door with heavy-duty aluminum foil. I expanded this idea to the 8×8 ft room housing my components.

I trimmed out a room next to the pump room, and put heavy duty aluminum foil on the floor, walls and ceiling using spray adhesive. The adhesive sticks better if the wood panel walls are primed with paint. The small window was triple screened with aluminum screen of fine mesh. The door was metal. I put vinyl floor covering on the floor and had enough left over to cover the walls behind the components.

I framed the wall vinyl with stained wood so it looked very nice! Outside the room, my cell phone got 3 bars. Inside the room with the door closed it lost signal. This would seem to indicate that the room was shielded to some degree from electromagnetic radiation. I’m adding additional shielding by covering the outside walls with 20 inch wide aluminum flashing. So far, the north and west walls are covered. I’ll get to the rest as I can.

I looked on line for vendors of solar electric components. I found The Alt E Store in Boxborrough, MA and told them what I wanted, how much power the pump pulled, how much it would run per day, and how much a small refrigerator should pull. They put together a component package that met my needs. It was sized to run everything for 2 cloudy days. They recommended two solar panels rated for 260 watts each, and a 24volt battery bank rated at 370 amp hours, plus the controller components.

I ordered it and they shipped it to a warehouse nearby where I picked it up. I got 10-2-G wire , a spool of ground wire, a breaker box and other components at a local auction for a good price. I mounted the panels, ran the wires through an entrance, through conduit into the room. The wires came into the combiner box. If I need more panels, I mount them on the roof and bring the wires into the combiner box.

From there, the wires go to the charge controller. This reads the state of charge on the batteries and charges them when there is enough light outside, if the batteries need charging. The battery bank consists of four 6-volt deep discharge batteries wired in series to make 24 volts. Each battery weighs 120 pounds.

Batteries need to be enclosed in a ventilated case to keep water, kids and critters away from it. I found a 100qt plastic storage container and a 40 qt storage container of same top size to use for a lid. I cut vent holes in the side and covered with screen wire, and ran a vent hose up from the lid. I cut holes in the side for wires and used strain relief fittings to secure the wires. From the battery bank, thick cables ran to the inverter. These cables carried 24 volts direct current (DC) to a 250 amp DC breaker.

The inverter converted this to alternating current (AC) and raised it to 240 volts, 25 amps. The inverter also reads the charge in the battery bank and shuts down when the bank reaches 50 % capacity. Over-discharging can damage the batteries. The AC current ran in #8 wire to the breaker box by a 100 amp main breaker. I put in a 30 amp 240volt breaker for the well pump and 20 amp 120 volt breakers for circuits for a light, an outlet in the pump room and wall outlets to run the refrigerator. The pump wire has a plug on the end. I can plug it into the grid outlet, or the solar outlet right next to it. The lights have compact fluorescent bulbs.

It works! I have plenty of water. A small refrigerator keeps the beer cold for now and has an ice maker plumbed into the water lines in the pump room. I got a wooden book case from the auction for $4.00 and painted it. I mounted it to the walls and have it stacked with non-perishable canned goods. I have a wide variety of vegetables, soups and other staples suitable for long term storage. I got another shelf and store more canned goods, a laptop and other sensitive electrical components on it. If the stuff hit the fan, I could put a chain across the drive way and sit tight for at least 6 months.

But best of all, the solar electric system has a 30% federal tax credit and a 25% state tax credit. This made the net cost come to half of what running the water line would cost. I like the idea of investing in my own independent power supply instead of more government!

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Latest comments
  • What about food, with that much acreage you should be good with garden space. Canning, freezing or drying? What are you doing for protein? No mention of chickens, fish, beef etc.
    I'm Glad you have power and water but what are you going to eat?

  • outstanding action on installing solar ..we all need solar