How A Prepper Manages Off-Grid Power In A Post-Collapse Country

In this series, you will look at what life is like for a family man living in a social and economic collapse. The writer of these posts is a middle-class Venezuelan, in a country which has the world’s highest inflation rate at more than 4000%. Venezuela is a financial collapse nightmare with extreme shortages of food, riots severe hunger, a crippled economy, crumbling infrastructure, collapsed healthcare system, and a failing government.

The Venezuelan collapse has escalated to a breakdown in social order, putting Venezuela at the top of Latin America’s most homicidal nations. The rate of Venezuelans murdered is now 20 times that of the US.

In this post, the Venezuelan Prepper speaks of how he works with off-grid power in a post-collapse.

These last few days have been somehow quiet. Of course, so many people have left the country, though. There is a lot less of a crowd that once filled the streets before anything ever happened to what used to be the attractive country of Venezuela.

When we leave the safety of our home, we try to leave just when it is necessary, and come back as soon as we can. It is hard for the kids, but there is even more crime these days as lawlessness and desperation grow. Some fast-food restaurants, that have managed to stay open through charging high rates, expect to be looted at any given moment.

The Venezuelan power grid problem

A Venezuelan family have dinner by candlelight, a common practice in the country. Photo: Getty Images.

And while things were already bad, they’re about to get worse. I want to inform you that there has been a very recent and important event for the normal development of our lives in post-collapse Venezuela. There has been evidence shared through social networks submitted by one of the electricity workers union, and mentions that a lot of personnel (close to 60%) have abandoned their works posts to leave the country because of the low salaries, the food scarcity, crime, and the increasing threats with imprisonment for those who decide to quit their jobs now.

The guy informed as well that this would not be a problem under normal circumstances, but there is no proper document management, with the protocols and procedures that new employees could use for maintenance and operation of the systems. This is a major failure as a company, and it would be useless to blame someone for this now, but the problem is there.

The potential of a major failure of the grid is to be expected in the next few weeks, this will be the point of no return for Venezuela. The country is shutting down entirely now.

Without electricity, I believe that we all agree that we will have to forget the oil production, and the other few industries left, the water pumping, and the frozen food. This is going to be really bad in a few more weeks.

How am I going to approach this power problem as a prepper?

How am I going to approach this and organize my own off-grid power system? As a prepper, my approach is to downsize my household’s energy consumption, but that would have needed a large amount of investment in a mixed off-grid power system. For instance, using solar and wind and a large enough battery rack, and a good generator.

I would like to elaborate more about this reality we are living in at the moment. We were tempted once to exchange our home for an apartment, a nice one with a bit more luxury. But none of us had lived in an apartment before. We treasure our privacy, and having pets is not as comfortable as what it is in a house. In a house we could have the bike parked in the front porch, and do some basic maintenance to the vehicles.

There is another advantage, we could run our generator in the front yard. If the water service fails, usually when the power is gone, there is always some water left in the pipelines because it comes from an elevated tank. We solved the problem with a potential lack of water service with a 1500 liter tank, in our small backyard, over a column. This is a common solution here and this tank should provide enough water for about three weeks, for the three of us (my older kid is in college out of town).

The energy problem was a little more complicated, as we have three large air conditioning systems. Most households or apartments have it as Venezuela can get ridiculously hot in the summer. Sleeping at night without air conditioning is a nightmare. The investment needed for solar was a lot of money, so we decided to buy a Duromax 4,400w generator and three jerrycans. This is enough for three days, with low load on the generator, as we discover later.

We partially resolved the off-grid power issue for a while. However, now the threat is much greater, and is a much more potentially dangerous situation with a general power failure throughout the entire country. This means permanently living off my own power supplies. That also means essentially going back 80 years in time, where the tyrants roamed free at night, and the thieves were not afraid to hide in the dark and wait for some poor victim.

Balancing off-grid power through solar and fuel

Without power, buying fuel for the generator is going to be a pain. If you have a consumption low enough, say an electric fan, a TV, and a couple of laptops, solar or wind power would be a great solution, if you don´t allow your teenage daughter to use the hair dryer or use the blender too much.

For the air conditioning, the generator is a good idea, even though when its power output is just 20% over the peak consumption of the air. During an emergency, we tend to sleep in just one room and keep that room cool. The batteries of the solar power rack that we charge were collected for years, from our car, before the car batteries companies were seized by the government and they had to force us to take the old battery when we are going to buy a new one. For the panels, back when I first started prepping as a prelude to the collapse I picked up two 100w panels which I hooked up to the car battery rack and began charging straight away.

Somehow the batteries from the old cars have managed to last, and we usually can watch movies in our flatscreen for about six hours after dark (there is a lot of sun here, enough for not charging the solar rack during the day) more than enough for having a good time. I installed LED warm lights all over the roof,  so our house never remains in the dark. The consumption is ridiculously low, and they are not expensive. They will last decades, if well kept.

Our main concern will be going to buy gasoline in the fuel station, which is a gerry can a day. This is to use in the generator at night to run the air conditioning. If civil turmoil start again, this is not going to be easy as fuel will become either too expensive or just not available, and the lack of power at home could attract undesired attention with looters thinking that it’s just another vacant house in my suburb.

Oh, and with the cash scarcity (we don´t pay gasoline with cards in any place) finding money for the gasoline is going to be a really hard, excruciating task. I forget to mention, our SUV has been busted for over a year. Our main vehicle now is the motorcycle, and the bicycle.

Some considerations for an unreliable power grid

Now I will summarize what you should consider, as a prepper, in the lessons I have learnt about living with an unreliable power grid:

  • Don´t trust in the grid being there for you in the future. Prepare wisely, according to your means, as slow or fast as you can or you want…but DO IT please.
  • Calculate your consumption, and be ready to reduce it if you sometimes need to do it. I own LOTS of electrical tools (my dad is an electrician, so I guess it comes with the surname) and now I know that pneumatic tools could have been much better for my woodworking side business.
  • Use the more efficient power producing devices for the apparatus that need less power (this sound obvious but is not so easy to achieve).
  • First, design an install a simple lightning LED system, with a solar panel/battery rack arrangement suited to your needs.
  • If you need to run some larger equipment with much more consumption, freezers and refrigerators, then use something as a genset to run it intermittently.
  • And please, try running your generator for a week with it before, and make sure to follow all cleaning and maintenance procedures.

If you live in a place with lots of wind, focus in buying, or even manufacturing some turbines. Or if your property has a strong stream, try to find out if you can use it as a hydropower source without breaking any laws. You could use it as a fish source too. The constant power you get from a water stream is amazing, and perhaps you won´t need to even build a dam. Just redirecting the flow to your device, and letting it flow again in the mainstream, and will have a constant 12v current for your LEDs.

Prepare for long-term off-grid power solutions, design everything as simple as you can so that you can fix it for yourself, and use good quality equipment. The wise investment is the best approach you can have. Be creative, and you will be good. Remember, your brain is your main survival tool.

Stay safe,

José (Venezuelan Prepper)

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