Episode-939- Steven Harris on Dealing with a Large Scale Blackout – Part 1 — 75 Comments

  1. I am curious what would be the best way to run a sump pump using solar power ?

    • Keep in mind the best way to get answers from Expert Council Members is with a call to the think line.

    • They do sell 12 volt sump pumps that you can run with your batteries. Problem with most sumps like any motor run device, it needs a burst of power on start up. If your going to run your plan regular sump your going to need a hefty inverter to provide that high wattage burst. On my own sump I have noticed that as long as it can start up it will work even when there is a brown out, just really slowly. But still works.

    • Tom you also may want to check out the reviews on the inverter Hawaiian suggested below. Someone discusses using a sump pump with the invertor

  2. Loved the show, Timing was perfect because over the last few days I’ve been looking into backup power and ways to keep food cold. Steven, you always have great practical advise.

    I just ordered the ice maker as well. I was looking at it a couple days ago on solar1234, but waited to here you talk about it today. It will be great on my upcoming camping trip. No more buying ice for crazy prices from the camp store. I’m sure this will pay for itself in no time.

    I had a question about the inverter. Does it have a outlet on it? and do you run a heavier gauge extension cord when using it? I’ve also been looking for more information for battery backups for sump pump systems. I’m not looking to have a huge battery bank at this point.

  3. Another awesome SteveFest! Great information delivered with great enthusiasm, thanks!

    I can’t help but think what a blast it would be to have Jack, Steve and Paul Wheaton in the same (padded?) room for a roundtable on all things prepping/survival/energy. Would that be epic, or what!?

      • @hillhag, I think you might be right and wonder if Steve and Paul would end up killing each other? LOL

    • All inverters like these a have outlets. No need for a heavy cord the 120 volt side. You want thick short cables on the 12 volt side for bigger inverters but once stepped up to 120 any cord capable of working with the desired device from the wall will be ok

  4. Great show! I was gonna remind you, like Kathy said, about the show you did with the guy sailing around the world. And also, I sell farm fresh eggs, and although I can’t remember the website, I remember that eggs in the system for as long as three months are considered fresh by the FDA. Not washing them leaves the natural protector on them, too, or washed and rubbed with mineral oil does the same thing. Or, you can cook them and pickle them for longer storage. I’m thinking about trying some in brine to see what will happen. When you wash really dirty eggs, I read that you use water warmer than the eggs, because using colder water makes the egg inhale what’s on the shell. Maybe I should check my source before saying that?

  5. On second thought, the Duracell one looks pretty sweet, might just order that too!

  6. Hey Jack/Steven, are there any issues with running electric motors (ie fridge/ice maker compressor motor) on a modified sine wave inverter, or off of any source that might underpower the motor? I sometimes hear about burning out the fridge compressor motor by under-powering it or having unclean power… is that an issue with Steven’s car-inverter-fridge setup?

    • Yes there is an issue.

      It will run hotter. Over time it will reduce the life of the compressor.

  7. The space in my freezer that isn’t taken up with food is filled with gallon jugs of water.

    This is probably obvious to anyone reading this, but it serves three purposes: it’s more efficient for the freezer, the ice will keep the freezer colder longer when the power is out and extra spare water.

    • D’oh! I had hit minute 32 yet when I tried to post this. Still listening to the show now. Never mind.

  8. An even more redneck method to determine if your freezer has thawed during a power outage is to thrown an ice cube into a cup and place it in your freezer. Upon checking later, if the cube is still a cube, all is good. If the cube has changed to a solid block the size of bottom of the cup, then the power failed long enough to melt the ice cube and then refroze after the power was restored. So the items in the freezer are suspect.

    Great show, looking forward to part 2.

  9. .

    Great show!, looking forward to tomorrow!

    One thing,… you might want to get the white/silver ice maker, the black one will soak up heat if you ever have to use it outside in the sun.

    Also, are there any bad side effects to a vehicle running an inverter off the battery on a regular basis? (the truck computer, components, etc.)

    and… if it doesn’t matter if you have a 4 cyl. or an 8 cyl., I should probably sell my Dodge Ram 1500 for a 6cyl or a 4 cyl. – it’s better on gas consumption, – and it’s still 12v dc to 120v ac.

    • @TrekFanDan, on the ice maker, if the seller accepts our offer I am getting one in stainless, the new kitchen has all stainless appliances so I am waiting on my purchase. Personally I prefer black appliances stainless shows lots of smudges and fingerprints but it does look really nice.

      • @ Jack

        I really hope the new property works out for you Jack, I can feel how much it means to you when you talk about it.

        My wife and I are looking for property as well in Western S.C. , hopefully close to a well known network of preppers in that area. –
        …But, Owner financing is basically our only option at this point.

  10. I learned a lot from this show today, but I was disappointed in the condescending tone used towards people who aren’t quite a smart or knowledgeable in this field. Please be kind to the newbies and unschooled. If someone is a fool or not as intelligent as you, no need to call names. Maybe the poor guy pulling gas from his tank for his generator in VA really didn’t know any better, and just maybe, his scheme worked.

    • +1 Deb. The guy probably just didn’t know about inverters.

      Now lazy people, make fun of them all day long.

    • Deb,

      Steve , and even Jack can ba a little harsh at times, but it’s not the norm here.

      I believe they truly care, and are doing what they do to help inform and educate those who “don’t know”.

      That being said, nobody’s perfect, and I think those who know can sometimes forget where they were before they knew.

      Just an observation and opinion, from a long time listener.

      • @TrekFanDan,

        It is deeper than that. It is absolutely a teaching technique. The teachers that teach us the most always make us angry at times. Val Riazanov (former KGB) and Geoff Lawton (one of if not the best Permaculture teacher in the world) may seem miles apart but I swear to God both told me this exact quote.

        “A teacher can only use two things to really imprint an idea onto a student, one is pleasure and the other is pain, pain actually works better”.

        I know Bill Mollison taught Lawton that but I don’t think Bill is or has ever been a martial artist. My “pain” at times is designed to imprint memory. If you are pissed or hurt fine, as long as you remember and can use it when it matters.

        • … “A teacher can only use two things to really imprint an idea onto a student, one is pleasure and the other is pain, pain actually works better”.

          Well, granted, that philosophy work for some, but it’s a bit short-sighted for me.
          I’m not saying a person can’t learn from pain, that much is true. But I sure wouldn’t be their student for long.

          Pain, humiliation, or insults from a teacher or person in “authority” breeds hate, disrespect and rebellion. (I.E , Politicians, kings, dictators…like where we are now in America)

          Mutual respect is important for both the student and the teacher.
          As for me, I prefer logic, reason, encouragement, enlightenment, etc. …
          I myself don’t need a trophy… – or a slap in the face, from someone I am supposed to respect.

        • Its hard to imagine that some of these cupcakes are ever going to make it though tough times. Seriously people, its not like Jack or Steven were punching you in the face!

          I am a libertarian and therefore against compulsory service, but a I’ll be darned if mandatory 2 years in any of the armed servers would do this country good.

          And how much more plan can the fact be that both of these men are teaching with the audience’s best interests in mind?

          Lucky for me I have more ass than Jack has teeth so I will just keep on learning.

        • .
          @ Mark L.

          Not sure who you are referring to, but, I personally don’t need compulsory service, I have already enlisted, and served.

          Still, in todays world, I wonder sometimes if Israel may have it right…
          I would think our government would be less intrusive if we were ALL had military training.

        • TrekFanDan, you need to read the other part of his comment, I do think that was for you and get your panties out of a wad. No one slapped you or anyone else in the face in this episode. Again I refer you and anyone upset about anything on this show to

          This page

          Section Three and Subset 5 where it states clearly, “We believe in freedom here, if you choose to listen to our show you do so as a free human being on planet earth and therefore we are not responsible for any “mental anguish”, “mental trauma”, “feeling of being offended” or any other emotional problems that you get from doing so.”

        • .

          Sorry for the misunderstanding.
          Really Jack?
          No panties -No wad, Not offended or upset.
          And No cupcake here.
          I was merely voicing my opinion on Debs original post.

          …As to “Trophy and slapped” were merely a comparative to the “pleasure and pain” in your VR and GL quote, not literal.

          I have always been respectful to you and others here. Even, and especially, when we disagree.
          To do otherwise would not be productive or beneficial.

        • Yes really get your panties out of a damn wad. Again I simply say, “Section Three and Subset 5 where it states clearly, “We believe in freedom here, if you choose to listen to our show you do so as a free human being on planet earth and therefore we are not responsible for any “mental anguish”, “mental trauma”, “feeling of being offended” or any other emotional problems that you get from doing so.”

          Respect is many things it is also the respect for another person’s ability to be an adult and not take shit personally. Unless I say Joe is a complete idiot, Joe should be okay with stating that doing something is kind of stupid even if he himself has done it ESPECIALLY when if you examine the issue it IS a dumb thing to do. Joe is also free to do it and believe it is not a dumb thing to do.

          Yet anyone offended by this episode has a deeper problem, one they will find in the mirror.

        • LOL my comment still applies. Make sure to get a grip on a beer or mead or something tonight, with all the upset people over Walmart and a joke or two and the damn tech gremlins this week I am stressed the hell out so I know I will.

        • Seriously get a grip “this place” is as it has been for 4 years, families bicker at times, get over it and move on.

        • You have been and always will be Da Man, amigo. BTW, you need to hurry your ass back to The Promised Land (Texas). We have a very strict no douchebag/tech gremlin policy here.

  11. man what a great show! i’m going to have to look up the other show’s with steve. i have a question that i’ll throw into the forums as well… what will use gasoline more efficiently for powering things in the home? an idling car or a generator? let’s assume that both are in good working order and only a year or two old.

    • Hello Guys
      fantastic show. Just one question for Steve Harris Pleas.
      As I am in the UK with 240 volt, my buddies in South Africa have 220volt, my Ozie and Kiwie buddies have 240 volt, ex could stve specify an inverter for 240 volt , as Duracel do not seem to make one?
      that would really be appreciated.


  12. On the part of the show about beer just buy PBR it can be drank warm also Old Milwaukee will work.

    • @William88 good beer can be drank at what we call warm in the US (cellar temps of about 60-65 F) however, neither PBR or Old Mildew qualify as good beer.

  13. Wow! best Steve show yet! Got technical, but no too technical. Incredible practical advice. I really love it when we get basic, slow-the-freak-down-and-thing kind of advice. As preppers, we get so gung ho about stuff, we tend to over complicate things (at least I do). This one made me slow down and reallize (yet again), that my mind is my greatest weapon against un-preparedness.
    Can’t wait until tomorrow for part II!

  14. Great show! We had a 30 hour power outage week and a half ago, followed by 96 hours from the Mid Atlantic windstorm (and 100 deg. heat!) I picked up some good ideas from the show today that will make us more efficient in the future. Also, at least one DUH moment – putting the milk in the freezer when the generator isn’t running – I put ice bottles in the fridge instead – Bass Ackwards!

    Anyway, I gave today’s show a shout out on my blog tonight at One of my readers went 11 days with this outage!

  15. Jack,

    My wife and I were having a conversation about the downfall of the United States’ economy, and grant you my wife has never listened to your show, her first reason why its in decline, lack of community. I about spit my homebrew all over the place. She gets it.

  16. Another great show! Dometic 12v refrigerators draw 35 watts, and cool to 0*F. This you could run from a battery and a solar cell. They are expensive ($500 for 19 quart), but good long term.
    How about a terra cotta pot cooler? About a 35-45 deg drop from ambient depending on humidity.

  17. One thing to consider is using your lawn tractor instead of your car to run a small inverter. If you are not running many things on it, the alternator on the lawn mower will keep up just fine. May not work to run a refridgerator or big freezer, but for recharging batteries, cell phones, etc, it should work just fine. And they use a lot less gas than idling a car or truck.

  18. My husband and I were discussing the idea of running a fridge off our SUV. We have a 2013 Kia Sorento w/a 2.4L 4-cyl engine, and my husband seems to think that at idle, the vehicle wouldn’t make enough surplus to run something like a fridge. So does this idea of running fridges/ice makers off motor vehicles only apply to 6-cyl or larger engines?

    We got one of those Wal-Mart special 750w inverters off Sam’s Club’s auction site for less than $30, so we could try it, but my husband’s worried about disabling our only vehicle by running down the battery (because of the inability to run a compressor and idle the vehicle and maintain charge on the battery.) Thoughts?

  19. I’m trying to listen to pat II and am very excited! But I can’t seem to find how to open the link to listen to it on my iphone. I know I’m close to computer illiterate, so could this be me or my iphone or is there a linking problem?

    Thanks and can’t wait.

  20. S. Harris is probably my all time favorite TSP guest. So much value is imparted. Of course, Paul Wheaton is a close second.

  21. Jack is this inverter idea meant to replace a generator or is it an in addition to?

    Great show brotha!

  22. Jack, I have been thinking about buying one of those smaller cheaper gas generators until I can afford a larger 7-11 kw diesel unit. After listening to this podcast I realized my CUCV would be a great for this purpose as you know diesel engines use very little fuel at idle. One person on steel said that the 6.2l use 1.25 gallons a diesel every 8 Hours! Another great use for a my B.O.V.!

  23. Jack you said that siphoning gas out of the car to put in the generator is really stupid — what did I miss? What if that person didn’t have an inverter?

    • @Christopher note I said he was trying to, have you ever tried to siphon gas out of a modern vehicle? If you fill it to the top you MIGHT be able to siphon out the neck and get a quarter of a gallon. May be I should have explained this but in the 70s etc, sure you could just shove in a hose and get gas. Of course it became a problem so modern vehicles are hard to siphon, they bend the neck so it is all but impossible to get a hose into the actual tank. Steve being an automotive person likely was laughing at this as well, notice his pause and then “ah yea okay” sort of response.

      • Thanks, the only thing I knew about siphoning is what I saw in movies 🙂

        Loved these shows by the way. I thought I was pretty savvy on this topic but I learned a lot.

  24. Just finished listening, and wonder how a show would sound with Jack, Paul Wheaton and Steven.

    Just sayin

  25. FYI: the Duracell NiMh Rechargeable come to two flavors as mentioned in the show, but I discovered the new better version mentioned is associated with three names. I was originally known as the Pre-Charged but is now known as StayCharged (or Active Charged in other parts of the world).

    Duracell Pre-Charged cells are either rebranded Sanyo eneloop (‘white top’ Made in Japan) or Rayovac Hybrid (‘black top’ Made in China). But there is no way to know which version you are going to receive unless you can can see the top of the battery or possibly the country where it was made.

  26. I know that I can power either my Fridge / Freezer or my Furnace Fan on the suggested inverter. The question I have now is how do I run my 1/2 HP 230v well pump? Any ideas? I really enjoyed these two episodes. Thanks Jack and Steven

    • I am in the same boat. I have even considered installing a handpump on my well for prolonged outages. I would love some sort of sustainable 240v well pump solution.

    • Something like this should work

      No matter how you slice it, that is going to require a pretty beefy inverter and the current requirements (on the 12 V side) are high enough that you are going to need very thick/short cables and do a really good job of routing wires and making good connections. When you start getting into the multi thousand watt inverters, the current draw on the 12volt side is huge and undersized wires or poor connections will cause the inverter to fail to keep up as the voltage drop can be severe.

      • …in which case a stand alone generator would be as or more cost efficient and probably a better option. I think that I will be stuck with a generator if I need to power my well.

  27. Be careful storing a bag of water in a freezer. We buy milk in bags from a local dairy, and my wife had them jammed in the bottom of our chest freezer. It took 2 hours to chisel one of the bags out and salvage the rest!

  28. Please make sure your car is in good shape before you run an inverter off of it. I would swing by an autozone or some other place like that and have your battery and charging system tested. Make sure the thing you are relying on is running properly!

    • @charles while I agree in theory if you go to Autozone and ask if you need a new battery they are likely going to say yep you do even if you bought a new one yesterday. It is really worth getting the stuff to test your own battery.

      • Jack that may depend on the store. I was having problems with my car and took it to my local store (in a big, not-always-honest city, with people I’d never met before) and they ran the battery test meter. They said that wasn’t the problem and suggested I see a mechanic.

        • My local Autozone, that is. I’d never been in this store before though.

        • Though I like the idea that you can be certain by testing it yourself. As you said, you never know for sure.

      • @Jack, I TOTALLY agree! The problem is “getting the stuff” is only 1/2 the battle. Knowing how to use it properly is where most folks get confused.

        Having a simple DVOM is very important and can be had for around $50 or less. Learning how to properly test a starting/charging system is pretty easy.

        BING~ you just gave me an idea for my next video! Thanks Jack!

  29. Hey Jack,
    I’m trying to forward Stevens 2 interviews to my sister who had a blackout about 3 weeks ago and the email icon is not lit up on my iPhone.
    I checked my sons iPhone and it is not lit up either.
    Any ideas?
    (Headush on the forum)

  30. The Duracell rechargeable batteries are currently on today’s tech.Woot site. $14.99 for 12.

    Much cheaper than amazon and they look like the white tops that Steven recommends. Get ’em today.

    • Nice find on the Woot site, but I zoomed in on the pic on the front page. The tops look black, not white. It is the white-topped batteries which are made by Sanyo and are basically identical to the Eneloops. PLUS you don’t know for sure you’ll get what’s picture on the front page.

      I’ll pass, not worth the risk.

  31. I loved both of these Steven Harris episodes… I am weeks behind…I do have a question…I love the idea of using an inverter with a car battery to keep fridge other essential household items charged. We have a Prius; only a Prius. Will this type of battery work with an inverter?

    • The prius has a fairly normal (though very small) 12V battery for the electronics in addition to its ‘hybrid’ battery pack. Only the 12V is really suitable for connection to a normal inverter. It will work (with an inverter) but it will also go dead quickly as its capacity is lower than a traditional car/suv battery.

      The theoretical max draw from the 12V system is ~1000 watts so while this could in theory work for the refrigerator, I don’t think I’d want to rely on it given the slow recharge rate on the 12V system and the small size of the battery. Still, it is better than nothing (unless of course you rely on it, manage to drain your 12V system on your only car and then get ‘stuck’ adding to your emergency).

  32. Steven’s ‘alternate’ link to the Duracell Power Inverter is for the 400W model NOT the 800W model.

    I need to read instead of hitting the ‘order’ button.