As I’ve discussed elsewhere, bugging in really a better choice for most people than bugging out. Unless you have a prepared bug out locations somewhere that you can heat to, bugging out to the wild isn’t really all that great an idea. Living off the wild is difficult at best, whereas staying home and bugging in at least provides you with shelter and whatever else you have in your home. But the question is, whether or not your home is actually ready to serve as a survival shelter.
Part of what makes our home a comfortable shelter is the convenience of public utilities. We depend upon electricity, running water, natural gas and sewage service to make the things in our home work. But the assumption is that in a time of crisis, those services won’t be available, so it’s important to have our homes ready for that and able to function without those public services.
We talk a lot in the prepping community about different ways of doing things, when those services are down. But we don’t really talk about making our home ready for running off of those alternatives. Installing solar panels is one thing, but running your home off of them is another.
The first thing you need to think about is electricity. Yes, you should have solar panels, a wind turbine generator and a battery backup, but you shouldn’t stop there. You need to plan for how you are going to use that electricity when the grid goes down. If you just hook the output of your battery backup to the home’s wiring, the grid will suck that power down, leaving you without any.
Whole House Switch
Unless you are planning on running extension cords everywhere to get power to where you need it, you need to be able to isolate your home from the rest of the grid. That means installing a whole house switch, the kind that are installed when a whole house generator is installed. There is also a manual version of this switch, which is considerably cheaper.
Another way you can do this is to install a generator switch on your main breaker panel. This allows you to select specific circuits that you want to have power to, in the event of a power outage. A single extension cord is run from the generator to the switch and it sends power out to the various circuits that it has been wired into.
Since your battery backup is running off of 12 volts, you are better off running your electronics off of 12 volts or even five volts, when you can, rather than running it off of 120 volts. Boosting the voltage up to 120 volts with an inverter and then reducing it back down to 12 or 5 volts with a transformer causes some power loss. Any loss is power that you could be using for other things.
If you have a one-story home, or a two story home with both an unfinished basement and attic, adding another set of wiring to your home is relatively easy. You can run the wires in the basement and attic coming up inside the walls to the necessary rooms. Just make sure that you use a different type of outlet, so that it is clearly identifiable as 12 volts, rather than 120 volts. Even then, it would be a good idea to label it.
For the top floor of your house, you could even add another set of lighting, which runs off the 12 volt power. This can either be hidden inside your normal ceiling-mounted lighting (by modifying the lights) or adding an additional light that runs off of 12 volts.
You’ll want to use 12 volt LED lights for this lighting, so that you can get the most bang for your buck. LEDs are much more energy efficient than any other form of light, meaning that you’ll be able to do more with less. While the LEDs are more expensive, they run for something like 70,000 before needing replacement. So chances are that they’ll last the rest of your life.
Can We Have Some Water Here?
Most preppers are installing some sort of alternate water system, whether it is a well or a rainwater capture system. Regardless of what you are installing, it would be easier to work with if you could run it directly into your home’s plumbing, rather than having to carry buckets of water all the time. I don’t know about you, but I think that would get boring real quickly.
If you have a well, you’ll have a pump to go with it. Hopefully, your electrical power generation is enough that you can keep the pump running as needed and don’t have to put in a manual pump. Those manual pumps only work for shallow wells, so if you have a deep well, you’re pretty much stuck with connecting the pump to your electrical power.
While rainwater collection systems are normally used by gravity feed, there’s no reason you can’t hook a pump up to yours. The trick here is going to be training your family to turn the pump on and off when they need water. Getting them to turn it off will probably be just about as hard as getting them to conserve water in the first place.
Homes all have hose spigots on both the front and the back; this is part of the building code. So, you have a way of connecting your well or the pump from your rainwater collection system to the house. Just attach a hose and leave the spigot turned on.
There is one other thing you need; that is a whole house valve. Most newer homes are built with this installed, placed either in the utility room, the garage, the basement or outside your home. In any case, it will be at the point where water enters your home. Closing off this valve isolates your home from the city water system. Failure to close it will allow your water to flow into the city’s pipes, giving your water away.
Get Ready to Heat
Heating is another important area where you will need to do some special preparations. Most people are planning on heating with wood. That means either using a fireplace or a wood-burning stove. If you are planning on using one of these, then you’re probably already making plans for installing it.
One option which is available for people who can’t do a permanent installation of a wood-burning stove is to install it temporarily, for the duration of the crisis. This is done by running the chimney out through a window, removing the window pane and replacing it with flashing or plywood. However, if you’re planning on using this as a means to heat your home, you’d better do a trial run beforehand, just to make sure you’ve got everything you need.
One problem with heating with wood is that you only have heat in the room where the fireplace or wood-burning stove is installed. That will probably be the living room or family room of your home. So, you may have trouble sleeping in your bedrooms on those cold winter nights.
In that case, you’ll all be sleeping in the living or family room, where the heat is. If you don’t have doors to block that room off from the rest of the house, you’re going to end up sending heat throughout the house, which you really need to keep closed in, to keep your family warm. That means installing some doors, even if they are temporary doors made by hanging a blanket over the door opening.
You’ll need to make sure that you have some sorts of mattresses or pads to sleep on as well, as you probably only have one couch in that room. If that’s the case, you’ll need something you can use, which can be brought out at night and put away during the daytime.
Thinking these things through ahead of time and making the necessary modifications to your home will make things much easier when the time comes and you actually have to use them. Don’t wait until the crisis hits to try it out; you’ll have a lot of other things you need to do then.