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Nothing, other than a good supply of water, contributes more to your comfort than having reliable power and heat in your cottage. Being connected to the public power grid is a great boon, and without it you will have to find alternatives. Power gives you the ability to run electric heaters, refrigerators, lights, stoves, and power tools. However, life can still be bearable without it if you can compensate in some way.

The following table provides some ideas about how to cope if you do not have power:

Appliance/Service Alternatives
Cooking stove Wood stove.
Camping stove (but use these out of doors to avoid the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning).
Outdoor barbecue.
Refrigerator Propane or kerosene fridge.
Cold cellar.
Freeze-dried or dehydrated foods (Ugh!).
Earthenware pots (dampened so that evaporation keeps the contents cool).
Lights Oil lamps.
Gas-powered lights.
Battery lanterns.
Solar powered LED's.
Power tools Old-fashioned hand tools and manual effort.
Electric heater Wood stove.
Kerosene or propane heater (needs adequate ventilation).
Washing machines and dryers Wash clothes by hand, and less frequently.
Outdoor clothes lines.
Indoor clothes line.
Local laundromat.
Water pump Hand pump on the well.
Carry pails of water from the lake, stream or river.
Outdoor rainwater shower.
(Note: For the sake of the environment, don't wash with soap in a lake, stream or river.)
Water heater Boil water on wood stove or camping stove for washing dishes or selves.
Take sponge baths instead of showers or baths.
Television Books.
Jigsaw puzzles.
Musical instruments.
Radio/Stereo Hand-cranked radio.
Battery radio/stereo.

Of course, if you have a gas-powered generator, you could still run all your appliances, but the cost of doing so would mount up prohibitively. Realistically, generators should only be run to give you light and the ability to occasionally run a power tool or computer. Your fuel bills would become astronomical if you tried to run your cooking stove or refrigerator off the generator all the time.

When the Power Goes Out

Power Outage

Even when you are connected to the public power grid, there will be occasions when the power goes off owing to thunderstorms, falling trees and lines being down. These outages can sometimes last for days, particularly after a widespread storm that brings down many trees onto power lines. The priority for the power companies is to restore service to as many people as possible in the shortest time possible. This means that they will focus on restoring power to urban areas first, where most people will be affected. It sometimes takes them several days to get around to the rural areas, so you will have to cope until the lights come on again. For this, you will need to have some of the alternatives available as listed above, or you may simply have to abandon the cottage, close up, and go home (providing the road out is not blocked by fallen trees).

In our case, we cope by having oil lamps, candles, two wood stoves, a barbecue, and a hand pump on the well. We find the most difficult aspect of not having power is the lack of light. Candles and oil lamps provide enough light to function, but are insufficient for prolonged reading or household activities. They can also be dangerous, as the potential for causing a fire is very real. A somewhat better alternative is butane lamps, as these provide much more light. They are noisier (hissing when lit) and more expensive to run, as they need gas cartridges that are not cheap. You also need to ensure that you have an adequate supply of cartridges on hand all the time.

A newer alternative with exciting potential is LED (light-emitting diode) lighting. LED lights are very cheap and efficient to run, and are generally powered by batteries as their power requirements are low. They do not give the same light output as incandescent or fluorescent bulbs, but the technology is advancing all the time. There are now LED flashlights on the market that can be recharged by hand-cranking them for a few seconds, and they give light for an hour or longer. It is also possible to build or buy solar-charged LED lighting systems. The options for emergency lighting are getting better and cheaper all the time.

© 2009, David Mallinson. --- Last updated 01-May-2014