Much of our modern world runs on electricity. Yet, if for some reason the currents suddenly stopped flowing through the wires into your house, whether it’s due to the dead rising from their graves or just an unexpected blackout, would you know how to make your own? If you don’t, you’d not only have to give up the little luxuries of life, such as hair-straighteners and ipods, but the essentials like light and refrigeration. You’d also have to give up things which could make your life easier, such as power tools and electric cookers.
At first glance, you might think making your own electricity would be difficult, after all few of us really understand what electricity is, but it’s not. In fact, using the few simple household items shown on the picture on the right (pennies, zinc washers, vinegar, cardboard and some twist ties), you can create enough electricity to run an LED bulb, as shown in the lower picture. Believe it or not, this is all you need to build your own fully-functioning and fully-charged battery.
If don’t believe me, you can try it yourself by following the instructions in the video below (it also explains how and why this works).
If you can light an LED bulb, you can also make enough electricity to re-charge a mobile phone, or even an ipad or laptop. If have enough of the raw materials, you could even make a trickle charger to recharge a car battery. Basically, you can run anything which runs off a direct current (DC) using the exactly same principles.
Of course, a lot of the everyday items we use don’t run on a direct current. Instead, they run off alternating current (AC). This means that it’s a little harder to run your entire house off electricity you make yourself. You could do it, but you’d need would be something called an inverter. You can make your own, but you’d probably be better to try to find one from somewhere. If you had to try to scrounge one up from somewhere, raiding an RV or a boat would be a good place to start as many of these will have built-in inverters which you can salvage.
You’ll need a lot of power to run an entire house, more than you could probably get from even the biggest stack of pennies you could find. What would you do then? Well, you could try to find a petrol or diesel generator from somewhere, but you’re still going to need fuel to run it, and, depending on your emergency, that might be in short supply. However, you could always turn to renewables, and start looking around for solar panels or a small-scale wind turbine. A few years ago, these would have been difficult to find, but now they are relatively common in many communities.
If you can’t find an existing power generator to power your house, then you could always build your own. This might sound difficult, but it’s not. All you would need is an alternator, of the type you can find in almost any vehicle, and a way to turn it fast enough to generate a sufficiently large current. You could hook it up to a bicycle and use pedal power, but I would probably recommend using water power, just like old-fashioned water mills. It might take a few hours, but it is relatively easy to make a water-wheel.
What if you can’t find a ready-made alternator? Well, rather surprisingly, almost any electrical item which spins when you plug it in, will also work in reverse. That is, if you spin it yourself, it will generate electricity. This is because electrical motors are reversible and will work in both directions, so either electricity goes in one end and mechanical power comes out the other, or mechanical power goes in and electricity comes out. If you want to see this principle working, look at this video, where a top-loading washing machine is turned into a water-powered electricity generator.
You can do something similar with a ceiling fan to create your own wind turbine, as shown in this video:
However, if you’re generating your own electricity using some sort of renewable set up, you need a way of ironing out the peaks and troughs in the power you generate. This is because renewable power generation tends to be intermittent rather than continuous (the main exception to this is hydro and tidal power). This means you need a bank of batteries to save the power when you generate more than you need so you can use it when you’re not generating enough. Luckily, in a post-apocalyptic environment, you can easily scrounge all the batteries you’d need from abandoned cars, or even better, golf carts.
Of course, rather than waiting until the lights go out, and trying to cobble something together then, you’d be better off getting prepared in advance. This can mean getting your own generator to take you through short power outages, and having some sort of renewable system in place for longer ones. This won’t just help you survive in a world where the dead have come back to life, it will also benefit you now, through lower household bills and the fact that you’ll be reducing you carbon footprint on the planet.
This is something I did a few years ago with solar panels, and even in Scotland, the system I have is enough to run almost everything in my house during daylight hours on sunny days. I’m not living completely off the grid, and still use mains power on cloudy days and at night, but I do have a system which, if I ever needed to, I could convert into a completely off-grid system within a couple of hours by setting up a bank of batteries to handle the times when the sun doesn’t shine. Even if that never happens, I can live happily knowing that I’m doing my bit to reduce my environmental impact on the world.
From the author of For Those In Peril On The Sea, a tale of post-apocalyptic survival in a world where zombie-like infected rule the land and all the last few human survivors can do is stay on their boats and try to survive. Now available in print and as a Kindle ebook. Click here or visit www.forthoseinperil.net to find out more. To download a preview of the first three chapters, click here.
To read the Foreword Clarion Review of For Those In Peril On The Sea (where it scored five stars out of five) click here.