We have lived off grid for over eight years (solar and wind). There are a few things I would like to know. One, how do we protect our system from EMP, including our household electronic appliances; two, our home is on a slab (radiant heat) and wondered what we can do, or build, for a root cellar for food storage of what I have grown, canned, and our year supply of food; and lastly, what would you suggest to limit propane usage, (or replacement of) for our generator when the sun doesn’t shine or wind doesn’t blow to charge our battery bank? In Vermont, the cloudy days of winter can stretch out over many days so the generator will turn on to charge the batteries. The summer months we can go weeks without the generator to turn on.
We’ve had several articles over the last year or so that has covered EMP protection for appliances. Faraday Cages, Your Electronics, and EMPs and Protecting Your Circuits both have good advice and additional links for resources to help you build the proper protection for your appliances.
For root cellars, two articles that we ran included Vegetable Storage: Getting to the Root of the Problem and Root Cellaring: The Key to Making Your Produce Last. Both of these subjects require more space to adequately answer than is available here.
Unfortunately, at this time, energy choices are limited when it comes to powering our homes. As you’ve so adequately stated, when the sun is not out or hidden behind cloud cover, recharging solar panels can become an issue. Because I don’t know your particular situation (what types of appliances you’re trying to run, what systems you power, the square footage of your house, what power source you’re using for heat, etc.), it’s hard to make a determination of what you can do to reduce your propane costs. I’m sure you’ve thought of the basics that come to me right off the top of my head:
1. Because propane prices are related to crude oil prices and those prices fluctuate constantly, the price you pay for propane can change from day to day. Keep an eye on crude oil prices and take advantage when they dip.
2. Propane does not go “bad” the way gasoline does. It will store indefinitely. Therefore, to reduce costs and weather upturns in prices without having to go into your pocketbook, put in a larger tank and fill it up when prices are down. There are larger 1,000-gallon used propane tanks for sale in our state’s Farmer’s Market Bulletin all the time, and they’re quite reasonable. You may have the same in your area. It’s an excellent investment. Go to your state’s Department of Agriculture website and download a copy of your state’s Farmer’s Market bulletin. (Ours comes in PDF or printed format. You might have to pay a subscription fee to get it.)
3. Determine which are your most critical Tier-One energy needs, and during a time of cloud cover and shadows use only those systems.
Today I read your article on canola oil being bad. I do home storage and have put several gallons of it to use. What is a safe replacement for canola oil? After reading the letters you received, it has me scared now. Thank you for your help, and I enjoy learning from your newsletters.
Thank you for writing and I appreciate the kind words. We try to make our articles relevant to the needs of our readers.
As to your question… different oils store well for different amounts of time. They should be stored in a dark place away from the heat. The less the oil is exposed to air, the better. For your purposes, there are three main oils I find most people put away—coconut oil, peanut oil, and olive oil. Of the three, again, olive oil is the most delicate, and actually stores better in a refrigerator and will last longer. It will remain fresh when unopened for about six months in a dark storage room or up to a year in the refrigerator. Peanut oil will last, unopened, about a year in a dark storeroom. However, like olive oil, it to will last longer stored in the refrigerator as well. Coconut oil is the least susceptible to oxidation of all the plant oils, so it lasts longer. Most coconuts oils have a two-year expiration date but can last longer.
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