It is important to have a backup source for the essentials in case the power goes out for an extended period of time. For me, these esentials are:
1- Clean water– I think this is important no matter if you have city water, a well , or a spring. In case of a natural disaster you may not have clean water. In order to have clean water, I have two 55 gal drums filled with water, and a reverse osmosis system that purifies the water for drinking. The Reverse osmosis system is pressurized by a 12v pump that is powered by 2 12v deep cycle batteries, that are charged by a 60 Watt solar panel. This same solar panel and Battery also powers a 12V pump that feeds all our water to our house. I have been running this system for over a year now, and it has always kept charged up (even on cloudy weeks). (there will be a link here to pictures/videos, and more details on how I set this up). For now, here are a couple of videos.
2- Power for cooking – I have set up a 2.4KW grid tie solar array that has been working great to reduce our home power consumption. But I also plan to add A bank of batteries, a charge controller, and an inverter to the system. Once I get this setup I will be able to switch over to batteries when the power goes out. This will produce plenty of power to cook on a small 110v burner, run lights, and anything we really need, except hot water, and heating our house. (there will be a link here to pictures/videos, and more details on how I set this up).
3- Heating- Heating is the number one energy drain in my home. This includes heating water (all year), and heating the house during the winter. Here are some quick calculations on how much power it takes just to heat water. Assuming I use 80 gal/day of hot water (this includes showers, washing dishes, etc). To see the calculations go here. The answer to this is it will take 480 KW hours/ month just to heat water. Depending on your electricity cost, this would be around $50/month, or $600/ year. I don't know about you, but I could use that $600 in other places. And that is only for heating water. Heating your home in the winter uses much more power than heating your water.
I am really excited about my plans to eliminate my heating expense completely. My plan for this is to build a outdoor wood boiler (you can buy them if you would like, but they are expensive). I will use the wood boiler to heat the hot water for my home, and to also heat my house by pumping hot water lines into the floors of my home. I already have the lines in my floors, so this will be easy for me, but if you don't have lines, there are other options to heat your house with the hot water from the boiler. Other options are radiators (like space heaters), or heat exchangers you place in your current central air system.
Now this will work great in the winter time, but I don't want to burn wood year around just to heat my hot water. So in the summer time, I will have some hot water solar panels that will circulate hot water into my boiler (my boiler will just be used as a hot water storage tank. By doing this, I will have all my hot water taken care of year around, and also have my house heated all winter.
Now since this system will consume wood during the winter months, I have planted fast growing trees around my house (I plan to have about 500 trees). I will use these trees for wood, and replace them as the are cut down. This is not totally necessary, since wood in not very expensive, especially if you get creative, like getting it from tree trimmers, etc. However I do like the idea of being able to supply all my own heat
To see pictures/videos, and more details on how I set this up, please go here.