14 Products to Help You Survive the Storm
Storms are a fact of life. But part of the DIY life is being ready for household emergencies, small or large. Here you'll find products, skills and strategies to help you weather the next storm your neighborhood.
Life without power can be pretty uncomfortable. So don’t wait for a storm to hit before you buy a portable generator. Immediately after a storm, all you’ll find are the units nobody else wants. I shopped around and came up with one unit that’ll satisfy the needs of most users. At 8,000 watts (66 amps at 120V, or 33 amps at 240V), this Generac GP8000E portable generator is large enough to run your well pump, refrigerator, furnace and a few small appliances.
It has a battery-powered electric starter, so if you keep it plugged in before the storm, you won’t have to yank a rope to start it. All the controls and indicators—on/off, fuel shutoff, choke, circuit breakers, watt meter and hour meter—are located on the control panel, a smart design since you’ll most likely be using it in the dark. The fuel tank has its own gauge and holds 9 gallons, enough to run for about 10 hours at 4,000 watts.
The GP8000E gets high marks from users, has a two-year warranty and is available from local portable power dealers (or for $1,480 with free shipping from powerequipmentplus.com). – Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor
What are you going to do for heat if the juice goes out during an unseasonable cold snap—or in the dead of winter? Even gas furnaces need electricity to run the motors and electronics. If you have a woodstove, fine, but otherwise you might consider having a kerosene heater on hand. It won’t heat the whole house, but it will keep one or more rooms comfortable. You can spend under $100 to set up a small unit. Just remember the bigger the unit, the more kerosene you’ll need to have on hand.
Learn 10 more ways to heat your home during an emergency right here.
If you don’t have running water, your toilet won’t work. But with a GO Anywhere toilet kit, you’ll be all set, even if you have a family of 10. The heart of each GO Anywhere kit is a waste bag with powder to absorb liquid, start a composting reaction and control odor. Each kit also has toilet paper, hand sanitizer and an odor-proof zip-close disposal bag.
The bag is enormous, big enough to place on the bowl of a regular toilet. When I tested the GO Anywhere kit, I used it on a 5-gallon plastic pail, which though less comfortable, worked perfectly well (yet another use for the DIYer’s friend!). The beautiful thing about the GO Anywhere kit is that after use, it’s completely biodegradable, and you can safely and legally toss it in your household trash.
The GO Anywhere bags are a useful addition to your storm readiness kit if your water supply is subject to disruption. They cost about $3 each at outdoor supply stores like REI and many online retailers. Check out the manufacturer’s Web site: cleanwaste.com. – Ken Collier, Contributing Editor
Batteries are always in short supply right before, during and right after a major weather event. That’s where this hand-cranked radio, LED flashlight and phone charger comes in handy. The Eton FRX3 ($60 at home centers and electronics stores) radio keeps you in contact with all seven NOAA weather band stations and the weather ALERT system, as well as local AM/FM stations.
The built-in LED flashlight helps you navigate in the dark. Just charge up the internal battery before the storm, and then keep it charged by spinning the handle on the hand-cranked generator. Or, put it in the sun and use the solar cell to help recharge the internal battery.
According to the manufacturer, you can also charge your cell phone with the generator. It’s true. But I’ll be honest with you—it takes a LOT of cranking to fully recharge a smartphone (think carpal tunnel). Buy it for the radio, not its phone recharging capabilities. – Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor
Check out this nifty toolbox radio from David Harmon, a Family Handyman reader.
When the power goes out and your cell phone battery eventually dies, what then? Here’s another important item to add to your emergency preparedness kit: a SpareOne Emergency Phone.
This cell phone is built to last for 15 years on a single “AA” battery (included). It can place emergency calls even without a SIM card and has 10 hours of talk time and a built-in flashlight. It doesn’t have a display, you can’t e-mail or surf the Web, and the call quality is just so-so. But in an emergency, you’re looking for fast help, not a long chat with your best friend. It’s $15 at Amazon.
Sometimes, the storm that brings rain and floods also knocks out the power, so your sump pump is useless just when you need it the most. There are a couple of safeguards against this double trouble.
For about $300 (including battery), you can install a battery backup pump. The weak spot in this system is the battery itself; it may not pack enough power to keep pumping through a long outage. A better option for many people is a water-powered pump ($160 and up). With these systems, pressure from your home’s water supply pumps seepage outside. That wastes water, of course, so these pumps are for backup only.
Running a supply line to power the pump is standard plumbing work; it could be easy or difficult, depending on access to an existing supply pipe. If your water source is your own well, this option isn’t for you—your well won’t pump if the power is out. Water-powered sump pumps aren’t stocked in most home centers, but several models are available online. One brand is Basepump. Go to basepump.com to figure out what size you need.
Click here to learn more about using a battery backup pump like this one.
Not everyone who has a stash of food for emergencies is necessarily nutty, you know. Do an online search for “survival food,” and you’ll be amazed at how many companies are providing survival food packages. Sears, Walmart, Costco and Amazon all sell survival food packages online. Typically the kits are freeze-dried packages that are meticulously prepared for storage of up to 25 years. It’s basically the same type of food that backpackers and explorers have been eating for years. Not gourmet food, but good fuel.
Prices range from a week’s worth of food for one person for $150 to a year’s worth of food for a family for a few thousand dollars. How much you buy depends on your budget and how long you think you’ll need to hold out.
A battery-powered lantern is your best friend in the aftermath of a power outage. Most of them put out lots of light, but some suck your batteries dry faster than others.
Of all the battery-powered lanterns on the market, the Rayovac Sportsman LED Lantern (SE3DLNCOR) gets excellent marks. The 4-watt LED light pumps out 240 lumens on high mode with three “D” batteries. To conserve battery power, dial it down to energy-saver mode and you’ll get 90 hours of continuous light.
The lantern also has a “find me” feature that blinks a green LED light every five seconds so you can locate the lantern in the dark even when it’s off. Find it at most home centers for about $30.
You can’t count on cell phone reception in the wake of a storm. And, if your power is out, you’ll automatically lose your Internet and VoIP phone service. That’s where an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) system can step in to save the day.
A UPS system does double-duty by protecting your computer system during everyday use and powering your communications devices during a power outage. Buy the largest UPS system you can afford, and add a piggyback battery to extend the reserve power even further (the APC BR1500G UPS system and APC BR24BPG battery pack combination is one example; $300 from amazon.com).
Plug your cable/DSL modem/router, VoIP and portable phone base station into the UPS, and they’ll keep running the instant you lose power. Make your phone calls and send your e-mail, but shut down the UPS when you’re not communicating. That’ll extend battery power for days. Find UPS systems at any local computer store or online computer supply stores.
Find out how to make your home WiFi faster right here.
Lots of companies make solar-powered chargers for mobile electronics, but I had to dig around to find a unit that will charge a cell phone reliably and for a reasonable price. The Qi Portable Charger does the job. It’s built with a large mono-crystalline silicon solar panel that’s 20 percent more efficient than most other solar chargers.
The unit is rugged and waterproof, and the electronics are smart enough to prevent battery overcharging. Find the Qi Solar Charger for $30 at Amazon. – Rick Muscoplat, Contributing Editor
In a huge storm, you may not have any water. That’s true whether you have city water or your own well. And what’s more important than water?
Well, for $40 and very little preparation, you can have up to 100 gallons of water kept in your bathtub with the waterBOB. Just drop the bladder in the tub and fill it up from the spout before the weather hits and you’re ready to go. Clean water that’ll last for about four weeks. Better get used to sponge baths for a while. Buy yours at waterbob.com.
Most storm damage repairs start with some kind of demolition. Sure, you can bust stuff up and pull nails with a framing hammer, but you can do it a lot faster with the Pulverizer. Think sledgehammer meets pry bar meets nail puller.
This tool weighs twice as much as a regular hammer, giving you the power to knock apart even the most stubborn studs. Each end has a built-in pry bar, and the Pulverizer delivers three different methods for pulling nails. Plus, it has a really cool name. You can buy a Razorback Pulverizer online for $40.
Dry floors faster with an air mover
Unlike regular fans, air movers concentrate air close to the ground, which makes them the ideal tool for drying a wet floor. Many air movers can accept hose attachments used for drying out ductwork and wall cavities as well.
They cost more than a fan, but a heavy-duty air mover like the Crusader shown here is a lifetime investment, designed to be rebuilt if parts do wear out. Even if you only occasionally work on water restoration projects, this is a must-have tool. Buy the Crusader 3500 (made in the U.S.A.) at acmetools.com for $200.
Learn 12 affordable ways to dry out the floors in your home!
If you’re repairing an area that has recently gotten wet, it’s a good bet that mold colonies have acquired a foothold. Before you hang drywall or install flooring, consider applying an antimicrobial solution like Concrobium. It kills existing mold and makes it difficult for new mold to establish itself.
Concrobium is more effective than bleach, has no smell and is safe to use around pets and children. Wipe, brush, roll or spray it on surfaces. You can even apply it with a fogger to get in those unreachable areas. Pick up a gallon of Concrobium at your local home center for $33. That’s not a lot of money to reduce the health risks associated with inhaling airborne mold spores.
Every product is independently selected by our editors. If you buy something through our links, we may earn an affiliate commission.