Recommended Equipment and Sources

This section of the book should be helpful to most readers including those who have the booklet 10 Packs for Survival.  Finding the right products and resources to build a home is often difficult, so I have listed here some of the most unique and valuable resources I have come across over the years.  I have not included many conventional products that are easily available for building but rather have concentrated on those less conventional items that I have commented on in the text.  I concentrate on products that I have personally used or, when they are no longer available, similar looking products, but there are many items that I have not had personal experience with and although I have attempted to judge these within the limitations of written claims, you should use your own judgment when evaluating their suitability to your needs.  I make no guarantees about the performance or reliability of these products or services.  Surely, there are other similar products to the ones I have mentioned that may be valuable and yet unknown to me.  Because they are not mentioned does not mean that they are not acceptable. If they follow the general criteria given, feel free to consider them.  If I have time, I can try to check out a product of interest to you, if you will provide me some relevant sources or descriptive information.  Any feedback you have, negative or positive, about any of these products will be appreciated. Note: Some links on the website version are affiliated.

In most cases I try to list an address, telephone number an Internet website URL (URL means an Internet address, usually preceded by a www).  Going to a company website will allow you to view the product and read important information.  This will save you much time and effort.  If you find errors here or see web addresses that do not function, please inform me by email (joel [at] joelskousen [dot] com).


Here is a list of suppliers who are frequently referenced in the product reviews because of their service related to a product or because they sell items mentioned in this list.  To save space I will only mention their name as a source instead of giving out their address and telephone numbers each time they are mentioned.  Check here for contact information if it isn't listed in the body of the list. 

ABRAHAM SOLAR EQUIPMENT—This is my top recommended source for all your solar and alternate energy products. Mick has low prices and he knows all the equipment personally, including how to install it. Above everything, I can personally vouch for Mick Abraham’s honesty and integrity.  This is a source you can completely trust.  Tel: Order line (800) 222-7242; Consultation (970) 731-4675; (mick [at] abrahamsolar [dot] com); address: 124 Creekside Place, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147. URL:

BE SELF RELIANT.COM—A company with a lot of practical experience in designing and installing self-sufficient and multi-fuel systems within homes.  They are based out of Idaho and are quickly developing into a comprehensive one-stop resource for self-sufficiency products and information. This includes: alternative energy, heating, home production, self-reliant skills development, consulting, and installation.  They have developed a unique home heating boiler system that uses any available fuel, simply by changing out the burner. It also uses coal and wood. I don’t know of any other system that matches this one.  All of their systems come with extensive “How To” documentation for the do-it-yourselfer. Tel: (208) 624-3135 or (888) 624-0040 URL: email: (info [at] beselfreliant [dot] com)

EMERGENCY ESSENTIALS—Largest of the Utah-based full service preparedness products stores. 653 N 1500 W, Orem, UT. 84057 Tel: (801) 222-9596. URL: Email: (sales [at] beprepared [dot] com)

Provident Living—Excellent online shopping for some of the best prices on all the basics of storage foods. They also sell 72 hour kits and specialty preparedness equipment. 729 W 350 S, Orem, UT 84058. Tel: (800) 723-0635. URL:

MAJOR SURPLUS AND SURVIVAL—Biggest of the California survival food and products stores. 435 W. Alondra Blvd.; Gardena, CA 90248. Tel: (800) 441-8855 or (310) 324-8855 URL:

NITRO-PAK—Carries a full line of survival foods and products. 375 W. 910 S., Heber City, UT 84032. Tel: (800) 866-4876. URL:

WALTON FEED—Largest of the survival food suppliers. 135 North 10th (PO Box 307) Montpelier ID 83254. Tel: (800) 847-0465. URL:

LEHMAN’S CATALOG—The largest of the self-sufficient/back-to-the-land suppliers. 289 Kurzen Road North Dalton, Ohio 44618. Tel: (877) 438-5346 Email: (info[at]lehmans[dot]com) URL:

AMATEUR ELECTRONIC SUPPLY (AES)—Biggest of the mail order ham radio and antenna stores. Order their catalog: (800) 558­0411. URL:

HAM RADIO OUTLET—Major competitor to AES with outlets in some major cities. Tel: (800) 444-4799. URL:

RADIO SHACK—Nationwide electronics parts, radios, telephones and security systems. Tel: (800) 843-7422. URL:

WW GRAINGER—Nationwide wholesalers of almost every type of equipment. You must have some type of business in order to establish a wholesale account with them, but it is worth it. Check their website for the nearest warehouse. URL:

NORTHERN TOOL AND EQUIPMENT—Big discount mail-order catalog company for generators, major tools and equipment. Tel: (800) 221-0516 URL:

Recommended Equipment and Sources

This section of the book should be helpful to most readers including those who have the booklet 10 Packs for Survival.  Finding the right products and resources to build a home is often difficult, so we have listed here some of the most unique and valuable resources we have come across over the years that pertain to the Secure Home. We have not included many conventional products that are easily available for building but rather have concentrated on those less conventional items that we have commented on in the text. We concentrate on products that we have personally used or, when they are no longer available, similar looking products, but there are many items that we have not had personal experience with and although we have attempted to judge these within the limitations of written claims, you should use your own judgment when evaluating their suitability to your needs.  We make no guarantees about the performance or reliability of these products or services.  Surely, there are other similar products to the ones we have mentioned that may be valuable and yet unknown to us.  Because they are not mentioned does not mean that they are not acceptable. If they follow the general criteria given, feel free to consider them.  If we have time, we can try to check out a product of interest to you, if you will provide us some relevant sources or descriptive information.  Any feedback you have, negative or positive, about any of these products will be appreciated. Note: Some links on the website version are affiliated links to help you find things on

In most cases we list an Internet website URL (URL means a Universal Resource Locator or Internet address, usually preceded by a www).  Going to a company website will allow you to view the product and read important information.  This will save you much time and effort.  If you find errors here or see web addresses that do not function, please inform Joel by email: joel [at] joelskousen [dot] com.

Product Suppliers

Here is a list of recommended suppliers who are frequently referenced in the product reviews who may service or sell items mentioned in this list.  To save space we will only mention their name as a source instead of giving out their address and telephone numbers each time they are mentioned.  Check here for contact information if it isn't listed in the body of the list. 

ABRAHAM SOLAR EQUIPMENT—Mick Abraham is my top recommended consultant for all your solar and alternate energy products. Mick has low prices and he knows all the equipment personally, including how to install it. If you are in states close to Colorado, he also may be able to install.  Tel: Order line (800) 222-7242; Consultation (970) 731-4675; email: (mick [at] abrahamsolar [dot] com); address: 124 Creekside Place, Pagosa Springs, CO 81147. URL: 

Do-It-Yourself SOLAR AND Energy Systems—Gary Reysa of Bozeman, Montana maintains a great website resource for alternate energy enthusiasts. If it can be built by amateur’s Gary will know about it. Nothing sold on this site just helpful tips and lists of sources and materials. URL:

THE NATURAL HOME SOURCE—These designers and builders have the most experience in heat mass - passive solar homes. Their system is applicable to most areas of the country, but especially the West. We don't agree with all their techniques or their pricing commissions, but you can learn a lot from their information and implement what you want on your own. They cover waste treatment systems, earth sheltered homes and buildings, solar air heating systems, composting system components, indoor gardening and attached greenhouses. Silverthorne, CO URL:

EMERGENCY ESSENTIALS—Largest of the Utah-based full service preparedness products stores. 653 N 1500 W, Orem, UT. 84057 Tel: (801) 222-9596. URL:  Email: sales [at] beprepared [dot] com

MAJOR SURPLUS AND SURVIVAL—Biggest of the California survival food and products stores. 435 W. Alondra Blvd.; Gardena, CA 90248. Tel: (800) 441-8855 or (310) 324-8855 URL: 

NITRO-PAK—Carries a full line of survival foods and products. 375 W. 910 S., Heber City, UT 84032. Tel: (800) 866-4876. URL: 

WALTON FEED—Largest of the survival food suppliers. 135 North 10th (PO Box 307) Montpelier ID 83254. Tel: (800) 847-0465. URL:

LEHMAN’S CATALOG—The largest of the self-sufficient/back-to-the-land suppliers. 289 Kurzen Road North Dalton, Ohio 44618. Tel: (877) 438-5346 Email: info[at]lehmans[dot]com URL: 

HAM RADIO OUTLET—Major competitor to AES with outlets in some major cities. Tel: (800) 444-4799. URL: 

WW GRAINGER—Nationwide wholesalers of almost every type of equipment. You must have some type of business in order to establish a wholesale account with them, but it is worth it. Check their website for the nearest warehouse. URL: 

NORTHERN TOOL AND EQUIPMENT—Big discount mail-order catalog company for generators, major tools and equipment. Tel: (800) 221-0516 URL:

Product Listing

Alternate Energy


                                Battery Chargers and Maintainers

                                Battery Watering Systems

Fuel Storage


                                Small and Portable (up to 5kW)

                                Medium Size Generators (10kW to 15 kW)

                                Whole House Generators (24kW – 50 kW)

                                Generator Mufflers

Transfer Switches

                                Hand Crank

Solar Panels:

                                Solar Inverter and Control Assemblies

Solar Charge Controllers

Solar Linear Current Boosters

Solar Water Heating

                                Wind Power


Equipment Suppliers

Ham Radios



                                Antennas and Towers

                                FRS/GMRS (Walkie-Talkies), CB Radios

                                Hand Crank Emergency Radio

                Radio Scanners

                Shortwave Radios

Home Appliances and Greenhouses

                Canners and Dehydrators

                Washing Machines

Wheat Grinders

Water Filters and Treatment

                Water Desalinators and Distillers

Stoves and Heaters

Water Heating with Wood Stoves

Gate Openers


                Greenhouse Components

                Greenhouse Equipment

Home Construction:

                Concrete Homes

                Fiberglass Stucco EIFS

                Log Homes

                Modular Homes


                Underground Homes

                Waterproofing and Dampproofing

Fire Retardant Treatments for Wood


Stucco Systems

Wood Composite Decking, Trim

Concrete Crack Repair


Elevators and Dumb Waiters


Steel Security Doors

                Vault Doors

                Door Hardware

                High Security Locks

Bullet Proofing, Armor, Fabric and Panels


Security Systems

Security System Components

Security System Perimeter Protection

Security System Mapping Software

                Window Protection

                Window Shutters

Gate Openers



                Air Filters and Ventilation

                Backup and 12V Lighting

                Backup Solar, Battery, Inverter Packages

                EMP Protection

                Radiation Meter

                Cook Stoves


                Sink and Shower (Gray Water) Plumbing

Steel Decking


Toilet Options

Water Storage Tanks

Shelter Systems and Plans


                Food Storage


                Firearms and Weapons

                                Air Guns



Solar and Hand Crank Generators

                Lanterns, Headlamps and Flashlights

                                Oil and Kerosene Lamps

                                Masks and Smoke Hoods

                                Matches and Lighters

                Thyroid Protection

Tape and Adhesives

                                Winter Clothing



                                Cargo Bikes

                                Hybrid and Touring Bikes

                                Bicycle Tires       

                                Bicycle Lights

Bicycle Accessories

                                Electric Bicycles and Equipment

                Electric Vehicle Conversions


Lighting: Backup and 12v

Nuclear Preparedness:

                EMP Protectors

                Radiation Meters




Stoves and Heaters

                Cook Stoves

Supplies to Stockpile

                Batteries, Rechargeable


Transportation: Bicycles

                Hybrid and Touring Bikes

                Bicycle Lights

                Bicycle Accessories

Electric Bikes and Equipment

Transportation: Electric Vehicle Conversion

Ventilation and Air Filters

Water Filters and Treatments

Water Heating with Wood Stoves


Window Wells and Skylights

Recommended Books:



Alternate Energy


6 volt Golf Cart Batteries—Still the cheapest “semi-deep discharge’ option for small uses—golf cart batteries are 6 volt batteries with about 200 amp hours ($100-$150 each). Battery lifespan is 2 to 5 years depending on maintenance and temperature of storage. Available at most auto parts stores and some large retailers like Sam’s Club. Buy local because they are heavy to ship.

Trojan—L-16 and L-16 AGM batteries are either 6 or 12 volt, 200 amp-hour in both flooded and non-maintenance absorbed gas mat (AGM). Decent lifespan up to 5 years. They weigh between 65 and 95 lbs. ABM are best for the modest set of batteries you need internal to the shelter because they do not outgas.   

Surrette or Rolls—Heavy-duty, 2volt and 6 volt, 2000 amp-hours, deep cycle batteries for big solar systems. These weigh about 200 lbs each and take 2 men to move.  The big disadvantage of lead acid technology is that over time it takes more and more current to keep them float charged at peak voltage, and they require lots of distilled water to replace outgassed water from the acid bath. Also, they should not be discharged more than 50% before recharging.

LITHIUM ION COBALT (Li-Co)—Same battery technology used in Tesla electric cars, but packaged for household solar systems: Tesla Power Wall 2—a 7kw battery pack costing about $5600 and claiming 14kw-hours.  LI-Co batteries cannot be fully discharged without damage and they have complex electronic controls to prevent overheating and auto-combustion. The Tesla battery is warranted for 5,000 cycles. Not capable of high current output, except when ganged with many small units. URL:

LITHIUM IRON PHOSPHATE (Li-Po)—The latest and greatest battery technology for solar systems is a Lithium Ion battery but based on Iron Phosphate instead of Cobalt.  It has the advantage of being much safer from overheating, and it can be fully discharged and recharged over 10k times.  It is also suitable for high current protection, for starting vehicles and machinery. Available from SimpliPhi below.

SIMPLIPHI  BATTERIES—This company has many sizes of Lithium-Ion and Lithium-Iron Phosphate batteries that can be joined to any solar system, including retrofits for existing solar systems with lead acid battery banks.  No other battery maker that we could find does this.  With Tesla and Sonnen, you have to buy the entire inverter/battery/control package.  Not so with SimpliPhi which can be used with Siemens Trace inverter systems and SMA—the two largest of the Solar inverter giants. Tel: (805) 640-6700. URL:

SONNEN BATTERIE—One of the best solar equipment manufacturers from Germany produces a 4kw battery pack unit that includes the inverter, and all charge management controls for $5900, close to the Tesla, but it yields more power and longevity than the nominally larger PowerWall-2 size (7kw).  The new SonnenBatterie Eco Compact is sold in 4kw units that can be tied together up to 16kw as a single unit.  However the Eco is only a grid tied battery system at this writing.  To do off grid, you have to order the larger 10kw “Eco Protect.” URL:

Battery Chargers and Maintainers

Battery Web—This webpage has a good rundown on battery maintenance technology. We do not recommend trickle chargers as they keep a constant, low charge across the battery and they will overcharge and eventually ruin the battery by evaporating the acid. Look for a battery float charger or “battery maintainer” which turns on and off as needed to maintain the optimal voltage. Sulfation of the lead plates occurs on all batteries over time. There are technologies that keep batteries from sulfating and can even remove sulfation. URL:

Since we have multiple vehicles and equipment sitting around in reserve, we keep a float charger permanently connected to every battery.  The best overall float charger contains a desulphator as well:

BATTERY MINDER 1500—Charger, maintainer, and desulfator in one ($45). From Battery Web, Miami, FL Tel: (352) 326-2039. URL: or Impact Battery URL:

THE BATTERY TENDER JR.—This is one of many less expensive units that charges a battery and then maintains it with a float charge. Buy direct from Battery Tender ($40). URL: 

Schumacher SC-10—This is a small portable charger for around the garage and shop. It’s an automatic battery charger and maintainer that keeps the battery at a perfect float charge without overcharging, and has a 55amp engine start circuit. About $60 from Wal-Mart and other auto parts stores.

Power Pulse—12, 24, 36 and 48 volt units provide electronic pulse that breaks down sulfur crystals that build up on batteries, often revitalizing poor performing batteries ($40 to $70 depending on voltage). Available at specialty battery sites such as:

XANTREX FREEDOM—This series of 2-3000kw inverters have built-in battery chargers capable of charging over 100 amps, making them excellent stand-alone inverters for a shelter battery pack that you want to keep charged, without a generator or solar panels. URL:

Battery Watering Systems

Hydrocaps—These units condense the water vapor out of lead acid battery gassing so you don’t have to maintain the water level in those battery as often. Available through Abraham Solar (800) 222-7242. Or from HydroCap (352) 429-5787. URL:

Battery Watering—System for maintaining water levels in battery banks.  Every battery cap is replaced by a float type cap with a tube attached that is connected to a central tank for distilled water.  URL:

Flow-rite—Automatic battery watering products. 960 74th Street S.W., Byron Center, MI 49315. Tel: (616) 583-1700. URL:

Fuel Storage

Kerosene — Ideal for lamps or stoves because it stores well.

Stabil—Popular gasoline stabilizer found at auto parts stores and major retailers like Walmart.

PRI—PRI-D (for diesel) and PRI-G (gasoline) are the best stabilizers for stored fuels but also the most expensive—although they treat a larger quantity. This additive can keep diesel fuel, kerosene and gasoline fresh in storage, but you must keep gasoline tightly capped and cool to keep it from losing vapor. Gasoline stored over 3 years, even with PRI-G should be mixed with fresh before using. This additive claims to restore old fuel to like-new. Available from many distributors including

Octane Booster—Gives much better mileage on cars where timing is computer controlled (most modern cars) to create maximum compression just short of knocking. It can be found at auto parts stores but is cheapest at Wal-Mart. This additive also helps rejuvenate old gasoline (although you should always mix old with new if available), so keep several bottles near fuel storage. Also keep fuel injector cleaners on hand to eliminate residues from old fuel.

Diesel Biocide—Racor or Biobor JF brands. When condensation forms in part-full tanks the water drips into the diesel and settles to the bottom eventually accumulating enough to growing algae and other solid organic matter in the water. These products are a kind of pesticide or chemical treatment to kill or reduce these organisms. Available at marine supply and most automotive stores.

Fuel Tanks—Available in all major cities.  Do an internet search in your local area to avoid high shipping costs.  Or, check with local petroleum distributors who all deal in fuel tanks.

Fuel Pumps—You need either manual, battery powered, or 110volt fuel pumps to extract your fuel from underground tanks. Always buy an inline fuel filter and connect to the inlet of you pump. Available from online stores such as Northern Tool .

Foot Valves—These are one way valves used at the bottom of a suction line that is used to withdraw fuel from an underground tank. They keep the fuel in the line from draining back into the tank so you do not have to prime the pump each time you use it. These are available at petroleum equipment dealers or at large plumbing outlets. Here are some sample brands of foot valves: Simmons, Merrill, Wayne, Flotec, Flomatic and Brady (plastic).


General Notes—Because of shipping weight, the heavier generators are sometimes best purchased from local generator dealers. However, always compare price with one of the major mail-order generator supply houses below. W.W. Grainger and Northern Tool will supply a wide variety of the small to medium sized generators too.

ELECTRIC GENERATORS DIRECT—The biggest online supplier for the Midwest, located in Illinois, and they have free shipping in the lower 48 states. Tel: 1 (800) 800-3317. URL: 

Norwall Power Systems—For the best prices in the West, use Norwall. These people ship all over the world and are experts. They have very good prices, too. They don’t sell any junk, and service all major brands (so they know which ones are best for maintenance).  Lake Havasu City, AZ 86403. Tel: (928) 453-4494. URL:

Central Maine Diesel—For larger generators (7kW and up) this is the source we use for diesel generators, even though they are on the far east coast. Prices are very reasonable, but they are very busy and lead times and delays can be long. Hampden, ME 04444. Tel: (207) 941-1188. URL:

Small & Portable Generators (up to 5kW)

Mini Portable Units—Small, suitcase-size generators are available that produce less than 2000 watts, are super quiet and very fuel-efficient.  They used to all be 1000 watts or less but now most produce more power in the same 50 lb suitcase design.  You’ll find them all the generators below at some tool stores and everything is available from Electric Generators Direct URL:

Yamaha ef2000isv2—This is the highest quality you can get and twice the fuel efficiency of the others.  1 gallon gives you 8 hours of run time. 1kW suitcase generator only weights 44 lbs, but it costs $990, double some other brands.

Honeywell 2000W—This generator only costs $650. Cheap, light, economical, but noisier and less reliable than brands below.  50 lbs weight.

GENERAC IX2000 Generac used to be cheap and low quality but no longer.  This is a true 2000W suitcase generator for about $600.  50 lb weight.

Honda EU2000i—is a top quality generator and very quiet.  At $1000 for 2000 watts, it’s the most costly for its size, but will last longer than the cheaper ones. 45 lbs.

All of these manufacturers, and others, have the typical wheel mounted portable generators with the integral tank and pull start, that are less than $600.  Everyone ought to have one for general utility use and short term emergency backup. Anything between 2000 and 5000 watts is big enough to run a refrigerator and freezer.  They aren’t meant for long term power generation, however. There are two classes of generators here: the cheap group with flat-head, side valve, lawn mower type engines, and the more expensive group with longer life overhead cam and valve engines. 

Medium size generators (10kw to 15kw)

This size generator is selected for most moderate sized homes as the primary backup generator.  These will give you a couple of 20amp circuits for emergency use.  You’ll have to be careful not to overload these generators by plugging in too many appliances. Onan and Kohler are the high priced standards in the industry, but we generally find better deals with the brands listed below. These generators are meant for running full time, but make sure you have a pressurized oil system. While we prefer diesel generators, you will have to deal with putting in a diesel fuel tank.  The cheapest way to set up a diesel genset is in a solid shed where an elevated 500 gallon farm type tank can’t be seen and be gravity fed to the generator.  If you choose an underground tank and pump system for supply, it will be much more expensive, but the fuel will last much better and be protected. Many homeowners choose natural gas or propane for this size of generator.  Specify one with a switch operated triple fuel carburetor (NG, Propane, Gasoline) so if natural gas isn’t available you can switch to another fuel. Propane is a good backup, it lasts forever, suitable 1000 gallon buried tanks are easy to put in and no questions asked. 

Honda Deluxe Series—Honda is one of those companies with a high quality line and a medium quality line. The deluxe models usually have added features.

Generac EXL Series—Generac also has a high and low line. The XL or EXL lines have the pressurized oil system “vanguard” engine or the Honda engine.

Kubota AV Series—Excellent machines (Kubota always builds nice engines). See also Kubota Gensets Model GL6500—6.5kW about $4,500 from Kubota Tractor Dealers.

Whole house generators (24kW – 50kW)

There are no bad generators in this class, and they are almost all diesel powered.  But this is the only class of generator that is going to let you run air conditioning or heat pump systems.  I consider 24kw a minimum for whole house generators because they will give you 100amps of power.  Most homes have 200amp systems, but rarely are you using all 200 amps.  If you need more, the 50kw machines will give you 200 amps of output, approx.

Generator Mufflers

Harco Silencing Mufflers—Three levels: Extreme, Critical and Super Critical (attenuates down to nearly silent). They also have similar levels in a “low profile” unit for small, tight locations but these cost about 25-30% more. All these mufflers are state-of-the-art silencers and are very reasonably priced. You can afford to stack two mufflers together if near a living space. 1000 Industrial Parkway, Newberg, OR 97132. Tel: (503) 537-0600 or (800) 394-7571. URL:

Transfer Switches

Manual and Auto Transfer Switches—Most generator manufacturers offer a wide variety of these transfer switches.  Your transfer switch must be able to handle the entire house load even if you generator is smaller, because the switch itself carries the house load from the utility when power is on.  If you have a utility service in excess of 200 amps, then you’ll pay more for the transfer switch than the generator.  For larger power service (300 or 400amp), get a whole house generator because the automatic transfer switch will cost several thousand dollars. Transfer switch are available from generator distributors including www.grainger  and

Solar Panels

New silicon solar panel efficiencies are now above 20%, but many panels still use old technology. Polycrystalline panels are about 15% efficient and amorphous solar film panels are only about 10% efficient and have the shortest lifespan. 

In the end, it’s really how much power you get for the money that is the key issue, as well as the space the panels take to give you that power.  The less efficient the panel, the more space you will need—and that means more racks and installation costs too.  Since the Chinese began to dominate the solar panel market, prices have dropped to the lowest level ever. What that means is that discounted lower efficiency panels may cost you less money per watt.  For longevity you want crystalline silicon panels, but shop for the lowest cost per watt if space isn’t an issue. You may have to buy a few more panels to satisfy your total design load.

The 3 top rated solar panels are all just below $3 per watt in cost:

1) has the highest efficiency (22%) and is made in the USA and the Philippines and has 17% of US market, $2.96/watt.

2) is made in USA and Germany  $2.95/watt

3) LG Solar is made in Korea at $2.95/watt.

Trina Solar panels are made in China and also have 17% of the market but only have 16-18% efficiency.

Sharp and Kyocera —Considered better quality but cost more. Sharp is US and Japanese built, and Kyocera, US and Mexico.

Sanyo (Panasonic)—Panels are compact to give you more watts/sq. ft. but are also expensive. Their cost/watt is almost double that of Chinese-made Suntech. You can find out where other panels are made at

Solar Inverter and Control Assemblies

The major manufacturers for solar inverter and charge control assemblies for solar are Outback, SMA, Schneider Electric (Trace and Xantrex), Victron, Pika Energy and Magnum. Some use a charge controller to charge batteries, and others have them built in, or take their power from AC micro inverters on the panels. All are excellent at producing an AC sine wave through solid state electronics that matches modern electronics.  These inverters can also energize house circuits when the power is cut off within milliseconds so that most electronics will not detect the power failure. 

Here are the features you want in an inverter to make your home really self-sufficient:

1) Capable of tying to the grid or acting off grid

2) Two AC inputs, so a generator can replace the utility and power the house or charge batteries.

3) Internal, high amperage battery charger with 2 or 3 stages of charging capable of handling both Flooded Lead Acid, Gel cells, AGM and Li-Io batteries.

4) Power diversion to dump excess solar power into some kind of resistance load.

5) Capable of feeding AC inverted solar power from panels directly into household circuits and drawing only from Grid or battery bank as needed.

6) Web based monitoring of the system remotely.

7) Stackability so that inverters can be chained together to produce higher amp services in excess of 100 amps.

Sadly, none of the current inverters do all of these.  SMA does everything except the power diversion and web monitoring. Pika does everything but it doesn’t work off grid. Magnum has the best power diversion but doesn’t prioritize between solar and the battery.  Xantrex only draws solar power through the battery, and can’t input it directly into the house. But the entire solar inverter industry is now in flux and I expect at least two of manufacturers to meet all these criteria soon. Mick Abraham will have the latest updates.

SMA:  Their latest line of Sunny Island inverters is currently our top choice since it does everything on our wish list except power diversion, 2 AC input terminals and web-based monitoring. SMA has those features in Germany, so we expect them to bring it to the USA before long.   

PIKA ENERGY:  Pika has a sophisticated true self-consumption inverter but no power diversion and only one set of "AC IN" terminals. Pika systems all run on a proprietary bus called REbus™ and so their inverter can only be connected to a smart battery pack compatible with Rebus—which runs at 360volts.  Currently only one Li-Po battery company is making a suitable battery system for PIKA. The Pika Islanding Inverter is self-configuring and automatically discovers connected REbus devices such as Pika PV Link™ and Pika-compatible smart batteries.  In 2017 Pika should have new equipment capable of off grid use. The Pika Islanding Inverter features selectable modes for Grid Connect, Self Supply, Clean Backup and Priority Backup. URL:

Magnum—Inverters, chargers and interconnect panels. Magnum has the a power diversion system, called ACLD, but so far it only works for "off grid" projects & requires a special box to protect the generator. Another drawback for "Magnum PAE with AC load diversion" is that one cannot stack multiple sets for more amperage.   The Magnum Energy ACLD-40 allows you to connect AC resistive loads to your system, but unfortunately, this 4kw diverter only works with 12, 24 and 48 volt battery systems (leaving out PIKA) and will only communicate with a Magnum inverter and remotes via its proprietary RS485 MagNet protocol. Everett, WA 98204. Tel: (425) 353-8833. URL:

Victron Energy—Inverters, chargers, panels, batteries and more. Simpler to use than Xantrex. URL: 

Solar Charge Controllers

These units regulate (step down) the voltage from the solar array to match the 12 or 24 or 48 volt needs of the battery bank. Cheap controllers discard the power when not needed, moderately priced 3-stage systems ($200 range) have more settings to keep the batteries floated but still don’t extract all the power the modules can produce. MPPT (Maximum Power Point Trackers) charge controllers are the most expensive ($600 to $900) but these units can get 15 to 30% more power compared to a “legacy-type” (non-MPPT) controller. MPPT units regulate the voltage/amperage coming from the solar panels to maximize the watts (energy) out of the system and then use this to charge the battery bank. Available brands include: Most inverter manufacturers have MPPT charge controllers. 

MidNite—MPPT charge controllers rated up to 96 amps and many other solar and battery control products. MidNite systems have an impressive array of options but they are also more expensive than most of the competition. Many solar distributors sell these units.

Outback—Charge controllers (3-phase and MPPT) available mounted to a power center from Outback. Prices similar to MidNite without as many features. URL:

Solar Linear Current Boosters

Linear Current Booster (LCB)—A special type of pump controller that regulates the power between solar panels and DC water pumps or DC motors to keep systems running during intermittent clouds or sun angles. Their units have variable voltage converters to draw the most power from the solar array (by varying the voltage/amperage ratio). Essentially the motor gets more current at a lower voltage and runs slower—better than a stalled motor that doesn’t pump at all.  They differ in cost depending on how much current they can handle—between $100 and $500. See for a comparison chart of various brands.

SOLAR CONVERTERS brand of DC transformers. Step up or Down DC converters. 

Dankoff LCB—maker of solar water pumps makes their own LCB as well.  About $350. Available from many distributors including:,

Solar Water Heating

Batch Water Heaters—Known as Integral Collector Systems (ICS), are the best, cheapest and easiest to install for most people. Good for all but the most severe cold weather climates, and even then, you can drain them down if you don’t have freeze protection. In severe northern climates there is very little solar thermal energy during the winter anyway.

GLE SOLAR—The best of the vacuum tube collector systems that act as batch heaters with stainless steel tanks.  They can also be used as solar pool heaters.  URL: 

Wind Power

SPRECO SILENTWIND—Small windmill with output voltages of 12, 24 and 48 to match the voltage of your battery bank. They range in output from 400 to 500 Watts/ The Spreco blades are the best blades for low noise and vibration.  The Air Breeze unit with Spreco blades is the most efficient at less than 20 knots but the Silentwind unit is better in higher winds.

 AERMOTOR EQUIPMENT AND PARTS—These are the old traditional water pumping windmills. Dean Bennett Supply keeps these and Fiasa windmills running. Toll Free: (800) 621-4291.

AMERICAN WINDMILLS—New, used and refurbished windmills and plans for towers. URL:

AERMOTOR WINDMILLS—New units and parts.   San Angelo,  URL:


Equipment Suppliers

Ham Radio Outlet—Largest supplier of ham radios and equipment. URL: 

DISCOUNT TWO-WAY RADIO—All the modern radio brands with all the latest technology at reasonable prices.

Ham Radios

Major reputable brands are Yaesu, Kenwood and Icom. Handheld dual band transceivers for these brands run $200 to $400. Chinese BaoFeng boast similar specs for under $100, but they are not as well made. Look for radios that are programmable with CHIRP, which is free to download and works with Mac, PC and Linux (URL: The CHIRP website has a list of compatible radios.

YAESU VX-6R—Durable small, triple-band transceiver. A good starter radio. $240 Available at HRO ( and other online vendors.

KENWOOD TH-D72A—Easy to use dual band with GPS receiver, Packet transmit and easy programming from computer. 5 Watt, record route on GPS, but expensive at $400. Find at HRO or Amazon.

YAESU VX-8R—Ultra-rugged radio that is waterproof, even submersible up to 1 meter for 30 minutes. Quad-band receives 6m, 2m, VHF, UHF, FM/AM, aircraft bands, barometric pressure, temperature sensor, optional GPS (needs external antenna). Programmable using CHIRP ($370). Very complete radio but a bit complicated for beginners. At HRO ( and at Amazon.

BoaFeng BF-F8HP—This is the 8 Watt version of the popular UV-5R, dual band radio (VHF, UHF). But it does receive commercial FM broadcasts. Most handhelds only broadcast up to 5 Watts of power, so this has the ability to reach further. $63 on Amazon. Get the programming cord ($12).

Antennas and Towers

Rohn Towers—Mostly radio towers but also copper strap and tower grounding products. Rohn products available through Ham Radio Outlet (see above). URL: 

Car Mount Antenna—There are several whip-type antennas available, including some with magnetic mounts for the car top. Store in trunk when not in use. Available at Ham Radio Outlet

DIAMOND MR759—Dual band base station antenna for 144/440 mhz is a good all-around for home to use in communicating with your family’s portable radios around town.

SHORT WAVE Antenna—The MFJ-1020C adjustable interior short wave antenna is very convenient for portable reception from Ham Radio Outlet. For a real antenna, you’ll need fine long wire over 100’ long, fed from the center down to your shelter with radio coax.  Here’s a YouTube video by RadioHamGuy on how to build a Di-pole Short Wave antenna for all the major listening bands:   Find Short Wave broadcast schedules at  You can have a lot of fun decoding digital signals (PSK, RTTY, WeFax, etc.) with cheap software at  For great reading on everything you can do with a ham radio visit the site of  Lots of great do-it-yourself ideas.

Antennas for Scanners—Home base station: Diamond D130J is about $95.  A Car-mount scanner antenna is the Austin Spectra ($140) from

Cell Phone Antenna Booster—Essential to get cell phone coverage in a shelter. Most modern cell phones do not have an external antenna jack, so your cellphone must use a booster to relay its reception to the phone.  You must buy one that is compatible with your network. WeBoost is the top selling Wilson brand (about $500). 

FRS/GMRS (Walkie-Talkies), CB Radios

Family Radio Service (FRS)—No license required, 1-2 mile, 0.5 watt powered. These are the cheapest alternatives to ham radio for short distance communication. Like a walkie talkie, only higher quality.

GENERAL MOBILE RADIO SERVICE (GMRS)—Simple license required with one page form, $65 fee, good for 5 years, applies to all of immediate family. Up to 50 watts power allowed on GMRS frequencies, except 7 channels shared with FRS which is limited to 5 watts. Good for longer range communication similar to UHF ham radio handhelds, but with limited frequencies.

COBRA ACXT 1000 Series—At $75 for two radios, this is a good FRS/GMRS radio for the price. It is well made, waterproof, floats, durable, and has a longer range (37 miles line-of-sight) compared to other radios. It allows the included NiMh battery pack to be swapped out for (3) AA disposable batteries—an important feature so you can carry backup power anywhere. Battery lasts for days. Small LED light. Weather receiver and alerts. Can play back 20 seconds of last voice received. Available from Cobra and distributors including Amazon.

MIDLAND GXT1000VP4—The GXT series are somewhat cheaper at around $60 for two, are lighter weight than the Cobra above, waterproof, floats, NOAA weather alerts, 50 channels and 142 “privacy codes,” and has hands free operation with a headset. Rechargeable battery pack can be swapped out for (4) disposable AA batteries.

MOTOROLA MS350R—Three radios for $90 makes this one of the cheaper options. Less range, but easy to use, water resistant, hands free operation, NOAA weather alerts, 22 channels and 121 “privacy codes.”  NiMh rechargeable pack (included) or (3) AA disposables.

CB radios—40 Channels, no license required. 4 watts maximum power, though many transmit at higher powers illegally. Most CB radios cost less than $100. Available at all radio stores including Radio Shack.

Hand Crank Emergency Radio

SANGEAN MMR88—One of the best emergency radios. Sturdy hand crank, solar panel, durable construction, extendable antenna, digital tuner, AM/FM, NOAA weather, including stored alerts that can be played at your leisure, USB charging port and flashlight but no shortwave or aviation bands ($50). Available from many online retailers including Amazon.

MIDLAND ER310—This sturdy little radio receives AM/FM and NOAA weather with alerts using internal batteries, solar, hand crank or six disposable AA. Good reception from the digital tuner. Takes a long time to recharge from the solar panel. A great deal for only $50. Available from many online retailers including Amazon.

None of the hand-crank shortwave radios have good enough reception to be recommended, but many of the small handheld travel radios work for a long time on just two AA batteries. Keep a solar charger on hand and rechargeable batteries to run these better radios.

Radio Scanners

General Notes—Listen to radio chatter from Police, EMT and other public safety departments as well as aviation, marine and utility radio transmissions. In big metropolitan areas police and city radio transmission keep getting more complex with computer controlled channel swapping (trunking) to maximize their bandwidth. Scanners have kept pace except for some localized systems in big cities and encrypted government transmissions. Many counties now use trunking and digital scanners which require a more sophisticated (and expensive) scanner. We found the FAQ page at Scanner Master helpful and their prices on new products are usually competitive. If not technically inclined, buy the preprogrammed units that are easy to use, by simply inputting your location. Subscription-free updates of frequencies using USB cable or SD card to keep your unit tracking the frequencies around you.

Uniden HomePatrol 2—A very popular and capable preprogrammed unit that also receives digital trunked systems. It is self-programming once you enter your zip code. ($500).

Desktop units—Consider Uniden Bearcat BCD996P2 Scanner at about $400 which has some very unique features. 

Shortwave Radios

Shortwave Radio—Receive news and stations from all over the world. Critical in an emergency. Common bands include AM, FM, Aircraft Band (118-137 MHz) and Shortwave (1.6-30 MHz). Some units will even receive some Ham Radio transmissions.

C Crane Skywave—An excellent small radio with the best chip for receiving AM. FM is excellent and shortwave rivals the quality of some larger portables ($90). Available from radio suppliers and amazon.

Tecsun PL-380—FM/AM, Shortwave, Longwave. This little radio is half the price of the CCrane above, but still pulls in the signals. The easy tuning mode (ETM) is a valuable feature that quickly finds all the stations on a band and allows you to scroll through them with the knob, yet doesn’t replace your saved preset stations. ($45) on Amazon.

Eton (Grundig) Globe Traveler ($100) and TECSUN PL660 ($160)—Intermediate brands that also offer aviation bands (communications between and for aircraft).

Sony ICF-SW7600G—Best buy of the medium-sized, fully capable receivers ($300).

ETON (Grundig) Satellite 750—Excellent desktop unit for serious shortwave reception. SSB reception for eliminating interference. AM, FM, Aircraft Band and Shortwave. About $275.

Sony ICF-SW100s—The ultimate in miniature-sized world band receiver (size of cassette). Available second-hand ($200) from online retailers like Amazon or eBay.

Hand-crank—And/or solar powered shortwave (SW) radios. Although there are many reliable hand-crank radios that receive AM, FM and Weather well, we have yet to find one with even decent shortwave reception on any band, and all have major problems with the rechargeable battery getting weaker with usage, so hand cranking doesn’t last.  We can’t recommend any at this time. Instead get rechargeable batteries and a solar charger for the units mentioned above. They will last for days of continuous reception.

Home Appliances and

Refrigerators on Alternate Energy

Sun Frost—Efficient, quality fridges built to run on solar systems. Available for 12 or 24 volt DC, or 110 or 220 volts AC. Expensive: Full size ($3,500) uses less than 1kwh/day, Medium ($3,300) less than 0.75 kwh/day, Under counter units ($2,500 to $1,800) use less than 0.5kwh/day. P.O. Box 1101, Arcata, CA 95518 Tel: (707) 822-9095. URL:

Norcold—Designed for RVs, with units that will operate on propane, DC or AC power. Add more insulation for less power use. Needs electric power for lights and thermostat even when running on gas. Sold through RV and marine dealers. URL:

Dometic RGE 400—A Swedish made (Servel) 8 cubic foot propane fridge. Very reliable, cost is about $1,500.  Requires no electricity (D-battery required for light). Many RV suppliers and prepper stores like The Natural Home distribute this product.  Caution: propane refrigerators use a lot of propane keeping their ammonia absorption cooling system hot

Canners and Dehydrators

CANNERSAll American brand makes the best pressure canners ( For non-pressurized canning we recommend steam canners over water bath canners, because they heat up faster.  Back to Basics is a good brand ($65) sold at preparedness stores and at

UNIVERSAL PEELER—Apple, Potato Peeler, corer, slicer (about $20) is very handy when processing apples. Watch out for cheap Chinese versions. Victorio is made in Taiwan and much more reliable. The suction base is good on smooth countertops, or Back to Basics has an undercounter clamp version. Available from Lehman’s, Emergency Essentials, and

NESCO AMERICAN HARVEST—Gardenmaster with round, stackable (up to 30!) trays and a fan on the bottom (used to be called, “Harvest Maid”) about $130. Affordable model for everyone on a budget. Trays with hole in the middle can be unwieldy and allow food to fall through—to the fan below. But with care they work well. Easy to find at major retailers and online. Two Rivers, WI. URL: Tel: (800) 288-4545

EXCALIBUR—Top rated dehydrator with large, square trays for easier cleaning and fan on the side. Base model with a timer $300, up to the top models for $600.  Available from Excalibur directly or many retail stores. Sacramento, CA. URL: Tel: (800) 875-4254

HOME FOOD FREEZE DRIER—Freeze drying used to be an expensive commercial-only operation, but now this technology is finally available for the home preserver.  Freeze dried food has more nutrition and lasts longer than any other preservation method. Oily things do not freeze dry well. The large vacuum pump requires a lot of electricity to run, so this is more useful when grid power is available. They are expensive at $3-4,000, but worth it if you have produce and especially extra meat to put away long term. Save $250 by picking up the hefty mini-fridge size unit yourself. Salt Lake City, UT. URL: Tel: 1-800-700-5508

Washing Machines

GENERAL INFO:  All modern washers use water and energy saving techniques that have dramatically changed the way we wash clothes. The new washers use much less water but they rely on hotter water, multiple sensors and still require about 500watts/hour to run. One major advantage, however, is that they get more water out at the end with a high-speed spin cycle. 

STABER—Designed for off-grid homes, this is an alternative energy washer that uses less than 200 watts-hours per load so even smaller solar/battery applications can handle the load.  It is the only top-loaded, horizontal axis (drum type) washer that is made in the USA. It loads from the top, through a door in the rotating drum, rather than through a door in the front. Owners either love or hate their Staber washers. Customer service is reportedly poor, but it is made to be easy to repair from the front. Approx. $1300 for the base model. URL:  

MANUAL HAND WASHING—Requires agitating the clothes in soapy water and then again in several rinse baths. The key is a good wringers help get water out for faster drying between wash and rinse periods. Look for metal basins at Lehmans, or IFA farm stores so you can both heat water in them over a stove and then wash with.

HAND AGITATORS—Some people just use toilet plungers with a hole or two in the side to help aerate/mix the water during agitation. The $48 RAPID WASHER is similar but is better at moving water through clothes and aerating which accelerates the cleaning. Buy at Lehman’s or

WASHBOARDS—Good for scrubbing stains out of clothes. Lehman’s has a glass board ($33) that is reported to be easier on clothes and doesn’t wear out as fast—as long as you don’t drop it. URL:

WRINGERS—Quality on these matters. Lehman’s wringer reportedly doesn’t last long and rusts. Look for one that will also mount to curved edges (tubs, barrels, etc.). Chamois wringers ($160) at auto supply stores are usually sturdy. Dyna Jet has one of the best hand-crank wringers ($145-$175). URL: 

JAMES HAND WASHER—This is a single unit with a tub/hand agitator and wringer on the side. It is costly at over $750 and reviewers say it is not durable. If you are lucky you may find better old-fashioned hand washers at antique stores. The James style washer is at Lehman's URL:

DELUX CAMPING WASHER—One of the best hand washers on the market, but not cheap ($1300). When you have to do manual laundry this is the easiest way to do it, using a unique plastic drum that you fill with clothes, water, and detergent and then rotate by a large hand crank.  The sturdy metal frame also has a hand crank wringer on it so you can wring out clothes as you pull them out of the wash drum. Delux Camping in Alpine, UT. Tel: (801) 368-8000 in

LAUNDRY DETERGENT—You can make your own laundry soap by grating a bar of Fels-Naptha (brand) or Zote (brand) soap or three bars of handsoap (Ivory brand or homemade lye soap) into small shreds and mixing these with 4 cups Borax, 3 cups washing soda and 1 cup baking soda (all these are carried in most grocery stores and Walmart). Mix the powders together and add 1/8 or 1/4 cup to each load of regular washing machines, less for the high-efficiency models above, as needed. The Zote and Fels-Naptha bars are also good for pre-treating stains.

LYE—for homemade soap look for food grade sodium hydroxide (NaOH) crystals such as those from Essential Depot URL: or look for 100% lye drain cleaners at your hardware stores. Roebic and Rooto are common brands (in Canada look for Gillete’s lye). Be careful this chemical is very caustic and can cause chemical burns.

Wheat Grinders

One of our favorite online sources for all types of kitchen gadgets and appliances is Everything Kitchens, with competitive prices on wheat grinders and other countertop kitchen equipment. URL: 

Country Living Grain Mill—The best manual steel burr wheat grinders, with a V-groove flywheel for quick and easy conversion to electric motor. Steel burr wheels are the only type of mill that can do wet or oily things like nuts. Cast-iron flywheel for easy turning and smooth flow of flour. 30% less torque or energy required to turn than any comparable hand mill on the market, but does not grind flour as finely as electric grinders. Available from many preparedness and country-living stores including Pleasant Hill Grain (with both the mill and the motor conversion) Tel: (866) 467-6123. URL: and Homestead Products Tel: (208) 935-0292 URL: 

NUTRImill—The best of the micronizer grinders. It does fine flour, nothing else. Similar to the Wondermill (Both about $220). Available from Pleasant Hill Grain or Everything Kitchens (see listings above).

KO-MO stone grinder—Possibly the best grain grinder on the market. This synthetic stone grinder is from Germany, very long lasting, very quiet, grinds very fine to course meal.  and marketed by the Pleasant Hill Grain company.  They carry several models from $400 to $800 and beyond. See listing above.

Stoves and Heaters

REGENCY/HAMPTON WOOD STOVES—Reliable, and nice looking dual-burn steel stoves with efficiency ratings over 75%. The convection heating of air gaps around this stove make the blower option particularly effective. The large F3100 model (80,000 BTU) can easily heat over 2000 square feet. Cost is about $3-4000 in 3 different models. Specific dealers can be found on their website. URL:

WOODSTOCK SOAPSTONE STOVES—Radiant heat stoves are more expensive but very efficient. Dual burn and catalytic burn systems combined with unique air distribution results in up to 81% efficiency. The large “Progress Hybrid” stove is rated for 80,000 BTUs and goes for $4200.  West Lebanon, NH   URL:

VOGELZANG WOOD STOVES —Middle priced wood/coal stoves, pellet stoves and furnaces with decent ratings. TR009 “Performer” is rated to heat up to 2,000 sq. ft. for $2,200. Smaller TR002 “Shiloh”   rated for up to 1,200 sq. ft. Available from many distributors and online.

PLEASANT HEARTH STOVES—inexpensive priced stoves with good reviews. The 2,200 sq. ft. stove is the cheapest Made in the U.S.A. ($1,000) and has better quality than other stoves in this price range.  Sold at Tractor Supply, Lowes and Amazon. Hard to find any good woods stove under a $1000 but this one works well for that price.

PORTABLE MILITARY STOVE—The TMS Portable Military Camp Stove and Tent Heater is useful if you don’t have a fireplace but still want to heat and cook with wood in an emergency. Essentially a burn barrel turned on its side it only weighs 38 lbs and comes with plenty of welded additions to make it worth the $60 cost. Legs, stove pipe and accessories store inside for a convenient package in a garage or with camping gear. Downside: this is cheap and the paint isn’t high temperature paint. Burn it off outdoors and spray with high temperature BBQ paint. Also be prepared to seal gaps with wood stove gasket and sealer.

SMALL CAMPING ROCKET STOVES:  The Solo rocket stove is small and compact for about $110 on Amazon.  The Kelly Kettle stove is the best for water heating:

FLUE HEAT RECLAIMER—The Miracle Heat Reclaimer is a pipe-mounted fan and heat exchanger that captures some of the heat escaping up your chimney and uses it to heat more air in the room. Thermostat control keeps enough heat going up the chimney to maintain a good draft and keep excess creosote from forming. $200. Available at Amazon, several online outlets and home improvement stores or direct from the mfr., US Stove makes it as well as draft inducers, barometric dampers and other accessories. URL: 

GAS FIREPLACES—Look for “heater rated” units rather than just decorative gas fireplaces. Heater rated gas fireplaces can be more efficient than a gas furnace (although they won’t move the heat to other rooms of the house as well). Get the firebox and flue that is built for wood burning so in a crisis you have the option of converting to wood heat, by removing fake logs.

ROCKET MASS STOVES—Build your own very efficient stove that uses inexpensive materials and burns one-tenth the wood of typical fireplaces. Information and plans are passed around freely on forums such as but the most information and details are in the book Rocket Mass Heaters by Ianto Evans and Leslie Jackson. Order from their website ( or pay less for the e-book. For an easier time consider the kits and parts from Dragon Heaters: which are expensive.

Kerosun DC 100—Most fuel efficient Kerosene heater and with the cleanest burn. No longer imported but available second-hand. MSI Wicks sells wicks and parts and has a few of these and other stoves. A wick should last a few seasons depending on Kerosene quality. Stock up on a few extras. URL: sells several brands.

VENTLESS GAS HEATERS: These are the types of heaters we recommend for shelters or for homes where you want to have backup heat in case the furnace goes out.  They have no chimney, burn clean and are 100% efficient.

Blueflame by ProCom—These come with dual fuel capability built in so you can switch to Propane or NG without new jets.  Sold by Northern Tool, Harbor Freight, Grainger and many heater wholesalers, or Home Improvement stores.

Water Heating, with Wood Stoves

For solar water heating see Alternate Energy: Solar Water Heating

THERMA-COIL—This U-shaped stainless steel pipe can be installed inside the firebox of almost any woodstove to heat water whenever the stove is lit ($130). Be sure to follow the instructions so there is a pressure relief valve in the system. Chico, CA  URL:

HILKOIL—More U-shaped pipe coils to install in the firebox of your stove. This brand is slightly more expensive but has more sizes and options. Note: more coil length is not always better. Since these coils are right in the firebox they can cool the fire and make it smoke or burn less efficiently. Manufactured by Thermo-Bilt. URL:

Gate Openers

NOTE—we prefer the technology that uses hydraulic actuators instead of gear motors for strength and longevity.

TILT-A-WAY The strongest and fasted operating gate system around. Vertical pivot avoids gate getting jammed by high snow or vehicles.

MIGHTY-MULE—DC and solar power gate opener systems for swinging gates, sold as a do-it-yourself package which avoids expensive installation costs.


CONLEY'S MFG.—Commercial greenhouse manufacturer. Will send components to you as well as twinwall glazing at wholesale rates. Montclair, CA.

NATIONAL GREENHOUSE—A division of Nexus Corporation. Nexus is a commercial greenhouse manufacturer who has created the National Greenhouse division to focus specifically on low-cost residential greenhouse solutions. Northglenn, CO.

PASSIVE GREENHOUSE HEATING: David Gillmore of Shelley Idaho, has details, ideas and plans for drawing passive heat from the ground below the greenhouse to cut down on supplemental heat needed during the winter. The only heating cost is $5/month for the fans to circulate the warm air up to the plants. Search for all his videos on Youtube under the title “ldsprepper.” Tel: (208) 360-5384.

Greenhouse Components

MAX/MIN THERMOMETERS—There are several non-electric options but the liquid-based thermometers are very unreliable. Look for bi-metal dial thermometers with maximum and minimum indicators for monitoring the peaks and lows of places like greenhouses, root cellars, food storage rooms, fridges, and freezers. Very useful. The Durac thermometer ($23) has a good range (-20 to 140 F) but its plastic housing feels cheap. The Brannan Thermometer has a better feel and boasts a humidity sensor but Fahrenheit shows up small on the dial. Search on Amazon, eBay and

PLASTIC COVERS—Cheapest way to enclose a greenhouse is with 6mil polyethylene greenhouse film. Look for the version manufactured in North America such as by AT Plastics. Available at greenhouse supply warehouses such as

ALLIED TUBE & CONDUIT—Aluminum square tubing, round tubing etc. See also warehouse supplies available at steel and metal distributors in all major cities.  URL:

Greenhouse Equipment

Solar Vent Openers—For regulating temperatures in greenhouses, these vents operate by a gas piston that expands at a certain temperature. When it gets hotter than this it opens a greenhouse vent. When it gets cold it retracts and closes the vent. This website sells several kinds including Thermofor, Univent, Regal and Optivent.

Bayless Mk-7 or XL—Greenhouse vent opener made in the UK. Lifts up to 14 lbs. You can buy directly from them online or through greenhouse suppliers. URL:

Oasis Montana—a webpage where people post their used or surplus solar and alternate energy equipment. URL:

Home Construction

Concrete Homes

GENERAL INFORMATION—Methods for constructing a concrete home are described here:   Overall, we think ICF construction is the most reliable and easiest end product once you consider ease of construction, electrical and plumbing installation, and attachment of interior and exterior finishes.

INSULATED CONCRETE FORM—ICF construction is one of our most recommended construction methods because of strength, insulation and ease of use. This construction method is commonplace enough that there are many manufacturers and installers throughout the country. We only recommend ICF forms that provide a full width 4-12” thick wall options. See below for some examples. The Portland Cement Association (PCA) has a book on building with ICF and a 5-part video series on the topic.

A great comparison chart on all the ICF types of forms is found here:

FOXBLOCKS—Foam block system that allows a 4”-12" wide, full-width concrete wall option. Ties are every 8”, side wall is 2.65 inches. These will handle any building situation.

LITEFORM and FLEXXBLOCK—Designed to be easier and cheaper to ship, the Liteform is assembled on site and Flexxblock has hinges for faster assembly. Liteforms have 8” tie spacing and Flexxblock has 6” spacing, eliminating extra bracing around doors and windows. You can buy wholesale direct from the factory and possibly save money. Sioux City, IA. URL: 

QUAD-LOCK—Foam forms for assembly. They also have insulated decking for floors and ceilings—but don’t use them for shelter ceilings where you want the full thickness of concrete everywhere. Quad-Lock Building Systems are in BC, Canada. URL:

THERMOMASS RESIDENTIAL BUILDING SYSTEMS—This concrete wall system uses conventional metal concrete forms but inserts a thermal sandwich of foam in between the two concrete poured surfaces. It has heat mass characteristics on the inside slab and rodents cannot get into the foam layer.  It has the best sound-proofing effect. URL: A competitor is the EasiWall system,

PRECAST CONCRETE SLABS—These pre-engineered concrete slabs have become so popular they are now cheaper to install than poured-in-place slabs. Heat or cooling air can be ducted through hollow spaces. Have them fill void spaces in concrete for panels over shelter—where you want solid concrete overhead. SPANDECK and FLEXICORE brands are available in multiple states. Check listings near the closest major city. These are examples: and

Fiberglass Stucco (EIFS)

GENERAL INFORMATION—This exterior finish system consists of synthetic stucco applied over insulation board, which is then installed over sheathing. These systems have been popular in commercial applications. There are many EIFS manufacturers and distributors including: senergy, surewall, finestonep. Several years ago EIFS systems received bad press from homeowners complaining that these systems were falling apart. Moisture had penetrated the wall and the sheathing and structural members were rotting. Modern systems now allow moisture that gets behind the stucco to drain harmlessly to the outside.

DRYVIT—Provider for EIFS stucco with distributors around the country. Dryvit Systems, Inc. West Warwick, RI. URL: 

PLEKO—Dryvit alternative with cheaper prices. URL:

Log Homes

GENERAL INFORMATION—There are hundreds of log home kit companies. However, it has been my experience that log home suppliers in the eastern US are almost double the price of western log home suppliers. Call for price comparisons. It may be cheaper to ship log kits from the west than buy in the east.

TIMBERLINE LOG HOMES—This is the company we use as a reference for a fair price. Check your prices locally and then give the same specs to this company to see how they compare. we have shipped from Timberline to the East Coast before and saved money. Orem, UT URL:

INTERNATIONAL HOMES OF CEDAR—These are laminated cedar homes that come in kits that are fairly easy to build. Woodinville, WA. URL:

REAL LOG HOMES—Distributors in most states. Compare prices with other outfits. URL: 

LOG HOME BUILDERS ASSOCIATION—This organization helps instruct people how to build a log home as a do-it-yourself project and save significant costs by circumventing the kit builders. We have not attended their seminars but their building method is stronger than conventional kit log homes. They use whole logs with simple corner joints (butt and pass) and tie the posts together with rebar lengths to eliminate settling from wood shrinkage while resisting earthquake and wind forces. Some find this method less aesthetically pleasing than some of the designer cabins out there, but their methods and success is compelling. See their website for classes, which are held in Las Vegas, NV.  URL  

Modular Homes

GENERAL INFORMATION—Modular homes can be a quick home solution. There are many options available today beyond rectangular, single-story homes that are found everywhere, but not attractive or energy efficient. Here’s a list of modular home builders by state:

EXCEL HOMES—Probably the most advanced type of modular homes available. A great deal of customization is possible. Not your normal modular tract homes. Liverpool, PA URL:

Structural Insulated Panels (SIPs)

GENERAL NOTES—Factory-made wall and roof systems that replace typical wood framed walls and roofs.  Panel widths can be as thick as 12”.  Typical panels are sheets of insulation with plywood or OSB glued to both sides. EPS (extruded polystyrene) foam is cheaper than polyurethane but has a slightly lower R-value and has to be glued to OSB panels because of its corrosive nature.

R-CONTROL—Structural Building Panels for walls, floors and ceilings. AFM Corporation Excelsior, MN. URL:

RAYCORE—The most versatile system. Standard panels have studs in them so they can be cut to varied sizes. Panels have a polyurethane core and reflective foil and come in thickness to match 2x4, 2x6 and 2x8 walls.  Sheating is then applied to the outside as normal and drywall or paneling on the inside.  URL:

INSULSPAN—Pre-manufactured wall system with an EPS (extruded polystyrene system) core. URL: 

THERMOCORE—Pre-manufactured system with polyurethane core. URL: 

Underground Homes

GENERAL INFORMATION—While we don’t recommend building underground homes due to the difficulty of reselling the home, all of the following companies have been in business over 20 years, so they know what they are doing.

FORMWORKS BUILDINGDesigners and installer of an underground system using concrete dome or tunnel type structures. Durango, CO 81302.

TERRA-DOMEUnderground or bermed buildings. They have tremendous experience in the field. Grain Valley, MO. URL:


Dampproofing and Waterproofing

GENERAL Notes—Waterproofing can be a difficult task in underground situations. Many of the best products are applied on the outside of the foundation and are often only sold at contractor outlets. We still list some of those here. 

CONCRETE ADMIXTURES—Concrete additives that react with water to make the concrete impervious to water—even fills in small cracks. Xypex is a well-known brand:

CONCRETE SEALANT—These products can be painted on afterwards to soak in. Check with your concrete supplier for the best product. 

Superseal—The ultimate sealing system around foundations with dimpled plastic sheeting, cloth, drains and paint. Fairly expensive at 45 cents/sq. ft, from Canada. 

Tremproof 201/60—Ideal for waterproofing foundation walls. By Tremco URL:

Tuff-N-Dri H8—New asphalt emulsion product also by Tremco and is “good up to 8 feet of hydrostatic pressure.”

Bituthene—Heavy-duty waterproof membranes that can literally surround the outside of a basement (even under slabs and footings) to make it waterproof in a high water table area. Bituthene 3000 by W.R. Grace Co. Available at building and construction supply stores. See website for distributors:

For underground roofs—Apply 30 or 45 mil EPDM rubber pond liner material over polyurethane foam sprayed-on insulation. Pond liners widely available at rural farm stores. 

Bluemax—Roll on rubber coating. Best if applied to exterior or surface in contact with water. Extremely flexible, will not crack. Not cheap at $180/5 gal bucket. URL:

EPOXY DECK COATINGS—Life Deck has a heavy epoxy coating for cement patios and garages, also with decorative patterns to be used over old concrete.

Fire Retardant Treatments for Wood

RETARDANT SPRAYS—The following three manufacturers produce a fire-retardant spray for shingles, wood siding and almost everything else including cardboard. Water-based, non-toxic.




Fireproof Siding, Exteriors

FIBER CEMENT PRODUCTS—Building products made unburnable by adding cement. They also stop moisture and are bug proof. Products come in a variety of forms and board shapes including roofing, siding and trim. It is almost as easy to cut and use as wood. We have found the following product suppliers useful when cladding homes in areas of potential fire dangers. Most roofing and siding require an underlayment to get the most fire-resistant rating (Class A).

PLYCEM—This is fiber cement mixed with recycled material which has higher densities than all other sheathings. Parent company of ALLURA fire resistant trim.

HARDIE PRODUCTS—Well known non-combustible fiber cement siding and trim products. Mold and mildew resistant.  URL:


Note:  We won’t cover the normal forms of insulation, fiberglass and cellulose, or spray on foam, just alternatives that you may not know about.

SPRAY-FOAM INSULATION—There are many options including closed cell and open cell that can be spray applied by professionals (or for small application there are DIY kits at home improvement stores). The foam adheres to framing and makes it stronger. Closed cell in stronger, more expensive and forms a moisture barrier. Good for sealing the house.

MINERAL WOOL INSULATION—Sometimes called “rock wool” insulation. R-values per inch are better than fiberglass in batt form and the rigid board form is almost comparable to poly-iso sheets (R-4.5/inch compared to R-5 for poly-iso). More fire-resistant than fiberglass and does not off-gas in heat like other synthetic materials particularly spray foam. Most available residential brand is Roxul.

REFLECTIX—One of the latest innovations is bubble poly blankets with foil on front and back. It is great for molding into window jambs, stapling to attic rafters or to cover existing attic insulation to reflect summer heat out and winter heat in. Several brands besides this one are sold at home improvement stores and URL:

RAY CORE INSULATED PANELS—This unique form of insulation comes in integrated panels with 2x4 or 2x6 studs integrated with foil backed foam, which are inserted into large framed openings to match and nailed into place.   See

Stucco Systems

NOTE—Conventional stucco can be done in all climates now, with or without insulated backing.  Another specialty type is fiberglass reinforced and can be used over mortarless concrete blocks:

QUIKRETE® STUCCO SYSTEM—Fiberglass-Reinforced Stucco can reinforce a wall and acts as a drainage medium. Great siding system though usually applied with a conventional stucco topcoat. This system can be used for the concrete stack-block method. URL:

TIROLESSA STUCCO SPRAYER—Can be used for applying plaster and small scale shotcrete. Eugene, OR.

Wood Composite Decking, Trim

GENERAL INFORMATION—Now available at all home building stores. Trex decking has had problems as noted in the text, but they have fixed most issues and are one of the easiest products to find. We recommend fiber cement board for fire hazard areas:  ALLURA is a highly fire retardant decking and trim.

VERANDA DECKING—Expensive, but attractive decking from composite materials. Available at Home Depot stores.  Square profile has scalloped bottom to avoid dry rot on support lumber. Website:    

TAMPCO—Long-lasting composite decking. 


GENERAL INFORMATION—Cupolas are great for roof ventilation and architectural decoration that used to be common on top of traditional styled roofs and barns. In some situations they can be large enough to allow you up inside for a bird’s eye view of your surroundings.

STEPHENSON CUPOLAS AND WEATHERVANES—Several Manufacturers including C. W. Ohio, Inc. Tel: (440) 593-5800. URL:

EDON FIBERGLASS CUPOLAS—Indestructible vents that never need maintenance. Also they make a full range of ornamental decorative facades, and trim.  URL:

Elevators and Dumb-Waiters

LIFT-AVATOR—Elevators and lifts for residential homes. Lockport, NY

NATION-WIDE LIFTS—Distributor for many of the most common residential elevators, dumbwaiters and stair lifts. They also have a unique elevator in a big cylinder tube that operates by a vacuum pump.  URL:

POWERLIFT DUMBWAITER—Simple kits install easily in a home during framing. 3/4 HP motor, 150 lb capacity, call buttons. 2-stop: $3,500, 3-stop $4,500, 4 stop $5,500. Tel: (800) 409-5438 URL:


Steel Security Doors

DeanSteel Door—The only steel reinforced door with vertical metal strips attaching front and back face panels making it suitable for gravel fill. To make a bulletproof door for all normal handgun loads fill the inside of a 14 gauge B-series door with ½” minus sharp edged gravel. Order it with two deadbolts at 1/3 and 2/3 of the height for the least expensive secure door for a shelter. Specify no insulation—and don’t mention gravel fill. San Antonio, Texas. Tel: (210) 226-8271. URL:  Deansteel also builds bullet proof decorative doors and frames if you don’t want to do-it-yourself

STEELCRAFT—Heavy-duty steel utility doors. This company makes heavy gauge production doors including 14 gauge steel thickness for both doors and frames which are bullet-resistant to some small .22 or .25 caliber arms.  Specify the B Series door (B14). Not suitable for gravel fill, so use for entry-resistant doors other than shelter door. See Deansteel doors above for gravel fill.  Steelcraft dealers are in every major city.

Amweld series 1544—Bullet and Tornado resistant to Level III (and high powered handguns) about $1,500 including high security locks. Available through architectural door suppliers such as and

Trussbilt—Level III and level IV (good for up to 7.62 high velocity military round) ballistic protection available. Trussbilt’s detention hollow metal doors have front and back panels welded to a corrugated metal interior for exceptional stiffness—used in prisons, jails, juvenile facilities and detention centers worldwide. URL:

ESCO Supply Co.—Armored steel plate. Custom order for shutters or to overlay a security door. Thickness is 3/8” (actually 5/16”) tempered steel for level IV protection (military rifle rounds). Order from ESCO Supply in Phoenix, AZ. Tel: (800) 528-4021 or local (602) 252-8061. Attach this plate to a 14 gauge steel utility door such as Steelcraft.

SPECIALTY METAL HATCH DOORS—The biggest and best company to supply all types of specialty hatch doors (roof, floor and wall hatches) is Bilco door. Long known for their sloping basement/tornado shelter doors. The Bilco Company, URL:

Vault Doors

Fort Knox Co.—They build doors to our specifications with inside opening release handles. These doors have steel frame system that bolts around a concrete opening for easy installation. Orem, UT  Tel: (800) 821-5216. URL: and Vault doors here.

Homeland Security Safe—For cheaper, less-beefy alternatives ($2,000) for a vault door get the “Economy” or “Elite” vault doors from this manufacturer.

AMSEC—Lightweight vault door. Model VD8030 ($4,500). Rough-in opening: 77-1/2” H x 26-1/2”W Weight: 550 lbs. American Security Products Co. Fontana, CA

Door Hardware

SWINGING SHELF HARDWARE—CS Hardware has complete kits for concealed doors disguised as shelves. Competitive prices. Tel: (800) 882-0009. URL 

Electric Door Strikes—a variety of models available from

Bronze Pivot Bearings—For building concealed pivoting cabinet (about $3 for a set of two). Search the internet for “Bearings.”  All major cities will have a bearing/bushing shop. Ask for oil-impregnated brass or bronze bushings.

High Security Locks

Medeco—Has special pins and key that rotates the lock tumbler pins to prevent picking. URL:  (Available at locksmiths everywhere).

Assa 6000—Pick-proof, double-keyed, drill resistant dead bolt (at locksmiths nationwide).

Bulletproof Armor, Panels and Fabric

ALPINE ARMORING INC.—Armored SUVs, sedans and trucks. 503 Carlisle Drive, Herndon, Virginia 20170 Tel: (703) 471-0002 or (800) 992-7667.

BULLDOG DIRECT—Kevlar fiber building panels for protecting walls. A do-it-yourself source. Also sells armored vehicle kits for level IIIA hand gun protection from: 9 mm, .357 mag., .44 mag., and higher. Each armor kit comes with installation instructions and looks completely stock when complete. Cincinnati, Ohio, URL: 

Armorco—ballistic panels and fabric for bullet proofing walls or vehicle doors and seats. URL: 

Specialty security fabrics Specialty fabrics for building bullet resistant of strong walls out of Kevlar, carbon fiber, or fiberglass.

BULLET PROOF VESTS—(Nick Taylor) Brand-name bullet proof vests and body armor accessories at discounted prices. Very reliable source you can trust. 


Liberty Safe Co.—Best of the domestic safe builders. (also builds National and Remington brand safes).

Fort Knox Safe Co.—Gun safes and vault doors. Owned by Liberty Safe. 

Floor Safes—Hayman Safes (wall and floor),

Security Systems       

ELK SECURITY SYSTEMS—Full line of security systems with camera and internet integration.  The ELK system can handle any level of residential complexity.

LIVE WATCH — A Self-install systems that is preconfigured to your home layout and you install  and plug into existing outlets. Available with wireless or hardwired connections. URL:

HONEYWELL—User friendly, full line of security and home automation equipment including some of the best voice prompting technology (voice tells you where intrusion is). It also has numerous control features included which allow you to control lights and equipment automatically. URL:

Security System Components

SECURITY BASE—This website has many security components from security and spy cameras to stun guns. URL:

RING Wi-Fi Enabled VIDEO DOORBELL: The top rated video doorbell with motion detection and high resolution that lets you see who is at the door on your cell phone.  Most also order a Wi-Fi activated chime that plugs into an outlet so you can hear it if your phone isn’t on. I prefer a wireless system that also has a monitor in the house for viewing, two way talk, and the ability to record who came to the door.

PANASONIC VIDEO INTERCOM VL-SVN511—This wireless unit has everything: cell phone connection, picture recording, Wi-Fi connection, email send, voice changer, night vision, and electric door release. About $650. I found it on

HIDDEN VIDEO CAMERAS - Security Base (see above) has the widest selection .

Security System Perimeter Protection

MICROWAVE FENCE AND PERIMETER DETECTION—Southwest Microwave’s Intrepid system uses coax cable and sensors to detect any vibration (3 yards accuracy) on fence from climbing. Their Micronet system is even more accurate and displays intrusions onto a computer screen with a map of your property layout. 9055 South McKemy Street, Tempe, AZ 85284. Tel: (480) 783-0201. URL:

SURVEILLANCE AND ANTI-SURVEILLANCE EQUIPMENT—Electromax International has a full range of high-tech equipment available for surveillance and counter-surveillance. 11140 Westheimer, #276, Houston, Texas 77042. Tel: (281) 531-7437. URL:

PERIMETER FENCE PROTECTION CIAS—An Italian company with the following 3 types of fence detection systems: URL: 

SIOUX MEMS—Innovative system to sense accelerations provoked by any climbing, cut, or sensor displacement attempts, as well as fence lifting and leaning of a ladder against it. Every sensor can be individually set, thus suiting for application both on rigid and on mesh fences

APACHE FIBER—Based on optical and interferometer sensors measuring changes by lasers and fiber optic lines. Suitable for any kind of fence: both rigid and weld-mesh. Easy to install, with UV-resistant ties. Connectable to any kind of anti-intrusion control panel

BLACKFEET CABLE—Based on magneto-phonic technology to detect vibrations. Suitable for any kind of fence: both rigid and weld-mesh and wall application anti-breakthrough. Easy to install, with UV-resistant ties. Easy to adjust through switches – no software. Connectable to any kind of anti-intrusion control panel. Accessories compatible to other systems based on the same technology. All fence systems data collection can be made through IB SYSTEM IP (or traditional RACK).

Security System Mapping Software

CRESTRON—A high-end home automation company that is capable of integrating your security system (including cameras) into mapping software displayed on a tablet or iPhone, accessible from the internet.  URL:

CIAS:  Besides having the best fence perimeter alarms (mentioned above), all security solutions can be integrated to Cias Supervisor system with graphic maps connected to the internet. Cias perimeter systems “talk” to each other to satisfy different levels of site protection and to provide one unique point of reference for any needs of outdoor security protection.

RAZR-FLEX—Fence detection system based on changing resistance in a cable that is under movement.  We’ve installed the product, which is reasonable in price.  It does have difficulty with false alarms due to wind and weather.  Protects 1000 feet in either direction of control box.

DRIVEWAY MONITORS—DWA-3 Suitable for burying beside driveway - so you won't have to dig up asphalt or concrete ($270). URL:

STRESS FLOOR DETECTORS—Stress sensors detect walking on flooring, roofs, decks or on boats for marine security by Sure Action.  They also have vehicle detectors for driveways. URL: 

GPS VEHICLE and PEOPLE TRACKERS—To protect against auto theft or carjacking and kidnapping in your own vehicle. Small transmitter is hidden in vehicle which allows a GPS signal to alert a North American tracking company of the vehicle location. Beware of the cheap ones below $50 which have poor battery life. The best portable vehicle tracker with the best battery life is not cheap at over $300 but it allows you to send you alarms if the vehicle exceeds a certain distance, or speed, plus integration with Google street view and much more. It is the Eon GPS Tracker from  The best portable child tracker is the Amber Alert GPS for $125 which also allows you to communicate with your child.

ROOM PEPPER SRAY FOGGER—Defend your home against looters if you are in your shelter to avoid confrontation. Stops intruders in seconds and drives them out of your home. Uses food-grade pepper spray extract. Dissipates in about 4 hours. About $75.  URL:

Window Protection

GILA FILMS have a full range of energy saving films that control heat by tinting.  Available at most home improvement/hardware stores. Website:

SHATTERGUARD—Unbreakable film backing to standard glass. Can be applied to existing windows. Makes windows bullet-proof to small caliber (.22) weapons and makes windows impenetrable to intruders. You can also use this on car side and rear windows to keep thieves from breaking in, which is highly recommend. URL:

WINDOW QUILTS—Quilted insulating curtains for solar windows. Rolling shutter type system that is easy to install. URL:

SCAPEWELL—Premanufactured wells with cast-in steps by The Bilco Company. The Bilco Company, P.O. Box 1203, New Haven, Connecticut 06505 Tel: 203-934-6363, sales 800-854-9724. URL:

WINDOW WELL SECURITY—The Improvement Network markets a full range of Lexan plastic window well covers for emergency escape and security against entry, while still allowing light to enter. Tel: (888) 934-6776. URL:

ANDERSEN WINDOWS—Makes a triple laminate glass with polymer layers in between. These windows are intrusion-proof, and will not scratch like Shatterguard film. This is the glass system they use on their high strength (hurricane-proof) skylights. You can order this glass in their regular window line as well. Cost is about 30% higher than standard glass/wood windows. Andersen Windows (available at window suppliers everywhere).

Window Shutters

ALL SEASON ROLLING SHUTTERS—These people have the best product on the market now. URL: 

Roll-A-Way—Full line of hurricane shutters, including rolling or accordion shutters in Aluminum, PVC, or clear Lexan.  Itasca, Il

Rolsafe—Hurricane protection. Fort Myers, FL

Rolladen—Top of the line, most expensive system, aluminum, PVC rolling shutters. Rolladen also produces working colonial security shutters.   URL:


Air Filters and Ventilation

Andair (or LUWA) VA-150—Swiss nuclear, biological and chemical (NBC) filter. High quality but super expensive (about $7,000, thus not recommended). Note: This filter mounts inside the shelter so we recommend installing a prefilter over the outside air inlet so radioactive particles are kept out. Available through Utah Shelter Systems:

Safe Cell—There are two models of this filter system that are similar in design to the Andair, but less costly.  The 60 CFM model is $4200, and the 120 CFM model is $6,600. American Safe Room sells them. See this comparison of the big boys: 

HDT Global—Makes NBC filters for the military. For small shelters, we recommend the M48A1 for up to 100 cfm of air flow. It is circular and is perfect for placing over inlet pipes to the shelter. The much larger M98 filter works for whole house or large shelter air supplies. It costs about $2,500 so it is considerably cheaper than the LUWA system.  Like all canister shaped filters you have to use silicone adhesive to attach these round cylinders to a flat surface where your air intake pipe exits the shelter (in a hidden cabinet or other location). You complete the installation by gluing a thin plywood cover over the top of the filter opening to force incoming air to pass through the filter medium. URL:

Honeywell CPZ filters—For a cheaper, non-military-grade option, we recommend using a round Honeywell CPZ filter (part # 36200) that will nest within a Honeywell HEPA filter (# 28600) for an excellent quality dual filter for about $250. Be sure to purchase the carbon prefilter (part # 38002).  When wrapped around the HEPA filter, it makes sure your HEPA filter doesn’t get clogged by heavy dust in the air. Everything can be purchased as replacement parts from (wholesaler for Honeywell). Just search for the part numbers. 

CO2 Monitor—Sensor and alarm if carbon dioxide from occupant breathing gets too high. Elevated CO2 will cause you to lose consciousness before you run out of oxygen. This is only a problem if you are in a small shelter without ventilation. Extech makes moderate priced models ($260) as sold by  and on Amazon.

12 Volt Fans—The Best all-around 12 volt ventilation fan for shelter use are the DAYTON brand 12 volt fan from WW Grainger Stock # 2C646 ($75), 175 CFM and fairly quiet. What makes these fans convenient is their 3” flange which allows you to easily attach it to the vent pipe shown in the shelter designs. The 12 volt fan draws air from your HEPA or CBR filter and is only turned on under shelter conditions.  For normal unfiltered ventilation, use the 115 volt fan version, Item # 2C647 which is brushless and doesn’t wear out as fast as the 12v DC fan.

Backup and 12v Lighting

We recommend running standard wiring, light sockets, switches and plugs in the shelter, but keep all the circuits on a separate “essential panel” in the shelter with a transfer or cut-off switch to the main panel. Then prepare wiring to energize just these circuits with your inverter pulling power from battery bank and solar panels. Look for efficient low-Watt LED bulbs and keep extra LED spares in a metal faraday box or wrapped in plastic and then aluminum foil, since LED lights have electronics that are susceptible to EMP. Below are 12 volt DC options.

Dome Lights—we like the round 18 LED surface mounted lights with built-in switch (12 volt). Available at most boat and RV suppliers such as this one  Not cheap at $34 each but good light if your shelter is on 12 volts.

Thinlite—Many 12 and 24 volt RV lights. The 12 volt fluorescent lights (often mounted vertical on wall) is one of the most economical lights in terms of lumen-per-dollar: 36” long (item #197) or the 48” long unit (item #139) are practical. For 24 volt systems use model numbers #297 or #239, respectively for same cost (about $65). Available via Abraham Solar or RV supply stores such as and

Note: If you use regular Fluorescent lights on a DC emergency lighting circuit in home or shelter, GE brand compact fluorescents run better off an inverter than other brands.

Sunpipes—Tube skylights. 1,500 watts of free, fresh light as easy to install as a stovepipe. Hollow, super-reflective pipe runs from your roof down to a translucent ceiling fixture that spreads the light down. Less expensive and easier to install than typical skylights. Doesn’t build up unwanted summer heat, create condensation, allow sun-fading or leak.

For Tunnels you can use exterior-rated LED rope lights or white Christmas lights to string along the length of the tunnel.  It gives a nice soft light and no interference with low headroom.

Backup Solar, Battery, Inverter Packages

These off-the-shelf packages come complete with charge controllers, battery bank, inverter in a small package. If you are technically-minded you could get a better or cheaper setup by putting a system together with the components above chosen a la carte, but for most people it will be easier just to get one of these off-the-shelf options. They are complete, easy to use, quick and easy to set up and can provide enough backup power to keep a shelter going. I recommend the units that use lithium ion batteries that can be fully discharged over 2,000 times unlike lead acid that shouldn’t be discharged more than 50% to maintain lifespan and are rated for fewer cycles.

INERGY KODIAK—We are very impressed with this portable box the size of a masonry “cinder block.” Paired with a few solar panels on the roof this one package has everything you need to power a shelter. Only 20 lbs thanks to the 1100 Watt lithium ion battery that has a 10 year shelf life and if you already have batteries this unit can charge and draw from an unlimited number of 12v batteries whether lead-acid, AGM or Li-ion. A 1500 Watt true sine-wave inverter with 3000 Watt surge capacity provides 110 power to 6 built-in plugs (10 Amps each), 4 USB ports of 5VDC ($2,000 for the unit). It can even power a fridge or small chest freezer for a day.

The 30 Amp RV plug that can be configured to power a critical sub-panel in your shelter after you throw a transfer switch. Recharge this unit in less than a day by buying at least two 135 Watt solar panels ($500) to put on the roof. Also consider the very efficient 12VDC chainable lights ($30). Inergy Solar Tel: (877) 969-2432 URL: or buy it from Ben Gillmore of Tech Protect for $1,700. Tel (832) 627-2325. URL:

GOAL ZERO YETI 1250—Slightly cheaper at $1,600, but heavy at 103 lbs and based on lead-acid batteries which don’t handle multiple or deep cycles well. The Goalzero is made by a quality company that has a decent package here with three 110V plugs, 4 USB ports and 1 car-type outlet. Can be connected to other lead-acid batteries. 1200 Watt true sine wave inverter but only 1500 Watts peak. Tel: (888) 794-6250 URL:

HUMLESS 1500—This 1300 Watt unit uses a lithium ion battery, has a 1500 watt pure-sine wave inverter with a peak output of only 1600 Watts. It only has 2 110V outlets, 4 USB ports, and 1 car port 12VDC ($2,030). Package with folding solar panels is $2,560. Not expandable with other batteries. Lindon, UT Tel: (866) 476-2586 URL:

EMP Protection

Waber Power Strips—Good quality EMP surge protection (clamping speeds of less than 1 nanosec). Also produces whole house protectors. Available through electronic wholesalers and distributors.  URL: 

Zero Surge — The newest instantaneous clamping technology with plug in ease of use. Use for all your valuable plug-in products and computers. Much better than a power strip protector. They have a wide variety of protectors.URL: 

Transtector APEX IV  X5 120TR—Whole House protector, EMP rated. There are many small units under $200 that attach to your electrical panel but they do not protect reliably and are one time use only.  The Apex is about $1200, but it really does the job. Transtector produces top of the line military grade EMP protection equipment that can provide shunt protection for incoming power lines. Boise, ID.   URL:

Alpha Delta Communications—Coax lightning arrestors, coax switches with surge protectors.   Manchester, KY URL:

Ameritron - Remote coax switches, inrush AC current protector.  URL:

Grounding Straps—The Wireman stocks copper wire up to #4 AWG, 2-inch flat copper strap, 8-foot copper-clad ground rod and 1”x1/4” bus bar.  URL:

TECH-PROTECT BAGS—These thick, multi-layered Mylar bags satisfy the military specifications for electronic protection covers. Made with a heavy-duty closeable similar to those on freezer bags, these are the easiest Faraday cages for quick access to frequently used electronics that you still want to protect from an EMP such as LED flashlights, radios, power tools, battery chargers, backup drives, etc. Tel: (832) 627-2325 URL:

Radiation Meters

Victoreen 717—Surplus survey meters. Range 0-500 rems/hr (highest range available), comes with detachable ion chamber so you can leave the probe outside the shelter for easier measurements. Requires one alkaline D-Cell battery. Simple, low tech, reliable. These are not in production anymore, but plenty on eBay. Most have not been calibrated since their original production, but are usually only off by 10-20%, which is not critical for the high dose measurements you are checking in a nuclear war. Meters can be recalibrated by sending them to URL: 

NUKEALERT ER—Is a combination Geiger counter, dosimeter and high range survey meter like the Victoreen, but does it all.  It has a range of 1µR/hr through 600R/hr, but currently the government is grabbing the entire supply.  Price $750 if you can find one. will know when they become available.

RadEye GF—Personal Radiation Detectors by Thermo Scientific. Easy to use with a wide range of 0.001 to 300 rad/hr. Fisher Scientific (URL: won’t sell them to the general public, but JRT Associates (800-221-0111) will sell them to businesses if you have a business name or foundation to give them. URL:

Kelly Fallout Meter (KFM)—This rudimentary homemade kit meter is surprisingly accurate using typical household materials. Kits are available for $20 from Emergency Essentials ( or the plans are free from KI4U ( and at

Note: Get manuals for using radiation meters in a shelter from KI4U. The 260 pg. “Nuclear War Survival Skills” by Cresson Kearny can be viewed as pdf and printed for free at and the 120 page FEMA manual for using the Victoreen Meters in a shelter is available via pdf for download and printing at print out a hard copy and keep in your shelter next to your meter.

Cook Stoves

Propane: Use for counter top stoves in your shelter.

expedition 3x—Camp Chef made this excellent three burner stove with wind block and custom large cast iron griddle. Keep one with several containers of propane gas available for emergency cooking ($275). Available from or used and new at Amazon.

PORTABLE STOVE AND OVEN—Camp Chef has a 3 burner stove combined with a small oven for camping off of a propane tank ($250). URL: but it is cheaper at Amazon.

Kerosene Stoves— Useful if you already store Kerosene for a heater. Fuel is less bulky than a pressurized propane tank. Buy extra wicks when ordering these small kerosene stoves. More information and sold by Miles Stair ( and from St. Paul Mercantile

PRIMUS.  Primus is an international brand of Kerosene and backpacker multi-fuel and gas stoves.

Aladdin—Has the most complete line of kerosene heaters and stoves. And their lamps are the brightest kerosene lamps available. But they are pricey and burn more fuel than other brands. Handle with care as they get hot.  or buy from online distributors such as Lehman’s and other preparedness stores.

Alpaca—Great stove if you need a countertop model for home or shelter. Very sturdy and will take as large a pot as you care to put on it (about $110). Extremely simple, reliable design, with a minimum of moving parts to wear out. Fuel tank holds 0.9 gallons and has a fuel level gauge. Runs for 16 hours on a filling. Output 8,500 BTU; weight 13 lbs; size about 13” high x 13” diameter. Available from preparedness supply stores and old fashioned outlets like Lehman’s


Small Refrigerators—Mini fridges are low powered and efficient enough to run off a battery bank and inverter in the shelter.  Most manufacturers make them.  Perhaps the best overall is the Danby Designer DCR044A2  available at Walmart for about $170. It is using about .75amps per hour to run, or an equivalent 10amps in DC current from the battery counting inverter losses.

SunDanzer—Top-loading DC refrigerators and freezers, built for running directly off of your batter bank in the shelter. Extremely quiet and well made, and uses a fraction of the power of other refrigeration products, but expensive $600-$1000. All SunDanzer solar refrigerators run on 12 or 24V DC and are the best way to power a fridge in a shelter if you can afford it. They only use 1.5 -2amps per hour. Available from alternate energy stores like the Solar Panel Store in New Castle, Colorado. URL:

Nova Kool—DC and AC/DC small and medium refrigerators for marine, RV and truck use. Good, durable, units but lacking in thick insulation (because designed for small spaces). They only run 4-6amps in 12volt.  Expensive: $1,200 to $2,000 depending on size. Available at many RV and marine wholesalers or at solar shops like Backwoods Solar in Sandpoint ID ( 1578 Hartley Avenue, Coquitlam, BC V3K 7A1 (Canada). Tel: (604) 523-6515. URL:

DOMETIC—Full line of 12/24volt DC refrigerators for RVs. Propane fridges aren’t ideal for shelters since they run almost constantly and need a physical metal vent/chimney to the outdoors. See listing in Home Appliances. URL:

Koolatron—Portable 12v coolers use non-compressor technology (4 amp). Available at most outdoor stores. URL:

Igloo and Coleman—also have portable electric coolers or heaters. Place cooler on its side to operate like a small fridge. Available at outdoors stores or retailers like

Sink and Shower (Gray Water) Plumbing

MANUAL KITCHEN SINK—For mini shelters that don’t have room for a full kitchen counter, Delux Camping makes a small 5 gallon bucket sink and countertop with integral hand pump to bring water up to a mini-facet with a foot pump connected to a bucket of clean water.

MANUAL SHOWER—Delux Camping company also puts out a neat portable pump with a plastic hose and shower nozzle, with a manual on/off switch.  This is ideal for small shelters with a small toilet room with a floor drain.  Simply line the walls with waterproof material and shower by filling the 2 gallon pump with warm water, and use the shower wand as needed to rinse off. Delux Camping Shower pump

Simple Gray Water Systems—Ideas for building one from common plumbing materials can be seen here: 

Natural Home Building Source—Sells a tank with a filter and options such as a pump. Their website has many common-sense recommendations about gray water use. Silverthorne, CO 80498. URL:

Biodegradable Detergents—Required if you reuse gray water so as not to damage plants. None compare with the cleaning power of commercial detergent, especially on stains, but the 7th Generation “Free and Clear” performs the best in tests on dirt and stains.

PEX—Flexible plastic piping. There is no better plumbing system for the do-it-yourself plumber than flexible plastic pipe systems. Easy to install and freeze resistant since it will expand rather than split or break. There are a variety of clamping ring connectors or slip-on, non-clamping connectors on the market. Available at all plumbing supply stores.

Steel Decking

GENERAL NOtes—Many brands of steel decking are available at local steel suppliers in most large cities. Deal locally to avoid shipping costs. When pouring a composite concrete over metal deck for a shelter ceiling get “embossed” decking so that the decking adheres to the underside of the concrete when form supports are removed. Here are some sample companies:

FormDeck—Comes 36 inches wide in a variety of lengths.

Metal Deck Direct—All kinds of metal deck, including embossed decking. URL:


Soundproofing101—This website has reasonable ideas for soundproofing and links for materials and windows. URL:

Soundproofing materials—This seller has a special Green Glue that can be laid down between two layers of sheetrock for good sound attenuation. URL:

SOUND PROOFING GLASS: A plastic layer laminated between two panes of glass provides excellent soundproofing and reinforces the glass. Used as an inner window in combination with your existing inner window.  Excellent for stopping road noise.

Insul-Tek—A self-adhesive, automotive-type soundproofing with O.E.M. Sound Deadener. This is a very compact, effective material: URL:

Sonex foam—Sound damping finger foam, ideal for shooting ranges. Fairly expensive at $5 per sq. ft. Acoustical Solutions Inc  URL:

Rockwool Insulation—Better sound absorbing qualities than fiberglass. Roxul is a typical brand name. Available at some home improvement stores, including Lowe’s 

Toilet Options

Biolet—Mini-composting toilet. Finally a composter about the size of a regular toilet. Look for the BTS 33 for a non-electric model. Tel: (800) 524-6538. URL:

Sun Frost—“Human Hummus Machine.” One of the most economical composting toilets around. Purchase these kits for converting two 55 gallon drums—one for use and the other to store material as it composts. Low watt fan requires DC or AC. P.O. Box 1101, Arcata, CA 95518 Tel: (707) 822-9095 URL:

Clivus Multrum—Special toilets as part of a large tank system. Will compost continuous use for multiple people and also kitchen waste. Large tank system must be sited in a basement area.

Sun-Mar—Look for self-contained units that are moderately sized for placement in bathroom. Non-electric, AC or DC and automatic controls depending on unit. From $1,200-1,800 depending on options. Many online retailers such as

Chemical Toilets—($20-50) available at camping and RV stores.

Marine Toilets—Our preferred manual toilet system for shelters. These toilets have a manual pump that will pump waste up a 1-1/2” pipe as high as 6 feet allowing use in basement shelter systems where one must connect to existing plumbing drains at ceiling height. JABSCO brand, order model #29120-2000 for the larger, elongated bowl. Available at yacht and marine supply stores or

Porta-John Systems—Dry Flush Toilet. 50633 Ryan Road, Utica, Michigan 48317. Tel: (888) 767-8256. Several retailers online.

Toilet Distributor—This site compares several composting and non-electric toilets next to each other:

MARINE TOILETS—Our preferred manual toilet system for shelters. These toilets have a manual pump that will pump waste up a 1-1/2” pipe as high as 6 feet allowing use in basement shelter systems where one must connect to existing plumbing drains at ceiling height.

JABSCO MARINE TOILET—Order model #29120-2000 for the larger, elongated bowl. About $200 Available at yacht and marine supply stores or  Jabsco also has an electric model for around $600.

Water Storage Tanks

Notes—There are several types of underground plastic water tanks on the market and all of them are preferable to steel in the small to medium sizes. The white tanks are polypropylene, colored tanks are usually polyethylene and black tanks are ABS plastic. Fiberglass is used for the largest reinforced tanks and are not suitable for stored drinking water due to chemical outgassing.  We do not list individual suppliers here because these are obtained locally in every rural farm community in the country, including the entire East Coast. See for examples of what is available.

Water Barrels—New 55 gallon polyethylene

160 GALLON STACKABLE TANKS—These well-built 160 Gallon, stackable water tanks are strong enough to stack on top of another and have built in spigots. Their oval shape allows them to still fit through a normal door. $420 for one or $800 for two. Water Prepared, Springville, UT. Tel: (888) 252-6522 URL:

Kolaps A Tank—Bladder type, collapsible tank that is useful for hauling water in a pickup, and for temporary storage. It will even act as a giant solar water heater.

Pre-made Shelters and Plans

Oldcastle Precast—Custom pre-cast waterproof concrete tanks. These can be modified and even combined to make economical sealed, drop-in-the-ground shelter systems. They have local manufacturers in several states. Oldcastle Products, Auburn, WA.

BURIED SHELTERS:  Although we don’t recommend shelters buried in a backyard or field due to insecurity and lack of privacy for vents and entrance, if you must, here are the builders:

Culvert Pipes—8 foot diameter steel culvert pipes can be used for an economical underground fallout shelter for the do-it-yourselfer.  Bury at least 3 feet underground. About $10k for the basic structure.

Utah Shelter Systems—Galvanized metal pipe system buried deep. Comprehensive shelter units, built to suit. Uses the Swiss Andair (LUWA) NBC filters (See notes on this under Air Filtration). URL:

Safecastle—Lots of options with these shelters. Fairly expensive. URL:

Survival Center—Submarine-style buried tanks. Note: the air filter should be outside the shelter.

American Bomb Shelter—Do-it-yourself kit or individual parts—emphasizes blast protection which we think is unnecessary as you shouldn’t be putting a shelter in a blast target zone anyway. URL:

Radius—Pre-manufactured fiberglass submarine shape. Most difficult shape to outfit and use.   URL:

TORNADO/Storm Chaser Shelters—Small shelters for storms. Fort Worth, TX URL:


Food Storage

General Notes: Best deals for food storage are in bulk dried grains: wheat, rice, and beans. Due to the shipping weight of bulk foods for storage, it may be better to buy these items close to home. However many bulk wholesalers like Emergency Essentials have found a way to get very cheap shipping rates. You can buy large bags of beans and rice at wholesale warehouses like Costco and Sam’s Clubs nationwide. You can buy bulk wheat in many locations in the West, as indicated below.

Almost all of the Food Storage companies are in the West, and 90% are in Utah, the nation’s hub of preparedness.  In the Midwest a few grain growers will bag some wheat for consumers but much of it is sprayed at harvest to help finish off the plants so they dry easier. The best bet for people in the Midwest is to join together with a few other families and buy grain from an organic non-GMO grower. Load up your pickup truck with grain, and then package it yourself in plastic 6 gallon buckets. Many farmers in the Midwest and Canada have small grain cleaners that can take out the dust and other particles from field grain. Add a spoonful of diatomaceous earth per bucket of grain to kill any bugs.

The “Big 4” in size and shipments are the following companies:

Emergency Essentials—The Walmart of prepper stores. Good variety and fairly competitive prices on food goods and preparedness items of all kinds. Maximum shipping charge is $12 no matter how large the order, except to HI and AK. Order online or via catalog.  URL:

Nitro-Pak—Carries a full line of survival foods and products.  Very fast service.  Heber City, UT. URL: 


But we often prefer to shop with the littler or lesser known companies:

Alpine Food Storage—Small outfit in Utah that can ship within the US. Best prices on the most important storage food items but focuses on those that are healthy and for everyday use. Highland, UT URL:

Shelf Reliance—Noted for their shelving systems that rotate cans forward on a sloping shelf as you use them.  Lindon, Utah  URL:  They also have a Canadian outlet. 

Walton Feed—A full service chemical-free supply outlet that has all types of survival foods and equipment. Very reputable. Montpelier, ID

Moisture and Oxygen Absorbers—Preservative aid for dry packing.  Oxygen absorbing packets available at most dry goods retailers including Provident Living (above). URL:

Storage Buckets—Available in Utah and Idaho at many grocery stores and home improvement stores.  Food storage companies also sell them: Emergency Essentials or Alpine Food Storage (see above).

DIATOMACEOUS EARTH—Read up on this natural weevil and bug killer at Stock up on food grade DE for sprinkling over your stored grains as you put them in buckets to stop bugs from eating it while in storage. There are many other uses for internal use, care of animals and general insect control.  You can find lots of sources on Amazon, including a 50 lb bag (and smaller).

JARBOX—Mason jar storage bins. This innovative product is a clamshell-like plastic box that stores 12 jars with enough space between them they will not bump and break during travel, an earthquake or even when dropped while carrying. Multiple bins lock together for easy, sturdy stacking. $16 per set. Available direct from the inventor. URL:


Non-hybrid, non-GMO seeds—Sealed in moisture-proof packets and stored in #10 cans. 4-5 year shelf life. Much longer if refrigerated or frozen. Available from the following sources:

Preparedness Seeds—URL: 

Territorial Seed Company—  URL:

Harris Seeds—URL:

Heirloom Seeds—URL: 

Jankala Organic Seed    

Pre-packaged “Seed Vaults”—Available through preparedness wholesalers like Emergency Essentials and Alpine Food Storage

Firearms and Weapons


MAG-SAFE AMMO: Special penetrating shotgun type ammo for automatic weapons. Awesome and deadly stuff. URL:

SILENT .22 AMMO—CCI brand sub-supersonic CB CAP cartridges. Available at most gun shops.

SPOTTING SCOPES, TELESCOPES—For a great place to buy binoculars, spotting scopes, telescopes, and accessories, try Eagle Optics. URL:

TRITICON—Glowing night sights from Armson. Tel: (207) 797-8200. URL: 

HEARING AMPLIFICATION MUFFS—These specialty ear muffs will not only amplify small sounds, but they will attenuate loud sounds so that everything comes within your hearing comfort range. These are a must for combat shooting when you want ear protection but still need to hear small noises. Several brands available including Pro-Ears, Silencio and Gentrex. Available from sport enthusiast stores like Cabelas and

MILITEC-1—Dry lube for weapons URL:

BOWIE KNIFE: Best all-around Survival knife: Western Cutlery 9-1/2" blade is available at local knife shops that carry Western Cutlery products. Shop on eBay for the Western Bowie model W49

WILLIAMS TRIGGER SPECIALTIES—Smooth trigger modifications. 111 SE Second Street, Atwood, IL 61913, Tel: (217) 578-3026. URL:

DILLON RELOADING PRESS—Best of the progressive reloading presses. Tel: (800) 762-3845. URL:

Air Guns

MULTI-PUMP AIR RIFLES—These low-powered air rifles are best for target practice “plinking” and for training kids on weapons. Cheap, accurate at short range and reliable.

BREAK BARREL AIR RIFLES—The best balance of stand-alone power in air rifles. Look for .22 caliber rifles with slightly less than 1000 fps (feet per second) muzzle velocity for best power while still being quiet. Use heavier pellet (lead) for slower velocity but greater stopping power. Here are recommended models:

In .177 caliber: Ruger Blackhawk Combo ($90), break barrel, 1000 fps, includes 4x32 scope. Manufacturing and components are average quality but a good gun for an excellent price. (

Gamo Whisper Silent Cat ($149), break barrel, .177 caliber, 1200 fps, 4x32 scope. Popular gun, powerful and accurate. Note that the non-removable sound suppressor does not stop the “crack from the sonic boom”, so not “whisper silent.” (

In .22 caliber: Crossman Nitro Venom ($150), break barrel, 800 fps, 3-9x32 scope. Fairly quiet, decent quality, good accuracy, good stock. Some users prefer a new trigger (see below). Uses the nitro piston which is quieter and has less recoil than the typical spring. (

RWS .22 Pellet Model 34 ($300), break barrel, 800 fps. 4x32 scope. Made in Germany, this is an excellent air gun with a lifetime warranty. Robust barrel with good trigger and scope quality. (

Modified triggers for air rifles from

RECOMMENDED PELLETS: Heavier (lead) pellets are slower but more powerful. Dome shaped pellets are accurate. Hollow points, both open and plastic-filled, are available for varmint hunting. RWS pellets are high quality and don’t leave as much lead dust in barrels ($6 for 250 - and Crossman Premier Dome-shaped pellets are more accurate than other shapes ($11 for 500 - Both are available at gun shops and on

Solar and Hand Crank Generators

We have found that all of the small hand-held, hand crank generators, like the K-Tor and the ETON are too underpowered to do much good. You’d have to crank for an hour to get even a minimal charge on your cell-phone.  We feel that the Crank-a-Watt generator is the only thing worth buying if you are going to have a hand-crank generator.  It comes in a plastic tool box with a large 400 watt permanent magnet alternator, regulator, voltage meter, 400 watt 110 inverter and a voucher for a battery.  That way, you can charge the battery rapidly and then plug in your electronics for recharging while you do something else. URL:  

CRANE 11-in-1—Solar battery charger for D, C, AA, AAA and other small NiMH or NiCad batteries. Includes built-in battery meter. Takes 7 hours per set of batteries (more on cloudy days). $25 at REI and several online retailers.

GOALZERO NOMAD SOLAR PANELS—These foldable panels about the size of a sheet of paper are large enough to recharge small equipment via USB. Panel sizes and outputs vary from $80 to $200. The Guide 10 Plus Solar Kit ($120) includes a charger for 4 AA or AAA rechargeables.

GOALZERO TORCH 250—This large hand-crank flashlight can also be recharged by its built-in solar panel. USB port allows it to recharge other devices.

Batteries, Rechargeable

FUJITSU—The best brand of low self-discharge AA and AAA batteries. Made in Japan. These are the “true Eneloop” batteries now that Panasonic bought the brand and moved production of Eneloop batteries to China. Pack of (8) AA is $22, and (8) AAA runs $29.

TENERGY—The best low self-discharge C, D and 9-volt batteries. Technology is still improving in this area so these rechargeables are still lower capacity than the disposables and they are “only” rated for 500 cycles but it sure beats buying and trying to store 500 alkaline. $16 for (4) C size, $47 for (8) D size, $15 for (4) 9-volt.

Battery Chargers

OPUS BT-C2000—Excellent Ni-MH/Ni-Cd charger with four individual charging slots for AA or AAA batteries or 2 C or D cells. It has six thermal monitors (4 for the batteries and 2 for charger circuits). It will charge, condition, test and analyze each battery. Doesn’t accept 9V or rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. $34 on Amazon but for a better warranty and customer service buy directly from DC Workshop.

ACCUPOWER All-In-One IQ338XL—Will charge more battery types than the Opus above including 9V and lithium-ion batteries. In fact it will charge any round rechargeable batteries including RCR123A (rechargeable C123A), and C or D cells. It doesn’t recharge 9V lithium and is missing the temperature sensors and the peak charge feature (-dV) of the Opus that help you get the most out of your batteries. But most people can live without these features if they charge slowly. $47 from DC Workshop.

ACCUMANAGER 12 slot battery charger—This large battery charger will charge 12 batteries independently meaning you can mix or match AA, AAA and Ni-MH or Ni-Cd. It has auto detection of reverse polarity, non-rechargeables, and defective batteries. 12 unit charger is $33 or get a 16 slot charger for $47.

LA CROSSE BC-700—The smallest ‘smart charger’ with independent charging of (4) cells and includes charge, discharge, refresh and test for Ni-MH and Ni-Cd AA or AAA only. $34 on Amazon.

Lanterns, Headlamps and Flashlights

Your backup flashlights and headlamps should have a high power setting over 100 lumens for searching outside at night. Lights that accept rechargeable batteries are valuable. Rechargeable lights via mini USB are popular now but make sure you can swap out the rechargeables for standard disposable batteries if needed.

COAST RECHARGEABLE FLASHLIGHTS—The powerful HP8R (760 lumen) flashlight has a nice low setting (60 lumen) too. It works on standard alkaline or the included rechargeable batteries that recharge on AC or DC via mini USB. Can be recharged with a solar charger like those mentioned above.

HYBRID LIGHT—Rechargeable flashlights with solar panels built into the handle. Batteries hold a charge for years, everything can also be recharged via USB. Flashlights vary from 80 lumen ($20) to 250 lumen ($45), are rugged, waterproof and lightweight. Larger flashlights have a USB port for charging a phone. There is an 80 lumen headlamp with detachable mini solar panel. A working light with good area light and directed flashlight ($60) and camping lantern that lasts for 100 hours on low setting (25 lumen) and 25 hours on the high, bright setting (400 lumen). Products are well made. St. George, UT Tel: (800) 365-0350 URL:

GOAL ZERO—Flashlights, lanterns and LED lights on a cord run off USB power so require additional solar panels to recharge. URL:

Oil and Kerosene Lamps

Kerosene Lamp—Rapid Kerosene Pressure Lantern uses hand-pressurized fuel and a mantle to generate 500 lumens (300 watt light bulb). Burns 10 hours from one-third gallon kerosene (one filling). About $100. Get extra mantles and parts when ordering. URL:

BRIGHTLYT—Multi-Fuel Lantern $120 from Homestead Supply. This German beauty is the Cadillac of lanterns. Burns all liquid fuels, nickel finish, very classy. Puts out tremendous light. See:

Dietz Wick-Oil Lamp—The best of the old fashioned wick/oil lamps - beautiful and inexpensive ($20). Available from old fashioned products stores and Lehman’s URL:

Humphrey Propane Lamps—The oldest and best company wall mounted gas lighting.  URL:

Masks and Smoke Hoods

Smoke Hoods—MyXcaper Smoke Mask is a thick face mask that comes moist out of a sealed pouch to better catch particles. Filters smoke, carbon dioxide and other gases ($39 for the mask, $58 for kit with goggle, LED light and whistle). URL: 

ASE30A—Smoke Hood with built-in filter. Bulky and more expensive ($60-$70) than Smoke Mask but is complete as a single unit. Available from multiple sources including  

FIREMASK—Only about $50, protects against smoke and carbon monoxide.

Paint Grade Respirators—These dual filter masks used by commercial painters are the least expensive way to get chemical and smoke protection but they do not protect from carbon monoxide, so only good for about 5-10 minutes in smoke. About $30-$40 from hardware stores.

M95—Dust masks for keeping radioactive particles out of lungs after a nuclear disaster. Available from home improvement stores. Store in cars and in all 72-hour kits.

Matches and Lighters

UCO Matches—The best modern brand. The “strike anywhere” wood kitchen matches light on more surfaces than other brands and the wood doesn’t break like the cheaper (but ubiquitous) Diamond brand matches. $20 for 3200 matches ( on Amazon. Penley ( and Redbird at Amazon are middle quality. Store all matches in waterproof containers or freezer bags.

Cardboard Matchbooks—The cheapest option for stockpiling a lot of matches for barter. These plain white matchbooks are only $5 for 1000 matches (

BIC BBQ LIGHTERS—Reliable long-nosed lighter that is ideal for lighting fires, candles, stoves, etc. $5/each but some are available for $4 ( Not refillable.

Disposable lighters—Bic brand ( are reliable and when bought in bulk are less than $1 apiece. Off-brand lighters can be bought in packages of 100 ( for only $0.17 apiece. This is the cheapest fire lighters though not as versatile as BBQ lighters above. Keep matches on hand as backup.

Thyroid Protection

Potassium Iodide or Iodate tablets—Take after any nuclear incident to saturate the body with stable iodine and avoid thyroid contamination by uptake of radioactive iodine. Available from most preparedness stores and from

IODORAL—Daily tablets for maintaining a healthy thyroid now and in hard times. Available at and at many pharmacies.

NASCENT Iodine—This elemental iodine is reportedly a more bio-available form that is much easier for the body to use.Valuable as a daily supplement for overall improved health and increased energy. Most cost-effective from Sunstone formulas, URL: A similar product that is best for topical use (and still safe for oral use) is “Detoxidine” from  $30.

Tapes and Adhesives

DUCT TAPE—Duck brand duct tape ( and Gorilla Tape ( are the best rated for their strong fabric base, good adhesive and quality backing. Look for a tight weave on the fabric and sticky adhesive that stays with the tape when removed. 3M or “Scotch” ( has a wide weave fabric core but performs well overall. Lee Valley heavy duty duct tape is a premium grade (13 mil. thickness) duct tape for a very reasonable price.  

HEAVY DUTY DUCT TAPE—For situations where extra tension, strength and adhesion is needed or where surfaces are rough or dirty try the T-Rex tape ( from the Duck brand. Gorilla Tape ( is also rated well for tough conditions and rough surfaces due to its thicker adhesive coating but it can be expensive. Gorilla’s thicker adhesive is one of the best at resisting water.

HVAC TAPE—For true duct tape look for foil tape or aluminum tape rated for at least 200 degrees like the 2.7 mil tape from XFasten that is a thick aluminum foil tape adhesive backing.

UV-RESISTANT TAPE—The clear UV-resistant tape from Lee Valley is useful for patching holes in greenhouses. Standard Gorilla Tape has superior UV resistance, but look for “All Weather” in the Scotch (3M) and Duck brands. The Duck brand is usually cheapest.

GAFFER TAPE—Gaffer Power tape is a strong waterproof fabric tape with a synthetic rubber adhesive that won’t leave a residue. Consider this tape over duct tape for any application where you may want to remove the tape later such as taping plastic around windows, bookbinding, or securing cables temporarily. URL:

MICROPORE SURGICAL TAPE—Duct tape can be used for many medical emergencies, but 3M Micropore Surgical Tape is much less painful to remove. It adheres to moist but not wet or oily skin. Tears easily into strips or squares. Available at most pharmacies and online.

SUPER STRONG DOUBLE SIDED TAPE—This version of “Speed Tape” by FastCap is very strong and durable. This double-sided tape works very well. Do not apply to surfaces you want to get apart later.  Often used for securing laminate to countertops. Available at Amazon and directly from manufacturer. URL:

BARGE ALL-PURPOSE CONTACT CEMENT— Keep your shoes working by repairing or re-treading them using the glue preferred by professional cobblers for years. Be sure to buy the old formula in the yellow and red cans. The new formula in the blue or green cans is much easier on your lungs but it doesn’t have as good of a bond. Only use it in well ventilated areas. Get some Barge thinner for cleanup and in case the glue begins to dry out. You can still find quart cans of the cement for around $30 or gallon containers for $80 on eBay and Amazon.

Water Filters and Treatment

Berkey—Best filter on the market. Filters pathogens, chemicals, radioactive elements, heavy metals and fluoride (with the optional fluoride/heavy metal filter), but leaves most natural minerals which are important for health. Removes chlorine and its byproducts like trihalomethanes (THM’s). Countertop unit is completely portable. Downside is the slow gravity filter. $250 to $350 depending on size. There are many distributors including, but David Gillmore at has the best prices.

Sawyer filters—Cheapest filters for pathogens only—will not filter any chemicals, metals, fluoride, etc. Don’t let filters freeze once they have filled with water. ($69)

Pureflow 2000—will remove bacteria, Giardia, Cryptosporidium, chlorine, chlorine byproducts, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), trihalomethanes, pesticides, herbicides, tastes, odors and more but falls short of removing fluoride. Uses cleanable ceramic microfilters and a dense solid block of extruded activated carbon ($270). URL:

Big Blue 20 INCH—Generic whole house water filter for a good price. UV sterilization is possible. Available from many sources including

Aerobic KO7—Oxygen based water purifier with potassium base. Only buy the potassium based liquid with the “K” in the title. (Aerobic O7 is chlorine based). Approximately $16 from local and online health food stores.

Lifestraw—Portable water filter that filters pathogenic bacteria, particulates. About $20 each. Available from

Water Desalinators and Distillers

Watercones—Floating water distillers. These units convert non-potable water sources such as lakes and oceans into 1.5 liters of distilled water per day in strong sunlight through evaporation. URL:

PUR/Katadyn—Solar and manual desalinators. Manual units are survivor 06 ($1,000) and Survivor 35 ($2,200). PowerSurvivor units are 40E, 80E and 160E ($3,600 to $5,200) and are all 12 volt operated. URL: and through outdoor recreation wholesalers

Sea Recovery—Marine desalinators for boats. Consider the Crystal Sea 12, 24 or 110 volt models. P.O. Box 5288, Carson, CA 90745. Tel: (800) 354-2000 or (310) 637-3400. URL:

Blue Spring—Large solar desalinator units. Requires significant solar array to run. Produces 80 to 1800 gallons per day (depending on unit).

Water Storage Tanks

Notes—There are several types of plastic water tanks on the market and all of them are preferable to steel in the small to medium sizes. The white tanks are polypropylene, colored tanks are usually polyethylene and black tanks are ABS plastic. Fiberglass tanks are used for the larger reinforced tanks and are not suitable for stored drinking water due to chemical outgassing. We do not list individual suppliers here because these are obtained locally in every rural farm community in the country, including the entire East Coast. Check the Yellow Pages for “tanks” or “water tanks.”

WATER PREPARED—The best storage option for small spaces using good quality and well-designed 160 gallon tanks that fit through a 30” door. Only 42 inches tall and strong enough to be double stacked (easily filled even if you only have 8 foot ceilings). We like the white plastic that lets you see the water level better (but keep out of sunlight).

Water Barrels—New 55 gallon polyethylene

Kolaps A Tank—Bladder type, collapsible tank that is useful for hauling water in a pickup, and for temporary storage. It will even act as a giant solar water heater.

Winter Clothing

PALS SYSTEM—Jim Phillips developed an extreme cold weather clothing system that is so good he calls it a shelter you wear. The Phillips Arctic Living System (PALS) is marketed in economical kits or ready-made suits with a breathable foam core that keeps moisture and body heat balanced. You add your own breathable outer shell such as a Gore-Tex jacket. They also have a complete series of preparedness training videos on the clothing system and all other aspects of survival. SAFE HARBOR ALLIANCE (Phillip’s company in Utah) only makes the coat and pants in the PALS system of clothes. Tel: (801) 503-0322. URL: 

FORTRESS CLOTHING—The most technologically advanced form of the PALS system, using improved foam and better design features, including cutting out the foam in armpits to make the clothing fit better. Fortress makes the full range of clothing including boots, face masks, and gloves.  They even have a new ¼” foam hoodie jacket that is great for active wear in moderately cold temps where you don’t want the bulk of the full foam jacket. They are expensive, but subscribers to Joel’s World Affairs Brief get a 25% discount. Mt. Pleasant, UT 84647. Tel: (855) 487-9276. URL:



Cargo Bikes

If you intend to depend on a bike to haul a lot in bad times, you need a cargo bike. Momentum Magazine has an excellent run-down on the categories and most common companies producing bikes like utility bikes, cycle trucks, long tails, box bikes, cargo tricycles, and even electric cargo bike options. Very informative. URL:

Hybrid and Touring Bikes

SCHWINN DISCOVER HYBRID BIKE—This top-selling hybrid bike (in both men’s and woman’s configurations) is a decent practical bike with average-grade components for a very reasonable price ($275). Fenders are plastic but acceptable, rear gear carrier is sturdy, 21 gears are adequate for moderate hills. Aluminum frame is sturdy, but parts may break down under rough conditions or heavier riders. Lifetime warranty.

NORTHWOODS SPRINGDALE—This upright commuter bike has 21 speeds, Shimano parts, fenders and a rear gear carrier rack to handle even hilly towns or cities in comfort—and costs only $170. Too much wind drag for long distances and in need of lights, baskets, and kickstand.

RALEIGH MARS COMMUTING BIKE—This men’s bike has a vintage look with modern components including a 7-speed Shimano hub gear for minimal maintenance and only mild hills. Fenders and rear rack add practicality to this bike but some accessory parts are of medium quality including the lights and pedals. $319.

VIVA JULIETT CLASSIC CITY CRUISER—This women’s city bike has an easy on-off thanks to the step-through configuration. Its upright position is comfortable for local rides around town or on mild hills thanks to a 7-speed hub gear. Integral dynamo hub powers front and tail lights for reliable lights without batteries. Components are sealed and durable to nearly eliminate maintenance, oiling or greasing. Higher end components brings the price to $1100. Not practical for long distances. Add a basket to the back for groceries.

GHOST SQUARE URBAN—This high end modern city bike is sleek enough to take on long rides and has top of the line components including hydraulic disk brakes for sturdy handling under all kinds of conditions. The 8 speed hub gear will handle moderate hills and the modern styling integrates fenders and rear rack seamlessly. At $1,400 at REI it comes with a lifetime warranty, but you will still need to outfit it with lights, and panniers or a collapsible basket to handle trips to the store.

Bicycle Tires

KENDA TIRES—All-weather mountain bike “slick” tires (not knobby). These are durable and grippy with grooves to channel water away. About $18 each.

CONTINENTAL GATORSKIN TIRES—Sturdy, tough tires with a low profile to still perform well on road bikes. About $35 each.

SCHWALBE MARATHON PLUS TOUR TIRE—Puncture resistant tires for your road bike. These tires are nearly bulletproof against road debris and nails. These will save your precious inner tubes and last a long time. About $60

NOKIAN HAKKEPLITTA SNOW AND ICE TIRES—If you live in an area where you might need to get around in the snow on plowed or icy streets consider these studded tires for your mountain bike or even hybrid/road bike. Highly rated for being grippy and keeping you up even on black ice. Approximately $55 per tire.

Bicycle Lights

SHIMANO DYNAMO HUB—High quality sealed hub ($75) produces power for lights and some USB equipment—both of which are bought separately.

SCHMIDT’S ORIGINAL NABENDYNAMO—Made in Tübingen, Germany this hub is rated for tens of thousands of miles and produces little drag. It power 6V headlights and taillights (light combinations sold separately). You have to thread the spoke to connect this to your wheel. $250 to $300 at 24 Hall Rd., Hillsborough, NH

Bicycle Accessories

CASCADIA FENDERS—This set of metal fenders is sturdy and includes mud flaps for a very complete coverage against rain or mud ($53). A must if commuting by bicycle or converting a bike into a practical means of transportation in all weather.

UNIVERSAL BIKE RACK—This seat post mounted unit will install on nearly any bike and is rated up to 110 lbs. Also consider collapsible baskets, panniers (saddlebags), and even rear seats. For the front consider detachable baskets.

TOWING OTHERS—There are tow bar and tow rope options for helping less capable kids (or adults) along. The tow bar could be useful for those times when you need to bring an empty bike to someone waiting.

BIKE TRAILERS—There are many options out there from small units to extra-large cargo trailers but remember that bikes are inherently limited by the practicalities of pulling (and stopping) based on your weight and strength. The Aosome Wanderer is a good all-around option.

Electric Bicycles and Equipment

NOTE—Electric-assisted bicycles is a developing technology that will continue to improve in the next few years and come down in price, so we suggest holding off buying unless you can use one now for commuting. has the best summary of the current top-of-the-line electric bicycles including forums where other riders add input and share experience.

HIGH-END E-BIKE—The Kalkhoff Integrale S11 is expensive at $5,700 but you get a class 3 pedelec bike (which means it will assist you up to the maximum allowed e-bike speed of 28 mph) with a range of between 55 and 125 miles. 350W mid-drive motor, fenders and rack but no lights.

MID-ECONOMY E-BIKE—The Onway 7 speed is a nice city bike with lithium ion battery-powered motor. It comes with lights, fenders, kickstand and rack. The hub motor is only 250W so top speed is just 16mph for (at best) 40 miles. Still, marked down to $1099 from nearly $2K it is a good deal. Gears/motor not adequate for areas with big hills.

ECONOMY E-BIKE—The Vilano commuter bike has 7 speeds and a 250W hub motor with lights, fenders and Li-Ion battery. Only $800 but many components are cheap, including plastic pedals.

E-BIKE CONVERSION KIT—The e-RAD 500W Conversion kit is a fairly powerful motor that connects around the pedal bracket to make good use of existing gears even on hills. Fits many bikes. 16 lbs with battery. $850 to $1100 but battery is an additional $650 to $850.

BIKE LOCK—Protecting your bike will be extra important in hard times. A sturdy U-lock with cable through the front tire and any other part that can be removed is best. At 5lbs the 18mm NYC lock from Kryptonite is a big, heavy lock, but it holds up against anything except an angle grinder.

FOLDING ELECTRIC BIKE—If you commute in traffic or use a boat or RV this foldable bike is good option for getting around or getting out of traffic in an emergency. The Ancheer Power Plus is a folding mountain bike with lithium ion battery that weighs less than 10 lbs with lights and fenders. Cons: 250W motor is weak and range is limited.

CONVERGENCE TECH, INC.—Plans to Convert a Mountain Bike to electric: $29 from Bill Gerosa,   Pleasantville, NY. Very useful.

ZAP POWER SYSTEM—Add-on package to motorize a mountain bike. Can still pedal with this system. ZAP SX Rear Range 15 miles with SX and 8 miles with DX. Has regenerative charging of battery while going downhill and pedaling. "Electric Cruiser" and mountain bike model can be purchased with the electric package. They now have all kinds of electric cars and vehicles, including a bike with a small pickup type bed. URL:

ELECTROBIKE, INC.—Complete affordable bike with 20 mile range, plus lots of styles:

Electric Vehicle Conversions

ELECTRO AUTOMOTIVE—This is the most economical way to get an electric vehicle. Convert an older pickup or van to electric use with batteries and solar panels. Great when gas becomes unavailable. Use the new Lithium Ion/Iron phosphate batteries for maximum range. The most experienced one-stop shop for all necessary items is in California: