I was originally looking at propane as a source of power for the initial transitory period. It is an excellent choice. However, while investigating storage solutions I found advantages in considering it for longer term use.
- It last for a very long time, several decades
- It can power cookers, light, fridges, freezers and engines
- There is even a electrical generator option
- You can buy propane from a multitude of sources (OPSEC)
- Spread the risk of loss by having several canisters
- Isn’t as powerful as petrol or diesel in an engine
- Isn’t as efficient in a generator
- Equipment cost
- Fuel must be stored under pressure. In canisters
- Explosion risk
- Cannot be replaced after an event
Most of the suitable propane equipment I have found seems to be for camping use. This is logical I suppose as for long term use most people will plug into the mains, either gas or electric, for their power. Campers usually only want the equipment for short term use and thus as has been pointed out before the units are not as efficient as they could be for that reason.
Storage of fuel
As the fuel has to be stored compressed we already buy it in a storable format. Gas tanks. These vary in size from small portable units, larger less portable tanks through to fixed buried tanks. They will store quite happily in those until required. They are best stored outside though just in case there is a fire.
Propane equipment is expensive. It requires a special conversion for engines which can cost several £K. Freezers and fridges are also expensive; I suspect that they are seen as a luxury although cookers and lights are more reasonable. All, bar the engine conversions, can be bought in camping and caravan shops. Engine conversions are at specialised garages and I’m not going to deal any further with that here. I consider using propane wasteful as a fuel for engines.
One thing to consider is that countries without easy access to a power and gas grid like the UK use alternatives like propane as the substitute main fuel. This means large tanks in the garden and, you guessed it, cheaper and more efficient equipment. Although when you factor in transport costs it still works out expensive. Perhaps next time on your camping trip into Europe you can bring back a cheaper propane freezer.
Conversion of energy from any source to any other is wasteful. However, when there are few options using propane to power a generator is one option to generate power for your use.
Now if we were to take the available fridge and freezer equipment now and provide better insulation or a cooler storage place then the efficiency would be increased. Making it use less fuel and thus better for our use. Clearly leaving the cooling grids open to allow the hot coils to be air cooled is a must. However moving those coils slightly to allow you to better insulate the unit and make it more efficient is not an impossible task.
To further extend the life of your propane you would of course move over to wood for cooking and lighting as soon as you could and if you were using it as engine fuel or a generator then the sooner you find a replacement the better all around.
Making civilisation last longer for your group by having the capability to freeze or refrigerate will make everyday living easier. It may not last forever but every day counts. Propane seems the only fuel that you can buy now at a reasonable cost that you could still be using 25 years from now. Do you think your wind turbines or solar panels will last that long?