Electronics for Preppers: Simplicity Is Reliability

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I read an interesting history some time ago, where a prepper, an ex-lieutenant, retired and headed to the hills with his dog in a big rig. This one was heavily modified: beefed up suspension, oversized diesel engine with redundant fuel lines, and all kinds of smart but at the same time simple conveniences.

He proudly referred to it as having “expeditionary quality”. That phrase remained in my mind. Expeditions have been characterized by being highly risky. Nowadays we have lots of high-end technology, and even with these gadgets, people suffer accidents and get themselves in all kind of dangerous situations. Without our equipment, we are just weak and frightened meat bags, lost in the wilderness.

Well, I feel like that, at least (nothing like listening to the roar of wild red monkeys almost your size to make this feeling arise). Pretty sure lots of guys out there have Rambo-like skills, training and such. I won’t get into details regarding the mind setup of a prepper. Don´t misunderstand the main objective of this article.

I myself am an advocate of using technology, especially for homestead defense purposes. I prefer an induction kitchen over an open fire, without any doubt. And I know that given the fantasy of the need of an endless-expanding market, things are designed, engineered and manufactured for failure. This is because of the need of being sold at an affordable price and keep the money flowing. YOUR money, flowing from your pocket to theirs. No matter if you decided to use some “excess” of money you may have, in buying a new microwave, or some other stuff. Keep reading, please.

Simplicity is reliability.

But what I do feel the need to mention, is how important is to keep our devices and appliances as simple as possible. Simplicity is reliability. Sophistication, in my opinion, has been used for decades now to absorb the excess of money generated by the boost of the companies’ profits, produced by an incredible increase in the use of automation and information technology, outsourcing and other similar phenomena that allowed to decrease the production costs.

Well, that is what I have been able to think by myself. Perhaps you can help me to improve this very limited vision, and I would appreciate that.

This sophistication has brought us extremely beneficial devices at affordable prices: heat/thermal vision for our cellphones, high-powered crossbows (carbon fiber, anyone?), and tons of other gadgets. Tablets, GPS, tasers, drones, and a good variety of these gadgets are going to be very useful wisely used in the sustainability or defense of our homestead. Air rifles technology and some interesting toys like 3D printers and all types and flavors of machines for making other machines in the skilled hands of the mechanically savvy are all over the place.

Robots for seeding and watering, which I thought what a waste of resources…until I remembered my dad who is over 80 years old and still loves to work in his huge garden, with some slippery hills, watering by hand. And how easy would be for an elder to supervise the machine while some other members of the team use their strength in other less time-consuming tasks?

The less electronic the better for your equipment

I just watched some months ago a couple of videos where nomadic RVers talked about washing machines, and I thought how well done had been our choices regarding our home appliances. Both of our washing machines (yes, we could afford two of them back in the day) being the second one acquired with my 2nd income in the good times, are very simple. We agree that the less electronic, the better.

The instability of the power supply damaged a lot of delicate electronics (fortunately not ours because we had protection for ALL of our appliances) and years after, a rubber piece of our more modern laundry machine gave her soul to the holy ghost, so, we connected the other one while we found the spare. It was expensive as heck, and we covered it until better times waiting for the replacement part. The other washing machine is very simple, almost like a toy. But it is still strong and kicking. Cleaning and lubricating it properly, it has overcome the almost daily use for years. Simplicity is my friend. Real life experience.

If you don’t really need fancy electronics, then keep it simple for your basic day to day needs. In the present conditions, someone who needs to fix their luxury refrigerator with Bluetooth connection and with more computing power than my laptop is going to have a heart attack. That is if they are lucky enough to find someone able to fix that kind of things that has not left the country yet.

You need a simple repair set-up

For those who don’t really enjoy to do something with their hands (like me, unless it is a nice, decorative, and wonderful piece of wood carving or changing the oil of my engines, or some other productive task like that), I recommend strongly to have some facilities in your garage for basic maintenance tasks in their rigs, like a well for oil changing, starter or alternator replacement, that kind of stuff. Car elevators (hoists) are for TV shows and big shops. They need expensive and knowledgeable maintenance. I know a shop where the lack of maintenance of the hydraulic jack (because of the impossibility to find spare parts for the hydraulics) almost got someone killed: a sudden pressure loss and the car went down almost one meter…hopefully the guy who was going to work there was not under the car.

A good work lamp, and a place to get into so you can see your rig underneath, and that is much more comfortable for many basic tasks that should save you money.

There are plenty of tutorials about lots of maintenances you can do without thinking it twice, always of course with the assistance of someone with the needed technical knowledge. This is important because you will be able to diagnose problems at an early stage.

Before things went bad, I had thought a lot about installing a voice recognition system at home, able to use servos all over the place for curtains, activating fans, lights, and such. But once the bad times came, we decided to invest that money (and time) in something productive like work and some savings. Trust me, you don’t need, as a prepper, an automatic coffee machine that sends you an SMS once the coffee is ready, and welcomes you every morning with a sensual voice that remembers us to Scarlet Johannson in the middle of her ovulation stage.

You do need, as a prepper, a bio-digester that will provide the gas generated by the waste of the chicken coop, to boil the rainwater that you have filtered previously with your entirely gravity-fed, high capacity, custom homemade, filtering equipment, and prepare your coffee. Only then, you can turn on your large TV, naturally powered by your solar/wind/hydro generator/batteries setup, to admire Scarlett in all of her beauty.

Complicated electronics are great…in good times.

Electronics has come to improve lots of things, and I am pretty aware of that.

If the entire chain of supply is intact, everything is fun and games. Once your neighbor’s car bonnet is opened by thugs in the middle of the night to steal the car computer, something now as difficult to replace in Venezuela as the Doc Brown’s DeLorean flux converter, the wise choice is evident. The large, grey, and “vintage” truck in your garage was not disturbed.

I am sure that many small size factories could be operative under the present conditions, even without the modern electronics and sensors that lots of industrial machinery exhibit today. I am referring to the Venezuela experience, exclusively, indeed.

Having equipment and devices that are made to last, perhaps with analog systems, instead of lots of electronics, is something that in the long term will be rewarded.

Yes, I have some digital measurement tools, of course. A digital vernier calibrator (sort of a very precise rule used by technicians to measure dimensions of small pieces, like in machining or repairing), for example. But I do have a mechanical one J as a backup that I could buy for a few bucks (and know how to use it).

Simplifying essential electronics

I tried to convince my A/C technician to simplify our systems, but it was not easy. His brain programming quickly told him that such action was going to diminish his twice a year maintenance in our units. Split A/C are very complex systems. They use a card controller, and it is sensitive, and it must perform flawlessly for years and years. If it is damaged, it should be replaced, unless you can find someone to repair it.

If there is a collapse, expect to pay a good amount of cash or products, and to be lucky enough so that your “technician” is not a scammer (I know people that were scammed with A/C maintenance).

My solution?…simple…not cheap, but simple: to find vertical equipment, that could work to cool all of the bedrooms, and two window units as a backup. This vertical unit is not easily found new; but according to people in the know, these are the most cost-effective ways and reliable equipment that can be found nowadays, and properly cleaned once a year, they run for decades. Analog controls, they don’t have even a piece of electronics…and don’t need it either. If someone out there knows about these units and can suggest some models to be used in our warmer climates, your comments will be welcome.

I hope you have enjoyed the reading, and I will be waiting for your interesting comments.

Thanks for your financial assistance and generosity. We truly appreciate it and send special blessings to those who have been there for us.

God bless us, fellows!

About Jose

Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. paypal.me/JoseM151


Picture of J.G. Martinez D

J.G. Martinez D

About Jose Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. Follow Jose on YouTube and gain access to his exclusive content on Patreon. Donations: paypal.me/JoseM151

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  • As a retied reliability engineer from the aerospace business, the information in this writing is spot on. In the space flight business, we tend to over-engineer everything, depending on system and sub-system redundancies to compensate for complexity of our systems, while forgetting that the cross-strapping (the hardware and/or software used to switch between the primary component to the redundant one) introduces another potential failure point. The space shuttle had a 3-out of 4 voting redundancy design. For every mission-critical subsystem there were 4 copies in the spacecraft. As long as 3 of of the 4 copies of the subsystems’ outputs were the same, the mission continued. If only 2 of the units agreed, the mission was terminated at the next available reentry opportunity. We also often overlook simple solutions and over-think our designs. An excellent example – NASA spent millions of dollars to develop a pen that would work in a zero-g environment. The Russians gave their cosmonauts pencils instead.

    • Dear Jeff,
      Your words, coming from an engineer with so much experience and in an industry where risks are so high and designs so critical, are very encouraging. I truly appreciate it.
      Happy new year! 🙂

    • “An excellent example – NASA spent millions of dollars to develop a pen that would work in a zero-g environment. The Russians gave their cosmonauts pencils instead.”

      Not again.

      The above is an excellent example of how going for the simple solution and underthinking the problem can also land you in a great deal of trouble. See Grissom, Chaffee, White, et al. (1967) for further details.

      Moral: Sorry, but simplicity and reliability are not necessarily the same thing. Reliability, like security, is a process, not a product. It is not an end state. Achieving it requires constant attention and effort.

      Someone Else Who Spends a Whole Lot of Time Dealing with Systems Reliability

  • I can not +1 this hard enough. When SHTF, there may not be repair shops, or more the mindset, a wally world open to just go and buy a new this or that. What you got is what you are stuck with. All this fancy electronics garbage is going to die pretty fast, it’s what it does. I had a cheap washer, an old Maytag / Admiral that lasted nearly 20 years, very basic, turb nob, a few buttons, that was it. It was a work horse until it finally gave out and rusted out and I had to get rid of it. I have a new one, it’s one of those electronic agitatorless ones, big pain in the butt, and repair guy been out twice in a little under two years. First time, control board went out, second time, some stupid sensor for seeing how heavy the barrel was or something.. both of those things killed it dead as day. Older / simple stuff, you can twist two wires together and make the water come on, make the motor go roundy roundy, you can MAKE it work, if it’s all electronically controlled, you are screwed.

    Lets take radios for communications. I have a few old tube sets, an EMP is NOT going to kill tubes and transformers. I also have a hybrid ceramic tube amp, it may still work after the pulse. Even in a faraday cage, your fancy rigs may not survive. Old simple stuff works, and is easy to fix when it decides to not work.

    Lets look at your cars. my old 78 chevy, might have to replace a coil on it, but the rest of the crap can be jumpered out and it will turn over and run. Your 2000’s vehicle with all those computer chips and such… good luck there bud. Fuel injected, umm yah better be basic or you are done too.

    Just the mentality is going to kill off most the people too (not a bad thing either) half these kids don’t know how to change a tire, splice wires, or even simple stuff anymore. Newsflash: No I am not going to do it for you either snowflake.

    A good tool set to let you work on stuff, and a little knowledge how to fix basic stuff is a must. FWIW anyways, if we do get into a very bad place, gas engines will be useless in a few years anyways, gas will go bad. Diesel now, will run a long long time and can run off veggie / animal oils.

    • There are two types of heating and cooling systems that can be built into the typical residential house, vertical and horizontal. I suppose a coal fired unit is a third way, but since I have no experiance with that I won’t discuss it. A verticle H/C system sits in a closit about 2 feet square. You access the usint from a short door set abot 2 feet off the floor. Below the door is typically a vent with a filter in it that your supposed to change every month.

      A horizontal H/C system can be installed in the attic or underneath the floor (if your house is not on a slab foundation).

      The verticle unit is typically more efficient than a horizontal and easier to service. However, the horizontal unit is typically quieter.

  • As a long time electronics hobbyist, as well as finishing out my working career servicing and repairing Industrial power sources, I have long recommended a Multimeter as part of a Preppers supplies. From testing batteries to simple and even some complex projects, a Multimeter is a valuable and essential tool for the Do-It-Yourselfer. Multimeters check both AC and DC Voltage,, Resistance, Amperage, Continuity, and depending upin the model and its features, they can test Diodes, Capacitors, Transistors and Logic Circuits (Integrated Circuit Chips), and Temperature. Even if only used to test battery voltages, they’re an invaluable aid.
    Multimeters are divided into two types, Analog and Digital. Analog is a bit harder for the novice to use as it requires the user to read and comprehend a Vernier Scale, not impossible to learn, but it does require practice. Digital meters give a numerical display, that anyone can read. I keep both in my supply cache. The Analog Meter is often the cheaper of the two, so having both covers a number of uses an scenarios.
    Price wise, a Multimeter can run the spectrum of a few dollars to several hundred depending upon its features and manufacturer. For a Digital Meter that is a good meter and has the advantage of being Auto-Ranging. Auto Ranging doesn’t require the user to start a the highest reading and then turn the dial in steps down to get an accurate reading, the meter self adjusts. I recommend the Fluke 101. Available from Amazon for less than $50, it covers all the basics, it’s sturdy, accurate and small enough to fit in a cargo pocket. While there are a number of different manufacturers, Fluke is generally considered to be the best industry standard by electricians and electronic technicians.
    Being able to test different voltage and amp carrying devices, as well as test components on a circuit that might fail, will be a valuable and barterable skill in the event that SHTF.

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