It would be impossible to list all the reasons why you might want to build a DIY generator.
- Maybe you’re preparing for a long-term emergency and want to generate your own power if the grid gets wiped out.
- Maybe you’re living in a cabin in the wilderness, sustained by the land, supported by Mother Nature.
- Perhaps you dream of off-grid independence and self-reliance.
- Maybe you’d like to knock a few dollars off your electric bill or even get rid of it completely.
- Or maybe you want to do it for the pure joy of making functional science.
Regardless your reason, the goal is always the same; to produce and consume your own electricity.
Now, living off the grid doesn’t require electricity. You can go off grid without it. Human beings have survived all across the world for tens of thousands of years without it.
It’s possible to make camp and sustain yourself without electricity. Instead of light bulbs, use candles. Forget the furnace, use the heat from a fireplace. Instead of an oven, use a wood-stove and thick blankets. You can make it with the right set of survival books, and woodsman know-how.
But electricity makes life a lot easier. And most would also agree it makes like better.
For example, a refrigerator and freezer are very difficult appliances to live without in our modern society.
But electricity is a survival tool like any other – it’s just intangible and non-material. But extremely useful.
Electricity is a versatile tool that helps achieve many survival related goals. Heat, light, cooking, entertainment, communication, construction.
The applications are endless.
The best part is, building DIY generators doesn’t require the intellect of Nicola Tesla. Or even a degree in electrical engineering.
You can buy energy generators and have them installed on your property. Or you can build your own. DIY generators are extremely helpful tools. And they can even serve to increase the sustainability of your off-the-grid outpost.
Building your own generator is a skill that makes a huge difference in a “SHTF” situation. Even if you don’t plan to make a DIY generator today, just knowing “how” is a valuable skill to have at your disposal.
The Principals of Making Electricity
Before we get into the different DIY generators you can build, let’s s cover the general concept. Electric generator all share the same basic principles. So these are the truly important concepts to understand.
Any time you use electricity, you are using energy that came from somewhere else. Whether it’s a coal plant, running water, or wind, power comes from some other form of energy.
You convert one type of energy (wind, water, geothermal, combustion) into another (electricity).
So how do you turn the energy of moving water into electrical power stored in a battery?
The Stator is a stationary shell that houses the Rotor, which rotates inside of the Stator. The Rotor is filled with magnets, which, as they spin within the Stator generate electric current.
That current is captured within the Stator’s built in coils and transferred to the storage unit.
Now, to store electricity generated by the Stator and the Rotor you need a battery.
There are many commercial batteries designed for the sole purpose of storing self-produced energy. Basically, the larger the battery, the more energy you can store.
If you plan on using your generator often, I would recommend getting a large battery. One with a significant amount of energy storage potential. Or even better yet, a bank of batteries connected in series.
If you just want off-the-grid electricity to charge a camera and flashlight, small batteries are perfect.
Now, building your own battery is possible – but personally, I’d rather recondition an old battery back to life. It’s easier and less dangerous.
If you’re interested in learning how to recondition old batteries back to life, check out this EZ Battery Reconditioning Course.
Building Homemade DIY Generators
There’s more than one way to skin a cat. Right? If you want DIY electricity, you can look to the sky, look to the sea, look in the ground, look in your garage…
The potential for electrical generation is everywhere.
This is good because no matter the situation, the possibility for electricity generation is there. You just need to understand how to harness it.
For this reason, I’ve compiled a very brief, but comprehensive list of DIY generators.
1 – The Bicycle Generator:
I put this one first because it’s such a simple idea.
By turning the gears (or wheel) of your bike, you turn it into a Rotor. So you can generate electricity and get a workout at the same time.
Need to boil some water? No problem put in twenty minutes on the DIY bike generator, and you are cooking!
Need a reading light? Pedal while you read and you will have light for as long as you are on the bike!
Obviously, this requires physical labor. You won’t be heating a large household via bike-generator. But if you need electricity for small, quick tasks, a bicycle generator is a healthy way to go about it.
You don’t even need a whole bike for this setup – you can build a DIY bike generator using old bike parts. So there is no need to dismantle your prized bug out bicycle.
In the following video, they use a treadmill motor to turn leg power into electrical volts, here’s where you can get a treadmill motor.
2 – Hydroelectric Generator:
I am going to go ahead and call hydroelectricity the BEST option on this list. Because it’s reliable, it’s consistent, and it’s extremely effective.
Hydroelectric power has been in use for thousands and thousands of years. The ancient Greeks were first attributed with converting moving water into grinding wheat. They were not using electricity, but they were harnessing energy. They turned running water and into the useful task of making flour.
Which is exactly the concept behind generating hydroelectric power.
Water wheels are the most popular way of achieving hydroelectric energy. By positioning the wheel in the moving water, the motion of the water is transferred to the spinning wheel. This wheel is then attached to the Rotor. And the energy is collected by Stator before being transferred to a battery.
Many streams and rivers flow at a near-constant rate. So hydroelectric energy is produced day and night, non-stop – effectively and efficiently.
Sadly, building and installing a functional hydroelectric plant yourself is complicated. Not impossible, but requires a lot of foresight, preparation, and planning.
And of course, you need a running body of water nearby too. So they’re not location independent thus making them relatively rare.
3 – Wind Energy:
Just behind hydroelectric energy, wind is one of the next best options.
The basic idea is the same – large blades capture the wind’s momentum, and transfer it to a Rotor/Stator setup.
Unfortunately, wind turbines present a problem for the average Joe. They usually require ongoing upkeep and maintenance.
That’s why most large-scale wind farms have a team of highly trained, highly skilled engineers. They’ve been trained specifically to manage these wind turbines. But it’s becoming easier.
The most important aspect of setting up a wind turbine is investing in an efficient Rotor/Stator set up. A turbine setup that allows you to capture as much of the wind as possible.
However, this only really works in windy regions. Wind doesn’t do you any good if you live in a place where the air is perpetually still (or even unpredictable).
You need a lot of consistent, reliable winds if you want your DIY wind-powered electric generator to pay off.
And here’s a detailed video on how to turn an old cordless drill into a wind turbine.
A side benefit to both wind and water energy is that they’re environmentally sustainable. Using these natural resources (wind and water flow) to generate power doesn’t release pollutants in the process.
I have a flashlight that requires no charging, and no changing batteries. It’s a hand crank flashlight.
All you have to do is crank the handle until you have generated enough friction to power the thing. This is a basic type of hand crank generator, and the one that you can build is similar.
This electrical generation is like the bike generator. It converts human energy into electrical energy. In other words, you get out of it what you put into it.
If you need to conserve calories because food is scarce – a hand crank generator is a poor choice. But if you’re lost at sea and need to signal for help, having a hand crank generator for light is very helpful.
It’s situational – hand crank generators are not your best option, but they will do in a pinch.
Here’s a video on how to turn an old cordless drill into a DIY hand crank generator.
5 – Compost Heat Generator
How about generating heat from waste?
Now, heat is not electricity, however, heat is a form of energy and highly useful. It’s also exciting to be able to use compost materials (wood chips, grass clippings, mulch, hay, etc.) to generate abundant amounts of heat. Heat you can use to warm a small home, a greenhouse, or even to heat a hot-tub.
The one caveat is you need to run a pump in order to circulate the water. So while this setup creates heat it does take some energy input to run.
6 – Atmospheric Energy Generator
Our atmosphere is full of this potential electrical energy waiting to be tapped. But that’s the challenge, how can you tap this energy for use and consumption?
It’s possible to generate small amounts of “free” energy but nothing I know of has been invented to do so at great scale. However, it’s a source of energy to keep an eye on because, in our modern world, new inventions are always being created and developed.
7 – Solar Power
Everyone knows about solar and that fact that many homes are either fully or partly powered by solar. Now the sun’s rays are free but collecting it and converting it into usable energy is not.
However, you can cut the costs of installing a solar system significantly if you understand how it works and how to build your own DIY Solar Power System.
If you’re interested in setting up a DIY Solar Energy system the right way, check out DIY Home Energy.
8 – Biogas Generator
The general idea behind a biogas generator is fairly simple. You just need a source of organic wastes such as agricultural waste, manure, municipal waste, plant material, sewage, green waste or food waste. You then take these organic wastes and put them into a large bin or tank called a digester.
In the digester, you fill it with a specific ratio of organic material and water.
As the organic waste breaks down, it releases heat and gas.
This bio gas can then power a generator, which then converts the cheap (often free) “waste material” biogas into electricity.
If this sound like a setup you’re interested in getting some blueprints to build, check out the Liberty Generator.
Survival Applications of DIY Electricity
It should be evident that electricity makes life easier. The quality of human life around the world has skyrocketed once it became a common resource.
But for illustrative purposes here’s a short list of survival applications of electricity:
First, the most significant survival use of electricity is the ability to generate heat. Especially during winter months and in cooler regions.
Having a method to quickly and efficiently warm your shelter is an absolute game changer.
With electricity, you don’t have to go through the trouble of starting a fire every time you want to cook. Nor do you need to keep a large supply of dry firewood on hand (although I highly recommend it).
But life is easier using hot plates, electric skillets, toasters, or crock pots. All of which make meal preparation a lot easier.
It’s even more important being able to cook food in a dire emergency scenario.
Modern LED electric bulbs use very little energy and last for a very long time. There’s also a lot of rechargeable options for lanterns, flashlights, and lamps. This is efficient and safe for the environment.
Believe it or not, entertainment can be as valuable a survival supply as fresh food because it preserves your sanity -which is invaluable in a survival situation. Heck, sanity is a valuable resource in any situation.
Charging a cell phone or a small radio can change miserable circumstances into a bearable one.
Cameras and camera equipment all use electricity and need batteries to run. So if you need to wait for a shot, you may have to use a small DIY energy generator to charge and power your equipment.
Torturing Your Enemies –
Have you seen the movie Taken? Well, in it, Liam Neeson uses a car battery to torture and interrogate his daughter’s kidnappers. It’s pretty brutal – but man, it gets the job done.
Anyway, if you need a form of “enhanced interrogation,” electricity offers one.
The Final Word
Electricity is one of the most effective survival tools ever harnessed by man. It makes life on Earth easier. We leverage it to accomplish an endless number of goals.
And the best part about it, the energy is everywhere – just waiting for you and your DIY generators.
Extract it from the wind, or the water, use your own physical power or transfer it from another energy source.
If you understand the concept behind collecting energy you’ll go far. If you commit those principles to memory, you have the ability to build a generator out of scratch almost anywhere.
Now that’s self-reliance.