Living off the grid is, for many people, the most desired lifestyle. For others, though, a disaster that takes out the grid brings complications and challenges. How do you keep the house warm after a natural (or man-made) disaster strikes, turning the entire neighborhood pitch dark? How do you make sure your cell phone has enough battery until the power comes back on so that you can communicate with the outside world? And, when will the power grid get back in operation again? These are some of the considerations that cross the minds of everybody experiencing a power outage. The good news is that if you are proactive and have emergency power, you will be just fine until everything goes back to normal again.
Here are some good options to keep in mind.
Petrol or Diesel Generator
Getting a small portable diesel or petrol generator and a large can of liquid fuel is the simplest way to power the most essential items in your home, like the freezer or fridge, in case of an emergency. You only need to connect the cords these appliances have with your generator. A good idea is to install a transfer switch next to your electrical panel so you can run a larger cable from your generator to a dedicated electrical socket that powers critical loads sub-panel (when the grid is down, the inverter output runs only critical loads, leaving your main panel and critical panels isolated). The transfer switch will also isolate your generator from the main panel and prevent back-feeding the utility grid.
With a diesel or petrol generator, you will have power when you need it (even enough power to start a motor). Plus, it is a relatively inexpensive solution (from a few hundred dollars to a couple of thousand). The downside of using a diesel or petrol generator used to be the noise. Nevertheless, there are sellers, like Able Sales that provide new generation ultra-silent generators.
Propane Generators – A Good Deal or Not?
Propane generators is another option that could provide emergency power to your home. And, although it does have a long shelf life, its fuel system is considerably more complicated than the one of a petrol or diesel generator. What this means is that there is a higher risk of failure. And, if the fuel system fails, it will be much more difficult to fix. Finally, if you live in regions with temps dropping below zero degrees Celsius, a propane generator will be almost useless and not nearly as efficient as petrol. What you could do, though, is get a generator that uses both petrol and propane to use during power interruptions.
Battery Backed-up Systems
Many people confuse them with car batteries. In fact, battery backed-up systems are designed quite differently (deep cycle batteries). This is why they come with a higher price tag. In such systems, a battery bank is connected to an inverter, which changes the DC voltage (12v or 24v DC) to an AC voltage (120/240v AC) that your houses can use. Then, with the use of a transfer switch (some models have the switch embedded), you connect the inverter to the critical load panel so that it powers your electronic items almost immediately after a power outage.
The good thing about battery backed-up systems is that they are quiet and cordless. And, for interruptions that last 1-3 hours, they are quite efficient too. On the other hand, you can’t expect to have unlimited power available (they need to be recharged after a couple of hours of usage). So, in case of prolonged outages, you will probably need a small generator to recharge them.
Crank and solar-powered chargers and lamps are an excellent, portable, and lightweight idea to provide power and lighting for your small devices. In the current market, such devices are more and more loved by both off-gridders and campers alike. Of course, we are not talking about large-scale power coverage rather than solutions for short outages and instances when you only need nothing but a little light and enough cell phone battery to be able to communicate with the outside world.
You may try lanterns that come with handy solar panels and built-in USB chargers for charging small electronics, cell phones included. Many models also allow you to adjust the lighting level per your likes and requirements (i.e. for reading or use as a night light), which also enables you to conserve power too. Also, LED products, like LED crack flashlights require a smaller amount of energy than older flashlights to provide you with a decent amount of light. Last, but not least, you may find multi-duty products that serve different tasks (e.g. as cell phone chargers and also provide power to heat water and/or provide lighting). There are also some nice emergency radios with cell phone charger, flashlight, crank power, and solar panel.
For those interested in powering the entire house during an outage, solar panels will definitely meet their need (they may also be used to recharge batteries). However, it is quite an expensive endeavour (and demanding time-wise) that takes a lot of thought before deciding to go ahead with it.
Whichever emergency power solution to choose to ensure that your home will have enough light and energy for the most vital tasks, being proactive always helps. Pick and implement an option today and have peace of mind when a power outage strikes again.