Your house goes quiet and dark when the power goes out. The background hum of the refrigerator or the sound of a furnace or air conditioner stops. It gets quite dim in some rooms indoors even at noon. If the power stays out for a few days, your refrigerated and frozen foods spoil, and your HVAC system shuts down. There is no power to charge cell phones or lights. Here are four ways to establish backup power in case of a disaster.
This backup power plan is not cheap, but it is very effective. You can even have one big enough to power every circuit in your house to make it like the power grid was never interrupted. Smaller units can be wired to power a limited number of circuits such as some lights and outlets along with refrigeration, heating and cooling.
Whole-house power generators can be purchased that run on liquid or gas fuels. Natural gas supplies often remain intact in hurricane, tornado and flooding disasters. If you already use propane, this can be a fuel of choice. If you live on a farm and store diesel in tanks, it would be a good fuel option.
Portable Power Generators
Portable does not necessarily mean underpowered. There are small generators on wheels you can roll outside and hook a few extension cords to them. Then there are large units that are lifted by forklifts onto trucks or flown in by helicopter. However, for household purposes, they are usually mounted to a frame that has inflated rubber tires about the size you would find on the front of a riding lawn mower.
The standard ones sold in stores are usually gasoline powered, but you can buy diesel, natural gas and propane models. They are used to run some lights, power your refrigerator and freezer and maybe power the blower on a forced-air natural gas furnace. They do not usually have enough power to run air conditioning.
Fixed Solar Panels
This can give you a complete off-grid power system for your home if your house gets enough sun year round. Solar panels installed on the roof absorb energy from the sun to create electricity that is immediately used with the surplus being stored in batteries to keep things running at night.
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Power inverters are used to step up the battery power to run your lights and connected household appliances. This is another system that is fixed in place like the whole-house generator. They can be great if you can shelter in place during a disaster but are useless if you have to become mobile.
Portable Solar Power Generation
These are the same as portable power generators, but they use the sun for fuel instead of gasoline, diesel, natural gas or propane. The Lycan Powerbox by Renogy is one example. These systems are look like a wheeled suitcase and have an inverter, battery and solar panel. There are receptacles to plug devices into that run on household current, and you can get a system with a spare battery for an instant power reload.
Typical portable solar power generators can also be charged by plugging them into a wall receptacle at home. This lets you keep a full charge on your batteries before a disaster hits, and you have the solar panel to maintain a charge while the grid is down. Plus, you can take it with you if you have to become mobile, and they can be used for camping and other outdoor recreation and adventures where electricity is desired.
Failure of the power grid due to a disaster doesn’t have to leave you in the dark. Planning ahead can keep your life powered and running no matter how long the power stays out for everyone else.
About the author: A recent college graduate from University of San Francisco, Anica loves dogs, the ocean, and anything outdoor-related. She was raised in a big family, so she’s used to putting things to a vote. Also, cartwheels are her specialty. You can connect with Anica here.