Seeking Alternative Power in a Blackout

By Alex Jenkins
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Power outages can happen to anyone and they are a lot more frequent than the major outages that make the evening news on TV. Blackouts were very common in the New England area during the winter of 2009. Some people went two to three weeks without power. Even if you don't live in a place that has a history of blackouts, being prepared should never be a question when it comes to taking care of your family.

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Being prepared for a blackout goes beyond beans, batteries and bullets. Having a source of alternative energy to power your devices, both small and medium, can make all the difference. Larger devices can be powered, but you would need some serious generators to make sure you can still use your bigger kitchen appliances, washer and dryer or even a water heater.

Charging your smaller gadgets, such as a tablet, cell phone or even a camera can be done with something like a crank radio. A lot of emergency crank radios come with USB ports, allowing you to plug in a cell phone and charge it in a few hours. It takes longer than plugging it into a wall but the radios will get the job done in a power outage. Just be patient.

Such alternate power sources can work for smaller devices, but you would need some serious generators if you still wanted to use your bigger kitchen appliances, the washer and dryer or even a water heater. Generators are great for powering basically anything around the basic home. They can even give you a source to get lights going around the home. The only problem is they require more upkeep. You'll need to store fuel and maintain the engine. They are very loud but they work.

For silent, more manageable options, there are inverters and solar panels. Inverters are silent and nearly maintenance-free and they can work from your car battery if needed. Solar panels are probably one of the better sources for energy. You can buy several of them and link them together to charge devices relatively quickly. Many companies make solar panels that come with large batteries that you can also string together. Even mid-sized battery packs, strung together, can supply large appliances for over seven hours. They are a tad more expensive, but it is free energy.

Some general notes on saving stored energy:

  • Turn off your main circuit breaker. Power spikes could damage equipment.
  • If you have extra storage in your freezer, put ice into it. You can use this later.
  • Cover your fridge with blankets to keep the cool air in, leaving all vents clear.
  • Keep all doors and windows closed.

There are numerous other devices out there to help you shed some light on the subject in a blackout. In many homes, you can install solar lights that are about the size of a small camera along the walls. These are great for nights without power, and they recharge during the day.

Summary
Being prepared for power outages goes way beyond storing food. Having sources of power to draw from can make a difference and save your sanity. Power outages can last from only a few hours to a few weeks, and they almost always come unexpectedly. You can never be fully prepared for environmental calamities, but having a plan for you and your loved ones will go a long way.

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