Last month, Eric Holthaus wrote in Grist that “Houston has seen a 167 percent increase in heavy downpours” since the 1950s. Since May of 2015, the area has also experienced “at least four rainstorms so severe, they would only occur once in 100 years under normal conditions.”
In a world where unpredictable weather and other factors can quickly overwhelm local infrastructure, governments are urging people to be as prepared as possible.
Last week a CNN interview with Texas State climatologist John W. Nielsen Gammon noted that “the overall trajectory of extreme weather in Texas is unmistakable and strongly linked to climate change.”
In a world where unpredictable weather and other factors can quickly overwhelm local infrastructure and emergency response, governments are urging people to be as prepared as possible.
That’s because when the power goes out, critical infrastructure supporting telecommunications networks, water treatment facilities, and hospitals is the first priority. Individuals should be prepared to wait days or even weeks for residential power to resume.
So how do you prepare yourself and your family for these emergencies? Here are some alternative energy solutions to help you weather the next power outage in your neighborhood—and keep you and your family as safe as possible.
Tips for Weathering Power Outages With Alternative Energy
Secure an emergency backup power supply
The notion of eating by candlelight is a romantic one, but your electrical grid powers more than your lights. During a power outage, most people can’t cook a meal or prevent the food in fridges and freezers from spoiling. Securing an emergency power supply or a home battery backup can help make a difficult situation better.
The Kodiak Solar Generator is a versatile emergency power supply for residential needs that can run essential appliances independently. Weighing only 20 lbs., the Kodiak can fit on a bookshelf when not in use and holds its charge for three months.
When a power outage strikes, use the Kodiak to run your refrigerator, freezer, or anything else that draws less than 1100 Watts (or 10 Amps at 110 VAC). Its receptacles accept 110 and 220 AC as well as DC to power almost anything, including a microwave, cell phones, lights, computers, tablets, RV, trailer, tiny home, and more. Recharge the battery in 2-24 hours using solar panels like the Predator 50 Solar Panel. Add extra panels for greater capacity, and never worry about running out of gas.
If you have to evacuate your home, you can also take the Kodiak along. Its small size makes it easy to grab and go, and recharging its Lithium-ion battery takes only five hours using the cigarette lighter plug in your car. Power a large emergency beacon for many hours while you wait for help or use the power to recharge radios, flashlights, and other devices to help you stay connected.
Related tips for your emergency backup power supply:
- If possible, leave your solar generator plugged in for long-term storage. Otherwise, charge every three months for optimum performance.
- Most gas stoves use electricity just to turn on. You can use a solar generator to start your stove, then let the gas take over. However, be sure you have proper ventilation during a power outage when exhaust fans aren’t likely to be working.
- Read the operating manual for all portable generators and be sure to follow instructions and operate safely. Never run a gas-powered generator inside your home or garage.
- When the power goes off, switch off all electronics and appliances that were on to ensure the power supply is not overloaded when reactivated
Stay connected by charging mobile devices
A cell phone or laptop can provide critical information during a natural disaster or short-term power outage. Both can also help you communicate with your power company when your service goes out unexpectedly. Before outages occur, make a habit of keeping your devices charged. If you own a car, keep a spare charger on hand with an adapter for plugging into your car’s charging port. Purchase an inexpensive solar cell phone charger for extended power outages.
The SunBell Solar Lamp and Phone Charger is a portable cell phone charger that also works as a reading or ceiling lamp and flashlight. Its rechargeable LiFePO battery needs only 3-4 hours of good sun to charge fully. A built-in dimmer switch lets you choose between three levels of LED light intensity, conserving power when it’s needed most. A handy, nine-foot cable allows you to use the light or your cell phone indoors while the unit charges outside under the sun.
The Pocket Socket Hand Crank Generator offers another way to charge your electronics, even in the dark. Using a hand-powered generator that charges by hand crank, the Pocket Socket generates up to 10 watts of electricity at 120 volts. It can charge a wide range of devices including cell phones, tablets, digital cameras, and battery chargers (AA and AAA). It’s also lightweight and compact, making it easy to take with you wherever you need to go.
Related tips for charging mobile devices:
- To further extend your cell phone battery, limit use to necessary communications only.
- Opt for texting over phone calls. Mobile networks can get overwhelmed during an emergency and texts are more likely to get through because they use less bandwidth.
- Set your phone on ‘low power’ to help conserve battery power in between charges.
Illuminate with solar lights
Being plunged into darkness isn’t easy at the best of times, let alone during a potential emergency. Solar lights are easy to charge, simple to use, and even easier to store. Most will last more than 12 hours on a single charge, and many will hold that charge for two years in your emergency storage.
In addition to the SunBell Solar Lamp mentioned above, standout solar lights include those produced by Luminaid. The Packlite Nova offers 75 lumens of light on its highest setting and provides 24 hours of LED light on a single charge (approximately 10 hours). The larger Packlite 16 provides up to 30 hours of LED light on four different settings. Both models are inflatable and waterproof, making them a great addition to your emergency storage.
Related tips for using solar lights:
- In addition to stocking your emergency kit with solar lights, place some around the house in easy to access areas.
- Use everyday for nighttime reading, charging up each morning in a south-facing windowsill.
- Compress inflatable solar lights for long-term, emergency storage. Check yearly for adequate charge and recharge when necessary.
Have a backup cooking source
We’ve all heard the stories of people bringing barbecues or camp stoves inside during a power outage only to succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning. Don’t be a statistic! Secure a backup source for heating food and water and make sure you understand how to use it safely.
Better yet, use a power source that doesn’t carry these risks. Today’s solar ovens are so effective, many can cook food on cloudy days. The revolutionary GoSun Solar Stove reaches temperatures up to 550°F / 290°C and can cook a meal in 20 minutes. Its parabolic reflectors and tubular design converts 80% of all sunlight entering its reflectors into usable heat—and it needs little adjustment once set up. While there’s no chance of carbon monoxide poisoning with solar technology, you’re also saving fossil fuels by harnessing the sun’s power to cook your food.
If solar isn’t right for you but you have an outdoor space where you can safely fire up a stove, rocket stoves are another option. The EcoZoom Rocket Stove can produce heat in minutes from the small sticks you find lying on the ground. A central combustion chamber forces the heat to mix with the flame, decreasing harmful emissions, while a cast-iron top offers stability for most pot sizes. The EcoZoom Versa Rocket Stove offers the added versatility of cooking with charcoal. Read our article about Cooking Tips and Recipes for Your EcoZoom Rocket Stove.
Related tips for cooking during a power outage:
- Eat perishable foods first and stay on top of anything that needs to be cooked or composted.
- Keep refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. Food stored in a closed refrigerator will remain at temperature for about four hours. Food stored in a closed freezer will stay at temperature for about 24-36 hours.
- Stock your emergency kits with foods that can be eaten raw or quick-cooking foods, such as dehydrated or canned products.
- Never operate a barbecue, camp stove, or rocket stove inside, even in the garage.
Being Prepared With An Emergency Backup Power Supply
While we can’t know what’s coming our way, we can take steps to prepare ourselves for the likelihood of a major power outage. Loss of electricity is a fact of life in many locations. Renewable technologies can provide a solid alternative when the lights go out.
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