Are you ready for power outages? Will you still have lighting, cooling and internet when the power goes out? Check this guide to be prepared for power outages!
This video is a starting point to give you some idea of what your options are. If I went into a lot of detail about every solution the video would be an hour long and most people wouldn’t watch it. Once you see a solution that appeals to you, do further research on how to get the most out of that solution.
If you can afford it, a diesel generator is a great thing to have. Even a small generator can output a lot of power and they’re quite cost efficient to run. The only downside is the cost and complexity of maintenance and the noise.
DC to AC Inverter for your car
A DC to AC inverter converts your low voltage DC to high voltage AC. You can plug it into your car cigarette lighter socket (accessory socket) for a maximum output of 100W. If you want a higher output, you need to clamp the inverter directly to the battery.
Does my car need to be running the whole time?
Depending on the amount of power you’re drawing, you might not have to keep the car running all the time. If you have a volt meter, you can monitor the battery voltage and only run the car when it starts to get low. Car batteries are not designed to be heavily and regularly discharged, so as much as possible, ensure the car is running to keep the battery charged.
Pure Sine Wave or Modified Sine Wave?
If budget is no problem, buy a pure sine wave inverter since this will closely match the power coming out of the wall in your home and will have the best compatibility and efficiency with whatever you plug into it.
If you’re on a tighter budget, go for a square wave or modified sine wave inverter. These will work perfectly with most laptop chargers, CFL/LED lighting and most other small gadgets. Modified sine wave inverters generally cause electric motors to spin slower, hotter and sometimes cause extra noise. Running an AC fan, refrigerator and other inductive loads on a modified sine wave inverter could lead to damage over time.
For medical equipment like CPAP machines, I recommend you only use a pure sine wave inverter.
The cost of lithium-ion or lithium-polymer powerbanks has dropped hugely in the last few years. You can now get genuine 20,000 mAh powerbanks for 15 – 20 USD. These can charge your phone, tablet, power USB lights and USB fans and even charge some laptops.
I recommend Ravpower, Aukey and Anker because the capacity they advertise is genuine and they usually have better electronics that allow for high input and output. Plus they generally have better warranties than off-brand offerings.
If you’re on a tighter budget, go with brands like Pineng or Romoss. Be careful because there are many low quality fakes/clones of Pineng and Romoss.
If you buy a Pineng powerbank, watch the following video to know how to tell if it’s genuine:
Quick Charge 3.0 (QC 3.0)
Most powerbanks charge with a 5V 1A or 5V 2A input. If you want a faster charging powerbank, you want to buy one that supports Qualcomm QC 3.0 on the input and then buy a QC 3.0 charger.
My fastest charging standard powerbank is the Ravpower RP-PB043 which I charge with an Anker QC 3.0 wall charger.
You may be tempted by powerbanks that claim super high capacity at a low price. If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is, especially with power banks.
Amazon and Lazada have many fake powerbanks being sold and many of them have fake reviews. If the item doesn’t have any verified reviews or seems too cheap, avoid it.
A single high capacity powerbank or multiple smaller ones?
At the time of writing this post, most powerbanks over 30,000 mAh are either lying about their capacity or they’re very expensive since they’re manufactured and sold in smaller volumes.
If you need more battery storage, I’d recommend buying multiple 20,000 mAh powerbanks since they offer the best bang-for-buck right now. Having multiple powerbanks also offers you redundancy incase one of them breaks and offers better portability and extra USB ports without the need of a USB hub.
Power your modem / WIFI router using a powerbank
Many people don’t know that your average ISP supplied modem/router can actually be powered by a USB powerbank if you have (or make) the right cable. Typically the router will be rated for 9V or 12V but actually work perfectly fine from 5V because it’s just dropping the voltage internally anyway. This generally won’t work for high-end after market routers.
Powerbank with AC Outlet
This is taking things to the next level. There are actually powerbanks with built in AC outlets. I recently two from Ravpower which you can see in the video below. You can find a similar product from Anker, called the PowerHouse.
These are ideal due to their simplicity but the capacity is not high enough to run heavy loads for a long time.
Jumpstart Power Bank + DC/AC Inverter
Most portable jumpstart packs can output a high current at 12V. While they’re typically designed for brief high current draws, they can also be used for longer, lower current applications, such as powering a DC to AC inverter. This solution basically mimics the powerbanks with built in AC outlets but at a much lower price.
What are the downsides of this? It’s not as portable and isn’t particularly pleasing to the eye. There’s no cooling for the batteries which would be dangerous if you draw a heavy load for a long period.
Although these UPS (Uninterruptible power supply) are generally sold and used with desktop computers, you can actually plug anything into them. Your UPS might only run your computer for 10-15 minutes but it could run your modem or wifi router and phone charger for a much longer time.
The downside of these UPS is that the lead-acid battery will degrade, especially if you regularly and heavily discharge the unit. You might have to replace the battery every 1-2 years.
Portable USB Solar Panels
Portable USB Solar Panels might not give the best bang-for-buck but they’re simple and they don’t rely on anything but the sun. There’s really nothing to go wrong. Simply plug your phone or powerbank into the solar panel and then place it into the sun (keep your gadgets in the shade).
Traditional Solar Power
Buy a solar panel, charge controller, deep cycle lead-acid battery and a DC-AC inverter and you have a traditional solar setup. I have a solar 101 video which goes into more detail about the simplest off-grid solar system you can setup at home without any experience.
The downside of solar is that it doesn’t generate much power during the rainy season. But you can use a smart charger to keep your batteries going during those times.
Deep Cycle Battery + Smart Charger
This is one of the best bang-for-buck options for anyone wanting high capacity off-grid power. Simply buy one or more deep cycle lead-acid batteries and a high amperage smart charger. You leave the smart charger plugged into the wall and connected to the batteries. Whenever your house has electricity, the batteries are being charged. When you don’t have electricity, you can draw power from the batteries using 12V loads or through a DC/AC inverter.
The important thing is to invest in a good quality, high power smart charger.