How to prepare for a long-term power outage
Don't joke about power outages. That's just dark humor.
Dad jokes aside, no one likes sitting in the dark, especially when you don't know if or when the power will be restored. And the longer the outage, the scarier things get. Food spoilage, freezing or boiling temperatures in the house, and of course, the scariest of them all: phone and laptop batteries dropping to 5%. (Shudder.)
If a long-term power outage is the stuff of nightmares for you, you'll be happy to learn that there is a solution. Solar power is the perfect solution to the extended power outages we've been having across the US for the last couple of years.
You may have heard lots of different opinions about solar, so it's a good idea to start by completing a quick but very thorough course on all things solar. You can also download our Emergency Solar Power 101 guide to become an expert in keeping your house up and running while the neighbors are heating canned peas over candlelight. (Prepare to make some friends).
What causes long-term power outages?
There are several factors that can lead to a long-term power outage. In 2003, large parts of the Northeastern and Midwestern United States were stuck without power for as long as two days. The outage was caused by a software bug in the control room, which led to a chain reaction that disabled power plants across the region.
California suffered a series of power outages in 2000-2001 due to a drought that reduced power generation, a poorly executed deregulation planned (and a little bit of good ole-fashioned collusion by energy companies).
In recent years, Texas suffered nearly a weeklong power outage due to a severe winter storm, poor winterization of the state's power infrastructure, and grid failures. The extreme cold led to higher demand, while many facilities couldn’t generate power due to the weather as equipment froze and pipelines failed.
According to some analysts, these outages are only going to become more common due to extreme weather conditions (42%), system failures (19%), and vandalism or sabotage (16%), among other reasons.
How to protect yourself against long-term power outages
Your teenagers may not believe you, but most households can survive without electrical power for several days, provided you have adequate food and drinking water and can prepare that food. That doesn't mean it's not costly to throw away a freezer full of steaks because it's spoiled. And in some extreme cases, appliances can mean the difference between life and death.
If you or a loved one use a CPAP machine or other medical devices or have medication that needs to be kept cool, you will need power. The same goes for air conditioning or heating during extreme weather, especially if you share your home with an elderly parent or young baby.
Be prepared for a potential long-term disaster by taking a few steps to prepare for a power outage:
- Have a power bank to charge your phone or have access to a battery-operated radio so that you can keep up with the news and any risks. Note down important information related to storm shelters, hospitals, and even family members in case you need it.
- Keep a first aid kit handy. If you have life-critical medicines that need to be kept cool, it's a good idea to keep bottles of frozen water in your freezer. If possible, purchase a solar fridge or hook a mini-fridge up to a solar generator to preserve your medicines.
- Keep non-perishable food like pasta, canned soup, powdered milk, and cereals handy. Anything in your fridge will spoil and perhaps even become dangerous to eat after four hours.
- Make sure that you can prepare meals. Charcoal grills and camping stoves are good options, but they can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning if used indoors. Similarly, a gas generator will release odorless gas that can become deadly indoors. If you don't have access to a gas stove and can't cook outdoors, it might be worth looking at a solar generator.
- Stock up on batteries, board games, portable power stations, firewood, and gas canisters to keep your family safe and entertained. It's a good idea to keep a few flashlights around for lighting, as candles and kerosene lamps can pose a fire risk.
Why use solar for emergency backup power?
Solar power is a good backup option in the event of a blackout because it relies on the sun's energy to generate electricity, making it more sustainable than traditional backup options. Solar power systems and solar generators require little maintenance and operate silently, providing a reliable source of electricity during a blackout without the noise and maintenance required by diesel generators or other backup options. They are very portable, which means you can use them inside or simply pick them up and take them with you in case of a sudden evacuation.
What kind of solar system do I need for long-term power outages?
When it comes to outages, most people are happy with a power bank solution that can power a few essentials like cell phones or lights for a few hours. If, however, you live in an area prone to outages that last more than a day or are at risk of hurricanes, tornadoes, extreme heat or cold conditions, or have special medical devices that need to be charged, you need a more robust solution. Here are a few options.
Solar battery pack
A solar battery system makes the transition from the grid to your battery backup plan is seamless. It's a good backup if you have a hybrid or grid-tied solar panel system installed because the battery will keep your power on by "islanding" or disconnecting from the grid whenever there is an outage. If you have enough battery capacity, it can keep you running for a long time.
A gas generator will keep you powered for days, but it will be loud, smell bad, and create pollution while doing it. You can't use it indoors either, which means it may end up under snow or get damaged if you are holed up without power at home due to bad weather. If you don't want to invest in a whole-house solar battery system, you should consider a solar generator to keep your food cold or your space heater going. A small portable power station can support a full-sized 520W fridge for around 3.3 hours , 5 hours of 350W heater usage, or an electric blanket for 33 hours without recharging.
If you don't want to connect to the grid or use a battery backup, you can use a solar inverter that will disconnect from the grid during an outage and provide power to the home from your solar panels. It generates opportunity power for your essential appliances. They are highly efficient and can be quite pricey, although they can last a long time.
Solar kits: the best way to protect against long-term power outages
Solar kits are a great way of protecting your household against power outages. Emergency solar generator kits include everything you need to keep your essentials powered up, including a solar panel or panels, a power generator, a battery bank, and various accessories. The solar panel(s) harness the sun's energy and convert it into electricity, which can be stored in the battery bank for later use or used immediately to power devices.
The power generator serves as a backup option, allowing for power generation even during cloudy days or when the battery is depleted. These kits often come with built-in inverters to convert DC power into AC power, enabling the use of standard electrical appliances.
In an emergency situation, you can use this kit to access essential power for charging devices, running medical equipment, or maintaining communication channels.
Solar kits contain everything you need to keep the lights on during a long-term power outage. They are quiet, don't generate toxins or fumes that can be hazardous to your health, and are extremely low maintenance.
If you aren't sure which kit is right for you, get in touch with the experts in solar kits at shopsolar.com. One of our professionals will point you in the right direction and provide you with an obligation-free quote.
Don't get caught off-guard. Download our Emergency Solar Energy 101 guide and learn how to keep the lights on, even when the grid goes down.
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