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No Electricity?

October 9, 2010

The majority of us have at some time in there lives had to live without electricity. Weather it was a big rain or snow storm that brought down the power lines or a heat wave that had too many people trying to use their air conditioners. We found out rather quickly how uncomfortable life could become without the everyday electricity that we took for granted. In these times of terrorist activity or potential fuel shortages, one would be well advised to have some sort of backup plan if the power were to go off . I don’t mean spending ten’s of thousands of dollars to maintain your present living environment. I mean a basic plan to ensure that you and your family were safe and comfortable and had enough power to last for weeks.

You don’t need six, thousand dollar solar panels and a $14,000 wind turbine to weather any storm. You simply have to down size your needs to a minimum and power those needs. The first two major needs are food and light. Here I also do not mean that 20 cubic foot refrigerator freezer either. I mean a small apartment size fridge with an even smaller freezer. I also mean to cut the lights you use to one per room and they would be florescent or LED. If you can get over accepting this the rest is easy. Entertainment in the form of a LCD TV and a computer and we are set to weather the worst for weeks and even months.

My situation is far different than almost everyone of you in that I am 65 miles from the nearest power line. I chose this life and learned to live and adapt with it. When I first moved into my cabin, I used coleman propane lanterns for light, a battery powered radio for information and in the warmer months an ice chest for a refrigerator. Now a decade later I have 7 internal lights, 2 external lights, a TV, DVD an Apple 20” iMac and a HP lap top, printer, digital tape deck, external monitor, external hard drive, two 100 watt HF radios, one 75 watt and one 25 watt VHF radio and being a man once or twice a year I run a vacuum cleaner all this run off of my battery bank.

One would think it would be a generator or the solar panels that were most important part of the system, but it is not. The very heart of any good back up system is the batteries. Sure if you have a big enough generator you can use it to run everything, but remember you are planning for an emergency. That may mean you can not get out to get more fuel for the generator. Or suppose like in the 70’s it is a fuel shortage and there are massive lines trying to get what gas they can? You need to be able to run that generator at a minimum and send that power to the batteries for when you need it. If you have a battery bank sized to your needs you can run that generator maybe two or three times a week and the batteries will carry you when it is not running. You could even like myself tie in a couple small solar panels to feed the battery bank when the generator is off.

Yes my needs are less than a normal household because in my retirement years, my passion has run toward amateur radio and editing Alaskan video’s so I have built my battery system to meet these needs. When I designed my first battery bank it comprised four 6 volt batteries giving me a total of 440 amp hours of power. With the advancement in battery technology I have switched to two 12 volt dry cell batteries with the same 400+ amp hours.

I use a combination of 2 small solar panels for daily charging and float maintenance and either connection to my neighbors Honda 3000i generator or my Honda 2000 for the heavy charges. Now I understand a home in the city will need more power than my small system. You simply have to enlarge the battery bank to accommodate the power need and how long you want to go without recharging the battery bank.

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