[This week's lesson was contributed by Jay from JASPak Portable Power Solutions. Jason (Jay) Dziczkowski is the senior engineer and chief design architect for JASPak Portable Power Solutions. He has been designing and architecting small and medium solar energy solutions for business and individuals for several years. He has taken a very serious approach to power needs and planning in a grid-down scenario and hopes to help as many SurvivalWeekly.com readers as possible with accurate and reliable information. Electricity is truly a necessity and when you don't have it - you need a plan. For even more information on solar power generation, visit the JASPak team at www.jaspak.com ]
Electricity is no longer a luxury – it has become a necessity. Almost no part ofdaily life happens without power helping somewhere! When that power goes out – the sound of silence becomes deafening with no humming motors or spinning fans or background televisions. When the lights go out, we expect that the power will be right back because most of the time, it does come right back.
What if it doesn’t?
This lesson will take a look at understanding how to prepare for a long duration power outage over 6 hours. Outages less than 6 hours are more of a nuisance and while there are circumstances where they can be catastrophic, they are generally caused by weather, accidents or component failures on the grid and have minimal impact on a household.
Once you have breached the 6 hour window, human conveniences begin to be impacted. Concerns for personal safety, food safety, household services if you are dependent on pumps for water and waste removal start to require a remedy. Simply put, you need power! But how much? What needs power first? How long does it need power?
Let’s begin the discovery…
Take some time to look around and notice what is using electricity. Make this your first assignment. Walk around your house and look at all of the electrical outlets in each room. Write down what is using power. Don’t forget the basement or the garage. Most people are very surprised when this list is completed. Keep in mind, there are also other items using power that you may not see with plugs like the doorbell, smoke detectors, alarm systems and of course most lights and ceiling fans.
With this list, you can now review and prioritize based on items that are considered first priority or must have, medium priority or nice to have and no priority or not needed. Common items in the must have column are the refrigerator, freezer, sump pumps, well pumps, necessary medical devices and furnace motors. The column for nice to have will be televisions, lights, computers, chargers for gadgets, cable and satellite boxes or maybe a DVD player. Not needed items can be alarm clocks, night lights, printers, most small kitchen appliances and other less commonly used devices.
With our priorities aligned, let’s work on a power plan. The power plan is your guide on how you are going to provide available power to items that need it, and when and for how long. The team at JASPak Portable Power Solutions has done a lot of research on how to create a power plan specifically for our solar generators, which you can view here, and have the following considerations for your plan. We will use several common items for this plan to help you get started: The family refrigerator, a television with a cable box/satellite box and charging some mobile phones. We will work with a 24 hour outage as that will provide for a repeatable daily cycle in most cases.
The refrigerator is going to use about 150 watts of power an hour, or 150 watt-hours. This is an average – your mileage may vary. Because a refrigerator runs about 1 hour on and 1 hour off on average, you are looking at needing 150 watts an hour for 12 hours to maintain the normal cycle. Your power plan may want to call for 3 or 4 hours off and then 2+ hours running to save fuel or battery power on your generator.
**Helpful tip – Take 2 or 3 one-gallon milk containers and fill them with water and put them in your freezer. When the power does go out, you can move these GIANT ice cubes into your refrigerator to provide extra cooling for MANY hours to save from running the generator as often.
The television and cable/satellite box or even a DVD player are going to run anywhere between 75 watts through 200 watts…let’s use an average of 150 watts for this. Believe it or not, when the power goes out – your cable wire still has signal because the cable system does run on batteries and standby generators, so if you have cable and turn on your TV, you will likely have programming available for several hours. Because the television is a lower priority, you will probably only be able to use of it while the generator is on and running your refrigerator. Not many will want to spend the extra fuel and listen to the generator noise just to watch TV. A solar generator will run silent, but we will cover the types of generators and apply this power plan in the next lesson.
**Helpful tip – you can save energy and lower the running wattage of a television by turning the brightness way down. The lower the brightness, the less power is used to produce the images on the screen.
The final element in your plan is going to be charging mobile devices like phones, tablets, pads and eReaders. As the power outage continues, these are more likely to be your entertainment rather than the power-hungry television. The majority of cell phone towers are backed up with standby generators and can run for several days and continue to provide phone service and internet on these devices. A typical mobile device charger is going to want between 5 and 20 watts per hour for an hour or two, depending on how low the device battery is. Again, this can be done while the gas generator is running the refrigerator – or anytime with a solar generator.
Putting all of this together, we can see a power plan develop. We know that our first priority is the refrigerator and we can adopt a 3 hour off, 2 hour on power plan and begin to adapt the other electrical needs to this schedule and plan for gas or battery usage in the generator.
Plot this information into a 24 hour chart and you can see that you will have a generator runtime of about 40%, or about 10 hours. To convert that into wattage, we would look at running watts during the five 2 hour running windows. The refrigerator will use about 1500 watt-hours. The television and cable/satellite box, if it runs for a total of 3 hours, will take another 450 watt-hours. Let’s add in the mobile device charging for 2 hours at 30 watts an hour and get 60 watt-hours.
What we have here is a plan for an adequate load on gas generator that will use somewhere around 2 to 5 gallons of gas per 24 hour period depending on generator size, or, a JASPak Solar Generator capable of supporting this entire load even if the sun isn’t out.
Be sure to check in the coming weeks for the second lesson on power as we review the two most popular generator types – a gas and solar generator. We will review the qualities and capabilities and offer insight on which may be best for you and your power plan.
Your assignments this week:
1) Research, inventory and prioritize all of your power consuming items in your home.
2) Fill and freeze 2 or 3 one-gallon jugs of water for the next power
outage. Just keep them in the freezer until you need them.
3) Analyze your power needs and begin to build a power plan so you can better choose your generator type and size.