Get Your Backup Power System Now: Comparing Gas-Powered Generators vs Solar-Powered Battery Generators for Blackouts and More!

Backup Power System

Does Anyone Even Care About Our Grid?

Our power grid is alarmingly fragile. As preppers, this concern has persisted over time, yet nothing has really been done to remedy the situation. But our aging infrastructure extends beyond just the power grid; our roads and bridges also suffer from neglect. Instances of bridge collapses serve as stark reminders of the urgent need for investment. Instead, significant financial resources are directed elsewhere, to other countries. 

Consider the recent allocation of billions of dollars to Ukraine!  Reflecting on past discussions regarding the EMP commission, it’s evident that relatively modest funding could substantially enhance our grid’s security. Why hasn’t this been prioritized before allocating funds elsewhere, especially if national security is at stake? It’s a question worth pondering.

So How Fragile is Our Grid?

The concerning state of affairs doesn’t end with aging and deteriorating infrastructure; now, there’s also vulnerability to cyber threats and terrorist attacks. This isn’t new; we know and talk about this in the Preparedness Community!  Then, there are the simple mistakes, like forgetting to flip a switch or leaving behind a USB drive plugged in that could wreak havoc and cause entire cities to lose power.

In addition to the challenges posed by failing infrastructure and malicious actors, there are natural disasters to contend with—hurricanes, winter storms like Yuri, and more. The repercussions of a widespread power grid failure are daunting. 

Recently, in the RYF Exclusive Email group online meetup, the question arose: How long would it take to restore power if such an event occurred? Would it be a matter of hours, days, or even weeks? The implications are scary. Imagine weeks without electricity amidst an otherwise seemingly normal environment. During winter storm Yuri, authorities warned that the grid was on the verge of collapse, with estimates suggesting it could take up to 30 days to fully restore power.

Thirty days is a significant amount of time. Considering all these factors, what would you do in such a situation? Given the current state of affairs in the world, it’s not difficult to envision such scenarios.  A bad situation can spiral out of control quickly.

Lots of Loss If the Grid Goes Down

The risks associated with power outages are multifaceted. First, there’s the immediate threat to life. Hospitals, for instance, rely heavily on continuous power to sustain life-saving equipment. During natural disasters, most hospitals manage to maintain power due to backup power systems. However, if an entire grid or region were to fail, even these backup systems would eventually go down, resulting in many lives lost. Patients on life support, as well as those dependent on medical devices at home, would be at grave risk. Without power, even calling for emergency assistance could become impossible in most cases.

Furthermore, extreme weather conditions exacerbated by the lack of power pose additional dangers. While one can endure a certain degree of cold by bundling up, regions like Texas, unaccustomed to severe winter storms, lack the necessary infrastructure and preparedness. The loss of life due to extreme temperatures, coupled with inadequate insulation and clothing, in a grid-down situation will be really bad! 

Then you have the spoilage of food due to prolonged power outage.  This would compound the challenges faced during such crises. I have two refrigerators, each equipped with a freezer, and an additional standalone freezer. I’ve invested a significant amount of money in the food stored in these freezers, and the last thing I’d want is to lose it all. Especially in today’s economic climate, many people would suffer financial losses due to spoiled food in their freezers.

Then there’s the impact on employment and income. Consider how much of our work relies on electricity nowadays. From using phones connected to the internet for communication to accessing essential information and interacting with colleagues, electricity is integral to many job functions. Imagine working in a warehouse where visibility and operations depend on electricity; it’s clear that power outages pose significant challenges.

Scenarios You’re Not Thinking About

Now, let’s entertain the scenario of intermittent power outages lasting a day or two. Imagine that the government announced that only certain parts of the grid would have power on certain days! If such situations become recurrent, what would employers do? Would they continue paying employees despite the lack of productivity during outage periods? Or would they opt to send employees home without pay and only allow them to work when their part of the grid had power? 

In a scenario like mentioned above, businesses reliant on refrigeration and freezing capabilities would face significant challenges during power outages. Without the ability to maintain cold storage, they would be forced to replenish their stock with fresh items more frequently, which is neither practical nor sustainable. Then consider shipping and trucks that need to deliver supplies are not able to because no one is in the warehouse to receive deliveries due to the power outages.  

Imagine the implications for you if your employer were to announce a temporary closure due to power outages, resulting in unpaid leave for employees. While some companies may initially promise to compensate employees during such times, financial constraints could force others to implement unpaid leave policies, leading to job insecurity.

Then there’s the issue of comfort. Let’s be honest—who doesn’t get grumpy when it’s too hot or too cold? Prolonged discomfort can lead to irritability and tension, impacting interpersonal relationships. Consider the loss of everyday comforts like adjusting the thermostat to your liking or enjoying entertainment options such as television and video games. The absence of these conveniences can exacerbate the frustration caused by power outages.

Don’t Kid Yourself – We are VERY Dependent!

We’ve grown accustomed to the convenience of flipping switches and leaving appliances running, but the fragility of our dependency becomes evident in moments of grid failure.

Our heavy reliance on the grid underscores the need for a contingency plan in case of disruptions. A backup power system is essential, no doubt about it. However, it’s crucial to understand that relying solely on backup power is not a viable long-term solution. I cannot stress this enough: backup power is not a sustainable fix for a total grid failure, especially in an “end of the world as we know it” scenario.

When we talk about long-term power outages, we’re not referring to a few days without electricity during a hurricane or similar event. We’re talking about a complete collapse of the grid, where sustaining your current lifestyle becomes impossible. It’s essential to recognize the limitations of backup power systems. There’s only so much fuel you can store, and generators and solar battery systems have finite lifespans. Even if you’re resourceful and handy, eventually, these systems will fail.

Temporary Portable Backup Power Systems for Grid Down Situations

Now, let’s delve into the realm of temporary backup power systems solutions, which can be a lifesaver during emergencies. Generators and solar battery generators are the two primary options worth considering. Gas-powered generators, or fuel-powered generators, offer versatility with options like gas, propane, or natural gas. On the other hand, solar-powered battery generators, like you can purchase from Jackery, Bluetti, or EcoFlow, harness solar energy to charge, providing a convenient and portable power source. (I’m an affiliate for the solar battery backups listed)

Let’s weigh the pros and cons of each. 

Comparing Gas and Solar Powered Generators

First, let’s talk about cost. Gas-powered generators typically have a lower initial investment but incur ongoing fuel and maintenance expenses. You’ll need to budget for fuel, gas tanks, propane tanks, and oil changes, which can add up over time. On the flip side, solar battery generators come with a higher upfront cost but require minimal ongoing expenses. Once purchased, they operate almost cost-free, aside from occasional maintenance or additional solar panels.

Now, let’s consider the environmental impact of these power solutions. When we talk about environmental impact, we’re not just talking about emissions; noise pollution is also a significant factor. Gas or fuel-powered generators are notorious for generating high levels of noise pollution, necessitating outdoor operation due to emissions and fumes. On the other hand, battery-powered generators offer a cleaner energy alternative, emitting no emissions during operation and producing minimal noise, allowing for indoor use.

Another consideration is fuel availability. With fuel generators, such as those powered by gas, propane, or natural gas, access to fuel may be limited during emergencies, depending on the situation. While local gas stations might still be operational during certain disasters like hurricanes, a complete grid-down scenario would restrict access to only stored fuel. Conversely, solar battery generators rely on sunlight for charging, making them highly dependent on weather conditions. In areas with limited sunlight or frequent cloud cover, this could pose challenges in maintaining power supply. While advancements in solar panel technology have improved charging capabilities, unrealistic expectations about charging times still persist. It’s important to acknowledge that solar panels may not fully charge large batteries in exceptionally short timeframes, despite manufacturers’ claims.

Beyond environmental considerations, there’s also the operational security (OPSEC) aspect to think about.  Fuel generators are notorious for their loud operation, which can disturb neighbors and draw attention to your location. If you’re a light sleeper, dealing with the noise can be challenging. On the other hand, solar battery generators operate silently, offering a discreet power solution that enhances operational security (OPSEC). While lights may be visible, the absence of noise ensures minimal detection.

Portability is another key factor to consider. Fuel generators, particularly larger models, tend to be heavier and require transportation of fuel, adding to the logistical challenges. Solar generators, on the other hand, are typically lighter and easier to move around, offering greater flexibility in placement within your home.

Security concerns arise with generators. Locking down your generator with heavy-duty chains and locks is crucial to prevent theft. Instances of theft during power outages are not uncommon, as opportunistic individuals target unsecured generators for their own use or resale. Protecting your investment ensures that your generator remains available when you need it most.

In terms of reliability, well-maintained fuel generators are known for their dependability, provided you have a steady supply of fuel. On the other hand, solar generators’ reliability is contingent upon weather conditions. While they excel at holding a charge, they rely on sunlight for recharging, making them susceptible to weather variations.

However, in situations where grid reliability is sporadic rather than catastrophic, solar generators offer versatility. For instance, if your workplace has power while your home does not, you can use your solar generator at home during the evening and recharge it at work during the day. This flexibility allows you to adapt to changing circumstances and make the most of your backup power system resources.

Homemade Solar Battery Generator Options

One notable advantage of solar battery generators is the possibility of constructing one independently. Although homemade versions may lack the all-in-one appearance of commercial models like Jackery, Bluetti, or Ecoflow, they are capable of fulfilling the intended purpose effectively and at a fraction of the cost. By following instructional videos or articles, individuals can assemble their own generators using separate solar panels and other components, offering a budget-friendly alternative to pre-assembled systems.

In situations where short-term power outages are common, we can navigate through them with relative ease. However, in the event of a catastrophic scenario, such as an “end of the world as we know it” scenario, having reliable power will only last for a short time.  

My primary goal is to ensure continuous access to power, particularly to preserve the contents of my freezer and refrigerator until the food is gone. With significant investments in food stored there, maintaining their functionality for as long as possible is crucial. While I’ll be canning and barbecuing, the ultimate goal is to sustain the freezer and refrigerator operation until they inevitably cease functioning.  After that, what power I have will be used for lights, charging power tools, and helping to provide some comfort on hot Texas summer days!

Spring Sale-US Bluetti AC300&B300 banner

Portable Battery Banks for Small Device Charging

I’ll introduce a third option for short-term power solutions. However, depending on your needs, it might not serve as a viable alternative. I’m referring to portable battery banks, the compact devices designed to charge your electronic devices on the go. Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a collection of these gadgets, having purchased some and received others as gifts. The remarkable decrease in prices has made acquiring high-capacity models affordable. Initially used primarily for charging phones or tablets, modern battery banks now support a wide range of USB-powered devices. From fans for cooling to various lighting options, the versatility of these devices has expanded significantly. If you find yourself in need of illumination or a cooling breeze, a portable battery bank might offer a convenient and compact solution.

As I mentioned already, my primary goal is to navigate short-term power outages without compromising the food stored in my freezer and refrigerator. In the event of a more catastrophic scenario, such as a prolonged grid failure, my preparations should provide a temporary solution until resources become scarce. Here’s what I’ve set up:

My Fuel Powered Generator Setup

I currently own two Duromax generators. One is a smaller dual-fuel model that runs on propane and gasoline, while the other is a newer triple-fuel version, capable of utilizing gasoline, propane, and natural gas. The XP 13,000 HKT, as it’s known, boasts significant power output and portability, resembling a whole-house generator in functionality. However, due to the varying wattage produced by different fuels, I can’t rely on it to power my entire home continuously.

For instance, using gasoline or propane could potentially support running my entire house, including central air conditioning. However, the usage of standard 20-pound propane tanks isn’t feasible due to propane leaving the tank so fast and causing the tanks to freeze. Natural gas is my preferred option, but it might not provide sufficient wattage to start the central AC unit without risking damage. Consequently, my plan involves using a window unit for cooling during short-term situations.

I recently took proactive measures by installing a gas line extension from my main line and incorporating a quick connection for natural gas usage. I had an electrician install a transfer switch and a safety switch to ensure proper handling of power distribution during generator usage. Additionally, I acquired the necessary cords and connectors to seamlessly link the generator to the transfer switch.

I tested the generator with my electrician to confirm the system’s functionality, providing me peace of mind without encountering any actual power outages yet. I’ve ensured that everything is in working order and readily available for deployment when needed.

My Solar Battery Generator Setup

On the solar battery generator front, I’ve invested in several units, including a Jackery and an EcoFlow. While the Jackery tends to be more budget-friendly, its batteries differ slightly from those found in models like the EcoFlow and Bluetti. Despite potentially shorter lifespans, Jackery’s still offers around 1500 charges, which is ample for occasional backup scenarios, such as short-term power outages and camping trips. 

When considering a purchase, thorough research is key. Each brand, including EcoFlow and Bluetti, offers various battery options, catering to different needs and preferences. From basic lighting and fan power to whole-house capabilities, there’s a wide range to choose from. 

I can vouch for the reliability and performance of both Jackery and EcoFlow, having used solar panels with both setups. Although solar charging isn’t as speedy as direct grid connections, it’s a dependable option. When it comes to purchasing solar battery generators, I strongly recommend sticking with reputable brands like Jackery, EcoFlow, or Bluetti. While cheaper alternatives may seem tempting, they often lack the quality and reliability needed for long-term use.

Jackery Power
EcoFlow Power

Using an Inverter with Your Vehicle for Power

In addition to solar setups, I’ve also employed an inverter, particularly during past hurricane seasons. Using a 1500-watt inverter from Harbor Freight, connected to my truck’s sizable gas tank, I could power essentials like freezers and refrigerators during power outages. This setup, while simple, proved highly effective and has remained functional over the years. Such measures, along with prudent purchasing decisions, ensure preparedness for short-term backup scenarios.

Power for Your Preparedness Priorities

Again, my primary focus centers around ensuring the safety of our food supply, especially considering we have two freezers. These freezers hold a significant investment in meat, condiments, and perishables stored in the refrigerator. Preserving these items is paramount to me. In short-term power outages, I strive to maintain power to sustain these appliances. Moreover, in worst-case scenarios like an apocalyptic event, I aim to utilize the stored food efficiently to minimize waste.

Conversely, my wife emphasizes the importance of comfort, particularly maintaining a comfortable indoor environment. We’ve made arrangements to cool down our living space using a portable AC unit and partitioning the living room using plastic sheeting to concentrate cooling efforts in our main living area. This setup ensures we can rest comfortably, avoiding the sweltering Texas heat that often prevails.

These two concerns—food preservation and comfort—are currently at the forefront of my preparedness efforts. However, as circumstances evolve, additional considerations may arise. Regardless, I have peace knowing that I’ve taken proactive steps to address these potential challenges.

This article is based on the Ready Your Future podcast episode 812 that referenced the article, “Amid explosive demand, America is running out of power.

Listen to the full episode – CLICK HERE.

Peace
Todd

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