Charging With No Power

If your reading this either your power went out, it’s going to go out, or you’re preparing for the next power outage. Last month my family’s power went out and we were woefully unprepared. Following is the research I did on how to conserve smart device power and how to plan for the next power outage.

6 Ways To Conserve A Smartphone Charge

  1. Turn Off Running Applications 
  2. Disable Wifi, Bluetooth, 4G LTE
  3. Reduce Screen Brightness
  4. Use Airplane Mode 
  5. Use Low Power Mode
  6. Disable Notifications

4 Ways To Conserve A Laptop Charge

  1. Reduce Screen Brightness
  2. Use Low Power Mode
  3. Disable WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G LTE
  4. Remove any plugin devices that use the USB ports, turn off your webcam, switch your speakers off 

6 Ways To Conserve A Tablet Charge

  1. Reduce Screen Brightness
  2. Disable Notifications
  3. Disable WiFi, Bluetooth, 4G LTE
  4. Turn Off Running Applications 
  5. Turn-off Background Sync And Auto-updates
  6. Reduce Screen Time Out 

Use Your Laptop Or Your Vehicle To Charge Your Smart Devices

Further down you will see a list of gadgets you can get to charge your devices in a power outage. You may not have any of these items so do the best you can with what you have on hand.

  1. Conserve your laptop charge and use it as a battery bank to charge your smartphone.
  2. If you have one available, use your carphone charger to charge your smartphone, and tablet (if it is safe to go outside)

Plan Ahead For Charging Smart Devices

It is just a matter of time before your power goes out. The outage may be short-term, long-term, inconvenient, or an emergency. Don’t play the odds.

Back in 2012, 632,000 Long-Island homes lost power for 14 days during Superstorm Sandy. I can only imagine the hardship this created. Don’t get caught with your pants down, plan ahead.

7-Step Charging Plan

Planning and securing the items you need to charge your smart devices in a grid-down scenario doesn’t have to be complicated. Following is a list that will help get you started:

  1. Take an inventory of your electronic devices and decide what accessories are a priority.  
  2. Choose Emergency Charging Devices. Have more than one method of charging in case one fails. (See 8 items for emergency charging below)
  3. Test Emergency Charging System(s) before you lose power. The middle of a two-day power outage is not the time to discover that you didn’t purchase an extension cord long enough to reach run from your generator to the house or a charge cord isn’t compatible with your smartphone.
  4. Charge Your Emergency Devices so they are always ready.
    1. Sign up for weather reports. If you know bad weather is on the way, you can plan to have everything charged up before a storm arrives. 
  5. Have Compatible Charging Cords For All Devices: When you are testing, make a list of equipment you need but don’t have, like extension cords, charging cables, or adaptors.
  6. Conduct regular maintenance and have fuel on hand for Gas-powered Generators
  7. Place Emergency Gear In One Location. You don’t want to be running around the house looking in the dark for something you need.

8 Items For Charging Your Smart Device(s) In A Power Outage 

Here is a summary list of the 8 charging devices, there are more detailed descriptions below the outline.

  1. Portable Power Bank
  2. Battery Operated AA/AAA Emergency USB Backup Chargers 
  3. Vehicle Power Inverter  
  4. Portable Power Stations (PPS)/Portable Power Bank (PPB)  
  5. Small Portable Solar Panels and Chargers 
  6. Uninterruptible Power Supplies (UPS) 
  7. Hand-crank Radio Flashlight Combo
  8. 1000 Watt Inverter Generators: Small Gas Powered Generators 

1. Portable Power Bank

Also called: Portable Backup Charger, External Battery, or Portable Laptop Charger

  • Most efficiently charged from an electrical outlet
  • Charge is held in an Internal Lithium battery
  • Portable back-up chargers come in all shapes and sizes.
  • When choosing portable chargers, make sure they are compatible with your device(s)
  • Test the Power Bank before you need it You might be surprised how certain PPBs don’t work well with specific electronic devices
  • Keep them charged (preferably at a centrally-located charging station)

2. Battery Operated AA/AAA Emergency USB Backup Charger

  • USB Backup Chargers are good budget option and they are portable. Very handy if you frequently fly or are in area where there is no other way to charge. Just make sure you have batteries on hand.
  • Not a good option for charging a laptop or larger devices.
  • The USB backup charge comes from regular AA or AAA household batteries (Use alkaline or rechargeable batteries)
  • 4 AAA batteries will provide approximately a 50% smartphone charge (% of Charge will vary depending on the brand of the charger)
  • Store extra batteries
  • Test for Compatibility

3. Vehicle Power Inverter

Also called a Sine Inverter

What is a Power Inverter?

A power inverter converts 12-volt Direct Current (DC) in a car battery into 120-volt Alternating Current(AC) used to charge electronics like a smartphone, laptop, or tablet in a vehicle.

How Do You Use A Power Inverter To Charge Smart Devices?

  1. Plug inverter into the cigarette lighter receptacle
  2. Start Vehicle
  3. Charge smartphones, laptops, and tablets by plugging them into the inverter with compatible cords
  4. For safety guidelines and specific characteristics refer to the users manual for the unit purchased

The inverter will charge electronic devices when the car isn’t running, but it will drain your vehicle battery.

Do not run your vehicle in an enclosed space. Always, run your car outdoors, in a well-ventilated area, with an unobstructed exhaust.

Choosing An Inverter For Emergency Power

  • Determine the wattage you need. Smart Devices like smartphones, laptops, and tablets will charge off of a 100-watt Inverter
  • A typical inverter plug set-up: two three-pronged female receptacles and two USB ports.  
  • Inverters over 150 watts should be professionally installed directly to your car battery.

Watts To Charge A Smart Device

A small 100-watt inverter, can charge a laptop, smartphone, and a tablet .

  • Smartphones require approximately 2 to 6 watts to charge
  • Laptops require approximately 60 watts to charge
  • Tablets require approximately 12 Watts to charge.

Turn Your Vehicle Into A Generator: High Wattage Sine Inverters

If money wasn’t an issue I’d love to have an off-grid van with a huge power inverter. Large inverter systems are expensive but a guy has to dream.

  • Professional installation suggested
  • 3000 + watts
  • Large inverters can run large appliances and heavy electronic equipment
  • Battery Bank may be required

Contractor grade sine inverters run power tools and provide all of the power required when working on construction sites without electricity.

4. Portable Power Stations (PPS)/ Portable Power Banks (PPB)

These are fantastic little units. I wasn’t familiar with Portable Power Stations (also referred to as Portable Power Banks) before researching for this article. Now that I’ve done some research, I want one.

What is a Portable Power Station?

A PPS is a capable electric generator unit consisting of a large rechargeable lithium battery and a control unit.

  • PPS can be used indoors unlike internal combustion generators
  • Quiet Operation
  • Charged with a household outlet, in a vehicle, or via portable solar panels.
  • Capabilities depend on the model and the manufacturer you choose.
  • Some PPS are solar-ready, and some are not.    
  •  PPS don’t charge well in freezing temperatures
  •  PPS are good for power outages, camping, tailgating, or RVing
  • Look for a PPS unit that you can charge, and use at the same time.

Primal Outdoors- Jackery 240 Portable Power Station Review

Jackery now has units certified by Honda


5. Small Portable Solar Panels, And Chargers

Small solar-powered units are useful for charging smart devices under certain circumstances.

It’s easy to overestimate the charge you will get from small-solar so test capabilities before you depend on them in an emergency.

Interesting Facts About Small-Solar For Emergency Charging

  • It can take 12 hours of full sunlight to charge a smart-phone with a small-solar charging unit.
  • There are 3 hours of “peak sunlight,” for solar charging during a sunny day. 
  • Charging electronic devices with solar takes longer than charging with a regular power pack, a generator, or a regular AC outlet.
  • Under optimum conditions, solar provides minimal electrical current.
  • Not the best charging option for snow storms or overcast weather
  • Small-solar panels and solar chargers are not created equal. Do product research before you purchase a device.
  • With small-solar, it’s easier to maintain your battery than it is to charge a drained battery

6. Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS

An Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) is a device made for computers and used to instantly provide power to critical electronic devices in a power outage.

Why would I use a UPS?

If you live in an area that has brownouts, blackouts or power surges, a UPS is an emergency charging option that works well for critical electronic devices like home computers, laptops, and tablets.

  • UPS is especially useful if you work with critical data that you would need time to save before you lose all power to the device.
  • If you choose a UPS with a large battery, you can get a substantial amount of charge for your smart devices.
  • Has a limited emergency supply of power – just enough time to save documents.

7. Hand-crank Radio Flashlight Combos

I love my hand-crank emergency radio-flashlight. It has the ability to charge by solar or by hand cranking. The flashlight works great and so does the radio. It falls-short when it comes to charging smart-devices.

  • You will get a full-blown workout in exchange for minutes of battery charge.
  • My hand-crank radio-flashlight will not charge my iPhone.

Experiment With My Hand-crank Radio Flashlight:

  1.  With my iPhone turned on, I hooked it up to my inexpensive emergency radio/flashlight combo with a USB charging cord.
  2. I cranked like a madman for 2 minutes.
    1. My phone didn’t charge; the battery charge went down with the phone turned on.
  3. I turned my smartphone off, hooked it back up to the radio and cranked like crazy for two more minutes.
  4. The phone charge increased by 1%.  
  • I’m sure that there are better hand-crank chargers out there, but make sure you test whatever device you choose. I would not depend on radio-flashlight combos for emergency smart-device charging without doing some rigorous testing.
  • Radio Flashlight combos are fantastic for the use of the emergency radio and the flashlight.

8. 1000 Watt Inverter Generators: Small Gas Powered Generators  

A gas-powered generator is probably a bigger solution than you need just to power smart devices; it offers a lot more. These types of generators will power smartphones, laptops, tablets, home computers, portable fans, TVs, coffee makers, blenders, slow cookers, and two-way radios.

I recognize these may not be an option for some. They are pricey and you need an outdoor area to safely run them.

I can’t attest to the quality of the device, but I was surprised to find that you can purchase the Sportsman’s 1000 watt generator for less than $350.00.

Things to consider when using a gas-powered generator in a power outage:

  • Inverted Generators require fuel so storage may be an issue
  • Inverted Generators require maintenance
  • Inverted Generators require enough outdoor space to get 20 ft from any openings in a structure.
  • For power, you’ll need to run a heavy-duty outdoor extension cord from the generator into the structure.  

(4) Tiny 1000 Watt Inverter Generator Models For Emergency Power 

  1. Ryobi 100-watt Inverter Generator
  • 1000 starting watts and 900 running watts
  •  3-year-limited warranty

 2. Yamaha EF1000is

  • 1000 starting watts and 900 running watts
  • 3-year limited warranty

3. Honda EU1000i (the quietest and most expensive)

  • 1000 starting watts and 900 running watts
  • 2-year limited warranty 

4.Sportsman Generator 1000 Watt (least expensive)  

  • 1000 starting Watts and 800 Running Watts  
  • 1-Year limited warranty

Generator Safety

  • Read the user’s manual before starting the unit.
  • “DO NOT” run a generator inside your home or an enclosed space
  • Do run the generator outside in a well-ventilated area
  • Place generator, outside, at least 20 feet away from openings like windows and doors.
  • Internal Combustion engines produce Carbon Monoxide which is deadly to humans

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