Generators are expensive, and for most routine “short” emergencies they are actually not necessary. Utility companies have power restored in 2 to 3 days in most cases.
But, how do we keep the babies fed and safe in the meantime? Use your automobile. Or more specifically, use your automobile’s battery.
Here’s how to do it:
All you need is a car inverter. There are two ways to hook it up and depending on which way you hook it up will depend on which inverter you want to buy.
1) Plug it into your cigarette lighter. Check your car to see if the 12-volt power outlet (cigarette lighter) is ON, even without the key being on. Just plug something in and see if it comes on. If your outlet is ON even when the key is off, then you can plug an inverter into yourpower outlet.
I like the Bestek 150 inverter because it has two USB outputs in addition to the AC outlet. One USB is 2.1 amps for charging iPads and smart phones.
Plug the inverter into the car’s cigarette lighter outlet. Plug an extension cord into the inverter and run the extension cord inside the house. Then you can plug a few lights or small appliances into the extension cord. WARNING – do not attempt to plug in an air conditioner, or microwave or fridge or freezer. I said SMALL appliances.
The limit to your available power is the maximum output of your cigarette lighter. Don’t risk blowing circuit breakers or damaging your car’s electrical system.
2) Plug directly into your car’s battery. If your car’s 12-volt outlet is not always ON, then you will need a battery clip in addition to an inverter. You can also use this type of hook up if you wish to use a larger inverter than your cigarette lighter can handle.
Open the hood and attach the clip directly onto the car battery. Red on red; black on black. I have a Roadpro Battery Clip. Plug the inverter into the cigarette lighter outlet on the clip. Run an extension cord inside the house.
There is an added benefit of using the battery clip and that is that you can use a more powerful inverter like the Duracell 800-watt. This runs at 150 watts through the cigarette lighter or 800 watts when clamped on the battery.
About your extension cord. Use a good heavy-duty shop or garage cord, not those little flimsy things we use to extend a table lamp. Look for one with a power strip built in.
Look for an inverter with a usage-display. Monitor your usage, DON’T run your battery down. You may have to idle the car from time to time to recharge the battery. DON’T idle the car in an enclosed garage. Be smart.
OK, so now you have power inside your house, what can you do with it?
Most people first want light. Let’s start there. Preserve your battery power by using a low watt LED light bulb. The 2-watt provides nice overall room illumination, but the 7-watt is better for working, cooking or reading. So get a few different bulbs. I got a large pack at SAM’S Club at a reasonable price.
Make the low watt bulb brighter by installing it into a shop light with a metal reflector.
Of course, you can run a battery charger for your flashlight batteries and numerous other SMALL appliances.
I keep all of my emergency power parts in a plastic bin in the garage, near the front of the car, so everything is together when I need it. If the power is out, I don’t need to be tripping thru the house looking for parts and pieces.
Last winter when we lost power I used my car battery to run one 7-watt light bulb, an electric hot plate to make hot meals, the coffee pot, to charge my iPad and to keep my flashlights charged up. It was just enough to get us by for a short spell. We weren’t uncomfortable or too inconvenienced.
This Christmas, my husband bought me a portable ice making machine. Using the 800-watt inverter, I can make 28 lbs of ice a day then put it in my freezer or cooler. It will be a luxury to have cold beverages if the power goes out this summer, but it can also be used for first aid treatment or to keep medicines cold. Next, I hope to find an efficient bread machine.
A power usage monitor like the P3 Kill A Watt allows you to know how much power an appliance is using. You plug the appliance into the monitor and plug the monitor into the house outlet and read the power usage. Search YouTube, to find several videos that feature the Kill A Watt family.
Start paying attention to the power usage of your favorite appliances and if they are power hogs, consider updating them with newer, more efficient models.
In summary, for less than $60 (a battery clip, 800-watt inverter and a low watt LED bulb) you can have emergency power – right now, without the expense of a generator. Then as resources allow, keep adding additional low watt small appliances that add safety and value to your family.