How to Stay Resilient During a Blackout with Portable Power
The word resilience is often associated with the way in which we respond to and recover from adversity or difficult times. Recently, the word has been gaining traction in how it describes the way individuals and communities respond to a very particular sociological challenge: power outages.
Blackouts can occur at any moment, often without warning, and can last anywhere from a couple minutes at best to a couple weeks in worst case scenarios. Severe storms that damage the power grid are by far the most common cause of blackouts, followed by flooding and heat waves, which can also wreak havoc on the infrastructure. Other causes include sudden spikes in power demand, fallen trees or branches, and ice build-up on the power lines.
With so much of our lifestyle and wellbeing dependent on the power grid, blackouts can obviously be a major disruption for communities and families. Luckily, the ability to rebound from them has become significantly easier thanks to advancements in portable power and solar generators. The following guide will shed some light on how these tools can help you prepare and stay resilient in the face of blackouts, so that the next power outage you face has the least impact possible on your daily life.
Why Resilience Is Important
If the past couple years is any indication, then it is especially important for homes and businesses to have a backup power solution in place. Due to a growing list of factors ranging from climate disasters to international conflict, citizens across the globe are continuing to face the unrelenting threat of blackouts, making a strong case for power independence.
In the United States, demand for protection against short-term power outages is growing rapidly in response to an unreliable and aging power infrastructure. Over the last 30 years, the U.S. alone has accounted for 33.5% of all power outages—and things are only going to get worse. Much of the country’s current power grid dates back to the 1950s and has not been updated since; in fact, 70% of the grid is over 25 years old. With more than 3,000 separate power companies across the U.S., there is no “national grid” system in place, which makes it difficult to regulate or fix the current infrastructure on a large scale. It is also extremely expensive to update this unstable power grid that is so susceptible to storms. Options for system hardening, such as converting overhead power lines to underground ones, can cost as much as $6 million per mile in rural areas and $12 million per mile in urban areas.
If you’re waiting on the government or a private company to step in and provide resilience, then you may be left disappointed. Power independence must therefore be up to the individual, where everyone can create their own “microgrid” that is self-sustainable and free from the unreliable power utilities. If citizens don’t generate their own solution, then the consequences of power loss will only continue to get worse.
The Devastating Effects of Blackouts
Power outages can be more than a temporary inconvenience; they can have a tremendous negative effect on families, businesses, and the government. In the aftermath of the deadly 2022 European heat waves, people across the world are now bracing for what could be an equally devastating winter—and one without power.
The power grid has proven not only to be unreliable, but it is also becoming unaffordable. Rising energy costs are forcing many families to make a disheartening choice this winter between either paying for heat or paying for food. According to one survey, almost 70% of U.K. citizens are planning to curtail their heating this winter—and as many as 23% are planning to go without heat entirely.
Hunkering down in a cold house may save on energy costs, but it can also lead to severe health issues. Circulatory problems, such as increased risk of a heart attack or stroke, can occur with prolonged exposure to temperatures below 54℉. Temperatures even below 61℉ can damage the respiratory system, exposing the body to viruses that are able to develop more rapidly in colder environments. Mental health suffers as well, particularly in adolescents who grow up in homes that are inadequately heated.
Yet even well-intentioned efforts to fortify the home in winter can sometimes have terrible repercussions if not done properly. One such example is a 2009 ice storm in Kentucky that caused blackouts, in which 10 people died from carbon monoxide poisoning due to misuse of gas generators and propane heaters.
The devastating effects continue. Food-born illnesses can also result from blackouts, where a lack of refrigeration causes food to spoil, which unknowingly is then consumed. Businesses suffer as well, with an interruption of services leading to revenue and productivity loss. According to a recent State of Commercial & Industrial Power Reliability Report, companies have experienced more than a 60% increase in the frequency and duration of power outages over the last ten years – at a time when 51% of companies have become more reliant on energy.
The impact of power loss cannot be overstated. However, the severity of its consequences can largely be avoided. Let’s walk through the steps now you can take to remain resilient for hours and even days in the aftermath of a blackout, starting with a plan for home backup power.
Determine Your Power Needs
Portable power stations and solar generators provide a far easier and more cost-effective backup power solution for homes today, compared to the complex inverter systems and software integrations that were once required to stay energy resilient. However, it’s important to realize the limitations of a backup solution like this. When the power goes out, it is generally not the best time to roast a turkey in the oven all day or have an all-night gaming session without any regard to power consumption. A single family home can easily burn through 40 kWh per day of electricity under normal usage—but daily habits must of course adjust when there is much at risk. Every watt-hour of electricity is precious during a blackout, so you need to follow a plan that prioritizes your most essential daily needs. These are: food, heating & cooling, medications, and lighting.
A good duration to strive for is one to three full days of energy resiliency. But how much power on reserve will you need to comfortably ride through that timeframe? This certainly comes down to individual usage, but there are some general guide posts that can help you plan based on the requirements of your home, which we’ll walk through below.
Before you invest in a power solution, you first need to determine how much electricity your daily essentials consume. A power station with a maximum 500W AC output won’t do you much good if you need to power a 700W microwave. So take stock of every appliance and device in your home that you believe is essential to power during a blackout. Remember to cover your basic survivalist needs first—food, heating or cooling, medications, and lights—and then add in communication or work-related devices such as phones, laptops, and a Wi-Fi router.
Keep in mind that some devices require a much higher starting wattage or surge wattage, which is usually 2–3 times more than their consistent running wattage. You will need to account for this momentary surge wattage in the maximum output of your portable power station. The Anker PowerHouse 767 has a 2400W AC output and a 2800W surge output, which can cover 99% of home appliances. This means that, at any given time, you can consistently power as many devices as you need from the AC outputs, as long as the total load is below 2400W.
How long you can keep those devices running is determined by your power station’s battery capacity. Once you add up all the devices you need to power, and for how long each needs to run, you can compare that total to your power station’s capacity to see how much time you’re afforded to stay powered. Although things like a fridge, coffee maker, or microwave require a high load of electricity, they usually only need it in short bursts. For example, the average microwave uses about 800 watt-hours of electricity; however, you’ll likely only be using it for five minutes at a time.
One of the more difficult appliances to calculate is your refrigerator. Most refrigerators have a high starting wattage, with an average running wattage of around 150Wh or more. Yet, fridges cycle on and off during the day depending on how well internal temperature is maintained. The US Department of Energy asserts that most refrigerators only operate consistently for about 8 hours every day. Based on our assessment of the average modern, full-size refrigerator, we believe you should require at least 1,200Wh of power to keep yours running for a full day.
Even based on little to moderate power usage, it’s likely your daily power consumption can easily exceed 2,000Wh. Desperate times call for desperate measures though, and there are probably several devices you could cut out temporarily during a blackout—or even get creative with, like unplugging your fridge every 4 hours. For reference, the Anker PowerHouse 767 has a 2,048Wh capacity, which is enough to feasibly power you through a full day. With the optional Expansion Battery, however, your capacity is doubled to 4,096Wh—and suddenly things are looking more optimistic.
Better still: Don’t forget that portable power stations can also function as solar generators, giving you the ability to easily remain self-sustainable using renewable solar energy. The PowerHouse 767 with two of Anker’s latest 200W solar panels (sold as a bundle) makes off-grid power a possibility for anyone. With an even further investment towards resiliency, you can chain up to five of the Anker 531 solar panels together and completely recharge the PowerHouse 767 back to full capacity in just 2.5 hours. Simply find a brief window during the day when the sun is bright, lay out your solar panels, and in the time span of a feature film you have a fully charged battery ready for another day of off-grid power!
Some Power Plan Examples
The following are some general ideas of what your power resiliency plan may look like. These are based on a household family of four, with what are typically the most essential devices and appliances used around the home. Your personal needs may vary, so adjust accordingly.
A Quick Note On Power Loss
Due to the nature of energy efficiency and the way that inverters work, there is unfortunately a small amount of power loss that occurs when batteries discharge energy. This is most apparent when the DC power of a portable power station's batteries must be converted to AC power to charge a device plugged into its AC outlet. Most portable power stations on the market will lose roughly 10% of their total battery capacity when powering through AC output. This power loss can be minimized by using GaN technology in portable power, like with the Anker PowerHouse 767, which only has a 4% energy loss.
To get the most out of your watt-hours, we recommend powering whatever you can through your power station's USB ports or even the 12V car outlets, which both use DC power. Things like phones, tablets, and even laptops and USB lights will operate more efficiently this way, so you can save roughly another 2% of extra battery capacity.
Power Plan A: Power Everything
Power Plan B: Power Outage in Summer
Power Plan C: Power Outage in Winter
Power Plan D: Basic Communication + Diet
Power Plan E: Work Day + Diet
Tips for Resiliency
Beyond just the planning of power usage, there are many other ways to help you stay resilient during a blackout. Here are some tips we’ve gathered that will help you better prepare—and stay prepared—for whenever the next grid failure occurs in your area.
Preparing Before a Blackout
Gather together an emergency prep kit, consisting of:
• Bottled water
• Canned food, trail mix, dehydrated meat, and other non-perishable food
• First aid kit
• A fully charged portable power station!
• Blanket and warm clothes
• Gasoline can filled with fuel
• Pet food and supplies
Prepare appropriately for the weather. For the summer months, consider buying several fans you can place around rooms – or even a large, high-velocity floor fan. If it’s winter, make sure you have warm clothes and jackets ready for all of your family members. Space heaters consume up to 1,500W of power, so they are not a feasible option with portable power. Instead, stock up on firewood if you have a fireplace, or invest in a couple heated blankets.
Make sure your attic is properly insulated, you have weatherstrips at the bottom of your doors, and windows are fully caulked and sealed so that warm air stays in your home.
Have medical needs ready and properly stored ahead of time. Consult with a pharmacist on how long your meds can potentially stay at room temperature if they require refrigeration. If you use a CPAP machine, make sure you have a portable power station that can reliably keep it on through the night ( Anker 535 PowerHouse or higher).
Get your car ready in case you need to evacuate. Fill the gas tank and stock up on any emergency provisions in the trunk you may need.
Move perishables from your fridge into the freezer so they can be preserved for longer. Also, fill your freezer with bottled water so that it acts like an ice box once the power goes out, keeping the coldness contained for as long as possible.
Use an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) with any essential device that cannot risk losing power, such as a work computer with sensitive data on the hard drive. The Anker 757 PowerHouse and Anker PowerHouse 767 both function as a UPS with less than 20ms switchover time, ensuring anything plugged into them remains always-on.
Staying Prepared During a Blackout
To avoid carbon monoxide poisoning: Don’t use a gas oven as a heat source, and definitely don’t run a gas generator indoors! Instead, layer up with clothing and blankets, and use a fireplace to keep warm.
Also, you can gather everyone in your home into one room to preserve as much warmth as possible. It will be more efficient to heat the area this way as well, rather than trying to keep multiple rooms warm.
Keep the refrigerator and freezer door closed. According to the FDA, a refrigerator can stay cold for up to 4 hours once it reaches its target temperature and stays shut. A freezer will keep its temperature for up to 48 hours, as long as it is filled and remains closed. You can usually run a power station for one hour connected to a fridge and it will reach its target temperature; you can then unplug the power station and the fridge will stay cool for 4 hours after that.
When the power goes out, unplug any devices from your house’s AC outlets—particularly any expensive electronics. In some cases when power is restored, there can be a momentary high surge of electricity in the outlets, which can potentially damage anything currently plugged into them.
Plan your solar regeneration around peak sunlight hours and when you’re not actively in need of your portable power station. The sun is usually its brightest around 12PM–2PM, which can be enough time to recharge your power station if using enough solar panels. If you need to leave your solar panels out for an extended period of time unattended, then angle them southward for the best exposure.
As referenced earlier, try powering any devices you can through your portable power station’s USB ports rather than the AC ports. The DC power of USB is slightly more efficient than using AC, which can maximize your battery’s capacity to the fullest when you most need it.
Speaking of efficiency: Try to use the most efficient portable power station you can in order to extend your backup power for even longer. The new Anker PowerHouse 767 uses GaN technology for an industry-leading 96% power efficiency. Read this article to learn more about the benefits of higher efficiency in portable power.
Stay Resilient with Anker PowerHouse
We hope that this guide helps you stay better prepared against the increasing threat of power outages. For the easiest and most portable energy resilience, Anker PowerHouse 767 gives you power that's ready for anything. Be sure to check out Anker's entire lineup of portable power stations for other ways to stay charged no matter what.
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