Most disaster preparedness literature will tell you to go out and purchase a few extra batteries and perhaps, buy a generator for your home if you are serious about getting prepared. However, both batteries and generators, although extremely useful, are not sustainable in a post catastrophe world. No matter how many batteries you stock, you will eventually use them up, and no matter how nice of a generator you have, you will eventually run out of fuel. Fortunately, there is a relatively inexpensive alternative that can provide you decades of electricity to support your essential needs. That alternative is a home solar power kit as I have shown in the picture below.
These kits are generally available for between $175 and $300 dollars and will provide you all of the power you need to utilize essential electrical appliances, such as radios, battery chargers, lighting, vacuum packers, grain mills, water pumps, etc. Although this type of power system will not power high draw devices, such as a freezer, microwave, or electric heater, it will provide you sustainable power for critical devices.
The basic design of these systems include the solar panels, a charge controller, a deep cycle marine battery, and an DC to AC power inverter. As the sun shines on the panels, they provide power to the charge controller, which charges the deep cycle marine battery. The battery then provides power to a DC to AC power inverter that will provide you a standard household electrical outlet that you can use to power your devices. The battery serves as an intermediary so that you can store the sun’s energy for when cloud cover blocks the sun’s rays.
The kit that I purchased was from Harbor Freight, but others are available. Sunforce and Coleman also sell solar kits. Simply ensure that your kit includes the panels and the charge controller. Most kits have an output of 45-60 watts. You will most likely have to purchase the battery and DC to AC power inverter separately. You should buy a battery labeled “deep cycle marine battery,” which will be sold alongside car batteries at your local retailer. Deep cycle batteries are designed to be charged and discharged many times, while this charging and discharging will destroy a normal car battery. Deep cycle marine batteries sell for around $75-$100. Your power inverter depends on what you want to power with it. You should ensure your power inverter comes with terminals to hook directly to a battery and has a wattage output of at least 150 watts. Power inverters can generally be purchased for under $100.
Most of these solar kits are weatherproof and quite durable, allowing them to be permanently mounted outside. This is a viable option. However, solar cells do break down in time, so it may be best to simply learn how to use and setup your system and keep it in the box until you need it. Otherwise, your cells may have years of wear when you finally need them in a catastrophe.
The information, concepts, or opinions from CatastropheNetwork.org are intended for informational purposes only and must be evaluated by the reader, in consultation with a professional, to ensure viability for their individual situation.