Tag: battery charger

Use sunlight for emergency power

She is charging her cell phone . . .

The power outages I wrote about last week never materialized. The weather has cooled down a few degrees, too, and that has taken the edge off the power discussion. Still, the whole episode took me back to capturing sunlight for emergency power – via a portable solar system.

A couple of years ago I bought a small fold-open solar panel, advertised as a source of emergency power for my cellphone. I put it together then, but it has sat on the shelf for a while now, unused.

Time to get back to being ready!

Since then, there have been improvements on this basic set-up. Panels have become more efficient. Power controllers connect the panels to more types of devices. Handy fasteners have been added on all sides.

The purpose remains the same, however. And I still really like it! Set it up in the sunshine, strap it to your backpack on a hike – let it charge your phone “for free!”

Over this same period, I’ve also become more aware of just what solar can do, and what it can’t. If you haven’t really had the chance to learn about solar (yet),

Here are some very basic solar basics.

  1. Solar panels capture photons of light and convert them to electric power.
  2. The power coming from a solar panel is Direct Current (DC). If a gadget uses battery power, it can use the current from a solar panel. (If a gadget needs to be plugged into an electric socket, it is using Alternating Current (AC). Solar panels can’t directly power your AC appliances.)
  3. When the sun stops shining on the panels, the electricity stops.

To summarize so far, if your emergency takes place during the day, your solar panels may be useful. If it continues into the night, the panels will be useless.

What do you do for power when the sun isn’t shining?

Since real emergencies are not conveniently scheduled, you may want to add a way to STORE some of the electricity that is created during the day. And that’s where solar batteries come in.

The manufacturer of my own mini solar-system also offers batteries to extend the usefulness of the system. I have a small battery pack that is charged with the solar panels. This small storage unit is called a “power bank.” (I have other power banks, too, made by other manufacturers. You can read more about power banks here.)

I charge the power bank using the panels, then, at night, I can use the stored power to charge my phone and its flashlight, etc.

If you’ve thought about how you would manage after days without power, when your phone and your computer’s batteries are dead, having the ability to recharge them using solar may sound attractive!  It certainly does to me.

Another short summary about this technology . . .

  1. Solar panels are one thing. Solar-powered storage batteries are a separate item. Each has its own capacity, requires its own connectors depending on what equipment you want to run, and each has its own cost.
  2. It takes a lot of solar power to drive big appliances.
  3. If you are considering solar for emergency communications needs, you need to start with only the essentials, and then buy sufficient panel and battery capacity to meet your needs.

Here’s the current kit at Amazon – the panels plus the power bank, exactly as I have it. As you can imagine, there are other larger versions – take a close look to be sure the portable solar kit will charge the devices YOU have.

Click on the image to get current pricing. (Remember, I am an affiliate at Amazon and may get a commission if you buy through this link. Thanks for supporting my work and helping spread the word about preparedness!)

This technology makes a great Christmas present, by the way. It’s never too early to start making your list!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team

Day 31 of Summer Vacation. The last day of this special effort to provide you with some shorter and lighter Advisories as a change of pace. Hope you have enjoyed them — and welcome to some of my new Summer Vacation readers!

Spring Cleaning for Preppers

Spring cleaning means washing windows

If you are a dedicated spring cleaner, you’ve already taken care of the windows. You may have done some spring cleaning in closets or in the garage, too. And when the time changed a few weeks ago, you undoubtedly checked the batteries in the smoke alarms. (You did, didn’t you?)

With summer coming up quickly, it will be easy to get caught up in end-of-school parties, vacation plans, etc. In the midst of that, your spring cleaning may get interrupted, along with some of your good preparedness habits.

Here are a few quick reminders for your family and your neighborhood team. Click on the images to get more details on these items from Amazon.

Walkie-talkie spring cleaning.

Yesterday we picked up my daughter at the airport. While Joe circled, I hopped out with a walkie-talkie so we could keep in touch. This is one of the most convenient uses for these hand-held radios!  No dialing, no busy signals, no dropping of the signal. Just push to talk: “OK, I see her! “OK, we’re at gate 3, right at the crosswalk.”

But the walkie-talkies have to have good batteries! Actually, we have added walkie-talkie battery replacement to our twice-a-year Daylight Savings Time checklist.

Last week we also added 10 more walkie-talkies to our supply for our neighborhood group Block Captains. The Uniden model continues to be our favorite, and prices haven’t gone up much at all. Here’s the model we buy – less than $25 for a set of 2:

Uniden GMR1635-2 Up to 16-Mile Range, FRS Two-Way Radio Walkie Talkies, 22 Channels with Channel Scan, Battery Strength Meter, Roger Beep, Call Tone, Keypad Lock, Black Color

If you are building your emergency team, or are planning family outings that will involve keeping track of each other in crowds (like a theme park) or in the woods, consider Walkie-talkies for your own family use. For short-distance communications they really can’t be beat.

Spruce up safety clothing.

Some clothing items seem to find their way into dark corners and onto the floor of the trunk of the car. I’m referring to sweatshirts, gloves, hats, etc.

With summer coming, it’s time to clean out and be ready for warmer weather. But don’t forget the safety gear that you KEEP in the car.

For example, we have found that having colored shirts and/or reflective vests are smart additions to our usual car survival kits.

  • Heading for Disneyland? If everyone in the family — Mom, Dad, Grandpa, Kid 1, Kid 2, Kid 3, etc.! — is wearing the same bright-colored T-shirt you will be a lot easier to spot!
  • Being on the street in the dark next to a disabled car is terribly dangerous! A reflective vest becomes an important safety item on the street and a reassurance in a campground at night.

Last week when we put in our order for more walkie-talkies for our team we also bought 10 more reflective vests for our neighborhood group Block Captains. They are amazingly modest in price!  (It’s not like we are wearing these every day, so they don’t need to be top of the line.) I chose these because they have pockets, and the package came with an extra vest in child-size!

Click on the link below the imageto get full details.

CIMC Yellow Reflective Safety Vest with Pockets, 10 Pack, Bright Construction Vest with Reflective Strips,Made from Breathable and Neon Yellow Mesh Fabric,High Visibility Vest for Working Outdoor

Battery replacement.

How many flashlights and emergency radios do you actually have, when you add up all the ones in the cars and in the house?

Guess what, they probably all use batteries! And have you noticed the rule that says batteries will whimper and die just when you really need them?

So, the competent Prepper adds a flashlight check and battery replacement exercise to the spring cleaning list.

Over the years we have tested and tested different batteries. The best ones one year seem to lose place to another manufacturer the next year. So we simple buy batteries on a regular basis.

Again, you probably need different sizes. Here’s a convenient pack with the AA and AAA sizes most common for our flashlights and walkie-talkies. Click on the image for exact pricing.

You may want to separate batteries and put a set of extra ones – of the right size – in a plastic baggy that you store alongside the item they belong with. When the power is out you can’t be searching through your battery box . . .!

Here’s an image of one of our flashlights. Note the green batteries in the holder which will be replaced with the gold ones stored in the bag.

Replace batteries with right-sized batteries stored in plastic bag
Always replace all batteries when you replace one.

Car survival kit spring cleaning.

We’ve spent time before on everything to consider for the survival kits you carry in your car.

For spring cleaning, it may be enough to simply refresh.

  • Go through your first aid kits and replace old bandages, anything that has cracked or gotten wet. Recycle old medicines and put in new ones. Add anything you’ll need for summer, including sunscreen and dark glasses.
  • Replace all your snack food with new packages. Canned stuff may last a while longer, but why not eat it up now and put new things in its place?
  • Remove kids’ items that they have outgrown, and replace with more appropriate things – we’re talking games, toys, etc.
  • Consider adding a new battery-charger for your devices. As we’ve written before, the “power packs” store enough to charge your phone more than once. (Scroll to the P.S. in that Advisory for an example of a popular power pack.) And solar-powered chargers are now ubiquitous. Both make good gifts, too.

Communications update.

Do all family members have updated phone numbers? Do all response team members have updated phone numbers for their neighbors? Now’s a good time to refresh this info.

And test family members’ memory. Can they recite the phone number of your out-of-town contact?  (Make it a contest as you are driving to that vacation spot. . .)

Insurance review.

We see so many ads on TV about saving money by switching auto insurance. Maybe you have switched, and actually saved money!

When it comes to other insurances, it’s important to shop and compare, too. Given the past couple of years’ dramatic storms, fires and floods, you may discover that the coverage you thought you had has changed, or is going up in cost. Or maybe you thought you were covered and you haven’t been covered at all! Or you are now required to have coverage that you didn’t have to have when you bought your house years ago!

Check out these Advisories for important questions to have ready when you talk with your insurance agent.

OK, this Spring Cleaning review could actually take some time. You probably can’t do it all in one week.

But every item you check off the list means you are in better shape to avoid an inconvenience, not to mention an emergency.

Good luck!

Your Emergency Plan Guide team