What to Do When The Lights Go Out: Immediate, Short-Term, and Long-Term Strategies

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by High Country

When the power goes out, it usually happens at the most inopportune time. Like, when it’s dark. And suddenly, you have to look for that flashlight that you put in the drawer in the kitchen. Or, is it in the hallway closet? 

 It’s important to have strategies to meet your immediate needs, as well as short-term and long-term strategies.

Check out The BlackOut Book by Daisy Luther.

Suggestions to help keep you lit up.

Having additional light sources readily available is crucial in the event of a power outage. Always make sure you have extra batteries and that these light sources are in good working order.

Headlamps: Every member of the family should have a headlamp. It’s challenging to hold a flashlight and try to work or cook with only one hand available. Try getting pots, pans, and ingredients from different locations in a dark kitchen. Guaranteed, you will be much happier with some light, and a headlamp allows you to use both hands. 

Headlamps that use rechargeable 18650 lithium batteries and can also use two disposable CR123a lithium batteries are best. The CR123a batteries have a shelf life of ten years. You may have a heart attack trying to buy them in a store. I recommend buying in bulk on Amazon. Top off the 18650 batteries in a charger every 90 days. 

Be sure to purchase the batteries recommended by the manufacturer. Unregulated, cheap batteries can damage your LED Flashlights and Headlamps. There are several good manufactures of Headlamps. 

Here are just a few: 

**Stationary Lighting: I do NOT recommend anything that has a flame, Propane, or Kerosene. If knocked over by a person, dog, or aftershock, you could have a house fire rather than a power outage.

LED Lanterns: We keep a Streamlight Siege Lantern in all our vehicles. It uses three D cell batteries and has different levels of light. Here are two others I highly recommend: 

  • UST (Ultimate Survival Technologies) LED Lantern: Their 30-day lantern (meaning it can last 30 days on the lowest setting) is very similar to the Streamlight Siege lantern. It also uses three D cell batteries. 
  • UST 60 Day Lantern: This lantern can put out up to a thousand lumens of light. It uses six D cell batteries. This one is a good one to put on the kitchen table when everyone is eating.

*All of these lanterns have a hook so they can be hung upside down.

Energizer makes the D cell batteries that these particular lanterns require with a shelf life of 10 years. You can get a box of 12 Max D batteries on Amazon for about $20.00 delivered. 

Ultimate Survival Technologies says you should leave the batteries out of the light until they are needed. However, I have kept the batteries in my UST 60-day lantern for five years, and it works fine. If there is a parasitic drain, it must be minimal.

For more suggestions on lighting options, see this article.

Need more than just light? Buy a generator.

We live off the grid on a ranch. Anywhere on the ranch, other than the house which has a solar system, requires a generator. I’ve used many generators, and I have some strong opinions on what works well. 

Here are some suggestions for you to consider: 

Small Generators: Get a Honda. Nothing else compares to their reliability and ease of operation. I have two friends that are small engine mechanics who say the same thing. Get a Honda. 

Small generators are generally gasoline-powered. The primary problem with small generators is if you leave gas in them without rotating the gas, it gums up the carburetor and needs to be taken apart and cleaned. Being diligent about changing out the gas means you are continually pouring a flammable liquid in and out of your generator. If you store your generator in the garage and your water heater is in the garage too, a gasoline leak could cause a big problem.

However, there are exceptions. Last year I learned about a propane conversion kit, made my Hutch Mountain, for the Honda 2000i, 2200i, and 3000i generators. With the conversion kit installed, you can use 20lb, 30lb, or 40lb Propane cylinders. The regulator and hose screw onto the port on the propane gas cylinder, the same location you would screw in the hose from your Bar-B-Q. The hose then attaches to the port installed on your generator.

The Honda 2200i uses about 1 pound of propane an hour at a 50% load. A 30-pound cylinder would last about 30 hours. (Propane at sea level weighs 4.11 pounds per gallon.) 

Note:  When you see 2200i or 3000i, they do not put out 2200 or 3000 watts. That number is a surge load. At sea level, the 2200i puts out 1800 watts continuous, and the 3000i puts out 2800 watts. A non-turbo engine will lose power at higher altitudes at a rate of 2.5% per thousand feet of elevation gain. For example, if you live at 4,000 feet in elevation, the 2200i would put out 1620 watts.

Standby Generators: These generators run on propane or natural gas and put out more power than portable generators. Standby generators are bolted down to a pad or concrete slab. (We don’t have natural gas in our remote county, only propane tanks.) If you have natural gas in earthquake country, you might want to consider a propane generator with a dedicated propane tank. Why? Because a big quake may cut off natural gas supplies for a significant amount of time.

Air Cooled Standby Generators: The least expensive standby generators are the air-cooled ones with 3600 RPM engines. The service life of an air-cooled 3600 rpm engine generator is about 1,000 hours. That should be fine for most people who expect short term electrical outages.

These generators come with a transfer switch that detects when the power goes out. About a minute after detection, the generator disconnects from the grid, then turns itself on and powers your house.

The 7Kw generators have only eight or so circuit breakers, so you will have to decide what you want the power to in your house when the grid goes down. I have seen 7Kw air cooled, 3600 RPM generators for about $2,000.00.

Liquid Cooled 1800 rpm Generators: These Generators have a service life of 8,000 to 10,000 hours. We have one of these generators that is 15Kw with a dedicated 575-gallon propane tank. When we have two or three days of cloudy, snowy weather, we will fire up the generator and top off the battery bank.

The two 4Kw Solar Inverters connect to the generator, so when the generator is on, the inverters charge the battery bank. Mostly I use the generator for powering my 250 amp MiG Welder. Our generator is about 16 years old now and only has about 1500 hours on it.

A few standby generator brands to compare and consider: 

For more information on generators, check out this article.

The best thing about propane is that it never goes bad in storage

We have a 1,000-gallon propane tank for our small house that we keep topped off. Propane tanks filled to 80% hold about four years’ worth of propane. Since we heat with wood, we use propane for cooking, an on-demand water heater, and the clothes dryer. We use about 16 to 17 gallons of propane a month.

I hope that you have found this article useful and helpful with your preparations. Are you prepared to power up and light up when the power goes down? If so, let us know what your methods and equipment are! 

About High Country

High Country retired after 30 years from Law Enforcement, where he served as Detective Sergeant with many years as a Narcotics Task Force Agent. He was also the Department Range Master and Firearms Instructor. Working with solar energy for 15 years, he and his wife have lived ten years off the grid full time at their ranch on the Great Basin’s edge. 

What to Do When The Lights Go Out: Immediate, Short-Term, and Long-Term Strategies
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  • I live in suburbia. My number one fear during an extended outage is that my basement sump pump stops running. The water can rise and risk water damage to the basement floor. Are there any strategies for this problem other than babysitting the sump and/or hooking up the pump to a generator?

    • I would suggest buying a couple of car batteries and a small inverter that you could plug your sump pump into. The sump pump doesn’t draw much power but if you ran one of the batteries down you could switch to the other one quickly. If you had gas for your car and jumper cables you could recharge the batteries somewhat.

      There used to be stores that rebuilt batteries. That would be cheaper than buying new ones but I haven’t seen one of those in a while. Even if you had to buy new ones, that would be better than a flooded basement.

    • There are 12 volt sump pumps available, you just need to keep the battery or batteries charged when the power is out. Normally they trickle off of you regular electrical power.
      You could setup a solar panel and charge controller to the battery topped off in case of an extended outage.

    • The main strategy is to never buy a house with a sump pump, and if you’ve
      already made that mistake, to sell it now and buy a house that doesn’t have
      that. Preferably up in the mountains.

    • “My number one fear during an extended outage is that my basement sump pump stops running”

      heh. your number one fear should be whether you are in a low spot in the sewer system – if the pumps go out your house becomes everyone else’s septic system.

    • A different idea for you to look into:
      There are sump pumps that you can have installed that use no electricity but run off the water pressure in your house. (if the power is off long enough that your rural village has the water tower run empty- then you would lose pumping capacity.. but a city water tower generally has it’s own generators and backups)

      This might be a bit more expensive and tricky to install (or hire it and have it installed by plumber) but then you can have a lot of peace of mind about electricity.
      We live in a very small home with half our living area being finished basement- so I’ve looked through options a lot.
      We also keep a spare new sump pump in the house as ‘insurance’ in case the motor goes out on ours but we still have power. We have the new pump stored near the sump and it can be installed in 15 minutes or less. A few years back this basement was a total loss after a sump pump failure. Fully renovated now – but it’s a realistic concern to prepare for.

    • I seem to recall that not all sump pumps can run on 12 volt DC batteries, you might want to check that out. Also, from what I’ve gleaned, use a marine battery, not a regular car battery.
      If the float switches are separate from the pump, they might not work well on 12 volt DC either. There are 120AC/12 volt DC floats for sump pumps available. It might be reassuring to have two or more.
      And, imho, with sump pumps, always always, one is none and two is one, usually. Durning the last power outage both my sump pumps went down, fortunately they weren’t needed. Since then i have a third pump on stand-by to the side.
      One of those marine bilge pump hand pumps might come in handy, too. The Guzzler by Bosworth Company was one I was eyeing.
      …Five days ago, I doubt you’ll come back and read this, but I guess maybe someone might benefit from this typing of mine. Who knows?

  • I really like the little flashlights that plug into sockets and function as a nightlight or can just be charging and will automatically turn on when electricity goes off. I try to keep them plugged in bathrooms and hallways so that we immediately have a little light if we wake up to an outage or the power goes out before bed.

    When we lived in earthquake country and my kids were small, I had flashlights with wrist straps hanging by their light switches. If we lost power and they were disoriented, they just had to remember “switches make light” and could feel the flashlight by their room switch. Since we move fairly frequently for work, I make sure to keep chemlights handy as well. Some of our assigned houses have been multistory, so in an outage, I place those lights at the top and bottom of the stairs, with a few in betwee. It made things “fun”/less scary for the kids – but served as a great reminder to STOP and feel where your foot was going next. (I try to get red ones for the top and bottom step, again, clue to the kiddos that “RED means STOP”.) Even with the “baby” of the family now a teen, these habits stick with us no matter where we move to, making it easy to remember in new homes.

  • +1 on head lamps.

    Just had my Petzl head lamp finally die after over 10 years of use.

    Replaced it with another Petzl, that has a rechargeable battery or can use 4 AAA batteries.

      • Terru,
        If your lamp has a micro or mini USB socket (when using an internal permanent rechargeable battery) you can plug in a small solar battery charger directly to it. There are many brands out there such as Goal Zero that do a great job. If you have a lamp that uses removable rechargeables, many of these solar chargers have a battery holder included that holds AA’s or AAA’s. These chargers are about the size of a school textbook and are very portable. In both of these cases, the charger will automatically shut off when the charge is complete. One note on anything that uses AAA rechargeable batteries…if you look at the milliamp-hour output on them, it is significantly less than items that use AA’s and not practical at all. If you have the option on a device, go with the AA ones. If you already have items that use AAA’s, just stick with lithium batteries such as the Energizer Ultimate line. Besides the long storage life without self discharging, they don’t ever leak! Hope this helps!

  • Good general ideas for “normal times” but not that good for SHTF.

    Generators will be a very bad idea unless you are very, very isolated.
    Just seeing that you have light will make you a target.
    The same goes for headlamps and other such gear, post SHTF.
    Light can be seen for miles. So can noise. Light and noise security will be important issues.

    This is a dead giveaway that you are some sort of Prepper or have stuff, they need or want.
    Preppers need to think about being a “grey man” , or in this cases being a “Grey Location”, not comfort.

    Rumors will spread like wild fire post SHTF. So if you have light, power and such it, will soon be rumored that you have a warehouse of stuff, ready for any group willing to come in and take it.
    You know how rumors grow and get exaggerated.

    Not only that, but some one will make a good tale out of it for some food or whatever.
    The old: “I know of a place that has ______ , if you will just give me some _____ , I will tell you all about where it is.(fill in the blanks).

    So when you are Prepping, prep smart.

    • My Petzl headlamps have a red light.

      Walking quietly takes some practice but can be done. I have walked up on my livestock without them knowing I was there till I was nearly arms length. Smell is a bigger give away then noise, for livestock/wild animals that is.
      But I could still smell a light cigarette from a good ways off. Same with a campfire, and even my neighbors cooking dinner.

      The author is absolutely correct about those Honda generators. And they are very quiet too.

      Rumors spreading post SHTF.
      How exactly? Post SHTF, Internet, cell phones, all gone. People fearful, hiding out. Not straying far from home or familiar territory. Read any of Selco’s writings about snipers, and you get the idea.
      Anyone with any degree of common sense would be highly questionable about rumors.
      Based off the author’s personal description, I would be willing to bet not only do they have generators, but also firearms.
      And know how to use them.

      • Selco lived in a different country with a different set of circumstances.
        But if you actually read his writings, you will find that people talked. People knew who had stuff or could get stuff.

        Basically that is “rumors”, gossip or the transfer of information ( call it what you will), about who had what or could get it or knew who had it, which was my basic point.
        Human nature is to gossip and spread rumors, so I am sure a lot of that occurred there and it will occur again.

        According to Selco, the people were not hiding out to any great extent. They were out and about doing what things they needed to do to survive. Yes they had to be careful. But he even recounts how soldiers from opposing sides, on opposing rooftops,(separated by a small road), conversed together.
        So maybe you did not really absorb what you read, in Selco’s writings.

        As far as snipers go, the people still moved around they just had to be careful not to get caught out in the open.
        Here in the US, I doubt snipers would have a long life span. The community would soon rid themselves of that menace. Americans have a different take on what they will put up with, rather than what Europeans will endure.

        As far as the truth about rumors. If a group is, cold, hungry and well armed; do you think they will ignore a rumor of someone having a generator, probably heat and food? Or are they more likely to investigate it and plan how to overcome any defenses encountered?
        Or would they just amble on down the road, hoping to stumble upon the resources they need some where else?

        It does not take a rocket scientist to figure that one out!

        • “people talked”

          yep, they always do. rumors/information will spread slowly, not as fast as now, but spread nonetheless.

          • It spreads faster than in normal times, believe me. Word of mouth is a crazy thing during SHTF. It doesn´t have to travel out of town. Neighbors, coworkers, contractors… everyone talks, and talk a lot. When resources dwindle, everything sticks out. Senses become heightned during SHTF too. It is like that because at one point everything is about survival.

        • You are correct Mic.

          Right now we have an entire state here without power for almost 2 weeks now and there already people killed over fights for generators, food, etc. It´s a real, mid-term (so far) grid-down SHTF and anything sticking out has become a target.

          People talk, communication doesn´t go away simply because there´s no power. In fact, people talk even more and words travel fast and far. Fight everyone who comes for your little 2Kw Honda chugger? Police gets overwhelmed, and people defending themselves also get overwhelmed, and tired.

          People are people. That is the basic understanding of SHTF, not relating people to place X, Y or Z. Location matters little, Japan, Sweden, US or Africa. If the conditions are in place, humans will fight over suplies no matter what. Period.

    • @Mic,

      Yes you are correct – be the Grey Man.

      I would remind everyone that.

      In the US and Canada especially, basically the countries that avoided being invaded and overun during WW2, few people really how bad things can (and will) get and how long they will stay bad for.

      Equipment – weapons and tools aside – will only be useful for a time, perhaps a few months. What we are headed for is not hurricane season nor ‘just’ an earthquake – we are headed towards complete collapse similar to that of Yougoslavia and the Soviet Union – that is complete societal collapse with areas becoming genuine war zones.

      Nothing other than armed resistance against the tyranants is going to stop what has been planned and prepared for us.

      Parts of the West will soon resemble parts of the old Soviet Union, parts Nazi Germany, parts North Korea, and other parts the Balkans during thier breakup.

      For many it will be hell on earth and the old and weak will be the first to go, followed by the unprepared.

      Even those who see where we are going are going to struggle to survive the collapse which will likely take 2 to 3 years of civil unrest, government tyranny, and Police and Military brutality of an extreme nature to cycle through.

      The Deagel Report (CIA linked) 2025 projection gives a realistic idea of the deaths expected (200 Million +) in the US between now and 2025.

      The UK is more than decimated too – 90% projected dead or emigrated before 2025.

      Crazy times ahead, possibly even end times, I dont know.

      But what I do know is that we are not preparing for a camping trip or hurricane – we are already in a war and need to pepare accordingly.

    • Mic makes some interesting points. My article is addressing events such as Earthquakes, Fires, Hurricanes, Power down due to Wind Storms, Blizzards, Floods etc.

      From a Gray Man perspective, if you had a freezer full of food with Beef, Chicken, Turkey and frozen vegetables, would you use your generator to keep it from spoiling?

      From your line of Gray Man reasoning, would you not be cooking food for fear of someone smelling your cooking?

      For myself, if I was in a suburban setting where the grid is down for days or weeks, I would be out helping my neighbors and organizing the neighborhood to assist the elderly and others who need help. I know what my wife who is a RN would do. She would be at the hospital or helping the injured. This would be for an event that lasts days or a few weeks.

      For a very long term SHTF, grid down situation, your spot on with your OPSEC plans, but suburbia is not the place to be for anything long term. You need a place to bug out to where there is water, firewood, shelter and a growing season, as well as people that you can count on.

  • Nice article! One thing that could be a good preparedness exercise is see how little light you actually need to function well. Our eyes, once dark adapted, can do a pretty good job with just a glimmer. Also it’s a good idea to make sure you can find your way through your house by feel. Harder to do with kids around I know but it’s a valuable skill. After a half hour or so in a dark environment, a chem light or a candle becomes pretty bright.

    • @Rohvannyn Shaw,
      100% about the knowing your way by feel.
      One of our dogs is older and nearly every night needs to go out. So, rather than waking the wife, I know my way by feel around the bedroom, down the stairs, and to the back to let him out.
      Note: as a precaution, I have my “indoor” sandals next to the bed. Put them on to prevent an accidental stubbing or breaking of the toes if I miss judge in my half awake letting the dog out.
      Side note: The power went out one night. I was awake before I realized it, something about the power outage made the house sound . . . different.
      Dogs noticed it too.

  • Great article, thanks for sharing. We would love to go off grid and are actively planning to get there. We have quite a few power outages. We have a small solar generator which I’m still figuring . Head lamps for everyone, solar camping lanterns for each bedroom. And some small solar power packs for charging phones, iPads etc. Had petrol generators before and they weren’t for us. Our outdoors security lighting is all on solar so when we have regular power outages the outside is still lit up to deter theives and our cameras run on backup power too. For a shtf I wouldn’t want to be here and are working to move back to a rural area.

  • I’ve swapped out all of my alkaline batteries for lithium batteries. I don’t have to worry about the acid leaking out of the alkaline batteries and destroying my lights and devices.
    Yes they are expensive but nothing is worse than needing your light in an emergency and find that the alkaline batteries destroyed it. It has happened to me.

  • Hang a flashlight on each doorknob and headlamps on bedposts. Check the batteries every few months. Also, get some solar lights like Lucy light. They work well and seem to stay charged a long time.

  • What great timing for this article! Had to chuckle as we are in the midst of an outage due to high winds. We are old hats at this, tho. We experience frequent outages and have multiple layers. We are currently using an inverter with our camper battery so we can watch football. Not too worried about fridge/freezer yet, only been a couple hours. We can always pull a genny out if we need to.We also have backup heat sources, which many of our neighbors do not (based on the number whining about how cold they are in local fb groups LOL). We do need to invest in a couple decent head lamps. But I’ll have to hide them cuz DH keeps losing our HF cheapies at work!

    • Hi Kevin,

      I will write an article in a few weeks about very small to very large solar systems. It will include information on solar panels, combiner boxes, shut offs, charge controllers, inverters and batteries.

      Solar power is the ultimate long term power solution.

  • Some random thoughts

    Red lights (or red filters over a white light) will help preserve your night vision. Lots of headlamps do not have that red light option.

    Another tidbit about headlamps: It’s best to get the kind without the vertical over-the-head strap. That strap keeps you from being able to slip the headlamp down around your neck so it doesn’t blind anyone else who might be helping you after dark. If you already have a (or several) headlamp with that center over-the-head strap, consider whether it makes sense to cut off that strap [or stitch on a velcro connect/disconnect patch] in order to have the around-the-neck option.

    Using solar yard lights works best if you are careful to buy ones with an on/off switch. That way after the sun has charged it up, you can turn it off to keep it charged for later (even many moons later) when you might really need it — instead of it automatically draining the battery down immediately after that day’s sunlight.

    Luci lights have their pros and cons. It’s convenient to be able to charge them via sunlight or via a USB connection, at least the one I have. They do not have a red light option or filter. [Exception: Their website at mpowerd.com says they have an emergency model that has a flashing red light option — that’s fine if you need that flashing, but not if you just want a steady red light.] Otherwise, you’d have to find a transparent red bag to enclose the Luci to get a steady red light. Another downside is that the embedded lithium ion battery is buried inside the molded plastic case, and so cannot be owner-replaced. That means that when that battery dies, it goes into the junk pile. So the question is … how long does that battery live? [No where near as long as the LED lights of course.] So it’s not safe to assume the Luci comes with the highest quality longest lasting battery, so it’s probably wise to Sharpie-date each Luci when you buy it, and buy a backup piece about every 2-3 years so a battery failure doesn’t leave you stranded — with no way to swap out that battery.

    Another non-obvious really easy to carry source of a handy red light is the tiny Victorinox Signature Lite model of their swiss army knife. That model comes with either a red LED or a white LED. Either operates from a press-and-hold switch on the knife’s side. They are wonderfully handy if you need some quick light to find where to use your door key, or light to find a bigger flashlight / lamp / or some desperately needed whatever.

    Using and storing propane comes with some gotchas. Some home insurance companies have it buried in the fine print most customers never read that requires the homeowner to store propane at least 30 feet away from their house. If there is ever a house fire — even if the propane was not even involved — if the insurance inspector finds that propane supply was stored closer than their policy fine print mandated, they can use that violation as grounds to deny paying for the destroyed house. Your home insurance company may have variations on such details. As always, check out that scary fine print to be sure.

    In addition, some home insurance companies are flat-out dishonest and have a history of stiffing legitimate claimants. Do a background check on yours to make sure you are not depending on such a company.


  • I have comefull circle from a home & a cottage bugout location to a 1 bdrm apt. Gone are my 4 generators, solar, outhouse, shallow well, etc etc etc
    I have a coleman camping lantern that uses D-cells, a supply of D-cells in an ammo box, a coleman single burner propane camp stove stored outside on my balcony with its supply of multiple 1-lb tanks in a beer cooler. And a small barbecue that uses 1-lb propane tanks. We keep a supply of water in one gallon jugs and ensure we have kibble & water for our household pet.
    Best you keep your preping a total secret, we have one very close friend aware of our stockpile, and were dismayed when his very best friend came begging for toiletpaper for her family-of-five

    • That person would be an ex friend and pronto! I would also make a point of hiding my preps and making sure that the next (and last!) time that “friend” came in my house they were shown that we had “nothing”. Perhaps the next time there is a lockdown/other disaster you should go to his house and beg for PPE, tp, and the like. Nervy ba*+Ard!

  • For short-term backup (say to preserve food long enough to use it up or to run the furnace for a few hours in a pinch) what are the pros and cons to using a 1000-2000 watt pure sine inverter (or modified depending on your needs) connected to your car battery (while running of course).

    We all have 90% of a generator parked in our driveways and it is much quieter and more efficient than a standard generator. You can get a decent inverter for around $200, maybe less. My natural gas furnace is already wired to a plug so it would just be a matter of running an extension cord from the inverter to the furnace to keep the family warm in an emergency.

    Again, not talking long-term, grid totally down scenario–but to get by for a few days while making a long term plan. Or maybe for a temporary outage due to a natural disaster or something, just to get by for a while until things are back online. The vehicle wouldn’t need to idle constantly, just a few hours here and there to keep the meat in the freezer frozen and to keep the house from dropping to freezing temps.

    (Yes, I know you’d need to keep your vehicle locked and secure.)
    (Yes, I know you’d need to keep your car in a ventilated area.)
    (Yes, I know you’d need some back-up gas to refuel the vehicle.)
    (Yes, I know it would be better to already be off-grid and to not rely on electricity, but I’m talking about working with what you have at this point.)

    I’m purely talking about the feasibility of such an option in the short-term. I know the better option might be an array of deep cell batteries and a solar charger but that would be far more expensive than a $200 inverter. There are obviously always going to be better options.

    From what I’ve researched, a modern furnace only draws about 300-500 watts of power. A deep freezer around the same. So the inverter would easily cover that especially if those things were run in alternating cycles. As long as you are not drawing more amps than the alternator can produce (as to not drain your battery), it seems like a fine affordable back-up system for short-term scenarios.

    Am I missing any major downsides to this?

    • I was looking for a 300-400 watt inverter made to charge laptops on amazon a few days ago. I didn’t like what I was reading in the comments so I didn’t buy one. I did ask a question of the manufacturer of my 2000 watt inverter about their smallest inverter, 700 watts. No response. Would guess they don’t know. I will say that these better inverters are designed to operate from a pure and readily steady 12 vdc battery designed specifically for running an inverter. I know nothing about automobile electrical systems but I would guess that the output from an auto alternator might be a little too uneven for the inverter. This is just a wild guess. I’d love to see a response from somebody who actually knows.

      I suppose it would be possible to charge a good battery from a car, disconnect it, and run the inverter from the disconnected battery. Not sure how to do that either.

      • For the price of some gasoline to run the car, you can charge a car battery from an automobile, a pickup truck, a farm tractor (if it is 12-volt and not 6-volt; older tractors were 6-volt), or even a riding lawnmower. You just need a set of jumper cables. Positive (+) goes to positive. Negative (-) goes to negative. Connect the negative side LAST and disconnect the negative side FIRST. The guy at the gas station can show you how to do it. You do need to run the car while you’re charging. Else you’ll just run down the battery that’s already in the car. The car has a generator or alternator that keeps its own battery charged and that will change a second battery if it’s hooked up with jumpers.

      • Billybob,
        Here are some options for you…most major laptop companies sell cigarette lighter type chargers for their products. That would save you the hassle of converting from DC to AC (along with the resulting heat loss), then back to DC. It’s an unnecessary conversion to make. There are aftermarket companies that sell them as well (some are very good). If you decide to go with an inverter for the computer (or anything else electronic), make sure you get a pure sine wave model, NOT a modified sine wave or square wave model. Those can damage any electronic equipment due to their increased sensitivity to ‘dirty’ power. The specs on any models you look at should show which type they are. If the inverter is hooked directly to the battery, alternator interference is not an issue. (Think about electricity taking the shortest path!) If you are still concerned about that, there are inline noise/hum filters (between the battery and the inverter) that will take care of it. Hope this helps!

        • Hey Billybob, me again…
          If you go with the lighter plug version for charging, check out the “PWR+” brand on Amazon. They make specific models for many brands including Dell, Panasonic, Lenovo…well you get the idea. Two other things to verify before you buy is the rated wattage output of your lighter socket and that the charger has the right plug for your computer. I used a tire air compressor in a friend’s Honda Accord lighter socket and blew the fuse in the vehicle. Oops! Just an afterthought.

    • Major downsides? There could be. An “inverter” converts 12-volt DC to 110-volt AC. In the process of doing so it generates heat. How are you going to get the juice from your car or your car’s battery into your inverter? Not, I hope, by plugging the inverter into your car’s cigarette lighter. If you try and draw 500 watts through the cigarette lighter, the wires will get hot, the insulation will melt, and you’ll have a fire. Unless there are fuses along the way. Are there? Same issue as plugging a window air conditioner into a flimsy 18-gauge extension cord. You’re drawing more juice than the cord can handle. The cord will get hot. The insulation on the cord will melt. The wires will touch each other. The fire department will be called. This is a (potential) downside. You can work around it but there are dangers.

        • Lawrence. The biggest hurdle I know of using an inverter to run an electric motor (water pump, freezer, etc.) is that the STARTING amperage (or wattage) draw can be several times higher than the running requirement. I have a generator, for example, that will start and run my water pump. But I would have to spend mega-bucks to get an inverter big enough to START and run that same pump. There are old-design motors and new, phased wiring, etc., but the only way you’ll find out if YOUR inverter will start YOUR motor is to try it. In my experience, comparing labels and written specs just isn’t enough. Good luck.

  • Nice article! I agree with the headlamp recommendation. You can get headlamps in Walmart (in the flashlight department) for $1 each, battery included. As in one dollar! Buy a handful. Put them in the car glove box, the tool box, the kitchen drawer. Flashlights that require just one battery are also great to have. Then you can use whatever you can scrounge up from the kids’ toys, the toothbrush, and the carving knife. Here’s a link to an article that lists, by brand and part number, flashlights requiring only one battery. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kv7Bx6usT-g The listing starts at 2:18.

  • Just this past week we had a guy shot dead here over a generator during the 2-week long power outage in Amapa state. That´s just one of the various incidents, other fights took place as well.

    Generators are OK if it´s a short-term power outage. But during any prolonged grid-down scenario it becomes an asset, and people will fight over it just like they do over everything else needed to survive.

    IMHO it´s better to learn to live without power. I mean, get a compact, efficient (25%+) solar pannel for personals and a couple of 20.000mAh power banks. A good setup like this is light and compact, and enough to recharge lights, a smartphone, a radio and a few other smaller things.

    I also prepare for power outages by training in the dark at home and when camping. Turn it alloff and try to stay a few days without power, just using your emergency suplies to cook, communicate, clean, etc.

  • If you are using headlamps (or any other devices for that matter) that use “C” or “D” cells, you can get adapters for AA’s that will convert them to a larger size and work in your devices. Amazon has them, as well as other vendors. This way, you can standardize your storage of one size battery, rather than numerous sizes. The battery technology has improved over the past twenty years, and you won’t miss much on amp-hours available. I did this years ago, and haven’t regretted it yet. For recommendations on brands, the Eneloops and the Eveready rechargables have the best ratings. If you go with the Eneloops, stick with the standard capacity (white ones), as the high capacity version (the black ones) have a faster self discharge rate, and the price difference makes them uneconomical in comparison. JMHO…

    • A good place to look for battery ratings is a guy named “Project Farm” on YT. He also does tests and ratings on many other items. Very thorough and objective…check him out!

  • Lots of great info here (yours and comments). Thanks.
    I’m a fan of GoalZeros. There is a 400 and 500 model that is a little pricy, but if you have the $$, its a great system. I charge them off the wall as the PNW is into the cold and rainy season.
    There are other contenders for portable power. I like the string about the sump pump and car batteries.

    Lastly, there is mention of it, but be ready to have ways to block your windows from any and all light escaping. Cover the windows, pull the curtains, and walk the outside perimeter.

    • “people won’t have a clue”

      that’s less true than it used to be, people are clueing in. the preppers aren’t the elect wise men anymore.

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