By Mike Lavelle
I have written previous articles on preparedness and the recent “rolling” power outages in Texas bring up another preparedness consideration – portable solar generators, smaller “power packs” for recharging cell phones, and LED lights. Depending on your needs, a solar generator will provide temporary portable power, for either when you are camping or the power is out and you need electricity.
The “solar” generators are comprised of a battery (often lithium), and sometimes solar panels (one or two), for charging from the sunlight. On some of them, you can also charge it from a wall socket (for later use). They can come with various capacities from small lightweight ones (around 200-watt hours) to larger ones (around 3000-watt hours). I recently got one rated at 518-watt hours, with a folding 100-watt solar panel.
An online search will also reveal lots of sites that provide information on putting together a kit yourself, using a car battery, or even other types of batteries. I have been working on this recently, as I had an extra unused AGM (absorbed glass mat) battery.
Additionally, you can also buy an electric vest for keeping warm. I bought one for motorcycle riding in cold weather. There have been times when the weather was warm and became cold, either to an elevation or weather change, and I really would have liked a heated vest. A relatively lightweight electric battery powered vest does a great job of providing heat. While we may not find ourselves in the same situation as many found themselves in Texas this past month, having a lightweight electric vest is worth considering as a preparedness item. The USB battery pack that powers them is generally the same as the one that can charge a phone, they are not expensive – which means it is worth buying a few.
You can also find a USB battery pack with fold out solar panels. These are great for traveling, especially to provide power for your phone. I have one in each vehicle and take one on trips. Additionally, the USB battery for a phone or a vest can be charged up from a solar generator. Another item worth considering, for those with electric or hybrid cars, are kits that allow you to utilize the very large car battery to provide electric emergency power via an inverter. I have a Chevy Volt and have such a kit.
Finally, it is a good idea to consider a few portable lantern style LED battery powered lights, or plug-in lights (great as they will have a charge ready if the power goes out). I also like to have a few of these LED headlamps around (in each vehicle and around the house). They are great if you need a light to change a tire at night, or some other repair (I once changed an alternator at night in airport parking) or even for casual reading at night.
For more information regarding solar generators visit: earthtechproducts.com/faq-solar-generators-blog.html.
Mike Lavelle is retired and formerly worked part-time as the editor at The Vail Voice. He lived in the Del Webb community in Vail but now resides in Sierra Vista.