Anytime someone mentions living “off the grid,” one of the first thoughts many of us have is having a bank of solar panels to provide for the small amounts of electricity we plan to still need. Now, I realize that to truly live like our ancestors did, we would be completely free of the need of electricity, however, I personally don’t want to give up some benefits of electrical power. One tool that we as prepper should maintain some electrical reserve for is our phone/radio communications. Most of the two way radios as well as many AM/FM radios, including those with weather bands, are available in a 12 volt DC version. If we already have some of those devices in an AC version, an Inverter can help us make use of battery power. Cellular phones are also easily charged and the smartphones of today can house tons of information as well as access to even more critical news such as weather alerts. If you want to read more about some of the things that even deactivated smartphones can do for us, check out my blog post on them Here.
While solar power sources capable of producing energy comparable to what we receive from the electrical grid take thousands upon thousands of dollars to install, there are many smaller solar setups that can help us maintain some of our most critical energy needs without breaking the bank.
Small And Packable Solar Power Options
When we have to travel on foot to a camp site or bug out location, we have to cut the cord, both symbolically and physically with our sources of electricity. At least while in route to our destination, we have to survive on what’s in our packs, including battery power. Now, we have covered the need for portable battery packs to give our phones a boost and we can shut them off when not using them to conserve battery life, but there is a still going to be a point where we need to recharge them. One great way to do this is with a small solar charger kit. We can charge our phones as well as certain other lights and devices with one of these and buy ourselves a much longer time away from the extension cord than would be possible without it. One great option for this is the kit below. This kit by Goal Zero has a battery pack and a solar panel that can give it a full charge in about 4 hours. Get more information by clicking on the picture.
Cabin Sized Solar Power Options
Supposing all of our plans work out and we make it to our bug out location, we may be a ways from electrical power or the power grid may be down for any number of reasons. Such a scenario is one where we can benefit from a larger system, but still not have to spend more money on the solar panels than the whole cabin or bunker. It’s important to keep a realistic view of what we can power with a small system and not over extend it or we will be sitting in the dark for a while until it can recharge. We will still have to ration our power usage, however modern LED lighting among other efficient appliances can help us get a lot of use out of a little bit of battery storage.
Based on our goals and timeframe, we can use the systems for not only lighting and charging, but for other appliances like the 12 volt ice makers and refrigerators that I mentioned in another post. We can now begin to harvest and store meat and plants to eat with less wasted food. Adding fresh protein and greens to our caches of dried and non perishable foods can help our physical and mental health in a survival situation by keeping us nourished and healthy. If you want to read more about survival refrigeration, click Here.
It is important to remember that solar power is a system that uses panels to absorb the energy and regulators and chargers to store the energy in batteries and then to feed that electricity to the circuits, so we need to do some close research into our actual needs, but I want to present one setup that might be as close to a turn key system as we can find. The Goal Zero Yeti line of power packs along with one of their foldable briefcase style solar panels is a great setup that we don’t have to do any of our own wiring to get up and going. It’s also a great option to have at home for short term power outages and is much simpler than having to hook up and start a gasoline or diesel powered generator outdoors. Click the pictures below to see each part of the system.
Final Thought on Inexpensive Solar Energy
As with almost everything, we get what we pay for. Don’t expect cheap products to last forever and have a plan to maintain your systems as needed. Also, check them often. batteries lose their ability to maintain a charge and chargers and controllers quit working unexpectedly. The items and systems we ignore may do the same to us when we need them the most. Have a plan and a backup plan and remember that one size does not fit all. You may find yourself in need of a much more sophisticated system and I hope to be able to post on one in more detail in the future to help guide everyone that needs it.
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