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How Can I Get Solar Energy Without Spending a Fortune?

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.

Disclosure: I am an Amazon affiliate and may make money from qualifying purchases.

Why Should I Keep My Old Cell Phone?

As a society, human beings have become so dependent on our electronic and mechanical devices that we can hardly imagine how we could have ever functioned without. While the best preparedness practices warn against being dependent on technology for our every need, we should also consider the benefits that we can derive from our devices in the scenarios where they still work. Sometimes we can get some use out of phones that we have replaced and are no longer using. Before you toss or trade in a cell phone or other mobile device, read over the information I’ve gathered here and see if it helps you too.

Why Should I Keep My Old Cell Phone?

Between the advances in technology and the planned obsolescence of devices by the manufacturers that need to sell us another phone or tablet before our’s is anywhere near the end of its useful life, many of us wind up upgrading our mobile devices on a fairly regular basis. The mind numbing habit of having instant entertainment at our fingertips all the time and the constant little upgrades leave many of us with a drawer full of perfectly functioning devices that we no longer use.

Caching

The idea of placing caches of supplies in various locations has a lot of merit for preparedness minded individuals. I mention using a cache to store information in my post on internet dependence. You can read it Here. Staging necessities in various locations makes it more likely we will have a location to resupply at before our bug out bag or vehicle survival packs are depleted. With that in mind, placing an old cell phone or tablet in a cache can give us the benefit of many of the other used cell phone tips I mention below. You can get waterproof caching boxes by clicking the picture below.

Emergency Calls

According to 911.gov, all wireless phones can be used to call 911 for emergency services even if they aren’t subscribed to or supported by a specific carrier. This means that leaving an old cell phone charged up can be a life saver if an emergency happens, however there are some important strings attached to that use. First, you still have to have some cellular signal. The phone still has to be able to access a cellular tower to relay the call so its not gonna work in a dead zone, with or without an active subscription. Another important thing to remember is that using an inactive phone to contact 911 will not give them access to your location (This can even happen with active phones so be prepared to give directions or addresses anytime you call 911) The 911 operator will also not be able to call you back if you are disconnected. Keeping these warnings in mind, we can stage our inactive phones in strategic places for emergency contact if needed.

Data Access and Storage

Each cell phone design is different and has capabilities ranging from only phone calls to advanced computing and memory. Most of the smartphones we use today have the storage capacity of huge hard drives from not that long ago. With those capabilities, we can use an inactive phone to store tons of information and documents that, on paper, would take up an unacceptable amount of space in a cache or small safe. A quick internet search of you phones storage capabilities will tell you all about storing and retrieving information on your particular phone model.

Decoys

When most preppers think of operational security, or OPSEC, we consider all of the methods whereby we protect ourselves and our preparations by hiding them or misleading others who might be after our goods. Sometimes to disappear or hide takes more than just packing up and leaving. if we really need to throw off someone, we can take old phones and fill them with false information such as addresses and contacts. False intelligence is often a helpful way to throw others off your trail. Make sure you wipe all other information from the phone before doing this, though.

What Old Phone Accessories Should I Keep?

When I first began using cell phones, i got a new charger every time I got a new phone and it seemed that none of them were compatible with other phones. As cell phones became more computer-like, the shift to data cables from charging cables began. Now most all phones share just a handful of charging/data cable patterns and keeping them now is much simpler. I personally would have at least one matching charging cord/charger for each of my phones as well as a way to charge the phone from a 12 volt source such as the car. Click on the pictures below to get a multi-cable for charging and data and a 12 volt adapter that you can add to all of your caches.

What Should Not Be Left on My Old Cell Phone?

I wish I could give an all inclusive answer to this question, but the best i can say is “it depends.” If the phone in question is used as a diversion, then we should wipe it clean of any information that can be used to track us to our true location or that of our preps. If the phone is used for digital data storage in a cache, then we obviously need the data saved to the phone, however every password and security option that is available on the device should be activated to prevent someone who might stumble on our cache from using our information against us. Depending on the use, we may also chose to disable the gps features like “find my IPhone” if we don’t want the device location traceable. For emergency calls, current information in our I.C.E. (in case of emergency) contacts is vital if we are unable to respond when help arrives.

Disclaimer: I am an Amazon affiliate and may make money on qualified purchases.