Weather the Storm with Backup Power


by E.R, Survival Blog:

This adventure begins with a windstorm after which it took crews days to repair the severely damaged power lines. At that time we had been using a pair of old end-of-life batteries rescued from a Cummins diesel pickup truck connected to a conventional marine battery charger as our backup power. We waited all day as our freezer continued operations, powered by these old batteries. Towards dusk, I finally dragged out the generator to power the rest. Surely, there was a better way. That summer, I finally made it a priority to get solar panels installed up on the roof and the batteries upgraded.


We now have choices. Some of the backup power systems available these days involve slick turn-key solutions which neatly integrate all of the main components into a single opaque package that even the less adept user can manage. Some such systems are even available with solar panels already mounted on a trailer base in case one sets up camp away from the primary residence.

While package systems are generally good and helpful to achieve a noble end, they do not facilitate understanding which would at times be most helpful. Moreover, they tend to be exceedingly high tech, expensive and highly controlled by proprietary interests. For this reason, my focus is to round out knowledge dealing with modular components, so as to nurture a fundamental understanding that will be useful in a longer-term stuff-hits-the-fan (SHTF) event.


Stepping back a bit benefits one’s perspective. Understanding the progress of humanity these past two centuries is to reflect on our ability to harness energy stores in multiplying the effectiveness of human effort. Diesel enabled agricultural productivity beyond the imagination of farmers of the previous century. With modern equipment a single farmer is able to crop thousands of acres annually. Without petroleum resources the average farm in these parts was less than 100 acres and required a small army to cultivate, plant, and harvest.

Give some thought to what life would be like without the energy resources we now take for granted. Ask yourself, what steps can we take today to improve our future if the world as we know it suddenly changed to conform with the latest globalist anti-carbon injunctive?

Our self-reliant ability to produce and store energy offers a key to illuminating the future – to weather the storm – whatever form that might take. This essay, will be narrowly focussing on the basics of an electrical backup power system.


So that we have a common understanding I will begin with a bit of a high level introduction. Ham radio folks and the electrically adept can skip to the next heading.

Electricity is an invisible phenomenon that has the potential for doing work. It has the advantage of being able to distribute that potential to the exact location where that work is required. Distribution systems are often referred to as alternating current. Grid power alternates in this part of the world sixty times each second — 60 cycles. In other parts of the world (Europe) it alternates at 50 cycles per second. This alternating current (AC) is used whenever long-distance transmission of energy is required.

This sinusoidal wave of energy is characterized with transitions that are smooth and regular, as seen on an oscilloscope. When the transitions are choppy, boxy, and noisy, it is referred to as a modified sine wave.

Most household appliances are designed to operate using AC power at 120 volts. Heavy-duty appliances, like an electric stove will use 240 volts of alternating current. Also in the category of heavy-duty consumers are: deep well pumps, electric heaters, air conditioners, and clothes dryers. Heavy-duty appliances are beyond the scope of the present discussion.

Battery power does not use alternating current. We refer to this as direct current (DC). Most of your common automotive appliances are designed to operate on 12-volt DC. Class 8 ‘semi-trucks’, on the other hand, operate on 24 volts DC. By contrast, a typical flashlight battery dry cell is 1.5 volts, although these might vary slightly depending on the specific chemistry. A typical car battery is comprised of a series of cells in a single package.

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