{ 103 comments… read them below or add one }

+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Ben Martino
November 18, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Great stuff Dave ~
However, what are some thing that can be done by people who don’t own their own homes ? People living in apartment building, condo’s… or people like me, who, although I live in a single family home, it’s not mine, I rent it from the local housing authority, and we’re not allowed to have generators, there’s no fire place, no wood stoves are allowed, we can’t even have a fire pit, or outside stove….

All the appliances are electric also….

I’m thinking, at least for short term emergencies, your battery and inverter system might be something I could rig up, if I can figure out how to tie into the furnace….
At least we could have a couple of them and run the refrigerator and the furnace…. that would be a big improvement over nothing….


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1desertrat
November 20, 2010 at 6:42 pm

BE VERY CAREFUL WHEN ‘BACK FEEDING’ POWER. Remember, in a situation like yours, the Ground portion of the house is not isolated! You will be adding electricity to the grid, and possibly kill someone accidentally. If you can plug whatever needs to be powered up directly into the inverter, or generator you are set.

Food for thought.



+1 Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 20, 2010 at 7:02 pm

Absolutely right…never hook your generator directly up to your electrical panel.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Robert
November 25, 2010 at 3:07 am

Emergency cooking could be done outdoors on a propane grill. This would be unlikely to be prohibited. Camping stoves are also nice in emergencies.
As for comments on powering your whole house: This MUST be done through a change over switch. If you do not understand what I mean then this project is beyond you and you need to see an electrition (of the licensed variety!).


Vote -1 Vote +1Damon
November 19, 2010 at 5:53 am


Does anyone know anything about the three “solar generator” packages sold by Solutions From Science? The company has a very low rating from the Better Business Bureau and there’s no option to return the product if it is unsatisfactory. It can only be returned it if is defective. For those reasons, I’m hesitant to buy one. If someone already has tried one, could you advise if it performs as advertised? Thank you.


Vote -1 Vote +1Joe
November 19, 2010 at 1:56 pm

I got the solar panel from Soutions from Science and I’m very satisfied with the quality. It is extremely well made and built to last. I have used the solar panel and it worked fine. I recently sold my house and live in an apartment but I have the battery plugged in right now and expect it to work just as well as it has when I tried it out in my house. Let me know if you have any other questions.



Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 5:45 pm

It’s not that the quality is bad…I wouldn’t expect that from Bill. The issue that I have with them is that the solar panel doesn’t charge the battery fast enough to run appliances. You can run appliances from the battery, but once the battery dies you’ve got to figure out a way to charge it. The assumption in looking at it is that it will act like a solar generator and make enough power to charge up the big battery with 1 day worth of sun.


Vote -1 Vote +1Damon
November 20, 2010 at 3:29 pm

Thanks, Joe. What product did you by from SFS and how did you use it? Or, how do you use it? Thanks!


Vote -1 Vote +1JT Hughes
November 19, 2010 at 5:55 am

Hi David, and thanks for the info…always good stuff!

There are a couple of typos in the report that kind of throw off the message:

“Along with the inverter, I’d suggest getting as big (small guage number) [should there be something here?] as you can find and afford.  This is especially important if you’re crossing a large distance or have a large load.”

“If you run the unit at ¼ the rated load (400 watts,) it burns through 1.1 gallons every 10 hours, giving you 30 AH of power.  Since our refrigerator [end of sentence here]”


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 8:18 am

You’re awesome, JT! Thanks. I’ve fixed the mistakes that you pointed out.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1RedRyder
November 19, 2010 at 6:15 am

Dave, great article. But there are issues with your battery math.

– Two 200 Ah, 6-volt batteries in series are not 400 Ah, they are 200 Ah at 12 volts. The watt-hours increase from 1.2 kWh to 2.4 kWh, but the ampere hours only add up when batteries are wired in parallel. So four 200 Ah golf cart batteries in series-parallel configuration will contain only 400 Ah at 12 volts, or 4.8 kWh.

– Deep cycle batteries are generally rated at a C/20 rate, or a current flow of rated capacity divided by 20 hours. The amount of electricity you can extract decreases the faster you try to withdraw the current. So a 200 Ah battery can be fully expected to provide 10 amps (200/20) for 20 hours to depletion, but it would be very unusual for the battery to be able to provide 200 amps for a full 60 minutes.

– The number of recharges available on a deep-cycle battery is inversely proportional to the depth of each discharge. If you search the manufacturers’ websites, you can sometimes find a graph on life expectancy. One quality battery I looked up can have hundreds of partial discharges, but expected only THREE discharges to depletion while maintaining full capacity. Many users have calculated their favorite percentage of discharge in order to balance usefulness with life expectancy. Most of the figures hover around 50 percent. So at 50% depletion after each charge, your 12-volt, 400 Ah bank will provide you with 20 amps for 10 hours (or 10 amps for 20+ hours) hundreds of times. With good energy management, this will carry your loads between generator runs quite nicely. – RR


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Hey RR,

Thanks for your comments, but it looks like we’re both partially correct 🙂 Even with my engineering background, I still make mistakes. It’s been awhile since I set up our batteries and I did my Ah calculations from memory when I wrote the ariticle. I truly appreciate you pointing this out and I’ve fixed it in the article above.

So, going back to the fundamental formula, Watts=VoltsXAmps, the wattage of the system will stay the same, regardless of the configuration.

So, since I have 2 sets of 2 6v 200 Ah batteries in parallel and the sets connected in series, here’s how it works out:
4x6vx200Ah=4800 watt-hours
Since I’ve got 12 volts leaving the system, my Ah capacity is 4,800/12=400 Ah. By the time people read this, it will be corrected in the article, but I want to make sure you get credit for pointing it out. Thanks again.

You’re exactly correct on the capacity dropping as the load increases. I don’t think that I said anything contrary to that.

And you’re also correct on the charge/depth of discharge relationship. That is one of the reasons why I suggested getting a system that is sized 2x larger than what you actually need.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1JC McClain
November 19, 2010 at 6:26 am


Thanks for the great overview, and emphasis on a pragmatic system that works versus an ideal, TEOTWAWKI off-the-grid power plan that is never actually implemented and used.

One question/critique: You mentioned using a 300-watt inverter to power a refrigerator from your car (or any other 12V power source). I’m not sure how big the refrigerator you’re referring to is, but even a 1000W inverter probably won’t meet the demand of a typical household refrigerator running at 600-700W, with a 1500W or greater peak starting power for the compressor motor. I tested my 2000W (Honeywell) inverter generator on our 28 cu ft Energy Star refrigerator, and it demanded almost all of the available power (judging by the noticeable revving of the generator engine). It did not trip the CB or overload it, so the generator handled it okay, but even with 2200W peak power available the compressor motor was noticeably slower to start than when plugged into a wall outlet.

Just my two cents, and a suggestion for maybe getting into more detail on analyzing power requirements in the future. Thank you again for the weekly newsletter.

Stay well,



Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 8:00 am

Hey JC, I know from experience that it works, but I just hooked my meter up to my fridge and confirmed that it draws 20-21 watts when the compressor is off and right at 200 watts when the door is open and the compressor is running.


+2 Vote -1 Vote +1Robert
November 25, 2010 at 3:21 am

JC’s point is that the starting load for motors (compressors in this case) is about twice the running load and to successfully run this type of load your system needs a substantial surge capacity or a large (power eating) size.


Vote -1 Vote +1Darrell
November 19, 2010 at 6:28 am

Great article Dave but I never could grasp the whole electrical concept..so Im posing this question for you if you dont mind..I have a pickup with dual gas tanks and a 15′ camper..I want to be able to live in the camper for as long as I can at one time..I was thinking about a combination of a generator, deep cycle battery bank and propane.. and wiring it so I could run appliances/lights/tv and ps2game or dvd player off the generator and deepcycle batts mounted in the box of my truck under the topper..the stove is fine running off the propane, I will get a couple extra tanks to be safe…heat will be both propane and electric..the idea is to make the camper as self sufficent as possible for as long as possible..I had planned of routing the gas line from the truck tank to the generator and maybe using an electric fuel pump..also wiring the genny to a charger that while running would charge the bank of DC batts..I also want to have a powercord built of 50′ lenght so I can seperate the trailer from truck..any ideas


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 21, 2010 at 9:17 pm

Hey Darrell,

That’s going to require a much longer off-the-blog reply than I can do here. In short, to be as self sufficient as possible for as long as possible, you need to figure out how to minimize your energy use and then figure out how to get as much of your energy from renewable sources as possible.

A couple of things I’d suggest is using a renewable source of energy for as much of your cooking/heating as possible and installing rooftop solar panels and/or a pedal generator to recharge your batteries.


Vote -1 Vote +1Julio
November 19, 2010 at 6:57 am

David…I have a wood stove in my basement that heats my house….that could be very helpful during an emergency…….my wood splitter is hand operated (very easy to pump)….yes slower, but we do not use any electricity or gas to split wood….the manual wood splitter was cheaper than electrical or gas operated splitters……..Just an idea..!!!!


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 21, 2010 at 9:19 pm

Absolutely correct…but many people (including myself) don’t have fireplaces due to the way their house was built, or because they’re in a house/apartment/condo.

It’s not ideal, but it is the real world for many people right now.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Marilyn
December 10, 2010 at 8:54 am

Hi Julio, What manual log splitter did you buy? Know there are many different types on the market. Can you send a link or a brand name? Would help me loads to know of one that actually works. Thanks so much! Regards, Marilyn


Vote -1 Vote +1Rick
November 19, 2010 at 7:14 am

David – thanks much for a such a great article. One of the most practical ones I’ve read on this subject. Also love the links to the items mentioned in the article. Keep up the great work.


Vote -1 Vote +1tom jackson
November 19, 2010 at 7:40 am

Looking at portable solar panel (Brunton) and it states:
“What’s in the Box?
Solaris 26 foldable solar panel, vehicle outlet cable, multi-linking cable, battery clamp cable, storage sack, user’s manual.”
I don’t know anything about these things, so I’m thinking that I want to plug a laptop or phone charger into this – none of the things listed above tells me that I can do this – am I missing some of the ‘jargon’ of what you call the electric plug from my device? I didn’t see anything in the pictures that would reassure me. The picture of the inverter shows a definite plug receptacle that I’m familiar with.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 21, 2010 at 9:22 pm

Hey Tom,

Personally, I’m much more comfortable using solar systems to charge batteries that I use to run electronics than plugging the solar panels directly into the electronics. There is a loss of efficiency by doing this two step process, but the benefit of protecting my electronics wins out.


Vote -1 Vote +1Kang & Kodos
November 19, 2010 at 7:49 am

Did you miss a couple of words? Under the “Inverter” heading, 2nd paragraph, you have:

“Along with the inverter, I’d suggest getting as big (small guage number) as you can find and afford.”

As big a what?

Great article though, it has some good info, thanks!



+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Al
November 19, 2010 at 10:06 am

He is talking about the extension cord. They are guaged by #. for example a #16 cord is very light duty and will overheat if much load is put on it. Most of your house is wired with #14 wire but your kitchen, utility and garage areas are wired with #12. For a generator extension cord into the house I built one out of #10 wire with a four outlet box on the end. Also, the longer the cord the bigger wire (lower #) is recomended.


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 11:09 am

Thanks Kang! I fixed the omission.


Vote -1 Vote +1Larry
November 19, 2010 at 8:01 am

What is the story on magnetic motors generating electricity? A seeming perpetual motion device. are they total scams??


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 11:08 am

I’ve been looking at units like these in person for 17 years and I haven’t found a single one yet that works on a scale that produces usable energy. Friction, gravity, and the inefficiencies of generators and other laws of physics are a huge hurdle. Many people claim that particular designs have been shut down by the government or big oil, but that doesn’t explain why people don’t have homemade systems running in their backyards across the country.

If you’ve seen one work or have one (not that you’ve seen a video, read about one, or heard about one) then please let me know. I’d love for the rules of physics to be wrong and this to be possible; but personally I’m not holding my breath.


Vote -1 Vote +1Gena
January 11, 2012 at 5:07 am

Glad to see that last remark. Got an email tonight from someone wanting me to buy the plans to one of these magnetic generators, which it claimed the site might be taken down any second and I HAD to purchase immediately. And when I declined, offered to take $10 off, and when I tried to get off the offer, offered to make $20 off the price they were asking. Felt like I was dealing with a fish oil salesman and went on and got off. Don’t like dealing with the high pressure people who claim if you don’t buy their stuff that very second it will never be available again.
I was wondering if it would work. And they claimed that anyone who could screw in a lightbulb would be able to put this thing together themself. They do not know me.


Vote -1 Vote +1Ron M
November 19, 2010 at 8:07 am

Don’t forget that gasoline now has government mandated ethanol in it, which means it will deteriorate after ~ 30 days, and must be stabilized for long term storage.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 10:50 am

I’m not sure that the 30 day timeframe is correct…I’m going to have to check on that. That being said, I hate ethanol with a passion. (Yes…I said “hate.”) More accurately, I hate what ethanol represents to me…which is government inefficiency, predatory lobbying groups, false science, and the need for Congress to feel like people are dependant on them so that they can provide a bandaid solutoin.

-Ethanol manufacturing wastes 1/3 of our corn production.
-People who have tested ethanol vs. non ethanol blends consistantly report a significant drop in mileage.
-Using corn for ethanol drives the price of meat up.
-Using corn for ethanol causes more land to be used for planting corn, which causes other grain prices to go up.
-Government mandated ethanol use artificially props up grain prices which effects grain farmers’ bottom lines. When they go to the bank to get mortgages & loans, they use numbers that are inflated due to ethanol. The end result is that we can’t undo the ethanol mandate without negatively effecting the bottom lines of farmers and throwing a wrench into every loan that was underwritten based on “ethanol numbers.”

So, it causes lower mileage and higher prices if we keep the program in place and sudden financial distress if we undo it.

This isn’t a new thing…we had ethanol at the pumps back in the early 90s in the midwest. It was bad then and it’s been bad since.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1MP
November 20, 2010 at 1:17 am

I agree with you on the gov’t sanctoned use of alternative fuels, even though I do have an interest in alternative energy technologies, as I can see many of us do. My interest though stems from the self sufficiency perspective, I’ve messed with WVO for diesel power, running engines using painter’s alcohol for the sake of being able to say that I did run them on alcohol, and solar power. My problem, just like yours from what I can see is when the gov’t makes people use this stuff, despite the high costs from an industrial perspective, which helps kill the appeal of it.

When people like us collect old veggie oil from fish houses and filter it to run our old diesel cars/trucks, or use surplus grain or other produce from our farms to make some alcohol for our motorbike or lawn mowers, or buy some cheapo solar panels and inverters from harbor freight to recharge some deep cycle batteries to keep a couple of CF lamps lit during an outage, its more appealing than pulling up to a gas station and filling up with a gallon of biodiesel/E-85 that only costs a few cents less than petro fuel or having to hire a $100/hr electrician to wire up high end solar panels to our cabins just to be able to get a tax credit, then instead of promoting the idea of alternate energy, we’re just propping up yet another industry who lobbied for this stuff so they can make a buck.

With that said, I’m still gonna show my interest in alternate energy, but from the DIY’er’s perspective, not the gov’t mandated industry standard’s perspective.


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 20, 2010 at 7:35 am

Well said, MP! I’m all for alternatives to petroleum products…and I’m also all for facts, logic, and reason. For me, alternatives need all three.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Jake
November 20, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Here! Here! yes, I HATE ethanol as well…

there are still a few stations (at least here in middle Tennessee) that advertise “No Ethanol” – so folks could look around for a distributor/station who does this…

I drive a little Golf VW TDI diesel that gets about 55 mpg depending on how i drive… i have gotten 60 on one tank…. its very satisfying when you clip over 900 miles on a tank of diesel! (my best tank: 1006 miles)

I had a debate on a local college TV political show… I was taking the ‘anti-illegal alien’ standpoint and my opponent ran a non-profit ‘pro-immigration’ position…

the college had reserved two parking spots for us and when we were about to start taping he said “I noticed you have a Golf TDI… why do you have a ‘Drill Here, Drill Now’ sticker?” (indicating that i was driving an environmental-friendly car)

I replied, “because the green i’m interested in is in my wallet…” he didn’t like that so much… so, yeah, i’m all about alternative energy when i can save money etc…


Vote -1 Vote +1MP
November 20, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Heh thats too funny, when you mention trying to save “green” instead of going “green” the tree huggers cringe, like one should go broke trying to stay within the realm of eco-friendliness. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for eco-friendly stuff, but not when its gov’t mandated and shoved down my throat, at any cost, usually to all of us. Under most circumstances, most of this eco-friendly stuff usually isn’t eco-friendly at all, when you factor in the industrial processes necessary to produce a lot of this eco-friendly stuff, most of which are just as polluting or worse, than the methods they were supposed to replace. Just like ethanol, when you factor in all of the diesel and other fuels used in the process of growing the crops, processing the crops into fuel then transporting the stuff to the service stations, it finds itself to be just as polluting as drilling for oil or mining for coal. It’s too bad these tree huggers couldn’t see it that way before participating in the endorsement of things that for all intents go against their anti business/industrial feelings (for many of them).


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Robert
November 25, 2010 at 3:38 am

ROTFL !!!!!!!


-1 Vote -1 Vote +1Gena
January 11, 2012 at 5:10 am

I received an email from the Tea Party or something of that nature that the mandate for ethanol subsidy was not funded this time. Don’t know if that means the mandate itself will end, but at least a start perhaps in that direction.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1latiff
November 19, 2010 at 8:10 am

great stuff man keep it up poeple need learn this

it real also talk about water safety also firearms

thank you


Vote -1 Vote +1Iris Bryan
November 19, 2010 at 8:20 am

I, like Ben Martino, reside in a facility that has all electric appliances and baseboard heat. It also is HUD affiliated and there are many things one cannot do. Unlike Ben, my living quarters are two rooms plus bath and small kitchen. As for refrigeration, well there is always the ice cooler, that is if one can find ice. If it is winter and cold enough an ice cooler outside might be helpful. I suspect that if thre is such an emergency, there might be larger locations where people can be located where larger generators are being used. I will have to check with our county hazard mitigation group.


Vote -1 Vote +1Calvin
November 19, 2010 at 8:33 am


A great article. Very useful info; great links; makes you think; practical and useful. Thank you. More articles like this!!!


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1KEN B.
November 19, 2010 at 9:14 am



Vote -1 Vote +1Ethel Divinia
November 19, 2010 at 9:23 am

I have purchased quite a few things from Solutions from Science. I do have the smallest unit and have used it several times during power outages. I am very pleased with the company.


Vote -1 Vote +1Damon
November 20, 2010 at 3:22 pm


What exactly did you buy and how are you using it successfully? Thanks!


Vote -1 Vote +1Al
November 19, 2010 at 9:55 am

If i remember right, when I bought my generator a few years ago the manual said the db level was measured at 50 feet. I don’t know if that is “industry standard” or not.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Eric Drayner
November 19, 2010 at 10:31 am

Here’s what I’m doing: I bought a power transfer switch for about $300 that will allow me to power as many as 6 circuits in my house at one time, depending on the size of the generator. You can wire it into your power panel and put the switch box wherever you want it. I mounted mine on the side of the house in the back yard. Get an electrican to do it!
I have a 4-stroke powered 4 KW gen, and it easily runs my freezer and a few other things if I need it to. The generator is kind of loud, but I bought a sportbike motorcycle muffler from some fool who was putting a LOUD pipe on his new Honda and adapted it to the gen. It works great. I put some temporary baffles up around the gen when it’s running, and the thing is a LOT quieter…just about as quiet as a much more costly Honda or Yamaha gen.
I have a small RV trailer with 2 large 6v golf cart batteries in series and I use an inexpensive 15 watt solar panel mounted on the roof of the trailer to keep them charged up. A 500 watt inverter inside provides “clean” AC power.


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 10:46 am

Way to go, Eric. The power transfer switch IS a much more elegant solution, although slightly more visible.

Also, the baffles are what I was alluding to when I said to run generators so that they’re surrounded by “stuff” rather than out in the open. What are you using for baffles?


+1 Vote -1 Vote +1Eric Drayner
November 19, 2010 at 12:04 pm

4 pieces of sheetrock wallboard with pieces of fiberglass batting (attic insulation) spray-glued stuck onto the inner side. Some shelf brackets screwed to the bottom edge of the panels lets them stand up just like office partitions. I stack them up in the tool shed when they are not in use. I can’t hear the thing running from the front of the house, and just barely from inside.

BTW, the visibility issue of the transfer switch is an easy one, because you can put the transfer switch panel anywhere you want it. Mine is on the back exterior wall of the house. The backyard has a 6′ board fenceand a beautiful german shepherd dog who takes pulling guard duty pretty seriously.


Vote -1 Vote +1phil
November 19, 2010 at 10:39 am

An equipment sales and rental owner told me that regular unleaded gas is only “fresh” for approx. 2 months. He puts premium in all generators, snowblowers etc. that he sells because it stays fresh for approx. 5 months without treating with Stabil or similar product.


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 10:48 am

I still suggest using fuel stabilizer. With stabil, if you read the label, it says that you can get 2 years of storage if you double the amount. We don’t have a cool place to store gas, so we use 2x the amount and rotate every year.


Vote -1 Vote +1Nathan
November 19, 2010 at 10:55 am

I too have seen the “Solar Generators” from Solutions From Science. To me, it looks like a 1800w UPS with a clunky solar panel on wheels. ~$1800 seems awfully expensive for a UPS power supply w/ a solar panel. I like the idea, but just doesn’t seem to be cost effective for the small amount of juice it puts out.

I’m trying to figure out what the best option is for my house to keep things powered up, but not draw too much attention. I live in the suburbs, and in a non-tract house neighborhood. I agree with David that big solar panels on the roof and (I believe) [wind powered generators] will be a target for those looking to prey on us preppers. I think each persons location and security along with the ability to hide or muffle sounds will help to determine the best combination of solar/wind/generator/battery pack set-up to get for your home.

Nice job David. Helps to have more ideas to consider. Where is a good place to look for the batteries you mentioned? Local C-list classifieds, or should we buy new? Thanks!


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 11:29 am

I tried to allude to the Solutions From Science solar generators in the article without mentioning them directly. I don’t know Bill (the owner) directly, but I DO like what I know about him and I really appreciate what he’s done to help educate people about preparedness and get them prepared. I’ve even advertised with them before, but they decided that I’m a direct competitor and will no longer let me advertise with them, although I would welcome the opportunity to do so again.

As to their BBB rating…anytime you get as many customers as SFS gets, you’re going to get complaints. Most businesses don’t feel like it’s worth it to placate the BBB and feel like they extort money from businesses and let complaints stand and simply contact the customer directly to get things resolved. Some of their physical products are more expensive than if you buy them from other vendors, but I can’t fault them for having the skill to sell products at a profit…after all, that profit gets put back into marketing which allows them to help even more people get prepared.

A year and a half ago, when I first started offering the SurviveInPlace.com course, I showed people how to make a system for a few hundred bucks like what Solutions From Science sells for $1700. The 90 watt panel costs $200-$300 (retail) and the battery pack & inverter costs $400-$500. The panel is severely undersized for actual use and simply will not provide enough charging power to run appliances.


Vote -1 Vote +1Vin
November 19, 2010 at 2:02 pm


And as a result of your offering, SFS lowered their price in a “clearance sale” down to about $1100 which is close to the cost of your kit, and that’s the price I got it at last year, so thank you for that! I consider that my stop gap solution for now and as I educate myself more on this topic, I can progress to bigger/better solutions.



Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 5:48 pm

That’s interesting on the pricing. If people are willing to pay $1700 for the kit, then it’s worth it. I don’t think that they needed to drop the price to $1100…it just means that they won’t be able to advertise as much and reach as many people.

It IS a good stop gap solution, but the big shortfall is charging, which you could take care of with multiple panels and/or a crank generator.


Vote -1 Vote +1Reddog245
November 19, 2010 at 11:49 am

I looked at the Solutions from Science solar generator and made one more powerful for less than a third of the price. I picked up the 45W solar panel kit at Harbor Freight on sale plus an additional 20% coupon, (The 20% coupons are in the Sunday papers and almost every car magazine, and work with the sale price) and totaled out at about $150. It also comes with a regulator so you don’t overcharge the battery. (Good timing can net a lower price, but not much.) I fed this into a 12V AGM battery from O’Reilly’s Auto parts store. They are the only ones in our area with a house brand AGM type battery, which are more forgiving for solar applications. The specs are a little better than the deep cycle Optimas, but the price is $50 less, and the warranty is 7 years vs. Optima’s 2. It was only $139. I then picked up a 750/1500 A inverter at Wal-Mart for $59. It hooks up and looks like it sounds. I threw it on a cart that I wasn’t using for portability, and can fully recharge in a day. Total was less than $350, and I have about 120 AH.


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 21, 2010 at 9:28 pm

Awesome job, Reddog! I DO want to confirm one thing. Is the battery that you’re using a car battery, marine battery, or deep cycle battery?


Vote -1 Vote +1Robert
November 19, 2010 at 11:53 am

Please explain how one goes about setting up a 12 volt inverter to power the blower on a gas furnace in the winter. Brilliant short term solution however the majority of us are not electricians.


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 21, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Great question, Robert. I wrote an article about this a few months back that you can read here: http://secretsofurbansurvival.com/114/using-your-furnace-during-a-power-outage/


Vote -1 Vote +1stupid
November 19, 2010 at 12:58 pm

why bother with the noise and smell and exhaust of generators at all?
you can buy a fuel cell which runs on any hydrocarbon fuel you have available including pure hydrogen, and it makes no noise at all no moving parts no exhaust. it is not any bigger than an ice chest. it only gives off heat and pure water. it looks like nothing anyone would want or be interested in but it is expensive. $6000 per kw right now. and if you can figure out how to generate hydrogen faster than it can use it, it will essentially run on water.

they now have an airplane with electric motors that never has to land. the tops of the wings are solar panels they are used to break down water by electrolysis the hydrogen and oxygen are stored in tanks. they are recombined in the fuel cell which gives off water and heat. the entire thing is an enclosed system. it never runs out of water, hydrogen or electricity. you can do the same thing for your home but that will cost you well over $100,000. but you will be off grid forever after that. the only down side is that fuel cells do wear out eventually. the actual working part of the cell changes composition eventually. sort of like a lead acid battery does.


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 20, 2010 at 8:27 am

I think you answered your question with the price tag. There are a few other shortcomings that I’ll address later.


Vote -1 Vote +1PPPall
November 19, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Great article. However one clarification a 300W inverter will NOT run a refrigerator or anything over 300W **This is not necessarily correct. See David’s reply below** – they simply shut off – check the back of your appliance for wattage and add the ones you want + some spare – 300W might run the furnace blower. You MUST get a much larger one, or better yet have two a small and a large for flexibility. We had a planned power out here and I ran my two business laptops + large monitors off my car battery & a 400W inverter with 150′ extension cord from inverter to my office, put car at the garage (not in!!), closed the hood over the inverter (carefully placed of course) and the only clue was a small cord from the car to under the closed garage door (well and I did start the car to charge up once in the 6 hour outage). I have a spare battery in case it runs down and I have to jump start the car. I ran the engine only 1/2 hour in the middle of the 6 and drove at the end to recharge. I don’t need lights in the day time. If you need more power of course a bigger inverter is needed, and you will need more engine run time. I have a diesel car (sips at idle) and diesel stores better, less volatile as a fuel – no flash explosion risks. Even with my 2400W inverter I could probably run refrigerator and other things (on/off) for several days on a tank of fuel. Next will be the solar panel/battery/inverter/on-a-cart trick, I like the portability and aiming ability for the panel. One would have to have a rack of batteries all properly wired up for charging and usage to run an appliance without the charging capacity of the car alternator doing the bulk work. Worth doing – but lots of $ for panels and batteries. Like Dave says- do something small that works rather than big dreams that never get done. Add to it later. Off the inverter I charged my shaver, my cell phones, powered a landline wireless phone, the router for wireless internet service, any number of little things that need convenient power source – you decide what you need. Get an inverter, extension cord, and power strip – everyone should have at least a small inverter. Instructions will tell how to use it. PPPall


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 19, 2010 at 5:43 pm

What I wrote was based on what acutally works for us…not on theory. Our 300 Watt inverter runs our full size refrigerator. You bring up a couple of great points:

1 There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. 300 watts works for us, but may not work for you. If you can afford it, it wont hurt to buy a 300 watt inverter, test it, and buy a bigger one if it’s not big enough. Then you’ll have a 300 watt backup.

2. Just because an appliance is advertised as using a certain amount of energy doesn’t mean the rating is correct. Sometimes manufacturers advertise appliances as using less energy than they actually do. Also, appliances tend to use more electricity as they get older and wear out. In either case, I recommend getting a kill-a-watt (link above) so that you’ll know exactly how much your appliances use during their different phases.


Vote -1 Vote +1George
November 19, 2010 at 3:55 pm

There are RV chest type, 5 cubic foot, refrigerators and freezers with 4″ of insulation all around for around $500-$600. They are dual voltage 120 VAC/12 VDC and will automatically switch to the 12VDC when the 120VAC drops. This means that you don’t have the tremendous inefficiency of the inverter and can run directly off a fused circuit from the battery. Due to the amount of insulation and the energy efficient “chest type” design, the total power draw for a day is very small.

I am in the process of designing a pedal alternator charger system for batteries using a 10 speed bike and some pulley advantages. Such a system can provide 30amp or larger charging power without pedaling like mad. I’ll check back in and update when I have it working. The alternator provides a much better battery charging system because it provides a larger amount of current and already has the regulator in it. Cost, of course is fairly cheap for an alternator. Charging voltage/current is available at a shaft speed of 750rpm. The bike should be able to provide 1,500rpm.


Vote -1 Vote +1Hermen
November 19, 2010 at 10:11 pm

ARB 12V fridges are awesome. They will run on a regular car battery for several days at a lower setting. Can also freeze at a higher setting. Haven’t tried one with solar panels yet but would be interesting. Also small and durable.


Vote -1 Vote +1Valerio H
November 19, 2010 at 5:27 pm

this is the best newsletter yet.

Exactly what I needed, and have been researching into.

You have saved me 3 more weeks of looking into info for stuff I wanted and needed to get.

Great format, with the product recommendations. Please continue to do more. Thanks.


Vote -1 Vote +1David Morris
November 21, 2010 at 9:31 pm