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While we live the vast majority of our lives around a constant supply of electric power, outages are also an unavoidable part of modern life. Every now and then, a storm, overload, or regular maintenance event can knock out the power to your home or neighborhood. When this happens, it’s important to have more than one backup plan to ensure that you and your family are comfortable and safe for the duration of the power outage. The vast majority of these outages last somewhere between a few seconds to a few hours but sometimes they go on longer, especially if you live in an area with a history of very bad weather. However, even if your power was taken out by a storm, sometimes it can take days before the city gets all the necessary repairs needed to get your home live on the grid again. While you can live with zero power or head out to a hotel for the duration, you can save yourself a ton of hassle simply by having a solar charging infrastructure set up for your home. After all, once the storm has moved on, there will be plenty of energy-filled sunshine even if the power isn’t back yet.

How Much Solar Do You Want?

The great thing about modern solar power is how easy (and surprisingly inexpensive) it is to get all the parts you need for any size of home installation. From little camp chargers that will keep your phone in working order to rooftop panels and a battery bank, it’s fairly simple to set up. The real question is how much power you want to plan for and how you’ll make it convenient for use in the home.

The easiest way to DIY set up solar for your home is to skip the grid-tie. Connecting to your home’s wiring system is a complicated process that might require negotiation with your power supplier. Instead, you can build a kit that creates a live power strip that can be used in your home, taken with you if you move, or even packed up to power a long camping trip somewhere else.

What You Need for a Solar Power Station

  • Solar Panels
  • Solar Cables
  • Charge Controller
  • Inverter
  • Battery Bank
  • Surge-Protected Power Strip

What You Can Do with a Solar Power Strip

The best part about having solar power, even if it’s not enough to run your lights and dishwasher, is that you’re not left completely out of the modern world. With only one or two panels worth of juice, you can keep your phones charged for emergencies, power a computer for remote work and homework, and run an electric stove or kettle so that you don’t always have to start a fire in the backyard to consume something warm. If it’s hot, you can run a heater or a run fan if the weather is cold instead. You can recharge lantern batteries or plug in lamps, and even string more wires and extension cords through the house for room-to-room power. Essentially, a single solar setup can significantly increase the quality of your in-home camping while the power is out.

Setting Up Your Solar Power Strip

The first step to any solar setup is to mount your panels on the south-facing angle of your roof to allow them to catch the most possible sun during the day.  They will need to be secured to survive storms like the type you’re preparing for but, fortunately, most solar panels are sturdy enough that if they don’t blow away, they should be more than alright in bad weather. Look up your panel specs to decide if you need to connect them in parallel or series, then trace the lines back to your charge controller.

The Charge Controller

The Charge controller should be placed inside, somewhere convenient where wires can tendril away from it and you can easily read the little display. The purpose of the solar controller is to accept power sent by the solar panels, prevent backflow, fill up and drain the batteries safely based on their type and voltage, and send power to your inverter.

The Inverter and Power Strip

The Inverter converts the DC power from the solar panels into AC, which is what most appliances and USB ports require. The inverter needs to be connected to the charge controller and the power strip is, in sequence, connected to the inverter. With all this set up, you are ready to transform your extended power-outage time into a luxury camping adventure in your own home.

John Bishop

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