We’re now in mid-August so now is a good time to think for and prepare for Winter, and also what is good for winter is also good all-year round where you can be prepared for the worst possible situation. In this post I mention the Anker products you might want to think about getting to help with the worst case situations.
More unique to winter is that it gets dark more often so if there is a power outage your house lights will not work so you need backup lighting.
The LC40 is a good torch for keeping many of them spread around your home and in your car, as it is the lowest cost way to have a lot of torches. This has a fixed beam and you must buy either some AAA batteries or a 18650 battery and a 18650 battery charger. As this does not include an in-built USB recharge capability, it is good to consider buying a large number of LC40 and place them everywhere, like hook one on the headboard of every bed and hang one on the wall near lightswitches in every room so the hand can be find one quickly. Example charger.
The LC90 is probably the best all-rounder general-purpose torch. It has a focus beam feature and can be recharged from USB directly. As this can be more easily recharged then it would be good for a general-purpose torch which you used often as then its more frequent recharging is easier.
The LC130 is the beast of a torch. It is much bigger brighter and is where you need a more serious amount of light. These are good to just place on their flat end pointing to the ceiling to illuminate a whole room. Like the LC90 it is USB rechargeable. It is higher cost so consider owning just one for the most illuminating needs.
Between the “LC40 everywhere”, the LC90 as your primary go-to, and the LC130 for the the bigger problems, then you can never be left in the dark.
These compare the torches
Stick on lights
If the power goes out and you’re moving around, say you don’t have a torch you can grab, then these are really good value solutions, stick them in the places you’d be moving around in the dark, they sense you and turn on a nightlight. These won’t stay on, but its a good bridging solution til you can walk illuminated to, say, where you keep your torch.
Portable chargers, also known as USB batteries, are probably what you know Anker is most commonly used, under the Powercore name. There is a bewildering wide choice, here I focus on the key ones to think about for a power outage type situation.
In general, the bigger the battery, the lower the cost per unit of energy. Also in general, not going for QuickCharge will lower the cost. These are my current recommendations for the situation of handling a long power outage.
The Powercore 10000 (soon to be replaced) is an elegant minimalist design of 10Ah of power, which is about 2-3 full phone recharges, it is small enough to keep with you in a bag nearly all the time, so you never need to be without power. It is not hand-bag type small or trouser pocket type small, for that consider others. If you are patient it often sells for around the $20 level. Consider buying many of these as they represent one of the best value options to gets more of stored power. You can then, like the LC40, spread them around in many places so you are not ever without power.
For reasons which may sound complicated, the next version up I recommend is the Powercore 26800. This has 3 ports output and is dual 2A input, which means it will recharge faster, and it is good value. The issue with recharging is really around very long power outages, say ones which last weeks and you need to then consider recharging them. When I get to Solar it will then make sense why I recommend the Powercore 10000 and the Powercore 26800.
Winter? Sun? You’re kidding me?
You’d be surprised. True, there is less sun in winter but modern solar panels can make useful output in less than ideal situations. Get the biggest solar panel you can afford, because then it can extract meaningful useful energy even in less than ideal conditions. If there is snow - use it - the reflected ultraviolet is more energetic light which solar loves, if its snowy and sunny then place it outside on the snow and the reflected UV will help recharge faster.
The 21W Anker solar panel has current best solar cell technology in a small form factor you can easily spread out facing the sun and can get 5W-11W type output which equates to a phone recharging in a couple of hours.
If you plugged in the Powercore 10000 or the Powercore 26800 in the daytime to one of these solar panels then you can potentially get enough energy input to survive indefinitely without utility power. Or at worst, it slows the gradual draining down of your Powercores. In daylight you recharge and then at night you use that stored energy. Example would be to recharge your LC90 or LC130 during the daylight and use those torches at night.
If the sun becomes very strong, the solar panel can output more than the 2A maximum of a USB port so using two Powercore 10000 (one each to each of the 2 USB outputs of the panel) or one Powercore 26800 with dual inputs, will take both outputs of the solar panel as inputs to the Powercore, so you will never be wasting solar energy.
If it is very cold, there is an increasing chance your car will not start. Consider a car starter, one to be used with your winter-worthy vehicle (usually a high axle big wheel knobbly tyre off-roader type)
You would normally keep these inside the vehicle (duh, so you can use it when it is most required) and it complements the lower cost more domestic / backpack Powercore alternatives.
Alternative energy and transport
If the power is out in winter, then items like your refrigerator will stop working, your freezer will stop work, but also probably your heating may stop working. So would tend to eat your refrigerator food first before it warms and goes off, then your frozen food before it defrosts, followed by dried and tinned food. Collectively you should aim for 1-2 weeks of food in your home between the fridge, freezer, tinned, dried.
Also if it is winter your stored water if indoors risks becoming frozen so consider placing it indoors south facing near a window in the sun to keep warm / defrost. Work on 2L per person per day for a person at rest to cover natural water loss.
If you are boiling the water, it will take less fuel if the water is warm already, consider placing the water you about to cook with in the sun before you use it, to warm it. Do not leave water always in the sun, as it will be warm all the time and risks bacteria growing, so the water-in-sun recommendation is just before using the water. More water is required if active exertion.
Keep a supply of dried wood and a stove which burns wood. Consider a gas storage system. Wood+gas can keep you warm and to cook food and is a good comforting feeling in a long dark night.
It might sound insane, but winter and bicycles make a good combination. The act of cycling makes you warm, so long as you cover exposed skin, wear gloves and insulated shoes, you can be so warm as to become sweaty on a bike even in temperatures most vehicles would struggle to operate, and if its well below freezing, ice is not slippy. A bike with a generator hub will make light and USB energy as a by-product. You can then reserve the gas inside your vehicle for where it makes most sense which is usually for longer journeys and when moving a lot of people / goods.
This is probably the hardest topic. Adults probably can stare out of a window for a few hours and be content. Children will probably find their own entertainment in the snow, but there will be times, such as at night, when you have hours of dark and its not safe to venture outdoors. For this, technology can give a solution. Give consideration to downloading off-line media, like from Netflix, BBC, Amazon Prime, etc. Then watch this media in the long dark evening.
To allow for unplanned situations, consider making downloading media then viewing downloaded media, rather than streaming, your usual approach, then storing many GBs locally, so you are always prepared. This can often lower your costs as then you less often need to stream over cellular networks.
To make this work, it makes sense to consider migrating your entertainment systems into lower power and USB recharged mode.
Consider a tablet computer which is recharged via USB, then you can recharge them with any of the options above. I do not want to get into “what is the best tablet” debate here, but consider smaller tablets in the 7"-10" size like you can get from Google, Dell, Asus, Apple, etc.
Then consider devices with either a lot of internal storage, or supports SD cards, a high-quality video is in the 1GB/hour region, so say a phone with a SD slot with a 64GB SD card will give days of distraction.
Right so you now know what to consider as the summer ends. You have no excuse!
If you have your own recommendations, I will edit this top post to incorporate your ideas so then those coming later have our collective best advice.