I put up a post a few days ago about my desire to have at least some ability to power my house through solar energy. My initial discussion with a vendor in my area was somewhat frustrating as they are trained to sell systems designed to lower utility bills, but that don’t include battery backup that would allow me to function if the grid is down. I’ve been doing some research into alternate vendors and am also exploring the option of putting my own system together. I like the latter idea, as it would hopefully give me intimate knowledge of the system and the ability to repair it myself should I need to in the future. More on this later…
Realizing that my ultimate goal may take quite a bit of time to achieve, I’ve gone ahead and taken the first baby steps into the world of solar power so that I have at least some small amount of self-sufficiency should the grid go down. I picked up a small solar charger that works great on cell phones, iPods, iPads, and the like. The Opteka BP-SC4000 is an ultra thin solar powered high capacity (4000mAh) backup battery and charger that works on just about any small electronic device you can think of. Because the product contains a battery it doesn’t need to be in the sun while recharging a device. You can leave the Opteka out in the sun, where it will fully charge it’s internal battery, and use it any time in the future when you need to. The charger comes with ten different connectors that fit everything from the newest devices from Apple to my old Motorola phone from six years ago. It’s really a great little product that charges up quickly in the sun and recharges my iPhone super fast. So far I’m very happy with it.
UPDATE: Since updating the software on my iPhone 4 in June of 2012 to the latest operating system my Opteka no longer works with my phone. I get a message saying “charging is not supported with this device”. Not sure why Apple would do that as they don’t sell their own solar charger so it’s not an issue of competition. Anyway, this device is still good for charging other small consumer electronic devices but I need a new solution for my phone, which is the most important in my opinion.
I’ve also decided to move away from the large amounts of batteries I have stored in favor of a combination of rechargeable batteries and solar rechargers. Right now I have a ton of batteries on hand. Over the last couple of years I would grab an extra pack of batteries whenever they were on sale or if I just happened to be at Home Depot and had a little extra cash on me. Well, things have really added up but it probably wasn’t the smartest way to PREP. Just in going through all of my supplies, as I described in my last post on Spring Cleaning, I saw that I have something like 25 packs of AA batteries (with 36 batteries in each pack), and a couple of cases of D cell batteries as well. With kids toys and lots of electronics around we go through them pretty quickly which I guess is even more reason to go with the rechargeable NiMH’s. My single use batteries are still valuable to fill in the gaps between charging my new ones, for times when the weather is so bad that using a solar charger is not practical, or as barter items should it come to that.
While I’ll have traditional “wall outlet” powered chargers for general use I also need to pick up a couple of nice solar chargers. It looks like a decent charger can be had for around $30 while those with larger more powerful panels that provide a faster charge can cost up to about $150. This may sound like a lot but when you consider that I have over $300 invested in standard AA batteries alone I think it’s the smart way to go.
Another option would be to wait until I have the solar system for my house configured which would eliminate the need for a separate solar system for battery charging but that’s likely to be a while. Plus, it’s always good to have backups and a portable system would be useful to have around. More on this soon, stand by.