You can’t control when natural disasters and emergencies occur. However, you can know what to do in a power outage by planning ahead. Although it’s scary when the power goes out, you can be prepared by knowing what needs backup power and having the appropriate power on hand! From food and lighting to circumstantial essentials including medical devices and space heaters, backup power provides the energy needed to sustain each of your needs.
Food & Medicine Preservation
We need food! Some people’s wellness also depends on refrigerated medication. Therefore, it is important to be prepared with an energy-efficient fridge or small chest freezer. But, how much energy do these appliances consume and what do you need to power them?
A small fridge or freezer consumes 100 Watts. Utilizing a portable power station like NUE’s PowerPac 1000 you can run a small fridge for about 15 hours. Large refrigerators consume 200 Watts and may run for an estimated 5 hours with the PowerPac 1000. Likewise, NUE’s SunKit Portable Solar Generator line is more than capable of powering these appliances. Using the 12V SunKit, a small fridge or freezer can run for about 20 hours, while a large refrigerator can run an estimated 10 hours. The 24V option powers a small fridge or freezer to run an estimated 40 hours. Meanwhile, a large refrigerator runs an estimated 20 hours. The 48V Standard SunKit runs a small fridge or freezer for 25 hours and a large fridge for 12.5 hours. The 48V Premium SunKit serves a small fridge or freezer for an estimated 38 hours and a large refrigerator for an estimated 19 hours.
With an average power outage lasting a total of 6 hours per year, you can see how a portable power unit as simple as the lithium-ion powered PowerPac 1000 can suit your needs for refrigeration. But, we all know that during a power outage, we’re not only powering one device. What are some other essentials?
We all need our phones during an emergency, but did you know they require very little energy to stay charged? What do you do in a power outage to keep your vital communication charged? In emergency situations, communication with others is especially critical. These communications can include alerts or warnings, information about response status, family members, and other matters that may impact response and recovery. Efficiently delivered emergency messages can help ensure public safety. Overall, device chargers do not consume much energy. On average, phone chargers consume about 5 Watts, tablet chargers utilize 10 Watts and laptop chargers consume 70 Watts.
You could charge your phone for 198 hours or multiple devices for a substantial amount of time using a PowerPac 1000. You can even keep your Wi-Fi-powered at the same time. The PowerPac 1000 can charge an average tablet for a startling 99 hours and laptop chargers for 14 hours. Additionally, staying connected with the internet is critical for communication. A router/WiFi consumes only 10 Watts of energy, enabling you to stay connected to the internet. Using the PowerPac 1000, your WiFi router can run for 99 hours. The 12V SunKit option increases the previously stated run time to an estimated 200 hours. Since an average phone can charge in roughly 2-3 hours (depending on model and age), that means you can stay charged, without having to worry.
The development of light has revolutionized medicine, opened up international communication, and continues to connect cultural and economic aspects of a global society. As a result, light is a must-have during emergency situations. But how much energy do you need to be kept out of the dark? The ENCOMLI Wall Sconce operates with 60 Watt LED bulbs, running an estimated time of 18 hours with the PowerPac 1000 and 36 hours with the 12V SunKit. Lampshades also commonly utilize LED bulbs. This Cylinder Lamp Shade operates off a 6 Watt LED bulb. With a PowerPac 1000, this lamp can run about 198 hours and 400 hours on the 12V SunKit.
Additionally, the average LED bulb consumes 8 Watts of energy running 124 hours on the PowerPac 1000 or 250 hours with a 12V SunKit. Portable lighting devices are handy in emergency situations and rechargeable camp lights are great options. These 2000 Lumens Camping Lights use LED bulbs and each lamp consumes the energy of 125 Watts. Therefore, this option runs slightly less than 15 hours on NUE’s PowerPac 1000 and 20 hours with a 12V SunKit.
Potential Essentials (Due to Environment)
Depending on where you live, other appliances during a power outage may be crucial. For warmer climates, fans keep us cool. A typical table fan consumes 15 Watts of energy and runs for 66 hours on NUE’s PowerPac 1000 and 133 hours for the 12 Volt SunKit. A tall pedestal fan can also be operated by the SunKit line. By consuming 55 Watts, they run 36, 73, 45 and 69 hours for the 12, 24, and 48 Volt options within the SunKit line.
For those accessing their water from a well, water pumps can even be powered by portable power stations or generators! A 35 liter per minute water pump consumes 600 Watts of energy and runs 1.4 hours on the PowerPac 1000 and 3 hours on the 12V SunKit. Even a 5,000 BTU window air conditioner can be powered from a 12V SunKit for 5 hours! In colder climates, essential tools like space heaters tend to consume a lot of energy. The typical electric heater consumes 1500 Watts. Utilizing a SunKit, these heaters run for 1, 3 and 2 hours on the 12, 24 and 48 Volt standard options.
Overall, knowing what to do in a power outage due to emergencies and natural disasters is both critical and valuable. Preparation for a variety of necessities can help save lives. From food preservation and medical elements to charging electronics, these devices need ample energy sources to operate from. You can stay properly informed on how much energy each appliance consumes and how it can stay powered. While this isn’t something that we as consumers typically pay attention to, knowing more about your devices and appliances can mean everything when the power goes out. Cell phones require little energy to stay charged and you can even be a hub for WiFi connection to help keep your community in touch. Be sure you’re ready and able to power:
Refrigeration for food and medicine preservation
Electronics charging for phones, tablets, laptops and Wi-fi routers
Medical Devices such as CPAPs or oxygen concentrators
Lighting for safety and comfort
Other essentials such as fans, heaters or water pumps
During times of uncertainty, pre-planning for enough energy to power essentials can help put you at ease with one less factor to worry about!
*Please note many of the examples given in this article show charging and run times reflecting one device at a time. When utilizing multiple devices with your portable energy units, expect shortened run times, overall. However, knowing how many watts your device consumes, as shown in this article, can help you make informed decisions about what to run and for how long.
Whether you are new to using solar energy or have been for years, you may be debating between lithium-ion vs. lead-acid batteries. These two batteries are the most common rechargeable options paired with solar installations. In recent years, lithium-ion batteries have increasingly come to replace the older option of lead-acid. Why is that the case? This is because wherever lead-acid is used, lithium-ion can be implemented and has superior performance characteristics.
5 Key Elements to Consider
A battery’s capacity is characterized as a measure of energy that can be stored within a battery. Considering various makes and models, lithium-ion batteries consistently prove to have a significantly higher energy density than lead-acid batteries. Thus, the lithium-ion option stores more energy, allowing you to utilize a greater amount. In comparison, lead-acid batteries store less energy for the same amount of physical space as lithium-ion batteries. When considering capacity, we should also analyze how long it will take a system to discharge. We recognize the fact that a shorter discharge signifies a lower capacity available within a lead-acid system. Comparing capacity and discharge rate of same-sized systems, a lithium-ion option will discharge at a much faster rate and use more of the battery’s capacity (85 percent compared to 50 percent for lead-acid). In some instances, comparing systems may require conversions between Amp-Hours (Ah) and Kilowatt-Hours (kWh).
2. Depth of discharge
Depth of discharge (DoD) is the percentage of a battery that may be safely drained of energy without causing significant damage to the battery. In the case of lithium-ion batteries, it is normal and safe to use 85% or higher of total capacity in a single cycle. However, lead-acid batteries should not be discharged past 50%. This will cause significant degradation and affect the battery’s lifetime. Ultimately, lithium-ion batteries have a greater effective capacity, meaning you can use these batteries for longer times. Likewise, Lithium-ion batteries supply a consistent amount of power throughout a discharge cycle. Comparatively, lead-acid batteries deliver a strong output of energy at the beginning of a discharge cycle and later dissipate.
Efficiency reads as the amount of stored energy within the battery that may be utilized. Lithium-ion batteries can be around 95% efficient or sometimes even greater. With such a high percentage of efficiency, lithium-ion options can ultimately charge faster and possess a greater effective battery capacity. In comparison, lead-acid options are only about 80 to 85% efficient. Additionally, lead-acid systems have longer charge times that may range anywhere from two to four hours depending on the depth of discharge. As a result, charge efficiency will become low during extreme weather conditions, resulting in reduced battery life. By comparison, lithium-ion batteries may charge in one to two hours and can absorb energy at higher rates.
Pricing for lithium-ion vs. lead-acid batteries generally depends on a system’s size. However, it can be said that lead-acid batteries are often cheaper compared to lithium-ion. Lead-acid batteries range in price from hundreds to thousands. Comparatively, industrial size units of lithium-ion batteries currently cost anywhere from $700 to $2,500. Initially, the lead-acid option may seem more logical due to price. Lithium-ion batteries have an upfront investment but excel in the areas we’ve already mentioned. Because lithium-ion batteries sustain more cycles in their lifetime, each cycle would cost less than that of lead-acid batteries. Overall, a lithium-ion battery would cost less in the long run compared to lead-acid.
Similar to any manufactured product, batteries degrade and become less effective with age. Although lifespan may vary by make and model, lithium-ion batteries generally last much longer than lead-acid batteries. Many lithium-ion batteries will last over 5000 cycles, whereas lead-acid will support 1/10 the cycles (500 at the most). Even in more extreme climates with high temperatures, lithium-ion options continue to outperform lead-acid options. Overall, lead-acid batteries are much more sensitive to increasing temperature and other fluctuations in the environment.
Lithium-ion vs. Lead-acid: What Suits You Best?
When considering which battery option best suits you, there are two factors to consider: climate and usage frequency.
In warmer climates, lithium-ion batteries are better suited. They can operate at higher temperatures (131°F/55°C for example) at twice the lifecycle of a lead-acid battery at room temperature. Furthermore, lead-acid batteries begin to significantly degrade at around 77°F/25°C and higher. So, they become more difficult to manage in warmer settings.
In cold weather operations, both types of batteries are likely to lose. However, lithium-ion applications lose significantly less capacity when temperatures drop to the -4°F/-20°C range than lead-acid batteries. Additionally, lithium-ion should not be charged below 0°C as this is likely to damage the battery.
In instances where you use energy more frequently, such as powering daily appliances and industrial sites with heavy energy usage, lithium-ion batteries are a better option. Furthermore, lithium-ion’s lighter weight (55% lighter than lead-acid) makes them more suitable for mobile installation situations. Off-grid solar systems are another operation that pairs greatly with lithium-ion batteries. They can provide an independent power supply for various applications such as backup power, appliances, cooling/heating or computer use.
On the other hand, lead-acid batteries would prove to be a better option for lower temperature situations. For these instances, lithium-ion batteries are unable to charge in temperatures below 32°F/0°C. Lithium-ion batteries rely on ionic chemical reactions to create energy where lower temperatures would prevent these reactions from occurring.
Although both battery options are not completely free of environmental impacts, lithium-ion batteries prove to be better vs. lead-acid. Despite lithium mining being a resource-extensive practice, this element is only a small portion of the battery cell by mass. By comparison, aluminum and cobalt environmental impacts can be more significant than that of lithium. Granting that recycling continues to be in the early stages of preparation, nickel, cobalt, and copper have shown a high ability of recovery and recyclability. Lead mining uses a greater amount of raw materials to achieve energy storage. As a result, this process generates a much larger impact on the environment during mining processes. These impacts include the disposal of large quantities of cadmium and lead into the environment and the production of gaseous emissions. The energy-intensive industry of lead mining causes large amounts of pollution.
Let’s face it, power outages are inconvenient. But for many people, losing power is more than a simple inconvenience. For millions of people, having power means sustaining life. Now more than ever people are dependent on power for life-sustaining medical devices, communications and more. What do they do when the power goes out? How can we be part of the solution?
NPR recently published an article about this dilemma of growing power outages. In it, they bring this reality to a personal level to help us understand just how real this issue has become. They also point out that trying to resolve the situation using traditional diesel generators is not an optimal solution because:
Just like our homes, our power grid needs maintenance and upgrades on a regular basis. By not prioritizing that maintenance, we are now suffering the consequences. Our neglected power grid has become unreliable in a time that threats to it are increasing. We experience extreme weather more frequently and our populations continue to grow and tax the limitations of the system. Plus, the money we need to repair the grid has been mislabeled as “spending” instead of “investing”. As homeowners, we fix and upgrade the roof on our house as an investment so it performs consistently, not because we are on a spending spree. Mislabeling such vital infrastructure work makes it seem frivolous and optional.
How do we take control?
Short of getting involved with state, local and federal legislation, how do we take more control over our access to power consistency? We have some options.
We can put solar panel systems on our homes with a backup battery system. That’s a great option, but the reality is that these battery backup systems are expensive. They are not available for a huge segment of the population who may need power security the most. Because of the cost, many homeowners don’t opt for battery backup. They are also quite unaware that the system won’t serve them when the power goes out. In addition to being cost-prohibitive, you also can’t take it with you. What if you need to be somewhere other than your home during an outage or emergency? What if you move? These are all important considerations that we often don’t think about until we are faced with them directly. Can we opt for a more accessible option that meets our critical needs?
Defining Critical Needs
First, let’s identify some of our critical needs. Having a backup option that can power your medical equipment, your cell phones or laptops, refrigeration for medications and food and an Instapot could truly be life-saving. If this option was portable, you could take it with you wherever you needed it. And if you could charge this backup power system from either a solar energy source or an outlet in your home, that would start to add real security and peace of mind. A system this flexible would mean we could be fully prepared. But it would have to be financially accessible. Imagine if every person impacted by disaster, every apartment complex, or every assisted living facility had access to a solution like this. Ideally, it wouldn’t break the budget and could be shared to provide continuity of vital energy needs.
In an outage, many of the 911 calls are related precisely to this situation. What if a portable solution could be delivered by volunteers or community organizations working through emergency services? Then, our highly trained Emergency Responders could turn their attention to bigger life-saving emergencies. Imagine what that would look like from a response, financial and resource perspective. Imagine the medical emergencies that could be avoided. It would be a game-changer.
Portable Solar Energy Solutions
New Use Energy has created just such a solution. Our work with non-profits like Footprint Project began with an understanding of the realities people in disasters and emergencies experience. We focused on developing a series of products that specifically address the foundational needs people and organizations have for off-grid power. By focusing on the necessities, we keep our products portable, reliable and affordable so more people can access them. In times like these, we can’t all wait for big, broad, expensive energy solutions; we need an immediate, affordable, portable, flexible solution that can be implemented now. This is it.
If you are wiring your own solar panels, there are two methods you can use: wiring in series and wiring in parallel. Lee Feliciano from New Use Energy (NUE) helps us understand why one method is used over the other.
Wiring Solar Panels in Series
Every solar panel has both a positive and a negative lead. When you are wiring in a series, you are connecting the negative lead on one panel to the positive lead on the other panel, end to end. It’s as if you’re connecting them in a row, like a string of holiday lights. This creates what is called a “series string”. You are left with the positive lead coming out of one panel and the negative lead coming out of the other panel. In the case of wiring 2, 18-volt panels together, you end up multiplying the voltage of the one solar panel by two. Ultimately, you have created a 36-volt solar panel series with two solar panels attached to each other.
Wiring Solar Panels in Parallel
In order to wire your solar panels in parallel, you will need to use a combiner cable. When wiring in parallel, take both positive cables from your 2 solar panels and attach them to the Y Branch Parallel Adapter. Then, take both negative cables and attach those to the adapter. What you should have is one negative and one positive cable coming from your two solar panels. You can think of it as creating two “parallel” lines into the parallel adapter to help differentiate this method from wiring in a series.
Why Would You Wire in Series vs. Parallel?
Now that you’ve learned the two methods of wiring solar panels you’re well on your way to powering and charging with solar! What are some reasons you would use one method over the other?
You would wire your solar panels in parallel if the voltage was at the correct voltage but you wanted to have redundancy or to speed up the charging process. For example, if you are using a 12-volt SunKit, that means it is installed with a 12-volt battery. In order to charge that battery, one 18-volt panel would be sufficient because 12 is less than 18. But if you wanted to double the charging speed you might want to add a second 18-volt panel to have it charger faster. Adding the second panel would allow your battery to charge twice as fast. In this case, you would want to wire your panels in parallel.
In the case of wiring panels in series what you’re trying to do is to wire them so you’re hitting a certain voltage window or output. This would be useful for something like charging a battery that needs to receive a certain amount of energy in order to charge. For example, our 24-volt SunKit includes a 24-volt battery. One 18-volt solar panel would not be sufficient to charge the 24-volt battery. In this case, you would use the parallel method to boost the voltage that your battery is receiving. Two 18-volt solar panels wired together in parallel will generate 36 volts, which is sufficient to charge the 24-volt SunKit.
Part of NUE’s mission is to make solar affordable and accessible for all. We hope this overview on wiring in series and parallel have helped you learn a little bit more about solar. Please share and spread the word about clean energy!
New Use Energy Solutions Inc. (NUE-S), specializing in the global distribution of lithium batteries and portable power stations, and Footprint GBC. (DBA Rent.Solar), makers of solar trailers, solar shelters and solar generators, are excited to announce they have completed a definitive merger agreement.
Washington DC-based NUE-S was founded in 2019 to create global sales and distribution channels for innovative energy storage solutions. Through innovation in technology, finance, and supply chain, NUE aims to democratize solar and deliver clean energy at affordable price points while also reducing carbon emissions and E-Waste.
Minnesota based Rent.Solar was founded in 2019 to mobilize solar energy by developing towable solar energy systems and portable solar energy shelters. They created a fleet of trailers and shelters that brought clean energy to festivals, concerts, and events across the United States. Together with their non-profit partner, Footprint Project, they provided power to over 15,000 people across North America in response to natural disasters and power outages.
Paul Shmotolokha, CEO of New Use Energy states “NUE emerges from this transaction with a dynamic and savvy management team, great product designs and a game-changing approach to portable power. While everyone in the solar industry makes a difference, users of our products actually feel the difference in their daily lives. They feel secure and empowered. Portable generators and lead-acid batteries are multi-billion dollar industries. New Use Energy is focused on replacing these dirty, dangerous, loud, fuel-guzzling generators with clean, quiet, solar electric generators using lithium battery technology to do what old-style, heavy and bulky energy lead-acid batteries cannot.”
Operating under the new brand, New Use Energy or NUE, the company is developing field serviceable, resilient and energy rich portable solar generators with high power solar inputs, industrial strength inverters and expandable lithium battery banks to best offer affordable clean energy for anyone, anywhere. These solutions directly address fast growing needs for access to electricity when grids go down, which, due to climate change, is happening more often.
“Disaster relief is in our DNA. Working with our strategic partner, Footprint Project, we’ve developed products that are unique in the market, based on our experience under these challenging conditions,” says Lee Feliciano, COO of New Use Energy.