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Ever wonder why we have an energy crisis?

(Nasa Photo)
Hopefully, rolling blackouts are behind us, but this summer they could rear their ugly head again. We've seen to not trust the power companies or the politicians that seem to be in their back pockets. I realize it’s not within everyone’s budget to do an installation of a grid-intertie solar system and besides radical conservation efforts, there’s not a lot we can do to stave off the blackouts, but there are measures we can take once the lights go out.

The one emergency power source we are most familiar with is the gas-powered generator. It’s stinky, it’s noisy and it sometimes doesn’t run just when you need it most, but it does have its place. It requires hardly any maintenance (oil changes and fresh gas), is fairly inexpensive to purchase and produces 220 volts, which will run well pumps and large motors. Many people in this county live on wells and in some situations, do not have water pressure if there is no electricity to run the pump. Generators do not make a lot of sense though for the person only trying to run a few lights or a computer. In those cases a smart backup system would be a small inverter and a battery bank to supply the inverter. Household electricity is used to feed the battery charger in the inverter, topping off the batteries, which then run the inverter when the power fails. This is basically an upscale version of a UPS, or uninterruptable power supply, like computers use. One downside is the constant power draw needed to keep the batteries topped up, but that can easily be remedied by adding a single solar panel. A step up from that would be to add a few more solar panels and then run select loads from the solar on a daily basis.

If the power failed, the homeowner would either throw a large transfer switch which would shift the houses loads to generator power, or engage the inverter (some types will engage automatically), and run until grid power returns. An even simpler system would be the use of a small inverter and battery with an extension cord running off to crucial loads. The entire package can be purchased for less than a generator and runs quietly and without generating any pollution. Now is the time to start making plans for this summer and be prepared when the blackouts hit. This is not Y2K all over again; we are facing a national crisis!

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