Friday, June 14, 2013

How to survive a blackout in an apartment

Living in a Studio aparment on the 19th floor and don't have a car? Has the power gone out and you're now in the dark? Easily remedied!

What we're going to do is teach you how to set up your own backup system with a small footprint. This will be small enough to fit in the bottom of your pantry or in a closet. It'll take up about 2'x4'x2' of space. No more than a plastic packing tubs worth of size. In fact, if you wanted to put it all in that tub, you could.

First thing you're going to need is batteries. Several of them. Specifically Deep Cycle batteries designed for deep discharge. The ones I recommend for inside of residences is going to be a sealed battery. One that won't give off toxic or explosive gasses.
There are batteries out there that are massive and would be better suited for a system like this. But they weigh in at between 120 and 300 lbs. I'd like to see you lug that up a stairwell or down a hallway. It's not happening. And those batteries are huge in size. Not conducive for small apartments What we're going to look at is using several smaller batteries of about 40-50 amp hours. These batteries are smaller, and able to be carried by nearly anyone.
The ones I recommend are these:

They are light weight (~23lbs) a piece. You will need at least 3 to give you a solid battery bank. You want to connect the battery terminals together, just like jumping a car battery. Red to red, and black to black. All the way down the string. This is called connecting the batteries in parallel. You're keeping the voltage the same, but increasing the runtime.
The inverter you want to run is this inverter: 

This inverter is designed to plug into your wall, charge those batteries and keep them healthy until which point the power goes out. Then the inverter will automatically switch to start running off of your battery bank. So if you keep things like your computer or refrigerator plugged in to it all the time, you'll never have to worry about losing power.
The inverter will connect to just one of the batteries using a set of cables. These will work just fine: 

Be careful not to put anything on top of these wires as you risk a short. So keeping them inside the aforementioned tub might eliminate that risk. You can run the extension cable through a hole you cut in the side of the tub to whatever appliance you don't want to lose power to.
This is going to essentially be a UPS (Uninterruptable Power Supply) with a much greater capacity and less money than one you can buy commercially.
When the power goes out, it will switch over in less than 10ms (that's 0.01 seconds roughly, faster than the blink of an eye). So it's perfect for servers, computers, refrigerators, lights and more. You can charge your phones and laptops off of this unit. You can even run your television, radios and possibly a small microwave from this unit.
With 3 batteries, you'll get between 4 and 8 hours of power if you're conservative. If you're running 800+ watts all the time, those batteries will last you about an hour. If you need to, buy about 10 of those batteries to last you 24-48 hours conservatively. Use CFL or LED light bulbs if you're only going to need it for lighting. This will last you for a very, very long time.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments below.

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