Yesterday evening, South Australia suffered through a massive state-wide blackout. If you were caught in it, you might have been caught unawares — without a light source, batteries, and a way of keeping your phone charged. Here are five things you can do to make sure you and your property are ready for the next blackout that happens.
Charge backup USB battery packs
An alternative charging method for your smartphone is a necessity during a blackout, because when landline phone lines are dead, some mobile cell towers will still have diesel generators providing backup power to maintain cellular call, messaging and data capability. While you can conserve your phone's battery and make it last longer overall, eventually it will run out. For that instance, you need a USB battery pack. The larger the capacity, the longer it will last. Three brands we've used and would recommend are Cygnett, Xiaomi and Tronsmart, but any sold in Australia will be certified and safe.
Get a diesel generator
If you want to prepare for an extended blackout — and you should, given this year's extended power outages both in New South Wales and South Australia — then your best bet as a homeowner is a standalone diesel generator. A diesel generator and extension cords will supply you with enough power to run crucial appliances like a fridge, freezer or electric cooktop through the middle of a grid blackout, and you'll be able to keep smaller personal devices charged and operating as well. You can buy a quality generator supplying upwards of 3000 Watts continuous power for as little as $300, or you can spend more for a higher quality, quieter, more fuel-efficient unit.
Buy an uninterruptible power supply
An uninterruptible power supply is basically a small, weighty pack of batteries that will provide you a stable 240-volt supply to your PC. While a small UPS will give your computer enough time to shut down safely and close your important documents, you'll need a larger one to supply a stable voltage for long enough to actually use your PC. Larger setups will allow you a couple of hours of usage, but will also have multiple ports that will let you charge other battery-powered systems. They're not intended for long term use, but combined with an efficient laptop, you should be able to use a UPS to extend its useable battery life significantly if needed. UPS batteries eventually go bad, though, so make sure to check and test yours regularly.
Install solar panels
If you're serious about prepping, then one of the best things you can do to insulate your house from the grid's outages and power fluctuations is to install your own residential solar setup, ideally with a battery energy storage backup. With a little extra attention paid to switching off non-essential appliances and conserving power, a full battery backup will see you through a night before a moderate solar panel setup can partially or fully replenish its energy stores. We've heard from a Natural Solar customer in South Australia with a Tesla Powerwall, which kept his house powered for 12 out of the total 14 hours of the state's power outage. Those two extra hours wouldn't have been nearly enough for any refrigerated food to go bad, so a full-home battery backup should be enough to get you through an overnight outage easily.
Keep flashlights and candles ready
All houses should have an emergency preparedness kit ready and fully stocked. Flashlights and batteries, candles, first aid supplies, a supply of fresh potable water and canned food, as well as some kind of cooking stove or heat source — these are all important things that you should keep in a place that is cool and easily accessible in the case of a blackout. If you're going to be lighting candles, make sure to ventilate the room you're in to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. A good flashlight, or even a couple if you're sharing your house with other people, is the best tool you can have if you're going through a blackout. There's nothing as comforting as a consistent source of light when the ones in your ceiling can't be switched on.