I just did a video on using your car batteries for an emergency power source when the power goes out.
Understanding Emergency Power Uses
But it occurred to me that a lot of people may not know exactly what kind of appliances they should operate when using their back-up power supply.
So, here is a brief tutorial of what you should and should not use.
Do Not Use a Coffee Maker!
A bit hard to see, and sideways, but my Keurig here is drawing 1391 Watts when it is heating the water. Now, it won’t use that many Watts for long, probably only for 30 seconds and after the water has been heated the draw is quite low.
Get a French Press
However, that is still a large draw for any amount of time, just so you can have one cup of warmed coffee, especially when there are so many other ways to have hot coffee, a French Press comes to mind.
Do Not Use a Hair Dryer!
That thing is consuming 1588Watts. Even if you only use it for 5 minutes you’re going to draw down your batteries very, very quickly with that kind of consumption. So don’t do it.
If you really need dry hair, right now, there is this thing called a towel. Just rub that on your head a bit and your hair will begin to dry. Might take a bit longer than with the hairdryer, but given that you’re on backup power supply, a towel is your best friend.
You CAN Use a Fridge
Now this is my basement fridge, about 22 Cubic Feet, drawing 627 watts running, which means it takes about 5.5 amps for it to operate. When the compressor comes on, which it will occasionally, there will be an even larger draw in order to run that motor.
If you’re going to plug your fridge into a battery bank, you need to make sure your inverter can handle not only the 627 watts of normal running time but the increased load when the compressor kicks on, probably another 300 watts or so.
Or you could buy something like this to use when your power goes out. It’s a dorm-room style fridge, only about 3 Cubic Feet.
The specs that Amazon has doesn’t show the amps it uses so we’re just using what the comments say. Not much there actually. One guy says it uses 1 amp, whereas another guy says it uses 1000watts. One of those two people are wrong.
A 1 amp fridge is 120 Watts. That seems more reasonable than the 1000 watt fridge, because the fridge is so small. But I don’t know for sure. I can’t imagine fridge like this takes more than 300 watts though.
1 amp times 120 volts,(Which is what you use in the US when you’re plugging into a wall outlet) means this fridge requires 120Watts to run. That is ABSOLUTELY acceptable to run on a back-up power battery bank.
Is my big fridge acceptable to run, given that it requires 5.5 amps or so??? Well, yes and no. I’d definitely not want to open the door very often in order to keep the cold inside. I’d also want to put heavy blankets around the outside of the fridge in order to get max insulation too.
Probably run it a couple hours a day, at most too. But certainly not 24 hours at a time. Now if you have a gas-powered generator, you might be inclined to run your fridge more. But don’t do that.
You Need the Proper Inverter For The Load
If you have a 1500 Watt generator, for instance, and you’re only running a 650Watt fridge, what happens is you’re wasting a LOT of electricity, in this case 850Watts or so aren’t being used. Unfortunately, the generator doesn’t know that. It’s plugging along putting out 1500Watts regardless of the load…for the most part.
You Need Batteries Too!
9volts, D, C, AA, AAA 18650 are all good, don’t get me wrong. You should have those in an emergency stash. But I’m not talking about those here. I’m talking the deep cycle, Marine-type batteries shown below. These are the 12 Volt batteries that will power your appliances when the power goes out.
Now the link is to Amazon here. Not sure it’d be worth it to buy a heavy battery like this through Amazon. Just go to your local Walmart, Costco etc. and they’ll get you hooked up. Remember, you ALWAYS have your car battery to use too, even if it is still under the hood.
Don’t Forget Jumper Cables
These are 4 GAUGE 500 AMP cables. That simply means they can take a large, large current and the cables will be just fine. The LOWER the gauge, the thicker the cable, the more current it can move and the more expensive too.
You simply take one end of the cables and hook it to the battery, red to red, black to black. Red is positive, just FYI.
Then take the other end and hook it to the terminals on the inverter, again red to red.
Now you can turn your inverter on and plug in your appliances, ideally using a lower gauge extension cord too. Like this:
What you want to do then, is in the day time, when it’s noisy outside, use your generator to charge up your batteries that way at night your batteries will be fully charged and can turn some lights on, charge up your computer AND run your fridge on occasion to keep it cool.
Inverter Generators – Not Mandatory
But for this concoction, your powered-up batteries ARE your generator. You don’t need one! I highly recommend you get one, don’t get me wrong. But to run your fridge and other lower-load appliances for a short period of time, i.e., a couple days, your batteries will be just fine.
The total cost for all this is well under $300. The battery and the inverter are roughly $100 each. You already have the fridge too. So, do yourself a favor and spend the $300 to have some level of preparedness the next time the lights go out.
Definitely get a copy of Jeff Yago’s book. Can’t recommend it enough.