Powering You Gear When SHTF / NSFH

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rfrazier

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
489
143
Hi all,

In this thread:


we've been discussing how to get and keep mechanical clocks running potentially for a SHTF scenario. In case you're not familiar with the acronym it's Sh** Hits The Fan, IE everything is going South. Why would people throw sh** at a fan? Don't know, but the leaders of the world are doing that. I also made up a new acronym, NSFH - Not Safe For Humans. The topic came up of keeping gear (including electronic clocks) working. I decided to start this thread to talk about powering small things in general in this scenario and leave the other thread about clocks.

I've been thinking about small scale power for things like phones, tablets, lights, and other things which you might plug into a USB charger or wall charger including clocks and emergency radios, etc. USB battery banks are cool, really cool, but they might be damaged by EMP. EMP means Electromagnetic Pulse from a nuclear weapon. Even if they're not damaged, they might self discharge if they're left lying around. If you have rechargeable things in your go bag / ready bag, make sure you top off the charge every couple of months. You DO have a go bag / ready bag, right? I'm not specifically focusing this thread on what's in the go bag / ready bag, but I'm focusing on how to power that stuff. I will say that there are some really cool rechargeable LED lights at Harbor Freight and other places on Amazon or Ebay. There are also some cool rechargeable lanterns. Lighting is one very important thing to have. In most cases for links I provide below, I have not personally tested the items.

Because of the self discharge problem with all rechargeable batteries, I'm considering making my own power bank based on alkaline batteries, which can sit around for 10 years. The long term shelf life is their big benefit. Their big detriment, of course, is that they can only be used once. I know it's possible to do what I'm describing. Figuring out how much money it's worth spending on it is another question.

Energizer D Batteries, D Cell Battery Premium Alkaline, 8 Count
(8 D batteries in series is 12V. Each has about 5,000 - 10,000 mAH of energy depending on how you count. The amount of energy in a series pack would still be 5,000 - 10,000 mAH.)

4-Slot D Size Battery Holder Contain Two Wires Pkcell (4pc)
(Not designed for high current.)

12V to 5V DC USB Buck Converter, DROK Dual USB Port Fast Charger

SIM&NAT Male DC 2.1mm x 5.5mm Wire Power Pigtails Adapter Barrel Plug Socket Cables

If you want some of the best NiMH AAA, AA, which run at 1.2V, and 9V rechargeable batteries you can find them at:

Satellite phone store has some cool solar stuff:

And power banks:

And faraday bags for EMP protection:
(unfortunately not cheap)

Jackery solar generators (power banks) are cool:

And, as I said earlier, USB battery banks are really cool. There are thousands on the market. Many good brands. Many mediocre ones. Anker generally has really good stuff. Satellite phone store has good stuff and has some of this type of product.



Here's a neat small solar powered USB battery bank that I have and like, although I haven't tested the solar part very much. I also cannot speak to longevity or shelf life.

Solar Charger 25000mAh, Hiluckey Outdoor Portable Power Bank with 4 Solar Panels

Finally, lithium NON rechargeable (primary) batteries claim to have 20 year shelf life. One blogger recommends rechargeable's for your gear with lithium primary batteries for backup. Devices that can take rechargeable's or AA's are nice. Lithium primary's are available in AA format and some others. There are huge numbers of counterfeit batteries in the marketplace which look very real, don't work well, and can be dangerous. I wouldn't buy batteries except from major brick and mortar stores, Amazon directly (as shipper and seller), reputable battery specific online companies, and reputable photo and gear companies like B&H Photo or Adorama (and NOT from resellers that piggyback on their website). I haven't tried lithium primary batteries. YouTube videos say they have about a .2V higher voltage than alkaline's and cannot work in some products. You can use dummy batteries to turn a 4 cell product into a 3 cell product or a 6 cell product into a 4-5 cell product to lower the voltage. I mentioned alkaline's for my power bank idea because they're a known and tested item with long shelf life. Lithium D batteries, if available, would be VERY expensive and 8 of them would have a 13.6V output rather than 12V. This might work for a buck converter and it might not. But primary lithium batteries can be useful for some things.

Energizer Ultimate L91-BP-8 AA 3000mAh 1.5V High Energy 5A Lithium (LiFeS2) Button Top Batteries - 8 Pack Retail Card

NOTE: Dummy batteries are simply a shell with a straight connection between positive and negative. They do not provide power. They must NEVER be put in a charger. They only serve to be a place holder for a real battery. In the example of lithium primary batteries, every dummy battery you put in a gadget will reduce the total voltage by about 1.7V since battery slots are almost always wired in series. I saw a YouTube video where a label maker which took 6 alkaline batteries would not run on 6 lithium batteries but would run on 5.


Hope this information is helpful. Now, back to trying to figure out what to put in my Amazon shopping cart. :rolleyes:

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 
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SeanBZA

Well-known member
Oct 1, 2020
75
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Well, living in South Africa, where reliable power is something other countries have, I did, many years ago put up a small 30W solar panel, and charge controller with a 12V lead acid battery. This powers some lights, radios and my clock, though the wall clocks do run off AA cells. I did convert one to run off 12V, using a little bit of electronics to give around 1V4 to the clock, a voltage i found gave best time, though that was more because it was one of those continuous sweep clocks, which tick at 8Hz, and thus a battery that normally lasts a year in use in others will only barely make 40 days in it. Power supply put in, adjusted over around 2 weeks to get the time keeping within a few seconds a day, and after around a year the clock mechanism wore out, and broke a pivot. So, tossed the clock away, and decided I am done with those crappy mechs.

But the 12V supply does work well for emergencies, and I am busy making a smaller version for portable use, as camping light. 12V LED strip light is easy to get, and reasonably long lived, and simple to use. I did convert a few desk lamps to use 12V LED star PCB 3W units, with a small heatsink in the lamp area, and the ballast down in the fixture, and this works well, providing light for most use cases, plus also powering my desk lighting.
 
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JimWilliamson

Well-known member
Nov 15, 2020
52
21
For a major disruption of society, power would be in the list of desires - but it'd be behind water, food, shelter (secure shelter preferred).

For electronics, the sun would be my primary source of power as stored energy (gasoline / battery) might be considered finite resources (depending upon how disfunctional society is). Curiously, as I tend residential / small biz tech support and live next to the mountains at Fort Collins Colo, I've been looking to have a "forest office" where I can tend cell phone calls and have my laptop be connected to the Internet - in places WELL out of cell tower range. With WiFi calling and the Starlink satellite kit I can do just that - all I need is power. Instead of going the $$$$ Jackery route, I went the home-grown route.

Measuring watts on the Starlink router (120vAC to it powers the router/gateway as well as the antenna) it hovers in the 25 to 50 watts range. Laptop, when not needing to charge the battery is in the 25 watts range - up around 50 when charging the battery. I went with two, rigid, 100 watt solar panels. For the little I've used the kit, solar's output is lacking to what I thought I'd get.

Anyway, for the home grown battery box, here are some photos if you wished some ideas / build your own.
www.JimWilliamson.net/misc/2022-08--camp-power-with-solar-panel-charging/

Jim's first forest office (this might be my summertime hide-out if society tanks)...
www.JimWilliamson.net/automobile/2022-08-18--forest-office/

For me, I'd use solar to charge the 12V deep cycle. The deep cycle would charge (or run, up to 300 watt load) small battery devices via the USB power on the inverter or larger battery devices via the 120vAC outlet of the inverter. What solar power comes in would be the limiting factor to what I could run.

For EMP protection - the battery (maybe not needed to protect??) and related electronics would need to be stored in a protected fashion.
 
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PHolder

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Sep 16, 2020
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Ontario, Canada
I hope no one comes here to participate that is on the more extreme end of what are derisively referred to "p r e p p e r s". (I put spaces in to avoid having that particular phrase indexed against this site.) It's all well and good to follow the Boy Scout motto of "always be prepared" but it's probably not "okay" to start digging a bunker in a mountain. I guess different folks consider different levels of preparedness "normal".

That proviso out of the way, I think the thing one should be most worried about is a short term situation, such as a natural disaster. There are websites by your respective governments you could consult. Some examples: https://www.ready.gov/ and https://www.getprepared.gc.ca/index-en.aspx .

Beyond that level, the next thing I think could one day be a real issue would be a cascade satellite disaster. This feels one stop short of some sort of EMP event or massive solar flare disaster. Unclear what would technologically happen in a world without GPS and satellite communication. It would certainly hinder global transportation logistics and the thinking is North America only has 3 days of food "in the system." I no longer have any paper maps, so I would be very challenged to travel any distance "to safety" without a GPS, especially if something happened that blocked the "main highways" and I needed back roads.
 
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rfrazier

Well-known member
Sep 30, 2020
489
143
Hi all. Even though I started this thread, I want to acknowledge that this subject could evoke strong emotions and could turn divisive. The mods here don't like too much controversy, which is fine. So, I'll stay pretty focused on technology. I will simply observe that, in any large group, you have a spectrum of people all the way on one side of any issue to all the way on the other side, to everything in the middle. Hopefully, the tech will be useful to those who are enticed to use it. I do think we should think twice when we say to ourselves, I'm self censoring the sentence I would have written because I don't wish to use certain common (not foul language) words.

In terms of "getting ready", I will merely point out that, if you look at credible news sources that are not mainstream mass media and look at real world events, or look at Bible prophecy if that's your thing, you're likely to find plenty of things to entice you to be more prepared for chaos than you would say, 20-30 years ago. The questions each person has to ask themselves are, do I believe dangerous (to me) chaos will happen in the near future, in the medium future, in my lifetime? If I do believe that will happen, how much time, energy, and money am I willing to spend to try to prevent that chaos from harming me? CAN I prevent it from harming me? From a security point of view, what's the threat model? What are you trying to protect against? What are the threat vectors? Everyone's answers will be different. There will be multiple paradoxical and conflicting answers. IE, bugging in is contradictory to bugging out. It's like trying to plan a big wedding, only way more complex. OK, back to tech and physics.

Re: EMP's. Good or bad, like it or not, we could be in WW III at any time given what's going on. It's something I wasn't considering in my prior discussion over on the clock thread which I need to try to incorporate into my thinking. What I don't know is how widespread and how transient (or not) EMP effects would be. I have a number of electronic things in my collection. If they're all incapacitated, that would really cramp my style. Even worse if they never recover. As I mentioned in my original post, good quality Faraday bags are expensive and tend to be very small.

Re: Life without satellites. Bad, very bad.

Re: Paper maps. DOH! there's another thing to add to the list. Nationwide map books are cool. I've had experience with ADC map books in the past and they're good. Maybe I should revisit that.


I've had some success building my own ad hoc power bank. If you go that direction, get good quality batteries, inverters, CABLES, fittings, and protective devices. Find the cable size needed for max battery output and bump it up a gauge or two. Put TAPE around your wrenches and remove your jewelry when working on large systems. Put 100 A through your wedding ring and you may lose your finger. Put it through your crescent wrench and you may start a fire or blow up the battery. The more energy in the system, the more dangerous it can be. Always monitor systems in operation. I don't have any solar yet except a 10-20 W mini panel as my lot is heavily shaded. I may have to look into some more. I recommend looking into LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries to replace lead acid. They don't like to burst into flames like LiPo (Lithium Polymer) or LiIon (Lithium Ion). WARNING, lithium batteries MUST have a BMS (battery management system) and use lithium specific chargers. Drain a lithium battery flat and you'll kill it. Then again, lead acid batteries don't like that treatment either. They're MUCH lighter than lead acid, and last longer. I've had good initial results with the items linked below. I have not done extensive testing but did run a mini freezer, some lights, and a PC for 24 hours. If you're going for a large energy system, you have to start looking at code compliance, inspections, permits, and $$$$. Be aware that inverters tend to give off lots of EMF's which are harmful to some people. There are some tax credits and incentives available for some solar systems.

Here are some good quality inverters from a good quality vendor. Not the cheapest things around. But, do you really want your backup power equipment to be the cheapest things around? A vendor like this will give you lots better support than Amazon. Pure sine wave inverters are much better for electronics. If the ad doesn't say pure sine wave, it's not. "Modified sine wave" isn't a sine wave at all, but is really a modified square wave, and should be avoided.

Ampere Time LiFePO4 Deep Cycle Battery 12V 100Ah with Built-in 100A BMS

Ampere Time 14.6V 20A, Intelligent AC-DC Battery Charger, Best Solution for 12 V Lithium Iron Phosphate, LiFePO4

1/0 AWG Gauge Red + Black Pure Copper Battery Inverter Cables Solar, RV, Car, Boat 2 feet 3/8 in Lugs

350 W pure sine wave inverter, 12 V

2000 W pure sine wave inverter, 12 V

May your bits be stable and your interfaces be fast. :cool: Ron
 
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