As the holiday season approaches, many of us struggle to find gifts for the friends and family members who already have everything. Have you considered giving things that will help the most important people in your life be more prepared for emergencies? In this series of posts, DEM looks at the best preparedness-related gifts that our staff and volunteers have given, received, or bought for themselves.
Why It’s Useful: Keeps critical electronics going when the power is out; greener than wall power for daily charging.
Price Range: $60-100 for an entry-level kit; more capability can take you well into the hundreds of dollars.
Where to Buy: Camping/outdoor outfitters; some big-box electronics stores.
Don’t Forget: Make sure your chosen system delivers enough power for its intended use.With all the scientific and political debates around large-scale renewable energy, it’s easy to miss the more personal applications of some recent technology updates. Personal solar chargers are now affordable and reliable enough to use for everyday or emergency charging of small electronics like cell phones (also see our suggestions for minimizing phone power use during an emergency). While many of the industry leaders are marketed toward hikers who don’t want to forego music or birding apps in the backcountry, the same qualities that make these devices good for a camping trip also make them well-suited to disaster situations.
All solar chargers work on the same basic principle of converting the sun’s infrared, ultraviolet, and visible light into electrical power. From there, the power can go one of two places. It can be stored in an external battery pack, or it can go directly into the device you want to charge. Clouds or the sun’s movement can change the amount of power flowing from the solar panels, which can interrupt the charging processes of some sensitive devices like smartphones, so we recommend choosing a system that includes the intermediary battery pack (an example is shown to the right). Such an arrangement also lets the user charge the battery pack while the device is in use, then recharge the device from the battery pack during downtime.
At the low end of the price range, solar chargers are suited to smaller personal electronics like smartphones. Some also come with the ability to charge standard-size AA or AAA rechargeable batteries. As prices (and sizes) go up, capabilities increase to handle tablet computers and digital cameras. The highest-end consumer systems we’ve seen are said to be capable of charging notebook computers – or even power packs that can run small appliances. However, the prices of these latter cells and power packs make them more suited for an expedition outfitting budget.
Disclaimer: The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government and the LFUCG Division of Emergency Management do not endorse any goods or services mentioned in our blog posts, social media statements, press releases, or website content. Any mention of commercial products is for informational purposes only.