3 smart emergency power options for your home

Dec 27, 2016

Emergency power is vital in virtually every home or household. Remember the last time a natural or artificial disaster took out the national grid near you, and suddenly the reality of living without electricity hit too close to home?

You start wondering: How will I keep food cold and the house warm? How will I keep my phone charged to maintain contact with friends? And how long until the authorities restore power and normalcy?

In some cases, it can take months before the power comes back on – the bigger the disaster, the longer repairs take. And when a prolonged power outage occurs, emergency power provided by a generator can support crucial appliances, making your home livable once again.  

3 ways to protect your family from the effects of power outages

1. Electric generators

The simplest emergency power option is to get a generator, either a standby or a portable one, and enough fuel. Install extension cords from the generator to your essential items.

If you can plan early enough, have a transfer switch mounted next to your standard electrical panel. With the transfer switch in place, connect your generator to a dedicated receptacle designed to feed a smaller panel.

Emergency power provided by a generator can support crucial appliances, making your home livable once again.

Read the details about both standby and portable generators below to see which is best for you.

Standby generators

  • They start automatically during blackouts even when there is no one around, powering many of your appliances at the same time.
  • Costlier than portable generators and require a skilled professional to install or guide you on proper location, noise restrictions, and appropriate permits.
  • They perform self-diagnosis and notify you when maintenance is due. Some models even do so by sending you an email or text alert.
  • Can use either propane or natural gas as fuel, both of which are safe to store.
  • Output levels range from 5 to 20 Kilowatts, which can power most appliances in a typical home.
  • Costs anywhere in the range of $5,000 to $10,000.

Portable generators

  • They need to be started manually when the power goes out.
  • Some come with a convenient electric starting mechanism, though the necessary battery is, at times, sold separately.
  • The generator uses natural gas or propane. However, the fuel tank is smaller than that of a standby generator, so you may need stock up on a lot of fuel.
  • You should also install it more than 15m from residential properties, and keep it enclosed inside a well-ventilated housing.
  • It’s better to choose quiet generators, which you can install at a slightly smaller distance away from the house.
  • Output between 1.5 and 8.5 Kilowatts, which can power just a limited number of appliances.
  • Costs anywhere from $300 to $1,000

2. Battery backed-up systems

A battery backed-up system consists of one or many batteries connected to an inverter. These can convert power from AC to DC and vice versa, and hence, can handle both DC and AC loads.

Single battery systems are suitable for small power blackouts, while larger battery bank systems can provide power for up to two days. The inverter converts the 12/24V DC power to a useable 120 or 240V AC power that’s used in your home.  The inverter is then connected to your sub-panel via the transfer switch.

To prevent your system from overheating – a common problem with backed-up systems – use deep cycle batteries and ground the system.


  • Quiet operations
  • No gas exhaust
  • No not require cords
  • Do not require refueling


  • Supply limited amount of power
  • May still require a generator to recharge, particularly during extended blackouts

3. Sport chargers

To support lighting and small electronic devices, you can use solar-powered chargers and lamps. These products sometimes also come with built-in USB ports for charging mobile phones and any other small devices.

Whenever there is a brief outage, it is important to maintain lighting and keep the phone on so you can remain connected to the outside world. Sport-chargers can also power pellet stoves used to run fans and fuel feed augers.

Technology has even made it possible to create LED products that provide enough light, at power ratings less than the energy needs of conventional flashlights.


  • Require minimal maintenance
  • Enhance security within your home


  • Support limited appliances
  • Not appropriate for extended power outages

Caution your loved ones from the adverse effects of power outages by using any of the above emergency power options for your home.

Considering that each back-up power source has its pros and cons, you should first ponder on their suitability to your exact situation. So take your time, and only choose the option that will serve your needs best.