How To Store Your Off-Grid Power
Unfortunately, with today’s technology there is only one way to store that energy but fortunately for all of us, that manner of storage is fraught with versatility, for batteries come in all shapes and sizes. Now, storing this energy efficiently is, in of itself, a challenge that will take planning, some investment in time and money, and a fair amount of know-how.
But it’s also something you should begin planning for and implementing now, before the next winter storm comes barreling though knocking out power for weeks leaving your family to the frigid conditions. The benefit of starting now is the wealth of information and help out there for designing and building your own battery storage units that will meet your home’s specific energy needs.
Wind & Solar Power
The two, go to alternative power production methods are solar and wind power. Some will debate about the efficacy and benefits of both, touting one over the other as the best choice but when all is said and done the deciding factor is what works for where you live. Regardless of whether you go with solar panels or a wind turbine or both, the electricity the system produces needs to be stored.
The batteries chosen must be designed to release energy over long periods and then be recharged. These range from golf cart batteries to the more costly industrial deep cycle types but not car batteries as they are simply not designed for this use. The good news is these choices are, on the whole, relatively inexpensive and easy to find. They are perfectly suited for energy storage in the home as they are designed for heavy use, long discharge periods and will recharge in just a few hours, depending on the power input, of course. While one unit is rarely sufficient, they can be linked together into a energy storage bank.
The Batteries In A Bank
While batteries for power storage are somewhat affordable, only one will not typically meet the energy needs of a household. For this reason, many preppers link a number of them together creating battery bank. First, any battery system needs to be stored in a well-ventilated area due to inherent off-gassing. A garage or storage area with a concrete floor will work for this type of system, but do not store the batteries directly on the floor. Temperature can also be a fact when it comes to discharging. Batteries exposed to significant swings in temperature will drain quicker. If sustaining a fairly consistent temperature, then you may consider building a battery box.
The Battery Bank
A battery box is an insulated container, made out of your choice of materials, to maintain temperatures and guard against quick discharge. They can be built from plastic storage bins, plywood or even old refrigerators. Whatever material you decide on, the box needs to allow for enough space for battery maintenance and ventilation.
If constructed out of wood, paint the inside or treat the wood with a sealer as electrolyte leaks will corrode the wood. Top the construction with a hinged lid. Drill a ventilation hole near the bottom to bring in air and one in the lid to vent hydrogen off-gassed from the batteries. This gas will be ventilated outside through piping running from the box through to the outdoors. The box should be raised off the floor by a few inches, enough room to slide a toe underneath is a good rule of thumb.
More Expensive Options
People who make the effort to thoroughly prepare for emergency or disaster situations expect their equipment to be durable enough to last through uncertain conditions. These efforts are not often done on the cheap. In this case, the lowest cost batteries will not do. For this reason, an alternative to golf cart batteries are gel-filled, AGM (absorbed glass matte) batteries. They cost nearly twice as much as the simpler golf cart type, but they do not require refilling and are sealed against off-gassing. Since ventilation and access are not issues, they can be stored in more convenient locations.
Lowering Your Energy Needs
The average home in the US uses about 30-kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity each day, a challenge for any alternative energy system to meet. So the first step before designing an energy storage bank or even before implementing a wind or solar system is to identify where you can save electricity around your home.
Address air gaps and leaks where warm or cold air escapes or enters. Institute family rules to turn off appliances, lights, and other electronic equipment when not in use, and remember standby mode still uses electricity. This, of course, will reduce your household’s energy consumption in the long run and increase efficiency during disasters, making your entire system that much more effective for when it is needed.