In our modern world, we take things like lights, instant communication via smartphone, and even air conditioning for granted. Unfortunately, when a natural disaster strikes, we’re often reminded just how tenuous our grasp on these services is, and we may have to live “off the grid” for a few days or more.
The good news is that since you’re reading this, you still have time to prepare for these eventualities, and while a whole-house backup generator might be out of your budget, keeping a backup source of lighting handy is an easy step towards being prepared for the worst. Here are a few options that enterprising makers and hackers can implement without breaking the bank.
Improvised LED Candle
While LEDs can provide lots of entertainment in the form of RGB rings and extremely bright lighting, let’s not forget that they’re extremely efficient, drawing just a few mA of power for the discreet components that you likely have hidden away in your components drawer. As seen here, Scott W. Harden, decided to build his own LED candles in preparation for a recent hurricane. The best of these should run for over a month, and could even be on as of this writing!
As profiled in this post, so-called “Joule Thieves” use the tiny amount of power left over in “dead” batteries to power one or several LEDs. It’s such a clever idea that I’m surprised it’s not in more widespread use for emergency preparedness. It also seems like a good way to keep things out of landfills for as long as possible, though it would seem that this has some competition with rechargeable cells!
USB Battery Pack
While good for charging a phone or other electronic device during a good trip, having a few lipstick chargers or similar around could also provide power for backup flashlights for some time. For that matter, they can be used to charge smartphones in order to act as a source of light and information. On the other hand, given some phones’ notoriously short battery lives, charging a USB flashlight would likely provide better results if keeping the darkness at bay is all you care about.
Alternatively, if you specifically need to charge something via USB, you could kludge something together with paper clips and C batteries!
Power Tool Lighting
While several power tool manufacturers make lighting that’s meant to run on removable batteries that also fit power tools, they’re designed to shine brightly for a relatively limited amount of time. On the other hand, with a little ingenuity there’s no reason why a drill battery couldn’t be used as an emergency power source. Here’s an example that uses the housing from an actual drill as well as the battery, though something lower powered might work even better.
For that matter, you could even turn a drill into a generator, however, as with several hacks listed here, you’d need a way to solder. While it’s great to know how to get yourself out of a sticky situation using electronics knowledge, the best solution is to stock up on what you need before danger is upon you!