After a brutal storm recently completely uprooted trees in my neighborhood and knocked out the power for several days, I had a lot of time to think about the gadgets I wanted to make sure I had on hand for the next time the lights went out.
As climate change continues to push temperatures higher and higher in the summer months, there’s going to be more and more demand on local power grids to keep air conditioners and other climate control hardware running. In other words, sporadic power outages are likely going to become more and more common, so being prepared to maintain at least some of life’s creature comforts while the electricity is out isn’t a bad idea. These are the gadgets I’ll be relying on in the future.
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If you live in a secluded area, where power outages can last much longer than a few days, a gas-powered generator is still the best option for keeping the lights on, the heat on, and your fridge running. But for shorter outages, Anker’s $1,400 757 PowerHouse portable charger doesn’t need a steady supply of gasoline, which can often be in short supply when the power goes out. It’s capacious enough to fully recharge over 90 smartphones or over 15 laptops using its multiple USB-A and USB-C ports, and has six AC outlets that can even keep a full size fridge running for almost three hours, or a smaller portable fridge for almost an entire day.
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Keeping a collection of working flashlights on hand is crucial for dealing with a power outage that hits in the middle of the night, but only if you actually know where they are and can easily find them without dangerously stumbling around in the dark. Etón’s $40 Blackout Buddy is designed to spend most of its life plugged into an outlet serving as a motion-triggered night light. But it also has a battery on board so it will keep on working when the power’s out, and when unplugged, LEDs on top instantly turn it into an easy to find handheld flashlight.
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Eventually all of your backup batteries and portable chargers are going to die during a prolonged power outage. But assuming any inclement weather that may have been the source of the outage moves on, you can always harness the power of the sun. BioLite’s $105 SolarPanel 10+ pairs a folding 10-watt solar panel with a 3,200 mAh battery, so it can still provide power when the sun goes down. With full exposure to the sun’s rays, the panel can charge its own battery in about 1.2 hours, a smartphone in an hour, or a larger device like an iPad Mini in about 2.3 hours. It’s not the fastest solution available, but it might be the most reliable.
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A power outage that takes internet connectivity with is is a great chance to get caught up on reading. But while books don’t rely on electricity, they don’t work in the dark either, which is when you’re most likely to pick one up. An e-reader is a better alternative. Their electronic paper displays use a minimal amount of power and can run for days without a charge, and most models available today, including the $190 Amazon Kindle Paperwhite 5 Signature Edition and the $220 Kobo Libra 2, feature soft back or front lighting so you can keep on reading even when the lights are out. Just make sure to pre-load a few titles before you lose power.
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There’s a good chance your home will still have running water when the power goes out, but less of a chance it will remain hot the entire time. The only thing that outweighs the inconvenience of having no power is having to take ice cold showers. Instead of boiling pot after pot of water to take a humiliating bath, the $300 Joolca Hottap promises hot water on demand, powered by a standard propane tank. It allows the temperature of the hot water to be adjusted and can be used for either showering or as a temporary replacement for a kitchen faucet.
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There’s a good chance you’ve already got an alternative to a standalone gas generator parked in your driveway. Just plug this $30 Bestek inverter into the DC power port of your vehicle’s dashboard, and while it’s running, you’ll have access to a pair of 110 AC outlets, plus a pair of USB-A ports for charging devices or keeping an electric cooler running to prevent perishable food items from going bad.
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Books and board games are a fine way to ride out a power outage when all of your electronic distractions run out of power, but there’s no better time to escape to a movie than when you’ve been forced to live like the pioneers. As long as you’ve got an empty wall and a flash drive full of media, XGIMI’s Halo+ includes everything else you need to set up an impromptu home theater, including a 900 lumen LED lamp powering a full 1080P image, built-in 5-watt Harmon Kardon speakers, and a rechargeable battery good for two hours of entertainment.
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One surprising side effect of the widespread power outages where I live was that it also took out our cellphone network, leaving us with no ability to call, text, or access mobile data. To continue to keep in touch with friends around the neighborhood, the goTenna creates a private mesh network that still allows a cellphone to send texts or share GPS data through a free accompanying iOS and Android app. The $200 goTenna (for a two-pack) connects to a smartphone over Bluetooth and can communicate with other goTennas up to four miles away with minimal obstructions, keeping you connected to friends and family when your cell provider can’t.
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You’ll be surprised at how quickly it becomes impossible to do regular chores when the sun sets during a power outage. And while flashlights are a must-have, holding a torch while trying to finish up the dishes or even while brushing your teeth is a juggling act you don’t need to perform with a headlamp. Yes, you’ll probably look like a grizzled miner, but it provides hands-free illumination, and BioLite’s $75 HeadLamp 750 can pump out an impressive 750 lumens at full brightness. But that can also be dimmed to a low setting, which provides up to 150 hours of illumination between charges.
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