Out of all the developed countries, the U.S. has more power outages per year than any other. Sometimes, it’s minutes in the dark. More commonly, hours. On the more extreme occasions, days, even.
According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, there were close to 4,000 power outages throughout the United States in 2017, with the number increasing since then. In February 2021, Texas saw one of the worst power outages in US history, leaving 4.5 million homes and businesses without power in the middle of winter, leading to at least 151 deaths. The main reasons for the increased vulnerability of the grid are the progression of climate change and the deterioration of electrical infrastructure.
Given the ever-growing loss of grid power, it’s important to plan ahead and be well prepared for any power emergency, like a power outage or an impromptu blackout, in order to dissipate concerns and feel safe at home.
One way to do so is by having your own power station at home to use as a backup generator.
In order to make the most out of a power station and plan accordingly, it’s important to understand how they work.
First, you have to distinguish whether your device has batteries or not. For any device with a built-in battery, we calculate how many charged the device can get once plugged in. For devices solely relying on an external power source, we calculate how many hours this power bank will last once plugged in. Since this article talks about appliances—which generally rely on external power—we will talk about hours rather than charges.
The performance of power stations can be easily calculated using ‘Watt Hours’.
‘Watt Hours’ (Wh) measure the estimated amount of energy consumed by an electrical appliance when left on for one hour. For example: One Watt Hour is equal to one Watt of power flowing for an hour.
The ‘wattage’ use of any appliance should come written on its label, instructions, or stamped on the back or bottom of the appliance.
You could even calculate how much Watts would be consumed by an appliance per minute, by dividing the wattage by 60 (Wh/60 = power consumed by minute). This gives you the ability to know the exact electricity consumption of any appliance against the energy capacity of your power station.
To find out how many hours of power a power station can provide to a specific device, you can just multiply appliance watts (The Wh consumed by an appliance) x hours of use per day. For example, a microwave requires around 800Wh. However, we tend to only use them for 1 or 2 minutes at a time. So if we divide 800 Wh / 60 minutes, we find out microwaves consume 13Wh per minute. Even when used for 10 minutes a day, they only spend 130Wh per day.
Other concepts important to take into account are maximum voltage (Max voltage) and maximum power voltage.
Max voltage represents the highest voltage rating a specific electrical device can withstand.
Every appliance comes with a voltage rating, and can operate within it for “infinite time” without causing damage to its insulation, provided it’s receiving power. It’s important to understand this rating to prevent damage to either insulation or the device itself.
Maximum power voltage represents the greatest point for power output, and the preferred/suggested voltage in order to charge or power something up effectively.
It’s important to know this because in case you’d only know the amps (amperage, the amount of electric current that flows to a specific device), you can multiply that x V (Voltage), in order to find out the Watt hours a device consumes. Simple put, (amps x V = Wh).
Let’s provide some more concrete examples using the BoyOne 700w Power Station, our backup generator that keeps your family safe during home emergencies and acts as a power supply for outdoor adventures.
The Boyone 700w has an energy storage capacity of 557Wh, and it takes 4.5 hours to get fully charged. That is only when using our least powerful solar panel of 150w (we also have 300w and 500w presentations, which provide faster charge).
By applying our formula to several devices, we can find out exactly how long each can be powered by our power station, before needing to be charged itself.
A fridge + freezer might consume 90Wh. By dividing Boyone 700w’s capacity of 557Wh / 90Wh, we get that a fridge would be powered for 6.1 hours just from one charge only.
A coffee maker consumes 300Wh on average. However, we only need it for 10 minutes a day. So 300Wh / 60 * 10 (minutes) = 50Wh a day to get your hot comfort beverage of choice. Therefore, the BoyOne 700w could provide you with warm coffee for up to 11.14 days, found out by dividing 557Wh / 50Wh.
A TV consumes 70Wh on average. 557Wh / 70Wh = 8 hours of TV to keep you from boredom during an outage.
A Wi-Fi router tends to consume 10Wh. 557Wh / 10Wh = 55.7 hours of internet to stay reachable through your phone.
Lastly, a portable electric fan, 30Wh. 557Wh / 30Wh = 18.5 hours to keep you fresh on the hotter summer days.
Now that you’re armed with this knowledge, you can calculate the power consumption of each appliance, how long each of them could last when connected, and distribute your power station’s energy according to your priorities.
Use this valuable knowledge to define and develop what your strategy during these “dark” times will be, and which appliances you’ll prioritize over others. That is, after you get a reliable power station that will have your back.