…if you have a generator, that is. Most people know what a generator is, at its most basic: a fuel-powered machine that makes electricity. However, many people don’t realize the limitations associated with them. A generator that will power your entire home can cost north of a grand, and after you update your electrical system to make certain the generator can power it, you could be looking at a big investment. The alternative is to use a less expensive, less powerful generator to handle one power strip’s worth of essentials one at a time. This comes with its own list of inconveniences, such as long extension cords and the possibility of voltage fluctuation, which tends to cause appliances to overheat.

One alternative to investing in a costly but complete power backup system would be to identify all your essential power needs, and to rig an emergency system that will address only those. Perhaps you won’t be able to watch TV and run the dryer, but you can keep your home’s stove, HVAC, and refrigerator on, with a little extra to keep the lights illuminated as well. Assess all your critical appliances’ energy draw (measured in kilowatts), add them together and add 10 percent. Buy that generator, as well as protective surge strips and heavy-duty extension cords. Remember, the less you deem “critical,” the less you pay for the generator AND fuel.

Guardian 12V Solar Recharging Kit with Boulder 15 Watt Solar Panel
This 12V solar charger can put out as many as 15 watts, although that number is likely less for overcast Ohio winters. Still, if your main fear is not being able to watch Netlfix on your iPad when the power’s out, this, a car battery, and a $20 power inverter should be able to keep your electronics on. Also, at six pounds, its portability is a plus, as well as the fact that fuel is free.