Whether it’s an electrical issue or inclement weather, a power outage can leave you feeling helpless. September is National Preparedness Month, and Ready.gov is encouraging people to always be ready for power outages. This may mean stocking up on non-perishable food, water bottles, candles and flashlights, and battery-powered fans or blankets (depending on the season). Making sure your technology is ready in advance, however, may be harder.
In an emergency, some people rely on their cell phones and laptops for information. But, if you don’t know that the power is going to go out, what do you do if you have no charge on your phone or computer when everything goes dark?
Fortunately, there are a few ways you can get more juice out of your electronics, even with no electricity to plug into. Consider these suggestions for how to charge your phone or laptop when the power is out.
Capture Solar or Battery Power
Being prepared means planning ahead. That includes buying extra batteries or backup chargers that work without electricity and storing them for unexpected emergencies. Examples of non-electrical chargers include solar-powered and hand-crank versions, says the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Solar-powered battery chargers are portable devices that use energy from the sun to give your phone life. According to Greg Seaman at Eartheasy.com, a small solar device can recharge a tablet or phone in approximately two or three hours if the weather is sunny. It’s also possible to have them ready to go in advance, says CNET, as they often come with a built-in battery that will hold the charge once you take them out of the sun.
Because many incidents of the power going out are due to bad weather, the sun may not always be an option. In these cases, consumers can purchase hand-crank chargers. Although these chargers require a lot of effort to get power, they are good to have around in emergencies.
Invest in a Camp Stove
Another option for creating power with no electricity, says Seaman, is a camping stove with a built in USB port. Some of these handy little devices can cook your food and provide a charge to your electronics at the same time, he says. They work simply by lighting small twigs in the heating chamber and turning on the attached battery-powered fan, which escalates cooking by intensifying the fire. The heat created by the fire, says Seaman, recharges the device’s battery as it cooks, providing consistently usable power to any device with a USB cord. Make sure to use a camp stove only when you’re outside to prevent a fire hazard.
Use the Computer as a Power Source
When the power goes out, sometimes having a smartphone is a greater priority than a laptop, as it can both connect to the internet and make emergency calls. In these situations, CNN says to take the power from the laptop and use it to charge your phone. If you always keep your computer charged, it can power your phone when electricity goes out simply by plugging the phone into the USB port, adds CNN. Be advised, however, charging from a laptop will take longer and will only be a short-term solution, says Seaman.
Take Power From Your Car
Since batteries do not use electricity to power objects, they are available to use during an outage. This includes your car battery. Seaman says that the interiors of newer vehicles usually have specific charging ports for phones and computers, while older vehicles often have a cigarette lighter that electronics can plug into. Just as you might while on the go, if you can manually open your garage, run your car in the driveway — well away from the house and plug your phone or laptop into the USB or car charger port, advises Seaman. Remember, it’s never safe to leave a car running while parked inside the garage, even if the garage door is open. Make sure to move the car far away from the house to prevent a carbon monoxide hazard.
In addition to charging electronics, finding ways to conserve what power you have left might be critical in an outage. CNN offers the following suggestions for saving battery life:
- Turn off all apps that run in the background on your phone, such as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth.
- Use text messaging instead of making phone calls when possible.
- Lower the brightness on your phone’s screen (this could also apply to a laptop).
- Download an app designed to make your charge last longer.
Learning how to charge your phone without power may be essential if you live in a location with frequent outages. Even if you don’t, remember these tips to stay better prepared in case of an unexpected emergency.