One of the first articles I ever posted on here was entitled “Why I Don’t Have a Generator”. When it comes to enduring a serious life scenario in which food, money, and human decency may be scarce, the typical generator is not a friend. It makes too much noise, thus attracting unnecessary attention, most of them require fuel which is very difficult to store and use safely; they only run for a short period of time, they can easily be destroyed with a strong solar flare or an EMP, they are bulky, cumbersome, and require lots of room for storage, they are wicked expensive for what you get, and even the solar generator versions use a lead-based battery which is simply not suitable to endure a year of full charges and full power exhaustion everyday--plus they have that pesky problem of bulging or having a "memory problem" in which if you use it a little and charge it a little then it gradually loses its capacity to be fully charged and fully drained. Sounds like an awful lot of expense for so much hassle.
Why is a generator the last thing I want in my preparedness pantry?
My personal position on having a generator was that it would be the last thing I would purchase--if at all; though I realize even before my changes that there certainly are some instance in which a generator (preferably a solar generator) would be medically necessary. So, perhaps you've guessed it by now. I have come to change my opinion on this matter for two reasons 1) as a result of my focus on the Principles of Preparedness (specifically Mental, Physical, Medical, and Fuel) and 2) Because I’ve found better technology which addresses the majority of my objections of regular generators (including solar generators).
There’s a lot more detail available than I can write on this application, though I probably should take such measures in the future, but for today I’m just going to give a brief synopsis of why I finally broke down and got a solar generator.
First of all, let me just say that the solar generator that finally got the attention of my pocketbook was a Humless. Yes, I looked, read, researched, Googled, and YouTubed every single option out there--including those only available for military uses--and when all was said and done, the two Humless choices were the only ones which met all of my criteria. They are quiet--duh, cause they are solar generators. They do not require fuel, and thus they don’t require me to store diesel; and it also means that they don’t give off any nasty fumes or other emissions. But being the gidget and gadget junkie that I am, I'm particularly fond of the fact that I can simply push a button on the Humless models and see exactly how much of a charge I have left (yes, I prefer such “idiot-proof” options). Also, I can fully charge the unit and have it sit there for an entire year without using it and still know that it will be reliable should i need it in a jiffy. They are completely portable, and come in their own heavy duty carrying case with plenty of common sense pockets, handles, and a rugged shoulder strap. Their smaller version, the Roadrunner, is only 11 pounds and the larger one, the Sentinel, weighs in at less than 40 pounds so even I can grab those on the run and go.
The smaller Roadrunner version can be charged with solar, hand cranking, A/C and D/C outlet plug-ins--even the car accessory plug in—all in a matter of a few hours. (O.K. maybe I fell in love with it because it was cute. *grin*) The Sentinel version can be charged with solar panels (a kit that I got to go with it or your own), hand cranking (not preferred if you’re conserving physical energy, but it’s good to have that option), windmill, and A/C or 12 VDC outlet plug in in a matter of hours as well. The various ways of charging it were really, really important to me. I've been trying to use my solar oven more these last few weeks and I don't always have sunshine. So I like to know that I have plenty of other options to charge it AND that when I do get a sunny day, I can capture the energy and store it until I need it. I also like both units have multiple ways that I can use them without any adapters, additional inverters, etc. (The Roadrunner has 110VAC outlet, 12VDC outlet and 2 USB outlets built-in to the unit and the Sentinel has two 110VAC outlets, two 12VDC outlet and four USB outlets). Considering that I literally fried all of my bangs off in one fail swoop using an "adapter" for a curling iron in the Philippines, this built-in functionality and ease of use was a big deal to me. (Some things one never fully recovers from. *grin*) I love that they use a custom-made inverter on their units too! I have to admit, though, that I did have a bit of a giggle when I saw the attachment that allows me to just screw in a light bulb using my Humless as an oversized lamp base. Bottom line, it’s easy and what I call "idiot proof". But here’s an aspect of the Humless that I never would have appreciated if I hadn’t done my research. The other similar systems out there store their energy in a lead-based battery, whereas the Humless uses a lithium based battery storage. (In fairness there's a similar type of unit that uses a lithium based battery storage but it's much smaller, with only a 5th of the AMPs and is missing a lot of the bells and whistles. Humless actually has their own patented lithium battery system. It’s actually BECAUSE of this that the Humless can handle over 2,000 full charges and full drains, one right after another or over 10 years. The lead based batteries cannot handle more than 400 full charges/drains. This means that I can’t rely on a lead-based system to give me much more than a conservative year of service and even that’s debatable. And unfortunately gel systems are also unreliable for the time frame I would want. I look at all of my prep measures from the viewpoint of a minimum one year criteria. So from that standpoint, I had to go with the Humless technology.
Now, to be forthright, Humless has been doing their own testing on how long it works, for which types of items, and under which circumstances. Like a bunch of teenage boys, they have fun experimenting--so far with some notables such as a 9 cubic foot stand-alone freezer, a the tire inflator, water pump, computers, and most recently the 3.58 cubic capacity front loading washing machine for a full THREE loads. Imagine the physical energy I can save on THAT--especially in the dead of winter! (Note, the stand-alone freezer was able to maintain the status of the frozen contents for a full 24 hours by alternating between turning it on for a while and then off for a while. Keep that in mind if you’re needing to use a unit under similar conditions.) Though their favorite moment was testing it on a television with a built-in DVD player in the middle of nowhere in South Africa. I’m sure the James Bond theme music was quite out of place with the wild animal ambiance that nature provided. I too have been having some fun putting the units through some of my own testing. After all, I’m sure Humless never thought to use it on a Nutrimill wheat grinder, Bosch mixer, crock pot, curling iron (some vanity never dies, I'm afraid), food processor, and other high-powered kitchen and household gadgets that are everyday tools for me—they’re a bunch of boys, after all. So far, I’ve been very, very pleased and never once have I been startled or scared with frightening crackling or popping noises nor have I had to get messy lugging and pouring nasty fuel around while also needing ventilation for such generators. Nope, my Humless is made for this somewhat prissy prepper. :-)
Here’s what I was most pleased with though. When I compare the Humless system to other systems out there that would consider themselves as competitive, I find that the Humless is providing me with more conveniences and options and over 5 times more charges for LESS than the lead-based and other systems. I was also impressed that the Humless works on anything from a 100 volt to a 250 volt need. Most units stop at a 200 volt. (It’s a 600 watt load because you can only store so much juice.) Plus, it won’t "blow a fuse." If you try to run something on it that’s more than 1,000 watts for example, the inverter simply won’t turn on, thus preserving the functionality of your unit. So I can’t use it for my larger capacity microwave when I need a heated rice bag in a hurry for an injury, but I could still use it on an 800 or 600 watt microwave. Obviously I just had to go with the Humless. But wait...I surprised myself by deciding that there was merit in having both the Roadrunner and the Sentinel solar generators. My reason for doing so is multi-fold.
I wanted to have a lighter grab and go model for myself so that I could use it on anticipated first-aid calls in the event of an earthquake, or other like scenarios. I also envisioned various possible scenarios in my own home in which it would be convenient to have access to two, one in the kitchen and one in another part of my home for lighter needs such as lighting, environmental control, or other needs. And last but not least, it’s a part of my commitment to adhere to the whole “3 is 2; 2 is 1; and 1 is none” wisdom. Now, let me give you some of my other reasoning for finally giving in to the whole “gotta getta generator mantra.”
Thoughts on why getting a generator is the best move...
1) The most important fuel to conserve is your own physical energy. So I got a solar generator to help conserve physical energy. (Actually it's a solar + generator when you consider the various options of charging it.)
Remember, enduring a crisis which suddenly requires you to do more physical work, walking, and straining just to eat three meals a day, plus have suitable amounts of drinking water, environmental controls, lighting, and sanitation will wear on even the most fit body. So, if you can cut a corner on exerting physical energy unnecessarily, I would go for it. I don’t subscribe to having a generator in a long-term power outage just so that I can charge my cell phone, watch the local news on TV, use the internet, etc. Hello! In a serious power outage we won’t even have those options. (More unpractical is to think that you would want to power up an entire home--hello--just paint a target on your back in a crisis scenario why dontcha?) But, if I can use Humless' solar generator to power items to make cooking, sanitation, and administering first aid easier, then I’m going to go for it.
2) We can never underestimate the need for mental and emotional health in the midst of a crisis scenario.
We simply can’t afford to underestimate the mental/emotional strain that a drastic change to our lives will put on us. And believe it or not, as little as a couple of hours without the conveniences we’re accustomed to can add emotional and mental strain. Heck, I get needlessly stressed when I can’t sit in my preferred seating at church or the movie theater sometimes, for crying out loud (Yeah, I’m a total basket-case at times. *grin*). But seriously, having to, all of the sudden, rely on your own capabilities to provide meals, water, clean clothes, and do more than push a button or flick a switch for heat and light will pose an emotional or physical strain even on the most hardened survivalists in the beginning, let alone those of us who make up the primary mindset. (you may breathe now after enduring that long, run on sentence) So, if cutting some corners safely and without compromising the health and well-being of my family is available, I can certainly see wisdom in taking advantage of that.
3) I have drastically underestimated the mental and emotional value of respite.
I grew up playing board games on Sundays with my family; I think more families should find themselves enjoying this type of activity. And I’m convinced that I was one of the final holdouts before succumbing to purchasing a computer or a DVD player. In other words, I'm not much of a techno geek. The only video games I played as a kid was what was at the arcade and that little black and white tennis game that mildly resembled tennis. But even with that type of a background, I can see mental and emotional value in providing some semblance of “normalcy” under foreign and perhaps fearful circumstances. Thus technology does have it's place in a society full of adults and children who consider that "normal."
I remember an instance in the Philippines where I lived for nearly a year and a half. Even though I was actively engaged in my responsibilities of helping others with medical, sanitation and other like needs-- and I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything-- I'll be honest, it was the hardest thing I've every done in my life! It was camping, but in a skirt! (remember, my idea of camping is when room service is late.) I still fondly recall one of my favorite times there, though. It was when a kind, elderly couple invited us over to their home "in the city." They made what I called a “real” meal" for us (something other than fish and rice), in an air-conditioned environment, and we were able to sit down on real furniture, and enjoy watching the video of “A Man From Snowy River.” Seriously, after living over a year in an environment in which I never felt quite clean enough (cold showers everyday), cool enough, completely filled up after a meal, and was just plain physically uncomfortable most of the time, this night with this couple really meant a lot to me.
After recently going through the feedback meeting that our neighborhood had here after voluntarily try out a mere 24 hour period without electricity, and hearing about how much resistance many of the families got from their kids who complained of being bored or scared, I find some value in having access to providing an occasional moment of familiar respite. Personally, I’m a huge fan of music—good music that moves and inspires me. I also love snuggling by the fire with my husband and watch a action-filled good guys vs. bad guys movie. It’s brain candy for me. And you know what, I feel like I’ve underestimated everybody else’s capacity and my own to immediately adapt to a life void of these types of things. If I can provide a little bit of respite in order to get someone calmed down, more comfortable, or get their mind off of the stress of moment, I find value in that.
4) I Don’t Have Time to Learn it All Over Again
For the past 10 years I’ve been trying to learn how to do more and more from scratch in my kitchen and cleaning efforts. When my husband married me I was a city girl who never even wanted to touch dirt or smell manure or have to swat at a fly. I still hate camping and I’m not sure I’ll ever get over that, however, today I’m actually wanting to move to a wide open space where I can grow my own garden, raise cattle and other farm animals, make my own butter and cheese with my own milk, and live more independently. That kind of mindset represents a long journey of being taught here and there, but even with all of the knowledge I’ve gained about how to do "this and that" without power, there are still some things that I would be more efficient doing with an electric power source. Instead of having to chop, chop, chop something or puree it for a great meal, I can plug in my food processor for a whomping 3 minutes and get it all over with. Instead of spending 10 minutes hand cranking a flour mill for just one cup of flour, I can plug in my Nutrimill and have 10 cups in less than 15 minutes, etc. Sure I can eventually learn how to live like I’m in the early 1800’s, but I’m all for conserving some physical energy when possible and gradually learning those skills that were pertinent in the 1800's rather than putting myself in a position of “MUST have these skills to survive in all areas.” That's just begging for more stress in my opinion.
5) I Specifically Prepare to Help Others
Being smart is getting prepared, period. But being wise is getting prepared not only for your own family’s needs, but also for the anticipated needs of others. I don’t want to have to worry about "so and so" who needs enough electricity to run her home medical devices. And if I can do something now to help prevent that fear-filled, vulnerable state, I’m going to do it. Sure it’s not cheap to prepare to help others, and we’re bound to miss our goals in our efforts in doing so, but I’m positive that if I do all I can with that mindset being a part of my preparedness efforts, then the Lord will use what little I have to give to make good things happen.
To be forthright, in spite of all of these justifications for finally jumping on this particular bandwagon, my decision ultimately came down to a gut feeling. I don’t know all of the reasons why I might be able to use this valuable tool, but I do know that if I didn’t listen to what I felt was a little nudge to consider this option, I might as well stop prepping all together. But then again, that’s what most of my activities come down to—feeling led or taught to do things a certain way even though I may not fully appreciate why I’m doing it at the time. I hope that you, too, find yourself making key decisions of self-reliance in this manner. I guarantee you that it’s a much more accurate method of prepping that the Mayan calendar.
On a personal note, since I bugged the Humless gang with so many questions repeatedly as a result of my research, I have discovered that not only do they produce an amazing product, but they are GREAT people too. I love how they think, problem solve, push, and professionally perform. Heck, I could even see myself having them over for dinner (Whenever you’re ready St. John, Glenn, and Adam). They’re just plain “Good People.” So, that seals the deal for me.
Note: If you’d like to consider a Humless, let me share a little bit of an inside scoop with you. The Sentinel is going up in price. The information has changed a bit on this topic over the last couple of months but the up-to-the-moment scoop I have is that the price will increase by $255 as of January 1st, 2012—the Sentinel only. A few weeks ago the folks at Humless told me that the price increase was $200 on the Sentinel by December 1st, however, they just finished an overseas trip checking on supplies, quality, etc. and wanted to just do one price increase that they could stick with for a long time instead of inching it up gradually. Good thing I checked in with them just before posting this article. So if you want to save that chunk of change, and you think this may be an option for you, I'd purchase it soon. I've confirmed that Five Star Preparedness has a guarantee that they will beat any advertised price by $150 on either the Roadrunner model or the Sentinel. (I hate having to price shop on the internet). So they may be a good option for you. Plus, Scott, the owner, actually speaks techno-speak, so he may be much more helpful than I in answering capacity and use questions for you.
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