How To Charge Your Phone and Other Gadgets During a Blackout

The electricity grid seems like an infallible force, and it’s really wonderfully reliable—until for whatever reason it lets you down. When the lights go out for more than 24 hours, a healthy charge might be your only way to contact the world outside the darkness.

A blackout doesn’t mean there’s no energy left out in the world. You just need to know where to look-and you need to have the right tools to extract it.

Your battery-powered electronics come in two varieties: Smartphones, tablets, and MiFi which will charge via USB bus. Your laptop, on the other hand. requires a the equivalent of a 120V wall socket to charge. We’re worried about the former more than the latter.


Energy you planned for in advance

You’re a genius! You know that the energy pouring out of sockets won’t always be there.

  • Gas generator
    If you’ve got a generator, you don’t really have a blackout. If you took this step, you don’t need to read any further. Just make sure you don’t zap yourself with the damn thing.
  • Portable USB battery pack
    A much more practical and affordable option s a rechargeable USB battery pack. The $100 Mophie Juice Pack Powerstation Duo’s 6000 mAh battery will fully charge a dead iPhone 5 four times.

Energy that’s stored in other places

There’s battery power in the world-go get it.

  • Use you car
    Assuming you have keys to a car with fuel in it, you can charge your phone endlessly using a regular old car charger that plugs into the 12V cigarette lighter slot. For $20, you can can turn that plug into a dual USB port.
  • Plug directly into a car battery under the hood If you don’t have keys (or gas), but you’re crafty enough to get under the hood of a car, you can gank energy directly from the terminals on a car’s battery. For $5, this jumper cable-like tool gives you a 12V battery adapter like the one inside your car. For $37 this all-in-one battery inverter will convert the 12V battery into a 120V AC socket. Just be warned, when your car’s not running, the alternator isn’t charging the battery, so this is a temporary solution.
  • Steal power from emergency lighting This 2-outlet lamp-socket is genius. No matter how intense the blackout, somewhere out in the world, there will be battery-powered emergency lights running. Find a running light, and you’ve got an outlet. For $8, it’s not a bad emergency last resort to have in your back pocket.

Capturing energy

There’s no magic to this at all. It’s simple thermodynamics: Energy cannot be created from nothing. The trick is converting all the untapped energy into a world into a charge for your phone.

  • Hand-powered charger
    Hand-crank chargers turn your mechanical energy into power. The super-slim Pocket Socket weighs just 14-ounces for one minute of cranking, you get roughly one-minute of talk time. At $60 it’s not your cheapest option, but it’s the only one guaranteed to work, rain or shine.
  • Bike Charger
    If the weather is not too crappy outside to ride a bike, the $80 SpinPower S1 kit will charge your phone without wearing you out so much.
  • Small solar battery After the storm, when the sun comes out, a small solar mobile battery pack will brighten up your USB gadgets for $50.
  • Burn wood for energy
    Designed for fancy campers who can’t live without a USB charge in nature, the $130 BioLite CampStove could be your lifeline in a blackout. In addition to providing an efficient cooking surface, the wood burning stove converts heat to electricity, which feeds out to a USB port. As long as you’ve got wood, you’ve got a charge.

Image via AP


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