Understanding Alternate Power
By Tyler Chambers of artofsurviving.com
(Dr. Bones says: From time to time, we receive worthy article submissions from other bloggers or member of our audience. This article is written by Tyler Chambers of artofsurviving.com, a new site dedicated to all things survival.)
If there exists something that we take for granted, it is electricity. Some people not only take it for granted, but do not even keep a flashlight handy in case the lights go out. If you throw a rock into the average American home, you’re just about guaranteed to hit something that runs off electricity. Being able to generate some power has the ability to make life much easier.
Unfortunately, alternate power sources aren’t as easy as a penny and a nail inside a potato. This is a fun science project, but not a sustainable source of power. Contrary to popular YouTube video claims, an onion soaked in Gatorade plugged into an ipod charger cannot, and will not charge anything. A sustainable and working power source is going to take intelligence, along with a little work and experimentation.
It’s easy to say electricity won’t be a ‘necessity,’ for instance in an SHTF situation. As preppers, we tend to think in terms of need versus want. We can say our great, great grandfathers didn’t need it to survive, so why do I? Well, I’m not referring to power for an Xbox or a TV. But, what about powering a small hot plate? Using a hot plate is easier than making a fire, and more stealthy. Perhaps charging power tools? Imagine the time saved if you can use a battery powered drill or saw.
Examining Manual Power
Manual power? Yes, Manual power. The best thing about manual power is that you are not relying on anything besides your own muscles to generate electricity. There is no need for an outside element. The bad thing about manual power is you have to physically dedicate yourself to it, and take yourself away from other tasks. Manual power can also be good exercise, and in an SHTF or TEOTWAWKI situation, your health will be more important than ever.
(Dr. Bones says: remember that physical exertion by the members of your group in hot weather should be constantly monitored. Assess your workers’ hydration status regularly and provide 1 pint of clean water hourly. If at all possible, provide a canopy under which your people can work.)
How to Turn Manual Labor into Electricity
A bicycle can be converted into an electricity producing machine fairly easily. These bicycle generators are capable of powering small items in times of need, and charging a battery pack to store electricity for later. There are many kits that ship pre-made and ready to generate electricity. In fact, multiple electricity producing bikes can be connected to one battery in order to increase the power significantly.
Any industrious person with a little mechanical skill can build one of these contraptions using an alternator, a stationary bike stand, and a car battery. I suggest you seek someone who knows a thing or two about electricity, otherwise you may find yourself suffering some unpleasant shocks and burns.
For smaller and more portable manual powered systems, there are systems very similar to the bike, only hand operated. One such system is the one available from PedalPowerGenerator.com. They also feature a lot of different bicycle systems for generating power. This system is much smaller and can be setup on a table top. The system works off the same technology as the bikes, but in a smaller, lighter, and more convenient form. Simply grab the two handles and start spinning.
These systems can be quite expensive and even the smaller hand cranked systems are too large to fit in a bug-out-bag. For charging small items like cell phones, rechargeable flashlights, rechargeable batteries, and other small electronics, there are a number of smaller, handheld, hand cranked generators.
The American-made K-Tor Hand Generator is a quality option. The generator is priced to move at around $60. Generators like this one can easily fit in a cargo pocket or a pack. The K-tor series generator uses a standard US outlet interface, and can accept iPods, iPhones as well as android devices and standard phones. You can power handheld devices like radios and GPS units as well. This is a great gadget to keep in a bug out bag or car.
Final Thoughts on Manual Power
No matter what system you choose, it is important to dedicate yourself to it. Manual power is a great system because it only requires you to operate it. No matter the time or weather, you have guaranteed power, as long as you are physically able to produce it. The problem with manual power is it takes you away from other tasks, and you burn many more calories. This can be an issue in low-food situations.
There are many other options for alternate power – such as solar and wind. Depending on your location and your budget, you may or may not be able to use either of these systems, in which case manual power becomes a viable option. Remember, you know you, and you know where you live.
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