by Neil Bauman, Ph.D.
A lady asked,
How can I recharge my Cochlear Implant batteries and my assistive devices when the power fails?
This is an excellent question, especially considering the massive power outages caused by Hurricane Sandy back in October. At one point during the storm, more than 7 million people were without power. I was one of them.
The good news is that because I was prepared, I had a ready source of power for running my computer, modem, amplified phone, assistive devices, reading lights and recharging any devices that ran down during the blackout.
Here are three solutions.
1. Gas Generators
Depending on your pocketbook and how often your power goes out, you can purchase a gas generator.
Gas generators range from big, fancy systems that will run your whole house and come on automatically 30 seconds after the power fails (and cost big bucks) all the way down to tiny portable gas generators that almost anyone can handle for less than $800.00.
If all you want is a generator that can run a light or two, your TV or radio, your amplified phone, your computer and modem and recharge your assistive devices, you can get away with a tiny gas generator that puts out a maximum of 1000 watts.
Personally, I’m partial to the Honda EU1000i gas generator, typically available for $799.00. This little generator is light (only 29 pounds), quiet (only 59 dB—just a tad louder than normal conversation, which is about 55 dB) and can run for about 8 hours on a tank of gas depending on the load (a tank full in this case is only 0.6 gallons).
If you need more power, the next size up, the Honda EU2000i puts out double the wattage (2,000 watts), but only costs $200.00 more ($999.00). Unfortunately, it weighs 47 pounds so is not as easy to handle if you are older. This is the generator I now have.
The best prices and service I found for these generators is at Wise Sales and they didn’t do any price gouging like some of the other on-line stores did during Hurricane Sandy.
To use one of these little generators, just fill the gas tank with gas, set it outside your back door (but far enough away so that no exhaust and carbon monoxide can get into your house), run an extension cord into the house and fire it up.
I’d suggest you have a 5 gallon gas can (full of fresh gas) and a 100 foot 16 or 14 gauge extension cord. You can plug your multi-outlet surge protector into the extension cord. Then plug in the devices you want to use during the blackout. Now you’re all set to ride out the blackout.
2. Power Inverters That Run Off Your Car Battery
The power inverters that plug into your car’s cigarette lighter socket are useful for much more than just recharging CI batteries. I use mine all the time for heavier-duty applications such as running my computer, modem, amplified phones, assistive devices, etc. during power failures like we just had.
My power was out for 2 days—but I was still “connected” via the Internet. I also use the inverter for my favorite reading light. I read two novels by that light while the power was out.
What I do is plug in the power inverter. I use a 175 watt one—then plug in a 100 foot extension cord that I run from my car in the garage to wherever I want power in the house. It works great for me.
These inverters don’t cost much. You can get a larger 400 watt “Tailgate Inverter” for as little as $42.98. It’s available at a number of places.
One caution, don’t suck too much juice out of your battery or you won’t be able to start your car. Personally, I don’t worry about that as we have two cars parked side by side and I have battery cables so I can jump start my car easily if I do drain the battery.
I also have a heavy duty inverter that I run directly off the battery—it puts out 500 watts continuous (1,000 watts peak)—but this big boy will drain your battery in a couple of hours or less if you load it up. The way around this is to park your car outside the garage and leave it running so it will keep charging your battery as fast as you are draining it.
3. Portable Solar Panels
If you live in a sunny location, you might want to get a portable solar-powered panel for recharging your cell phone and any USB-powered devices. Just remember, power outages can occur in stormy weather when the sun is not shining and at night, so a solar-powered generator may not be as useful as the above solutions.
You can get a very compact portable solar panel such as the GOAL ZERO Nomad 6-1/2-in x 1-in x 9-1/2-in 7-Watt Portable Solar Panel for $79.95 at Lowes. You can easily take this one on camping trips with you and keep your phone and CI batteries charged. There are a number of other makes and sizes of solar panels readily available.