Portable Power Stations for Emergencies and Blackouts (Full Guide)

It’s a very human thing to ignore problems until they arrive. But planning ahead for blackouts and other emergencies can be critical, even life-or-death, should such an emergency ever hit you. One of the most basic needs every household has is electricity, which – unlike water or heat – can easily be supplied by emergency power stations. But since these aren’t cheap, do you really need a power station for a blackout?

Having a portable power station for emergencies can provide peace of mind that whatever happens, you won’t be caught helpless and isolated during a blackout or crisis. With a portable solar panel, you can be completely energy independent for at least a few critical devices.

Importance of Emergency Preparedness

Having piles of non-perishable food and water stored away is a common prepper thing to do, but will only truly be needed during a massive crisis. But shorter blackouts happen more frequently now, and it’s only a matter of when, not if, a blackout keeps you in the dark for a few hours.

While most people might be able to just lie back and read a good book during that time, there are many reasons why being without electricity can be devastating.

Short on time? Go straight to our recommended emergency power setups at the bottom of the article!

How blackouts can affect and endanger you

Power outages are a common occurrence in many parts of the world, even in the United States. They can be caused by a variety of factors, including extreme weather events, equipment failure, or even human error. Regardless of the cause, blackouts can have significant impacts on our daily lives, especially when they last for extended periods. In this section, we’ll discuss how blackouts can affect you and why an emergency power supply is crucial for your safety and well-being.

During a power outage, many essential services and appliances stop functioning, which can create numerous challenges. For instance, without electricity, your heating and cooling systems will not work, leading to uncomfortable indoor temperatures, especially during extreme weather conditions. This can be particularly dangerous for infants, the elderly, or those with medical conditions who are more susceptible to temperature fluctuations.

Moreover, blackouts can also compromise your safety and security. When streetlights and traffic signals go dark, accidents and crime rates can increase. While you can’t do too much about streetlights, having power and light in your home, or even a working security system, can keep you and your family safe from crimes of opportunity.

Additionally, power outages may disrupt communication systems, making it difficult for you to get in touch with emergency services or stay informed about the situation. Being completely isolated and unable to get help is a situation no one wants to be in. It doesn’t take much to have an emergency radio and a small power bank to keep your phone alive during emergencies.

Food safety is another concern during blackouts. Without refrigeration, perishable food items can spoil quickly, leading to foodborne illnesses if consumed. Furthermore, an extended power outage may limit your access to clean water, as many water treatment plants rely on electricity to operate.

Not all of these problems can be solved with a power station, but some can. Short blackouts may be nothing more than an inconvenience, but in some situations, even those can present a significant danger to the health of infants, the elderly, or anyone with special needs.

Why a portable power station can be the solution

In light of these challenges, it’s clear that having an emergency power supply is essential. One solution to consider is a portable power station. These devices provide a reliable source of electricity during blackouts, enabling you to maintain essential services and appliances for a certain period.

Portable power stations are compact, lightweight, and easy to use, making them an ideal choice for emergencies. They can power a variety of devices, such as smartphones, laptops, small appliances, and medical equipment. Additionally, most models can be charged using solar panels, ensuring a renewable and sustainable power source even if the grid is failing.

Unlike traditional generators, portable power stations are quiet and produce no emissions, making them safe for indoor use. This is especially beneficial during extended power outages or situations where outdoor use may not be possible, such as in an apartment.

But while a portable power station is a great way to prepare for power outages, there are other options to consider.

Types of Emergency Power

When it comes to emergency power, there are several options available to ensure that you have a reliable source of electricity during a blackout. In this section, we’ll discuss three primary types of emergency power solutions: fuel-powered generators, portable power stations, and complete home backup power systems.

Fuel-Powered Generators

Fuel-powered generators are quite situational, and while they were common in the past, both safety and environmental concerns have made them less appealing and viable in many situations. These devices use gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas as fuel to generate electricity. They come in a variety of sizes and capacities, ranging from small, portable units to larger, more powerful models capable of powering an entire home.

The primary advantage of fuel-powered generators is their ability to provide a significant amount of power for extended periods. They are particularly suitable for situations where you need to run larger appliances or maintain power for a longer duration, such as during a severe storm or a prolonged power outage.

Moreover, fuel-powered generators are generally more affordable upfront compared to complete home backup power systems. Many models are portable, allowing you to use them at different locations, such as your home, a worksite, or a remote cabin.

However, there are several drawbacks to fuel-powered generators. They produce noise and emissions, which can be a concern in residential areas or places with strict air quality regulations. This also means that they cannot be used indoors or in poorly ventilated areas, posing a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.

Additionally, fuel-powered generators require regular maintenance and a constant supply of fuel, which can be expensive and challenging to store safely. In some cases, natural disasters or other emergencies may disrupt the fuel supply chain, making it difficult to obtain fuel when you need it most.

Portable Power Stations

Portable power stations are compact, lightweight devices that store electricity in built-in batteries. These devices are designed to provide power for essential appliances and electronics during short-term outages or when you’re away from the grid. They can be charged via a wall outlet, car charger, or solar panels, depending on the model.

The primary advantage of portable power stations is their versatility and ease of use. They can be quickly set up, and many models are compatible with a variety of devices, such as laptops, smartphones, small appliances, and medical equipment. Because they are portable, these power stations can be easily moved and used in different locations, making them ideal for camping trips, outdoor events, or emergency situations.

However, portable power stations have limitations. They typically have a lower power output and capacity compared to fuel-powered generators, meaning they may not be able to handle larger appliances or provide power for extended periods.

Portable power stations are also meant to be used locally – you plug in devices into their AC or USB ports. If you want your entire home to be up-and-running despite power outages, you need a built-in system.

Complete Home Backup Power Systems

A complete home backup power system is designed to provide electricity to your entire home during a power outage. They are usually connected to your home’s electrical system and can automatically start when the main power supply is interrupted.

A home backup power system usually comes with a large battery, anywhere from 3 kWh to 25 kWh, which is usually charged by the grid until a power outage. At that point, it switches on and provides your home with power as if nothing happened.

The primary advantage of complete home backup power systems is their ability to provide electricity for all your home’s appliances and devices, including larger items like refrigerators, air conditioners, and water heaters. This ensures that you can maintain a comfortable and safe living environment during an extended power outage.

However, complete home backup power systems are more expensive and require professional installation and occasional maintenance.

Additionally, you can install roof-mounted solar panels that are connected to the home power system, which can supply you with reliable power even when the grid is down – as long as there is sunlight. While this can be quite an expensive investment, it’s essentially free electricity once set up, which can recoup the cost within a few years.

Introduction to Portable Power Stations

As we’ve discussed, portable power stations are a popular and versatile option for emergency power during blackouts. In this section, we’ll delve deeper into the features and limitations of portable power stations, as well as what they can and can’t run. We’ll also discuss the capacity of these devices to help you better understand their capabilities.

Features & Limitations

Portable power stations come with a variety of features that make them suitable for emergency situations. Some of these features include:

Multiple output ports: Most portable power stations offer several output ports, such as USB, AC, and DC outlets, allowing you to charge and power a variety of devices simultaneously.

Rechargeable batteries: Portable power stations use built-in rechargeable batteries, which can be charged via a wall outlet, car charger, or solar panels.

Lightweight and compact design: These devices are designed to be easily transported and stored, making them ideal for use in emergencies or off-grid situations, but also usable for camping, RV trips, or outdoor events.

Quiet operation: Unlike fuel-powered generators, portable power stations operate quietly, making them suitable for use in residential areas or during quiet hours.

No emissions: Portable power stations do not produce harmful emissions, making them environmentally friendly and safe for indoor use.

However, portable power stations also come with some limitations:

Limited power output: Compared to fuel-powered generators and complete home backup power systems, portable power stations generally have a lower power output, which may not be sufficient for larger appliances or extended use.

Dependency on the weather (for solar charging): If you rely on solar panels to recharge your portable power station, you may face challenges during cloudy or rainy days, as this can significantly reduce the charging efficiency.

What a power station can run

Portable power stations can run a variety of devices and small appliances, making them ideal for emergency situations. Some examples of items that can be powered by a portable power station include:

  • Smartphones and tablets
  • Laptops and computers
  • LED lights and lamps
  • Small fans and space heaters
  • Medical equipment, such as CPAP machines
  • Radios and communication devices
  • Small appliances, like mini-fridges and microwaves (depending on the power station’s capacity)

What a power station can’t run

Despite their versatility, portable power stations may not be able to power larger or energy-intensive appliances. Some examples of items that a portable power station may struggle to run include:

  • Air conditioners
  • Large refrigerators
  • Washing machines and dryers
  • Electric stoves and ovens
  • Water heaters

However, a large power station can have up to 2,000W continuous power output, which is enough for most AC-powered household appliances, including the ones on this list.

It’s essential to check the power requirements of your devices and appliances before deciding on a portable power station, or you might not be able to power the devices you want with it.

Capacity of power stations

The capacity of a portable power station is measured in watt-hours (Wh) and indicates how much energy the device can store. This capacity determines how long the power station can provide electricity to your devices before needing to be recharged.

While small portable power stations start at around 250 Wh, larger ones reach about 2,000 Wh or more. For small devices like a smartphone, a 250-watt-hour power station will be enough for any type of blackout, while appliances or medical devices like a CPAP machine will only last about 5-10 hours even on a 1,000-watt-hour power station.

If capacity is a priority for you, larger power stations like the Anker PowerHouse 767 or Bluetti AC200 Max can be extended to around 8,000 Wh, which is enough for almost any blackout – especially when you combine it with a portable solar panel to quickly recharge it in almost any situation.

How to choose an emergency power station

Selecting the right emergency power station for your needs is crucial to ensure that you have a reliable source of electricity during blackouts or other emergency situations. In this section, we’ll guide you through the process of choosing an emergency power station by discussing how to figure out your power and capacity requirements and whether you should consider getting solar panels.

How to figure out power requirements

To determine the power requirements of your devices and appliances, you’ll need to consider their wattage. The wattage of a device is the amount of power it consumes per hour and is typically listed on the device itself or in the user manual.

To calculate the total power requirements for your emergency setup, follow these steps:

  1. Make a list of all the devices and appliances you would like to power during an emergency.
  2. Find the wattage of each item on your list. This information is usually found on the device’s label or in the user manual.
  3. Add up the wattages of all the items on your list to determine your total power requirements.

Keep in mind that some appliances, such as refrigerators or air conditioners, have a higher starting wattage than their running wattage. The starting wattage is the initial power surge required to start the appliance, while the running wattage is the power needed to keep it running.

Make sure to note down all surge power requirements – the highest one will need to be met or exceeded by the power station. Most power station models by top brands support about twice as much surge power as their regular power output.

Don’t forget to prioritize during this step – you don’t need to power a TV, laptop, or sound system during blackouts. Even a fridge can be kept offline and only turned on every few hours to keep it cool enough during a blackout.

How to figure out capacity requirements

Once you’ve determined your total power requirements, the next step is to figure out the capacity requirements for your emergency power station. Capacity is measured in watt-hours (Wh) and indicates the amount of energy a power station can store.

To calculate the capacity requirements for your emergency power station, follow these steps:

Step 1: Determine how many hours you expect to need emergency power. This will depend on the average duration of power outages in your area and your specific needs during an emergency.

Step 2: Multiply your total power requirements (in watts) by the number of hours you expect to need emergency power. This will give you an estimate of the capacity (in watt-hours) that your power station should have.

For example, if your total power requirements are 500 watts and you expect to need emergency power for 6 hours, you would need a power station with a capacity of at least 3,000 watt-hours (500 watts x 6 hours = 3,000 Wh).

Again, in those 6 hours, plugging in a fridge for just an hour will be enough to prevent food from spoiling. Focus mainly on the devices you need to have available during this step!

Step 3: If you choose to get solar panels, you can include these in your calculations. A 200W solar panel can produce around 50-100W per hour, depending on the conditions. As long as you have access to sunlight, this can add about 500 – 1,000 Wh to your daily “energy budget” for longer blackouts or other emergencies.

Solar panel options for emergencies

If you expect or want to prepare for power outages that last longer than just a few hours, then you will have to think about a way to recharge your power station to have access to at least some amount of electricity indefinitely. This can be critical to power your phone, radio, or medical equipment.

Solar panels are the best way to provide this reliable power source – assuming you can get some sunlight on them. But there are two options to consider.

Portable solar panels can be as small as a briefcase and still provide 50-100W. Bigger options are up to about 50 inches long when folded, but can charge your power station with up to 400W, which is enough to charge most models from 0-100% within a day.

The big advantage is that you can safely store these in a garage or basement, and only get them out when you need them. You can deploy them anywhere with sun exposure and move them around to optimize how much sun they can soak in. You can even use them on road trips or with an RV.

The downside is that portable solar panels are often quite a bit more expensive than fixed, non-flexible panels.

Fixed-installation solar panels are an alternative that usually comes at a higher initial cost, but often offers much higher power output. They can be installed on the roof of your home and connected to a battery or complete home power solution. In case of a blackout, these can be able to power your entire home for hours or even days if you have a large and strong enough battery.

For example, EcoFlow’s Home Backup Solution can handle up to 9,600W solar input with up to 30 kWh capacity, which provides ample power to carry you through any blackout.

The advantage is a constant supply of power that uses basically no space (only on your roof), and is usually directly connected to a power station that can power your home during emergencies.

The downside – apart from the high initial investment – is that you can’t bring these with you.

Should you get solar panels?

Solar panels can be a valuable addition to your emergency power setup, especially during extended power outages or in off-grid situations. However, they can add significant costs to your emergency power setup.

When deciding whether to get solar panels, consider the following factors:

Power needs: If you mostly care about emergency power to charge your phone, radio, and maybe a small fan or heater, a power station will likely suffice. But if you need a reliable power supply at all times for a CPAP machine or similar medical devices, a solar panel can provide you with a completely independent and reliable power supply, even during longer blackouts.

Climate and sunlight: If you live in an area with abundant sunlight, solar panels can be a highly effective way to recharge your power station. However, if your region is prone to cloudy or rainy weather, solar panels may not be as efficient.

Space and portability: Solar panels come in various sizes and can be mounted on rooftops or ground-mounted systems. Smaller, portable solar panels are also available for use with portable power stations. Consider the available space and your portability needs when selecting solar panels.

Cost and installation: Solar panels can be a significant investment, and installation may require professional assistance. However, the long-term savings on electricity bills and the environmental benefits can outweigh the initial costs.

Like with most things, there is not a single brand that stands out as the best for everyone. In fact, the top brands on the market right now are so similar in terms of features that buying from any of them will most likely leave you happy with your purchase. But there are some details that are good to know.

First off, we recommend you stick to the big brands. Yes, you can get similar power stations from retailers like Amazon for anywhere from 20% to 40% cheaper. However, you get what you pay for: usually no support or trustworthy warranty in case anything breaks, and often less power output and capacity than promised.

Compared to that, even the smallest power station from Anker comes with a 5-year warranty and lifetime customer support.

So, the brands we recommend as top choices are (in no particular order): Anker, EcoFlow, Bluetti, and Jackery.

EcoFlow and Bluetti power stations are often excellent in terms of power, capacity, and technology, but are more at-home solutions than built for outdoor use.

Jackery’s Explorer series of power stations are specifically designed for outdoor adventures, while Anker has solid and tough power stations as well.

Best Small Emergency Power Station

If you are looking for a small power station for emergency situations at home, powering only regular devices and small appliances, the EcoFlow River 2 or River 2 Pro are both great choices with high power and capacity at a very good price.

Picking the River 2 Pro does not only come with higher power output (800W), surge power (1,600W), and capacity (768Wh), but also allows you to connect an external battery to effectively double the capacity of your power station, which is much cheaper than a power station with a higher capacity. You can use the battery to recharge your River 2 Pro, which means that you could have multiple batteries and extend the effective capacity massively if you want to be prepared for multiple days of off-grid power.

Best Small Power Station
EcoFlow RIVER 2 Pro
$ 599
Power: 800 W
Capacity: 768 Wh
Weight: 17 lb (7,8 kg)
Buy from EcoFlow

Best Large Emergency Power Station

If you want more power and/or more capacity, we recommend Bluetti’s AC200 Max. As the bigger, stronger version of the AC200P, it not only has a little bit more power output (2,200W), but more importantly, can also be extended with external batteries – up to two batteries at once. This brings the total maximum capacity to 8,192 Wh, which will last a long time.

If you have critical devices or appliances you need to be able to keep running for a day or two even during blackouts, anything from CPAP machines or similar medical devices to servers and other IT infrastructure, we highly recommend choosing a power station like this – high power output combined with high capacity and the option to quickly recharge it.

Not only does the AC200 Max offer external batteries for recharging, but with a portable 400W solar panel, you can recharge this power station within a single day, giving you the safety of complete energy independence.

Best Large Power Station
$ 1,959
Power: 2,200 W
Capacity: 2,048 Wh
Weight: 62 lb (28 kg)
Buy from Bluetti

Example Emergency Power Setups

If you still don’t know what kind of setup you want, here are three examples that can power your life in case of emergencies and blackouts. Keep in mind that these are general recommendations – we don’t know your exact situation. Also, this is not a complete emergency preparedness setup – only the power station part of it. You may need much more to stay safe in a crisis situation, so make sure to do your own research and consider your needs and challenges!

Small Setup: Just the Basics

For a minimalist safety net, you can go with a simple power bank from Amazon if you only need to charge your phone and maybe a portable radio. This does not provide power to any other device, but keeps your communication running, which is crucial during blackouts and emergencies.

If you need more than just a smartphone charged and powered, the EcoFlow River 2 is a great low-budget solution. While it doesn’t have a high power output or capacity, it offers exceptional value for its price along with a reliable power station that won’t let you down when you need it most.

EcoFlow River 2: 300W power & 256 Wh capacity for $239.

Mid-Sized Setup: Energy Independence on a Budget

If you want to be prepared for more than half a day of emergency power, you’ll need more. More of everything. With the River 2 Pro and a 220W solar panel, you can fully recharge this power station in a single day. This means that you can keep important devices running indefinitely as long as you can keep the daily power use at 700 Wh or less.

EcoFlow River 2 Pro: 800W power & 768 Wh capacity + 220W solar panel (about 500-800Wh per day) for about $1,200.
Optional: 1-2 extra Batteries with 720 Wh each at $399 to drastically increase the capacity.

Large Setup: Family-sized Power Supply for Emergencies

If you want to power larger appliances like a fridge or portable stove tops to keep food fresh and provide warm meals, you’ll need more power and capacity than a small power station can offer. Get the Bluetti AC200 Max with an extra battery and one or two 420W solar panels to get about 1,000 to 1,500Wh (per panel) each day, so you can last for days during serious blackouts and emergencies.

Bluetti AC200 Max + battery: 2,200W power & 5,120 Wh capacity + 420W solar panel (1,000 – 1,500Wh per day) for about $5,000.
Optional: Get another battery or solar panel for even more power if needed.

Complete Independence

If you want to think bigger, you can get a complete home backup system installed. This will usually offer a battery of up to 25 kWh, connected to roof-mounted solar panels. This can not only give you 5+ kWh per day in renewable energy, but also keep the lights on during emergencies – literally. By being directly integrated into your home’s power grid, you won’t have to lift a finger if a blackout happens. There might be a brief interruption of a split-second, but then your entire home will continue to run as normal, likely for days if you conserve energy.

However, this can cost upwards of $10k to buy and install and is only done by professionals, not a DIY solution. It’s also not something you can install in an apartment, which is why it’s out of reach for many, but a very reliable solution for those that want to invest in the best you can get to keep you and your family safe.

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