Flood Aftermath
Mobility, Preparedness

Using Amateur (HAM) Radio for Emergency Communication

Importance of Multiple Communication Channels

When it comes to being prepared for emergency situations, there is a popular and very impactful phrase that appears in the prepper community. That phrase is “two is one, one is none” meaning that if you only have one tool for a particular survival function, and you have no backup tool or alternate solution, that is as good as having none.  Reason being, that you are creating a single point of failure for that survival function. If any aspect of it should fail, be that a mechanical malfunction, a lack of knowing how to perform it, or even simply not being able to find the tool, that aspect of your preparations becomes useless. 

One area of storm and emergency preparedness that many of us simply do not consider having backups for is communication.  Most of us rely heavily on our cell phones for communications. And we mistakenly take for granted that since cellular service is supported by a network of large infrastructure and thousands of telecom workers, cellular communication will always be available as long as we don’t wander into some remote backwoods or down into a rocky canyon.

But the truth is that the same forces that can cause us to lose electrical power at home, can cause disruptions in cellular service. Wind storms, hurricanes, flooding, or even the random lightning strike can bring down cellular service in your neighborhood.

That’s why it is essential for anyone who is serious about emergency preparedness to have a backup method (or two) of communicating with family, loved ones, or anyone who can help direct emergency services to your location. 

A Lesson from Hurricane Katrina

In 2005, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the gulf coast, my immediate family and I were safe and dry in Texas.  But all of my extended family was trapped in New Orleans. My older brother had the foresight to gather up not only his own wife and small children, but he also drove around down collecting our younger brother and his wife, children, and 11 year old sister-in-law of whom they were the guardians. As the storm was rolling in and starting to beat the city with wind and rain, he also drove out to the lower ninth ward to get our aging mother who was determined to ride out the storm in her home as so many native New Orleanians are want to do. After the flood waters receded, we would find out that her home had been completely inundated when the levees broke in the ninth ward and had been pushed by the flowing water three feet off of its foundation.

My brother brought all of these people to our father’s accounting office on the third floor of a downtown office building.  When the floods filled the city with water, my mother, my two brothers, their wives, and their children, one of them an infant were all stranded in the small office with no way to communicate with the outside world: no way to relay their position to emergency services, and no way to even let anyone know that they were still alive.

It was months before I would receive communication from them that they had survived and were relocated to Houston.

I later learned that during the flood and subsequent rescue operations, there were a handful of people who were able to get messages into and out of New Orleans. These people were HAM radio operators.

In those months that I worried and waited, not knowing if I would ever see my family again, HAM radio operators were communicating the whereabouts of survivors to other HAMs across the country making it possible for others to post lists of survivors on the internet.

That was absolute proof to me that HAM radio offers a tremendous amount of value for emergency communications.

The Strengths of HAM Radio

HAM radio is an almost ideal solution to the problem of back up emergency communications. Depending on the type of equipment you choose, HAM radio can be portable, it can provide both short range and long range communication, and it can continue to work even when local infrastructure goes down.

HAM Radio Is Portable

Ham radios come in a variety of sizes, power levels, and frequency capabilities. One available feature that makes it ideal for backup communications is that it can be portable. Unlike landline telephone, which I actually recommend later in this article, HAM radios, just like cell phones, can be purchased as a hand held device. With a form factor similar to the walkie talkie that most of us are familiar with, hand held radios can be easily packed in emergency (bug-out) bags, or kept in vehicles. As such, they can provide on-the-go communication when an emergency requires travel, such as when you need to coordinate meet ups with family members, or in the event that you must move an injured person to emergency services.

Short Range Communication (1 – 2 Miles)

Ham radio has options for short range and long range communication.  I have the good fortune of living within a 3-mile radius of both my mother-in-law and one of my brothers-in-law.  Although this means that any local catastrophe will likely affect all three of our households, it also means that as long as we can communicate, we can work out the logistics of who needs assistance and how to get it to them.  If the cell towers in our area lose power, none of us will have access to cellular communication. Ours is a perfect situation for the use of short-range HAM radio.

Generally, the short-range radios come in a small hand-held form factor that look similar to the walkie-talkies you may have used as a kid, or those you take hiking. The difference is that these “hand talkie” HAM radios operate in a different set of frequencies that are more tightly regulated. So, like any of the HAM radios discussed here, you’ll need to get a license to transmit on these devices.  But, while you are learning about HAM radio, and building out your radio setup, you can freely listen to any broadcasts you receive. 

The hand-held short range radios are typically used on two frequency ranges or “bands.” Those being the VHF 2 meter band (144 – 148 MHz) and the UHF 70 centimeter band (430 – 440 MHz).  When buying your first HAM radio, you’ll want to check the specifications of the device to ensure that these two bands are included in the radio’s capabilities.

Amazon has a good selection of inexpensive hand-held radios that are quite accessible for most new and aspiring HAM operators.

Click here to see prices for short-range radios on amazon. 

Medium Range Communication (Up To 50 Miles)

Depending on where you live, these lower powered radios also have the potential for much greater distances if there are HAM radio repeaters in your area.  Repeaters are well-placed antennae connected to transceivers for the purpose of re-transmitting radio signals. This free service is provided on a volunteer basis by other HAM operators.  Though it can be of great value to you in getting into HAM as a hobby, it’s best not to rely on repeaters being available in an emergency situation. The same power outage you experience will likely affect any repeaters in your area.

So for any emergency communication beyond the 1 – 2 miles your hand-held can provide, you’ll want to step up to a more powerful, albeit more expensive solution. That is setting up a radio base station in your home.

Long Range Communication (50 Miles, 100 Miles, and Around The World)

When you get serious about using HAM radio for emergency communications, you will undoubtedly want to set up a home radio base station for long range communication.  In the HAM world, long range communication is done with the magic of lower frequency radio waves. Though the area of the radio spectrum I’m referring to is called HF for High Frequency, its range is lower than the Very High Frequency (VHF) range used by small hand-held radios, and the Ultra High Frequency (UHF) range used by cell phone towers. 

These HF radios transmit lower frequency waves with much longer wavelengths. These characteristics cause a phenomenon that allows HF waves to be used for communication at great distances. HF waves actually bounce off of the upper atmospheric layer called the Ionosphere rather than passing through it into outer space. This signal reflects off of the Ionosphere directing the radio waves back down to Earth giving HF signals the ability to travel far beyond the horizon as seen from the antenna’s point of view.

With ideal solar and weather conditions, HF signals can travel halfway around the world allowing communication with other HAMS across the country or across the ocean.

Even though I live only a short bicycle ride from my in-laws, my own family all live some 500 miles away in New Orleans.  And while they live with the very serious threat of hurricanes and other tropical storms, my area is always on the watch for tornadoes.  Either of those scenarios can mean worrisome periods of non-communication when the local infrastructure is damaged.

In those situations, it is comforting to know that we can reassure distant family that we are alive and well using the long-range communication capabilities of HAM radio.

Here is a good example of a HAM base station transceiver on amazon. 

Independent of Local Infrastructure

One of the key benefits of HAM radio for emergency communications is that it can be independent of local infrastructure.  Cell phones depend on the short-range tower in your area to be up and running. In many residential areas, there is no redundancy in cellular coverage. if the tower located in the center of my neighborhood loses power, or gets struck by lightning, the one bar of signal that i get from the next closest tower is not enough to even relay a text message let alone sustain a phone call.

Shortcomings of HAM Radio

Though the utility of HAM radio for emergency communication is impressive, there are limitations.  

Cost

You can go to Amazon right now and buy a HAM radio for under $60.  But to build an effective alternative to telephone communication, you will probably spend hundreds or even a couple of thousand dollars in equipment including things like the radio itself, a power supply, an antenna tuner, and a quality antenna.

Learning and Licensing

As stated above, if you’ve already ordered your equipment, you can set it up and listen to HAMs broadcasting all day and night. But, if you want to strike up a dialog, you’ll have to get a license first.  There are many people who include HAM radio in their emergency preps because in an emergency, transmitting without a license will probably not incur any punishment. But if you are going to learn to operate your equipment properly, you’ll need to get licensed to broadcast.

Licensing involves a multiple choice test that requires some study.  More information about becoming a licensed HAM can be found on the website of the National Association for Amateur Radio, ARRL.org. 

Limited User Base

Most adults (and many teens) in this and many countries own and use cellular phones.  Millions of people use instant messaging and social media everyday. The number of people who actively use HAM radio is comparatively small.  Unless you were able to convince your distant family members to also buy, setup, and use radio equipment (not to mention getting licensed), you will likely need to relay your emergency communications through a HAM operator who does not personally know you or your family.  Though this seems like a strange situation, HAM radio is a community, and in times of need, HAMs have banded together (pun intended) to form ad hoc communications network relaying information about local emergency situations and the survival status of people on behalf of others. This article is original content published to homeplustech.com. If it is published on any other site, it is stolen content.

Use It Before You Need It

As great as HAM radio is as an emergency communication medium, there is a significant learning curve associated with the technology.  And you don’t want to be reading radio manuals or books about electromagnetic wave propagation when your house has a foot of water in it, and you’re holding a flashlight between your teeth.  Hopefully, before you really need your HAM radio to work for you, you will have learned to work with your HAM radio. That means going through all of the setup and licensing, and actually talking to people to get a handle on the etiquette and protocols of over-the-air messaging.

Alternatives to HAM Radio for Emergency Communications

Landline Telephone

Before researching HAM radio as my backup communications channel, my main choice and recommendation to family members was a land line telephone.  Hardly anyone has a landline telephone anymore for various reasons. Even though land lines used to be ubiquitous, with one in every home, newly built homes often have no telephone wire built into the walls, and some new housing developments don’t even have telephone wire running to the houses at all. 

Many in the younger generations don’t even know what a landline telephone is.  When I called my local telephone service provider to activate landline service to my home, the sales representative was confused by my request insisting that the VOIP phone that he kept trying to sell me was in fact a “landline” phone. And though it does use underground cable to relay the signal, what I wanted was the analog telephone that is powered by the phone system. That way, I explained to him, when the power goes out in my home, I can still make phone calls.  I guess he was not old enough to remember that such functionality existed.

That is, however, one of the best features of a landline phone in addition to being directly tied to a location for the purposes of calling emergency services.  

Unfortunately, analog or Plain Old Telephone System (POTS) service is actually difficult to come by these days. For one, although it used to be the cheapest option, the price of analog phone service has more than doubled in the last 20 years. I suspect that the reason for this is twofold. One, to deter people from using a service that the telephone companies would like to retire, and two, to push customers toward the newer voice over IP (VOIP) phone service that allows easy bundling with internet service.

Still, if you can get analog landline service in your area, it is a reliable secondary communication channel for the reason listed previously.

Internet When Cellular Is Down

Of course, for most of us, available communication media in our household often includes our home internet connection.  As long as your internet service is not provided by cellular service, it may be available when your mobile phone has no reception.  With a home internet connection provided by underground wire like cable or optical fiber, it can often be used in place of mobile service.  Not only can you send emails and messages via social media programs, but many smartphones have apps available that will allow you to make phone calls over your WiFi connection.

Some smartphone apps to look into for WiFi-based communication are WhatsApp, Signal, and Google Voice, the last of which does not require the other party to have the app installed. 

Another internet-based communication device that many may overlook, is your smart speaker.  Devices like the Amazon Echo Dot allow you to call the phones of existing contacts or communicate directly to another Alexa-enabled device.  I frequently use this feature when I leave my children at home for short periods. I remind them that Alexa is on, and they can use it to call me, their mother, or Grandma.  Alexa’s “drop in” feature also gives me a little extra comfort knowing that I can call into the device while I’m away and check on them, often letting them know that I’ll be home soon.

There are a couple of major caveats with internet-based communication during an emergency.  First, it may be difficult to contact emergency services when using a WiFi-based phone app. You may want to keep a print out of your local police and fire service phone numbers where they can be seen as internet-based phone service may not connect you with your local 911 service. Second, depending on the type of internet service you have, a power outage in your home, may also mean an outage of your internet service.  For this reason, it’s advisable to at least keep a battery backup for your internet modem or DSL device as well as for any computers you would need to access your service.  

The More The Merrier

Whether or not you decide to jump into HAM radio for your emergency communications needs, it is always better to have multiple options for communicating with loved ones and with local services.  But HAM radio is an excellent hobby, and a great prep for emergencies.

wireless interconnected smoke detectors
Preparedness

First Alert vs Kidde vs Nest: Wireless Interconnected Smoke Detectors

There are three major manufacturers of wireless interconnected smoke detectors. These three brands can be found at your local Lowes or Home Depot home improvement stores.

Brand Model Max. Connected Units Photoelectric or Ionization Detects CO Warranty View on Amazon
FirstAlert SCO500B 11 Photoelectric YES 7-Year Ltd Click!
Kidde RF-SM-DC 0919-9999 12+ (see below) Ionization NO 1-Year Mfr Click!
Nest Protect (S3000BWES) No Stated Limit Photoelectrice (Split-Spectrum) YES 2-Year Ltd Click!

First Alert (The one we like. Read on to see why!)

First Alert is one of the main manufacturers featured at Lowes.com.  They are a well-recognized brand with an extensive product line. The model in the table above uses photoelectric sensing technology. This unit detects carbon monoxide as well as smoke, so you don’t need to purchase additional units for CO detection. In addition, you can network up to 11 Kidde smoke detectors, which should be plenty in most single-family homes. This First Alert model has the added benefit of allowing you to set voice location on each connected smoke detector so that when the alarm sounds across the networked devices, it can tell you the location of the device that initiated the alarm.

Kidde

Kidde makes  very good selection of smoke detector products that are carried at Home Depot. Their smoke detector that we reference here is their wireless interconnected version. The Kidde smoke detector uses ionization technology (which we go into below). On the one hand, it does not detect carbon monoxide as the First Alert does, but Kidde does make carbon monoxide detectors that communicate with the smoke detectors. And, as noted in the table above, the Kidde can be interconnected with up to 12 other smoke detectors, but can also be connect with up to 6 more alarm-initiating devices, and 6 additional alarm-only devices.

Nest Protect

Nest Protect is the one device in this list that is also home-automation ready. It’s part of the Nest Protect ecosystem. It can communicate with nest thermostats, doorbells, and smart lights. Nest also provides a smartphone interface allowing you to check the status of your smoke detectors from your mobile device. This device uses a unique split-spectrum photoelectric detector that uses two different wavelengths of light to detect both smoldering and flaming fires.  One of the features of the Nest that many users like, is its self-diagnostics. When you turn off the lights in a room with a Nest, the smoke detector givs a brief green flash to let you know that its batteries are good and it’s in working order. It also alerts you by your phone when batteries are low long before it starts to do that annoying chirp that wakes you in the middle of the night.

Our Recommendation: First Alert

All three of these smoke detector models offer great features. The Kidde device excels at connectivity. Though it offers connectivity of up to 24 total devices, most household applications require 6 to 8 devices at most. The Nest device is great for those who want the latest in what the smart-home technology market has to offer among residential smoke detectors. With a smart phone app, and inter-functionality with Alexa or other smart-home hubs, the Nest smoke detector provides a level of connectivity and awareness not available in other models. All of this information availability, however comes with a significantly higher price. So, it’s up to you if those additional features are worth the money.

The First Alert is a great combination of functionality and affordability.

We find that eleven connected devices is sufficient for most applications based on recommendations from the National Fire Protection Agency.  First Alert’s 7-year Limited warranty covers most of the expected life of a smoke detector. Also, it features carbon monoxide detection, so you can buy all of one type of device. This is especially useful if you can find the First Alert in a multi-pack. The icing on top of an already very tasty cake, is the voice location feature. This feature actually brings the First Alert into the realm of functionality you get with a smart device without being one. Using it allows you to know where in your house the alarm was initiated without needing to refer to a smart-phone app.

You get all of this at a price that is on par with most quality smoke detectors.

Wireless or Wired

When talking about smoke detectors, wired vs wireless is not about whether the device can connect to Wi-Fi, but instead  whether the smoke detector is integrated with your house’s in-wall wiring or not. If yours is like the vast majority of houses, you  don’t have a network of wires connecting your existing smoke detectors together, so wireless is what you need. Wireless smoke detectors are quite common. Since they aren’t connected to your house’s power line system, they rely on batteries, often of the 9-Volt or AA alkaline variety. When searching online for wireless smoke detectors, the wireless models will often be referred to as “battery-powered” as this indicates that they don’t require hard wiring.  There are smoke detectors that connect to Wi-Fi, but that is not necessarily an advantage as far as the primary function of a smoke detector and alarm goes.

Interconnected Smoke Detectors

Interconnected smoke detectors offer an immense benefit over non-connected units especially in larger homes, or homes of people who may have difficulty hearing smoke alarms.  Interconnected smoke detectors use radio frequencies to communicate with each other so that when one alarm goes off in one area of he house, it sends a signal to the other connected smoke detectors in the house triggering them to also sound the alarm. This way, an alarm triggered on another floor or on a distant end of the home will cause all connected alarms to sound alerting everyone in the house.  This can give you and your family more time to either put out a small fire or to evacuate to a safe location and call emergency services.

Two Types of Smoke Detection

Smoke detector manufacturers and the NFPA describe two main types of smoke detection: photoelectric and ionization. Each of these two types of smoke detection provides its own benefit in the types of fires that it detects most readily.  Photoelectric smoke detection uses a beam of light in a chamber. The chamber also contains a light sensor that is not in line with the beam of light, so that when there is no smoke, the sensor is not triggered.  When smoke enters the chamber, it scatters the beam of light, directing some of that light into the light sensor triggering the alarm.  Photoelectric smoke detectors are very good at providing slightly earlier warning of smoldering fires that may start more slowly.  Ionization smoke detection works by creating a complete electrical circuit with charged particles in the air.  When smoke enters the detector, it disrupts the part of the circuit that relies on the charged air particles, dropping the flow of electricity and triggering the alarm.  Ionization smoke detectors are faster to detect flaming fires that spread quickly.

Smoke Detector Placement Recommendations

The National Fire Protection Agency has levels of recommended smoke alarm usage. The first recommendation is simply to use one. Many homes don’t have a smoke detector at all, and adding even one goes a long way toward increasing the fire safety and preparedness of your home and family.

The next level, is to have multiple smoke detectors. If you have more than one floor in your home, you should at least have one per floor. Beyond that, the recommendation is one smoke detector in each bedroom with one more in the area outside the bedroom such as the common hallway.

The best configuration combines smoke detectors in each bedroom, common areas outside the bedroom, and all units interconnected and communicating with each other.  It’s best however, to not place smoke detectors directly in kitchens, bathrooms, and garages, as units in those locations can frequently cause false-positive detection triggering what is called “nuisance alarms.”  You don’t want to have to rush to shut off an alarm that was triggered by burnt toast or warming up your car in the morning.

Don’t Forget About Carbon Monoxide

Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that can be created when hydrocarbon fuels like natural gas, propane, or gasoline do not combust completely.  The gas is invisible and has no smell making it impossible to detect by human senses. Potential sources in your home are pilot lights for gas ovens, furnaces, and water heaters as well as running automobiles and electric generators.  In high concentrations, carbon monoxide is deadly because it binds to the molecules in our blood that carry oxygen to our brains and body, causing people to lose consciousness.  Many people have died from losing consciousness or simply being asleep in an environment of high levels of carbon monoxide.

For this reason, it is essential, to not only protect your home from fire by smoke detection, but to also protect your family from carbon monoxide poisoning.  Fortunately, carbon monoxide detectors are just as easy to acquire and install as smoke detectors. Some models actually perform both functions, which is ideal for those who can’t afford multiple units for the different purposes.

Though the focus of this article is smoke detectors, we highly recommend that you also consider adding a carbon monoxide detector, especially in areas near appliances that might produce the compound such as furnaces and gas water heaters.

Integrating Your Smoke Detectors with Your Smart Home

The primary purpose of wireless interconnected smoke detectors is to keep your family and property safe by alerting you of potential fires as soon as possible.  A nice-to-have feature, however, would be integration of these devices with your smart home automation system.  With this feature, you not only get smoke detectors that communicate with each other, but you get a smoke detection system that communicates with you.

Currently there are few manufacturers offering this technology, but here are a couple that you can find easily on Amazon.com or your nearby big-box home improvement store.

First Alert Onelink

First Alert makes a smoke detector that connects directly to Alexa and can be used as a smart speaker to talk to the AI platform. However, the First Alert Onelink is a hardwired device, and therefore not included in this article’s comparison.

Nest Protect

As stated above, the Nest Protect is designed specifically to integrate into a smart-home environment. It integrates into Nest’s well developed ecosystem of smart-home devices like the Nest Learning Thermostat and the Nest Hello Doorbell camera.

Keep It All In Perspective

Though it may be tempting to run out and purchase the smoke detector with the most bells and whistles, consider this before jumping in with both feet and spending an arm and a leg on the latest greatest technology.  Smoke alarms are generally designed to be replaced every ten years. That is also the recommendation of the NFPA.  So, keep in mind when making your purchase decision, that whatever smoke detectors you buy today, you want to plan to replace them after a maximum of ten years of usage.  This is best for the safety of your family and the protection of your home and its valuable contents.

 

 

Additional Reading

For some additional information on smoke detectors, here is a link to the NFPA site’s page on smoke alarms.

Here are links to the manufacturers websites for the First Alert, the Kidde, and the Nest Protect.

Preparedness

Do You Need a Whole House Battery Bank?

As the recent newscasts show, a whole house battery bank is a necessity in any home today. One must always be prepared to drop off the grid for some time as weather and other issues are getting less predictable.

This year alone the US has experienced some of the greatest and most devastating blackouts. The situation with Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands is the worst in the country’s history in regards to the energy supply. The Hurricane Maria caused an enormous amount of damage in those areas at the end of September. 1.25 billion hours of electricity supply were stolen from the people in affected regions. The grid isn’t 100% back up even today and the estimations show it might take up to 6 months to repair fully.

In the end of October, 1.3 million people suffered from a similar problem all over New England as it’s been hit by a devastating tropical storm Philippe. As the climate continues to change, meteorologists warn that these natural disasters might become more frequent. Therefore, having a whole house battery bank has become a necessary precaution. This is a more efficient solution than a generator and there are plenty of options to fit anyone’s needs and budget.

Benefits of a Whole House Battery Bank

It makes you independent.

Having a reliable power bank in your home allows you to make sure that no matter the situation, you aren’t dependent on anything outside of your control. Your power supplier can be trustworthy and efficient, but accidents happen. Your own set of specialized batteries ensures that you can overlook those accidents without breaking your comfortable lifestyle.

It saves your money and life.

Blackouts are not only uncomfortable, they can be costly as well as extremely dangerous. Darkness in the house increases the risk of falls and injuries. If you have people who require 24/7 use of some medical equipment, their lives are completely dependent on electricity. In addition, there are less serious issues, like having your food spoiled in the fridge or freezer. A whole house battery bank keeps the most important electrical appliances in your house working no matter what.

It’s flexible.

Unlike power generators, battery banks can be easily expanded by adding more batteries. Therefore, you can make your emergency energy supply grow if your needs change or if you get some extra money.

It’s less expensive.

Again, when compared to a generator, a whole house battery bank turns out to be more efficient. It doesn’t require fuel and can turn on quickly, thus, you don’t have to leave it on standby. You can also design a system with an affordable maintenance.

It’s quiet.

Even complex and big battery banks are nearly silent compared to generators. They are also safer as there is less risk of a spark catching fire and the fuel tank blowing up.

How to Implement a Whole House Battery Bank

The setup needed to supply your house with power from a battery bank is rather simple. The basic equipment you’ll need includes:

  • Batteries
  • Cables
  • Inline fuse
  • Rack
  • Wire
  • Inverter/charger

As there are many types of batteries available, choosing can be rather hard. Remember that car batteries are unfit for this purpose as they are the ‘cranking’ type. Therefore, they can produce a powerful charge in the beginning but aren’t able to efficiently support a flow of energy afterward. Marine batteries are the better choice as they are made to both start the engine and output a steady supply of power.

When choosing a whole house battery bank, consider these battery options:

Sealed Lead-acid
It’s the cheapest option for grid-tied systems. These batteries need very little maintenance, but their lifecycle and efficiency are lower.

Flooded Lead-acid.
This is an affordable off-grid battery that can go through numerous charge-discharge-recharge cycles.

NanoCarbon.
This option is also good for off-grid power banks that can easily deal with partial charging. It’s a good option for those who have issues with the charging source.

Lithium.
The technology used in these batteries is far superior to the lead-acid models and much safer. It’s the best option for a cost-efficient whole house battery bank at the moment. Lithium batteries can be discharged to 0 and recharged with no loss of efficiency. Discharging a lead-acid battery below 50% damages it.

Nickel Iron.
This type is good for either grid-tied and off-grid systems, but it’s also the most expensive today. Batteries of this kind can work up to 20 years without losing efficiency significantly.

When designing your house battery supply scheme, don’t forget to plan for long-term blackouts. You must have an option of cutting off everything aside from the most essential appliances to maximize the energy use.

An inverter is an essential part of your emergency power supply system as it’s the device that ensures the stability of the current. To put it simply, it’s what prevents power bursts from frying microcomputers that operate the majority of expensive appliances. Without this device, charging your smartphone, laptop, or using any smart tech is a risk to the gadget.

To calculate the number of batteries you need, study the manuals of all devices you want to power and calculate the necessary ‘size’ of your whole house battery bank. Don’t forget about lights and consider the average length of a power outage in your area.

Integrating Your Battery Bank with House Wiring

Integrating a whole house battery bank into your house wiring is a complicated process, no matter which system you choose. Some of the more advanced batteries of today, like Orison, can be set up by homeowners themselves. However, it’s best to hire a licensed electrician to make sure everything is perfect.

The professional will set up all the necessary circuit breakers and outlets (don’t forget to mark them). They will also test the system to ensure it works smoothly.

Any power system is a fire hazard, so hiring an electrician to at least check it up is essential. Note that the warranty on some batteries will become invalid if they aren’t installed by accredited professionals.

How Much Does a Whole House Battery Bank Cost?

The costs of a battery bank wary greatly. On average, you can get a reliable system for anything between under $800 and $20,000+. Aside from the batteries themselves, factors that affect the cost are:

  • Number of batteries
  • Size and complexity of the system
  • Cost of replacement components (for the future)
  • Cost of maintenance

The latest Tesla Powerwall is the most advanced option among whole house battery banks available today and it costs $5,500 apiece (+$700 on supporting hardware). Note that some houses will need more than one Powerwall to keep them running in a blackout. Also, bear in mind the cost of the

solar panel setup, if you are planning to use it in order to gather power for your batteries.

If you are going for the cheapest and simplest possible option, you should be able to set it up for about $600-$800. It’ll consist of car or marine batteries set up to power up a few outlets within the house.

Whole House Battery Bank: Final Thoughts

The main reason why one should install a battery bank within their home is the peace of mind it gives. With this setup, you can be sure that you and your family won’t be completely cut off from power even in an emergency case.

This particular type of power system is as safe as one can get and there’s a wide range of options available. Everyone can find something to fit their needs and budget. This system will also go extremely well with a solar setup to make you even more independent.