Unfortunately, in wartime there is still a high probability of being left without the most necessary things, including without electricity, heat, and communication. Ukraine’s energy infrastructure made it through this winter with titanic efforts, but it is not immune to new missile strikes, which may once again cause regular power outages in entire regions. Therefore, it is still advisable to prepare for possible long blackouts, and modern household devices with a significant IT component help us a lot in this.
Undoubtedly, somewhere in a village blackout hut you can do with just candlelight. If possible, arrange a romantic dinner, as far as the stove is warm…
But in a small enterprise, in an office or store, in a warehouse or base, you cannot work with candles alone. Small businesses must maintain adequate customer service, even when there is no voltage on the network. In order, firstly, to earn a penny, and secondly, to move our long-suffering economy forward at least a little in these difficult times.
In addition, at home, in an apartment or a private house, during blackout hours, each of us will prefer an electric light bulb. And not a candle or a kerosene lamp, even if the latter was invented in Lviv. And even the most expensive candles will not help to charge a mobile phone or activate a Wi-Fi router. A more modern approach is needed here.
What devices should be purchased to survive a power outage without problems and ensure the smooth functioning of households, small offices and SMB businesses?
For a small office, kiosk or private residence, a good option would be to use a charging station with a capacity of about 2 kW. For example, such as the EcoFlow DELTA 2 portable charging station with a total capacity of 1024 Wh, which is also quite inexpensive, in the range of UAH 43-65 thousand.
This station with multi-standard sockets will allow you to power 3-4 low-power office computers together with monitors, a terminal and a cash register, will provide energy for several energy-saving lamps, a TV and a small video surveillance system in addition – after all, no one canceled the security during the blackout period. All of the listed equipment will work properly from the charging station for several hours while the power outage lasts. In addition, the charging station allows you to charge mobile phones and laptops, provided that their number is not measured in dozens.
In particular, the EcoFlow DELTA 2 charging station has one, but a very important feature – the fast charging function. The station charges up to 80% in less than an hour.
I strongly advise you to choose charging stations with fast charging. The thing is that stations that charge slowly, for 6-8 hours, may simply not have time to fully charge the batteries during short periods of current in the power grid. And after several cycles of turning off/on the power supply, such a station is simply not able to “last” autonomously for several hours due to a banal lack of charge.
By the way, with an additional battery, the capacity of the EcoFlow DELTA 2 station can be increased to 2016 Wh.
When there is a charging station, it is great. But to a certain extent. If during a blackout you would like to drink a cup of coffee with friends, clients, or colleagues, or heat up lunch in the microwave, or print the necessary documents on a laser printer, then… During the start of the electric kettle, coffee machine, microwave oven, or printer at the charging station, it may trigger overload protection, and the connection of such devices in itself significantly and negatively affects the period of autonomous operation from the battery. What to do? Of course, there is a way out. And this is a gasoline or diesel generator.
Which is better, gasoline or diesel? It depends. A gasoline generator usually has such advantages as easier starting at low temperatures, less weight with comparable power, and easier maintenance. The advantages of diesel models include a lower speed of rotation of the shaft, and as a result, less noise during operation, less wear of parts, and, accordingly, a longer service life.
When choosing a generator, you should not limit yourself to the power level of charging stations. A fairly powerful single-phase generator, such as the German diesel Konner & Sohnen KS 8100HDE with a capacity of 6.5 kW, will reliably provide energy not only for all equipment in a small office, shop, or country house, but is also able to power such a useful thing as a heat pump, which we’ll discuss a little later.
So, with a powerful generator, you can easily use coffee machines, electric kettles, refrigerators, microwaves, and even powerful electric irons, without fear of overloading and turning off the backup power source. In a private house, thanks to the generator, during a blackout you don’t even have to give up such benefits of civilization as a boiler or a washing machine. After all, the specified generator has sockets designed for very high power: 1x16A and 1x32A, with a standard output voltage of 220 V.
Of course, there will be no problems with connecting TVs, video recorders, computers, laptops, smartphones, tablets, and other gadgets. All of this will be properly powered by the generator, so that during a blackout you can work, have fun, rest, or study, receiving reliable and uninterrupted access to the information you need.
One filling of the generator with fuel is usually enough for more than 10 hours of continuous operation. The best charging stations, as a rule, do not reach such an indicator under a more or less serious load. Thus, the generator is exactly the device that allows you not to put life on hold during a blackout. And not for all the money in the world, because the price of the Konner & Sohnen KS 8100HDE generator is UAH 62-68 thousand – almost at the level of a charging station.
By the way, why do I recommend choosing a single-phase generator? It would seem that a three-phase generator is better because it can support the operation of both single-phase equipment and three-phase, having 220 V and 380 V outputs. But there are several important nuances here. First of all, ordinary consumers have practically no devices that require a voltage of 380 V. It is only some specialized equipment, such as construction equipment.
Secondly, if you can easily connect a single-phase electrical appliance with a power of, say, 4-5 kW to a single-phase generator with a capacity of 6 kW, then you won’t succeed in doing this “trick” with a three-phase generator. After all, the power of the latter is distributed equally to each phase, that is, devices with a maximum power of 2 kW can be connected to a 6 kW generator.
And thirdly, three-phase generators have such an unpleasant feature as phase shift. As a rule, if the load difference on different phases exceeds 25%, which is quite likely for a household generator, then the protection system will work and the generator will turn off. This makes the use of a generator of this type impractical in private households and small businesses. The exception is acceptable only in the case when the house has an electric stove and it has a three-phase connection.
However, no matter how good the generator is, there is one caveat: it will not heat the room. In order to comply with safety regulations, working generators cannot be installed indoors at all – only on the street, a few meters away from buildings where people may be.
But in view of the winter, many are concerned with the question of how to organize heating during a blackout. Because in the cold, heat is no less important than electricity.
Based on my own experience at the beginning of winter, I can say that you can last only a few hours in a cold office. And then you start thinking not so much about work, but about how to keep warm.
Well, a heat pump will help warm the body and soul perfectly.
I would like to add that if we are talking about a blackout, one of the possible options for heating the room is to use a backup power source for the gas boiler. Blackouts do not affect the presence of gas in the pipes, and such a solution will consume electricity quite economically.
Condensing boilers with an energy-saving pump will consume even less electricity than a heat pump. However, they will additionally consume gas, which is not cheap at all. And the gas distribution stations themselves are not immune from “strikes”.
Warm and environmentally friendly
A heat pump is a worthy alternative to a gas or electric boiler. At the same time, unlike the latter, the heat pump does not produce heat. How does it heat? And here’s how: it takes energy from street air or water and transfers it indoors.
And the heat pump does not directly heat the air in the room, like a household heater, but water, which then enters heating radiators or underfloor heating. This allows using a heat pump to heat not only one room, like a household heater or air conditioning but to heat an entire office or house at once. By the way, the heat pump is able to work and heat the room, even when it is -25°C outside the window.
For its operation, the heat pump does not need anything except electricity, that is, it can easily be powered by a backup power generator. Among the advantages of the heat pump should be added the fact that it is a very economical and ecological device.
The most popular type of heat pump is an air-to-water pump. They take heat from the surrounding air and heat the water. This popularity is explained by the fact that heat pumps of the water-to-water type need to extract heat from a much more scarce and expensive resource – water sources. Therefore, their use in most cases is economically impractical.
An example of a modern air-to-water heat pump is NIMBUS COMPACT 50 S 2Z NET R32 from Ariston, with a nominal capacity of 5 kW. Using the refrigerant flowing in the pipes between the outdoor and indoor units, this device is able to take heat from the street air and use it not only to heat the heating system but also to produce hot water for domestic needs.
Quite a practical multifunctional solution. Moreover, there will be enough water not only to “wash hands” – the capacity of the hot water supply tank is a substantial 180 liters. As for the refrigerant, it is a modern R32 freon, which has a significant practical advantage: gaseous refrigerant eliminates the risk of the coolant freezing and completely eliminates the danger of pipes breaking between the indoor and outdoor modules, even in the most severe frosts.
This Italian heat pump has a convenient control system using a touch display. However, even it will not be necessary to use it – thanks to the Ariston NET application, you can set the desired temperature, optimize energy consumption or get current information about the state of the heating system directly on your smartphone.
Also, a remote control is not the only advantage of the IT component of this pump model. There is a smart function of intelligent planning, which with the help of AI is able to adjust the heating system to the standard weekly “rhythm of life” specifically for your room. If consumer habits change, the system will automatically see this and dynamically adapt the program accordingly, informing the consumer in the mobile application.
In addition, this pump is ready to work even in harsh climatic conditions as economically as possible – it belongs to the class of devices with energy efficiency class A+++ and will not wind up extra kilowatts on the meter. Other advantages of the model include a compact hydraulic module, a durable heat exchanger made of stainless steel, and support for two heating zones. The cost of such equipment from Ariston for a warm home or a small separate office space will be from UAH 380 to 400 thousand.
What about solar panels? Can they be recommended as a backup power source during a blackout? No. With all due respect to renewable energy sources.
And there are several factors at once. First is the cost. A set of autonomous solar power plant with a capacity of 6 kW, such as the EcoFlow Power Get Set Kit 6 kWh, will cost 380-460 thousand UAH. That is, it is seven times more expensive than a generator of similar power. Well, even if you find a Chinese analog for UAH 300,000, it’s still a dubious option. Sacrifice power? OK, but in turn, a decent 1kW solar station costs the same as a regular 2kW charging station. Do you really need it?
Secondly, at a high cost, an autonomous solar power plant has extremely low efficiency, at least in the winter period in our area. The efficiency of solar panels is low, the generated power is not high. Plus, in Ukraine, the days in winter are quite short, and the sun may hide behind the clouds for weeks. And this is a disaster for the solar station. From my own experience, I can say that in the absence of direct sunlight for several days in a row, let alone a week, the battery of the solar station just gradually depletes and loses the remaining charge, which does not allow it to act as a reliable source of backup power. Instead, the solar station will have to be additionally recharged from the mains or other sources, which turns it into a regular charging station with an expensive additional feature.
Thus, I can recommend the option with a solar station only to supporters of “green technologies at any price”. And to those who are always ready to clean. After all, did you think that solar panels do not need to be cleaned of dust and dirt? And in winter, the snow and ice will also give you more work so that you don’t relax.
However, I do not rule out that in the southern regions of our country, autonomous solar power plants can still find their customers. However, I would still consider solar panels only as an option for auxiliary, but not the main source of energy storage.
When choosing a backup power supply source, first of all, focus on your actual energy consumption needs. Decide for what purposes the source will be used and what devices and in what quantity you plan to connect to it. If you only need to charge a smartphone or two, a tiny power bank is enough. If you intend to work with light and heat during a blackout, take a closer look at the generator and heat pump. Functionality and possibilities here are determined only by your vision of the desired level of comfort and the budget you are ready to give for the provision of a backup power supply.