Emergency Power for Radio Communications is one of the best books I’ve seen so far on the topic of creating reliable, portable back-up power solutions. Even though the focus of this book is on radio comms, the solutions Michael Bryce WB8VGE describes are useful for just about any of your power needs – recharging other communications devices, lighting, etc.
Whether you’re a radio person, looking g at off-grid power solutions for your cabin, or interested in alternate power sources for any other reason, like a winter storm, this book is jam-packed with very useful information. Even though the title says “for Radio Communications”, don’t let that fool you. This book is for anyone who needs power in an emergency. It could have been titled “Emergency Power Solutions for Any Reason” (but that wouldn’t have sounded as good, I guess).
Let’s quickly look over what’s covered, with a little editorializing on my part (that’s why you’re reading, right? :-)).
- Hey, I am in the Dark: This chapter is about lighting. You may think that talking about batteries or generators or radios would come first, but if you think about it, if you have no power, and it’s not daytime, light is critical! This is a good, basic review of emergency lighting options.
- Solar Power: Basics of solar panels, types, how to calculate $/Watt, power ratings, making your own panels, mounting, safety, dealing with wind, and more. This is a great intro to solar power basics.
- Charge Controllers for Photovoltaic Systems: It’s not often you see a set of solar panels with no charge controllers. All the energy coming from those panels needs to be managed somehow, and you’ll learn about how they work, different types, what you will need for your setup, and more.
- Generators: Gas, Wind, and Water: This is interesting. I’ve never seen anyone lump these technologies together in one section before. In either case, the author does a solid review of the different types and technologies that exist for gas generators. Even if you only need to power part of your house with a generator when the power is out, this book will be worth the purchase just for this section. I learned a lot here. He also briefly describes some wind and water power basics. If you are planning on setting up a permanent off-grid wind or micro-hydro power solution, this won’t be enough info, but will get you started.
- Load Sizing: How much equipment do you need to run and how much power will it consume? If you don’t know, you could be in for a nasty surprise when you run out of power, the sun has just set, and your emergency power solution happens to be solar panels and batteries. This section will help you calculate what you need.
- Holding your Volts: Battery Systems and Storage: All about batteries. Types are covered – NiCad, NiMH, Lithium-ion, flooded lead-acid, AGM, and gel-cell . More details of voltage, temperature, charging, amp-hours, maintenance, setting up a battery bank, safety, and examples of what *not* to do are also covered. And there are a lot of good pictures. Another fantastic resource for anyone who needs to use battery power.
- Systems for Emergency Power: This is where it all comes together – the alternate power source, power management and storage as needed.
- Inverters: If you need AC power and have a battery, you will need an inverter. But what kind? How much power should it produce? How big of a batter would you need to produce enough AC? Do you need a pure sine wave? Does it need to tie to the power grid? These questions and many more answered here.
Station Instrumentation: You will learn various ways to measure and monitor your power supply.
- Safety: Of course, electricity can be dangerous for a few reasons. This is definitely worth reviewing. To his credit, the author discusses safety all through the other sections too.
- Emergency Practices: One thing I like about this chapter is that the author covers general emergency preparedness well, discussing an overall plan, budget, light, communications (of course), food and water, health & sanitation, pets, firearms, and getting others involved. For a short chapter, it is dense with good advice.
There are a few appendices at the end, also content-rich. All in all, this book is a treasure trove of emergency power information, and better than most books I’ve seen on the topic. Enjoy!