By Jason Snell
October 31, 2019 9:58 AM PT
We Like: Batteries
I mentioned elsewhere that I lost power for three days. A thing I like? Batteries. I like batteries a lot.
Before the outage, we made sure that all our devices were charged and our external batteries were, too. I have two 10,000 mAh batteries from our Away suitcases, plus a couple other ones I’ve picked up over the years, and they managed to keep our iPhones and iPads operating over those three days. Batteries of this size can charge a phone several times over.
A few months back I picked up a solar charger, which seems to be primarily for camping, but I can say that it managed to charge one of my Away batteries over the course of the day, so long as I was diligent about moving it to wherever the sun was shining.
After the first night of our outage I realized that I had two other large batteries in the house, and they would do more than charge via a USB port. I have two Uninterruptible Power Supplies, heavy power strips with batteries that let your computer keep running (briefly, anyway—at the very least you can have the time to shut down gracefully) when the power goes out. And I had turned the UPS’s off when the power went out.
So on night two, I ran an extension cord from a UPS into our living room and turned on a floor lamp. It kept our living room illuminated all night, and the next night, too. The only catch is that these UPSes beep when they’re running on battery power to warn you that the power is out. That’s why I used the extension cord—so I could put the UPS far away in my garage and close the door, muffling the beeping somewhat. (Note to self: Buy a UPS with a muting feature.)
During the blackout I also came to appreciate the longstanding compatibility features of battery tech. We needed a radio to tune in updates about the situation, and I also thought I could use it to pass the time and listen to the World Series since I wasn’t able to watch it anymore. A radio. Did we own a radio?
It turns out that we did: My old not-a-Walkman from the 1980s, which in addition to being the last cassette player in the house is also an AM/FM radio. Two AA batteries, which we have in large supply, were able to power it without any trouble, and we had an old-school connection to the outside world via our local all-news station. (And yes, I got to listen to an entire World Series game on the radio.)
While we’re at it, let’s hear it for the headphone jack. That hasn’t changed in decades, either, which means that I was able to plug a set of EarPods from an iPhone SE into a 1980s cassette player and there were absolutely no compatibility issues. (Well, the clicker on the headphones didn’t work for obvious reasons, but otherwise everything worked well.) Only after it was all over did someone on Twitter mention that one generation of the iPod nano came with an FM tuner! Unfortunately, I don’t think I have one of those iPods in my possession.
In any event, three cheers for batteries! You should buy a UPS for your computer, anyway, but don’t forget that you can also repurpose its battery for other purposes.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get back to calling various companies about installing solar panels on my roof. I can assure you that in addition to the panels, I’m going to want a very large backup battery.