WHY I searched for the perfect GENERATOR and found an awesome solution for others too!
Our own real journey to more peace of mind.
From a moms perspective:
This is how I felt when I started looking at equipment that could give my family back up power in an emergency, HELP!
Because Unlike Elsa (from Disney’s Frozen), in real life when the storms rage on, most women are not used to happily living like a princess in an ice castle, where “the cold doesn’t bother you anyway!”
When the power went out and the severe cold in the rocky mountains came to our home, and darkness too, it bothered us all. It was my job to keep my kids warm.
I was clueless about what kind of fuel generator to purchase much less about solar generators or solar panels, and don’t get me started on chemicals inside of batteries, I stunk at chemistry.
So many of these articles about energy off the grid are written by PhDs or someone trying to impress you with their science and math. Usually it is written by a guy, talking to other guys, in manspeak, about transformers, deep cycle, current restriction, circuits, etc, um WHAT!? Ugh! I am a girl…okay so I am going to be writing about my journey to Solar Generators from a GIRLS perspective. This stuff is overwhelming for some of us. We think guys should be handling the generators to keep our refrigerators going when the power goes out! I know that sounds incredibly sexist, but sometimes I am just NOT interested in getting another education in something I was hoping was easy, but probably is not. I already juggle twenty other hard things…do I need a chemical battery degree too? So I guess I thought a husband meant someone who could sweat in the sun mowing the lawn, and look sexy and strong starting the motor. HAHA. Yep, I am delusional.
So what got me involved? WELL, it started with THE EPIC Failure we had with our fuel generator.
I had finally took the dive and I just bought my husband a big unleaded gas generator I got him on sale for Christmas, I figured he could do the rest…right? I would have peace of mind now? LOL! We then found out our homeowners insurance, FIRE POLICY, did not cover us storing a bunch of gasoline in our garage. SO then I thought, well we can spend $1100 and just build a shed and store it in there, away from the house(because money grows on trees for everyone right?) and that is when I found out my neighborhood HOA covenants were against large amounts being stored anywhere on the property, as well as the City Ordinances. When you need like 20-40 gallons of fuel just for three days emergency use, that is expensive too, and now they are telling me possibly dangerous and illegal. A hotel in another town sounds like a cheaper, and a better plan, except in big emergencies fleeing isn’t always the best option. PLUS where we live, the year we were making these decisions our remote neighborhood lost power 50 times in one year! I could not have afforded 50 nights that year in a hotel to be comfortable! MY NEIGHBORS can verify living in the sticks has its own way of forcing a whole new education upon you. The funny thing is I know some neighbors who have shared with me, their entire preparedness plan is going to grandmas(who lives in the city!) because they think their mom is the one with food storage and fuel. Have they never considered, family and friends are thinking about fleeing the other direction towards you? Haha. That could be a problem. Haha!
I was teaching other preparedness measures. I teach food storage, clearly with the thermal cookers we KNOW how to cook without power! I mean I am the Saratoga Jacks GIRL! I am the preparedness guru. I could purify water from a sewer practically, why was this power thing so hard for me?
I had to admit it, I was out of my depth with the whole generator issues. My brain was starting to see the weaknesses of the system I had chosen. This was starting to tick me off, the money I thought I had saved on a good deal for a gift for peace of mind for my family was going to cost me more than planned. Plus, I am one for thinking in terms of weeks, not days. I had wanted to store enough fuel for at least a full week. If I was really honest I actually liked the idea of ninety day supply. If you know me that is a good target for living ahead of the curve. The reality hit me that large scale disasters are not usually a couple days only emergencies, and I was already having trouble with being allowed to store LEGALLY enough fuel for even three days, and it was annoying. BUT trying to be positive I thought, for short term… no problem still, we can just siphon our gas out of our two unleaded gas cars in an emergency. I thought I had been smart in choosing an UNLEADED gas generator since we drove unleaded gas cars. HAHA! Until I realized the new anti siphoning devices on the newer cars made that impossible. We could not get the GAS out! We actually ruined our fuel pump on our suburban trying. ARGH! I need more money trees. Right?
Then the wind storm hit,
it was subzero temps, and the power went out, and guess what? It started out good. My manly man fired up our fuel generator outside in our backyard where at least it was in a fenced yard, but we had some immediate issues. Running that thing all night during blackout conditions was not only stinky, the wind storm blew the fumes towards our house, you could smell it though our closed windows and walls, but worse, it was LOUD! I laid inside in my bed that night with blankets piled on top of us, watching a movie, keeping the kids happy, knowing my refrigerator and freezer were full of food the generator was saving, feeling somewhat successful, but I also was painfully aware all my neighbors around me, could hear our generator. I knew they had their kids that might be in freezing dark winter conditions, no lights and their fridges probably needed some help too, and although I would have welcomed them gladly in our home to let them get cozy with us, and gladly would have let them borrow the generator for spurts of time to save their food that day, my inner voice, the one that thinks about long term zombie apocalypse type conditions started to kick in.
What would happen to us, if this kind of thing went on for a long period of time and people knew we had power when others didn’t?
Not everyone is as nice as my neighbors. I began to think of the fight that broke out after Hurricane Sandy and the guy that was killed just standing in line waiting for a can of gas. I began to feel nervous that our resource for power was itself not only vulnerable to theft, being outside, it was perhaps making us vulnerable too! It was loud, drew attention, and we still relied on fuel, we could eventually run out of. I felt like we were too reliant on the system still.
So I started trying to read about portable solar generator systems. I was drawn to them for three reasons, they were quiet, we didn’t need to store fuel, and I could use them safely inside behind locked doors. I went and looked at them, with my husband. I am not talking about $20,000+ whole home systems. I am talking about portable systems that are $400-$2000. Not as cheap as the gas generators, but when you included NOT have to purchase and store fuel and the increased, profoundly cheaper. There was a couple things I learned quickly. First, most of the solar generator systems out there, the ones that have serious wattage or decent power, are HEAVY! I went to Costco and picked up one that was a 140 watt one meant for plugging in something smallish like a cell. It had only one plug in. The shape of it, sort of reminded me of a bowling pin/torpedo (we nicknamed it that, because when I drove around the thing rolled all over the back of my car, making a loud THUD on every turn.) and HELLO, the worse part, the thing weighed 22 pounds. That is like carrying around three infants to keep a cell phone or a laptop juiced. Can’t take that hiking! And if you wanted something really much bigger, for the appliances like my refrigerator,1200-3000watts minimum, they were close to 200 pounds. Now this may not be a big deal to some people, but that was a LOT of weight for me, a girl with a significant lack of upper body strength, to be hauling all over my house. The weight issue we encountered came from the fact that the solar energy stored as power, was stored in the internal batteries. The solar “generators” are simply put, are solar power stored in “batteries”. You charge them up from the sun(wall and car charges can also be used to keep them charged too when you still have power) and it is all stored inside the internal battery systems, which are enclosed in some sort of an outer case with plug outlets available on the pretty exterior where you can draw the power out again. THE WEIGHT was coming from the typical lead acid battery most companies use that is stored inside.
In girls terms that means, the typical solar system uses same types of batteries inside that are used in like RVs or cars or boats, in one varying degree or another, are on the inside.
That brought about the other problem. What happens to your car or boat or RV or other types of deep cycle batteries if you don’t drive your vehicles for months, like over the winter? Batteries Die. Sometimes unable to even take a charge again come spring, if you go too long. Even when we drive our cars every day, most of us have to replace our car batteries every 4-5 years. This led me to discover this ONE FACT, all solar systems, home or otherwise, the weakest part of their system, that will eventually need to be replaced, is the BATTERIES.
I met women and men who bought these types of back up solar power systems, who didn’t know they had to trickle charge them periodically. A car gets a charge while it is being driven. Their solar generators(batteries) they bought failed because they had just unknowingly put them in their garage or storage shed a couple years ago, and didn’t charge them up periodically. When they went to go get it, when the power finally went out. It was dead. But when they went to plug it in to their solar panel… it also no longer was able to be recharged even. They had left the lead acid battery sit too long uncharged and now it was dead forever. Wow I didn’t want that! I guess I needed a chemistry lesson after all. Which I secretly hated and avoided. So I steered away from making any more major purchases until I could figure out a better Plan B.
So I was discouraged,
and I went away for a couple years, but still keeping my eyes open, hoping I could find a system that made more sense to me. Then I meet a smart man that didn’t talk down to me or in the familiar ‘solar science brainiac language’. His name was James. He had lived overseas in remote locations and had out of necessity developed a battery system to store the energy from the sun, and he told me all about how he made a new solar generator system and he said it was lightweight. Light enough my kids could handle them.
He put the Saratoga Jacks label on it to tempt me, and he let me try it out. (He is a smart man, did I mention this?) This was honestly the first picture I took: A side by side comparing the unit he invented for me to try next to what I had already purchased from Costco.
The 200 watt JoeyPack200 was about 1/6 the weight of my previous purchase and had four times the amount of plug outlets. The new one weighed 3.5 lbs.
This is a picture I took in my home with my own Kiddo carrying the JOEY PACK200 around with her.
Without getting too technical the ones he was working on had a different kind of battery storage system within made with lithium ion. Basically, It was the same stuff in your new ipads, but LOTS more of it! Powerful, Lightweight, and THE BATTERY life is TWICE as many years as the typical lead acid battery. Plus he figured out how to keep them COOL. He wired them differently to keep them safer and cooler. (Laptops can get hot! It was awesome he had figured out how to keep that heat down!)
So even though I would eventually have to replace it. It wasn’t going to be every 4 to 5 years like the typical lead acid system. I didn’t need a PhD to do that math. Longer use means more bang for my buck. I was going to be replacing it around once a decade, and if we are lucky perpetual energy will be available some day as advancement in technology increases each passing decade. In the meantime, this is the best stuff!
Okay Got it! I saw the LIGHT!
The other cool thing, it doesn’t freak out when you set it on a shelf. It can take the abuse of not babying it as often. It has a forgiving memory. That means, it will take a charge again, when I needed it to. Even if I forgot to charge it all year. Just like if I left my ipad unplugged for months it would take a charge when I plugged it back in.
I am going to include some technical info below about lithium ion for the smarty pants readers, but this is what I learned, This is what mattered to me as a MOM:
I could get a 200 Watt solar generator (Joey Pack 200) that could run laptops and home video cameras and ipads and cells ,simultaneously, that weighed 3.5 pounds that would fit in a tote bag, and was portable. We took it everywhere! From Football Games, to ALL day ballroom dancing events, to hiking/camping, to the beach. AND THESE PICS BELOW ARE JUST A FEW OF FAMILY CELL PHOTOS that LATER became ADS:
As awesome as this fun smaller 200 watt JOEY was I was still worried about the higher wattage items we might need in an emergency like Jack’s cpap machine. So we were excited when James created a 500 Watt unit Safari Jack Pro500 that could run most small home medical device. It weighed 7 lbs.We have since found out pro camera news and film crews have used this unit to run their heavier camera equipment in the field. And in a Side by Side Comparison it was more the twice the power at around only twice the weight, and dimensionally it wasn’t that much bigger.
BUT I still WANTED something that could get my fridge cold again, and then run my 1200 watt WHEAT GRINDER!
So James developed the OUTBACK PRO3000 Lithium that could run my refrigerator, run my blender, and my low watt LED TV, plus we used a low watt electric blanket to pile my kids under to keep them warm and the Outback Pro only weighed 32pounds and came with big easy to move WHEELS and a retractable handle like a small piece of children’s luggage.
And no matter which unit I purchased, they all could be recharged by three different methods. Wall charger and car charger(included), or a solar panel- sold separately.
AND THAT WAS ALL I NEEDED TO KNOW! THEY WORKED! They were easy to use. I could move them. I was done looking. SOLD. Yes. I may not know how to string together a sentence about the chemicals in the battery storage units of the Saratoga Jacks Inergy Solar Generators when it comes to the science of them. Thankfully I leave that to the inventor James the Brain…. but as a mom at a sporting event that can keep a video camera going all day long. I am pretty certain I can say, THIS was awesome stuff!
I loved James inventions so much I convinced Jack to work with James, so Saratoga Jacks can help everyone get some serious peace of mind too!
That is not just the story of our own journey to solar generators, it is the story of how this new Saratoga Jacks Solar Generators came to be! James invented them, Jack agreed to sell them, and I am just the mom who was finally happy I found what my family needed. I would not want to be without them personally! Which is why the portable Saratoga Jacks Inergy Solar Generators are the POWERful tools Jack has made available for you and your family now too! I am also sure that with this alliance, every YEAR as we move forward we will only do MORE amazing things!
We have always learned from our own mistakes best. This time the failures led to eventual sweet success.
So when my little ones are belting out the song with Idina Menzel, I can also sing along too,
“Let the storm rage on, the cold never bothered me anyway!”
Amy (The Original Saratoga Jacks Girl)
MORE INFO BELOW:
THE Generator Units below all come with wall and car chargers.
The solar panels and accessories are sold separately
We can go anywhere now and keep power quietly supplying our families needs. I have put the solar panels, just leaning inside against my southern facing windows to trickle charge my units back up. I can keep it all safely locked inside in an emergency, and do it quietly!
Recently we have taken the lightweight flexible panels with us on several fun trips….on one of them we literally attached the 20 watt panel with bungee cords to the deck of our sailboat that we rented last Christmas day, when we decided to gift the kids a surprise sailing lesson instead of doing presents. Even when the wind was gone and the sails limp, our laptop was working playing a movie until the wind picked up again. We were truly off grid on that boat and the units performed perfectly.
Our current Solar Panel Options below(If using more then one, they all can hook together in a ‘Daisy Chain’ to provide even more solar power supply then with only one at a time):
Side Note: People ask me all the time which solar panels we use for which units. I tell them I am about speed. A 20 watt solar panel by itself will take about 10 hours in full sun to charge a 200 watt unit. (20 times 10 is 200…the math is really that simple, but unfortunately the sun is not…it can be fickle…or in and out) So for my 200 watt unit I usually hook my 20 and 40 watt flexible panels together in a daisy chain to make 60 watts and I can get the 200 watt unit charged in 3-5 hours, depending on the amount of sun I can capture, that way. If I have a 500 watt unit I like using either 2 of our 40 watt flex panels daisy chained together (to make 80 watts) or one 90 or one 135 watt rigid panel. I am looking for a fast charge of that 500 watts. One 135 watt panel will take 4-6 hours in varying sun conditions of the 500 watt unit.
I personally always go up in watts…and my personal favorites for portability over all is the slightly flexible extremely thin and marine grade 20 and 40 watt panels. They weigh so little and are quite tough! I use them all the time….I love the grommet holes in the four corners..i have used carabiners and bungee cords to string them up. They are just my favorites. Other people might feel differently.
People ask me why I don’t recommend the folding panels a lot. I do. FOR hikers. They are easier to stow away in back packs… but I usually want at least two with me, and they are slightly heavier because of the amount of fabric.
More info about Accessories Here.
MORE ABOUT SARATOGA JACKS Inergy SOLAR GENERATORS:
Charge your Saratoga Jacks Inergy Solar Generator 3 convenient ways:
1. Wall charge: plug cigarette plug into any cigarette socket on front of unit
and plug charger into any wall outlet.
2. Solar charge: plug solar panel into the charge input on side of unit, red
indicator light will glow red.
3. Car charge: (use the double ended cigarette plug charger) plug one end
into any cigarette socket on front of unit, and plug the other end into
a designated cigarette socket in your vehicle.
More Technical Stuff For the Analytical Mind:
What is a lithium ion battery anyway?A lithium-ion battery is a rechargeable battery used mostly for consumer electronics. Because it can be recharged, it is secondary battery. Lithium-ion batteries are not lithium batteries, which are primary, or not rechargeable, batteries. The lithium-ion battery is sometimes called “li-ion.” The battery gets its name from the lithium ion that moves between an anode and a cathode, two of the primary components of the battery. A third component, the electrolyte, completes the functional makeup of a lithium-ion battery. Depending on the materials used for these three components, the capacity and life of the battery changes drastically. Basically, a lithium ion moves back and forth between the anode and cathode during discharge and when charging.
Benefits of lithium ion
Higher Energy Density
Research on lithium batteries’ instability during charging led to a lithium battery using lithium ions. Lithium-ion proved safer and has an energy density that is nearly double that of a nickel-cadmium battery. Their energy density is also higher than other rechargeable batteries, meaning they provide a lot of energy for their weight and size. They are lighter and smaller because they are made from lithium, the lightest metal, and carbon. A lithium-ion battery has between 500 to 1,000 charge cycles. It also has a low self-discharge rate. This allows battery packs that power small electronics to be designed using only one cell instead of three. Current research suggests that future lithium-ion batteries have potential for even higher energy capacities.
Low Maintenance/Lengthy Charge Hold
Lithium-ion batteries are low-maintenance. No priming is necessary for a new battery. They retain their charge for a longer time than other rechargeable batteries. With lithium-ion batteries no memory effect occurs as in nickel cadmium rechargeable batteries. So, the user does not have to completely use up the battery before recharge. Their charge is retained even after a consumer stores the battery for months.
Lithium-ion batteries are currently considered one of the most “green” batteries. Relatively few toxic metals are used to manufacture li-ions. They are recyclable, as are most rechargeable batteries, provided the consumer deposits them at a suitable recycling spot. Lithium-ions also use organic solvents, such as ether, to suspend the lithium ions.
Lithium-ion batteries are currently used mainly for small electronics. This type of battery is popular with portable electronics, such as laptop computers, cell phones, iPods and digital cameras. Additionally, lithium-ion batteries are being considered for the automotive and aerospace industries.
The lithium-ion battery holds energy promise. With possible applications for defense, aerospace and the automotive industry’s environmentally friendly cars, the “li-ion” may be powering even more consumer products in the future.