Emergency Backup Power for your Shack

This July 4th 2019 offered Southern California a shaky wake-up call in the form of a 6.4 magnitude Ridgecrest Ca. earthquake that shook most of Central/Southern California and parts of Arizona and Nevada. The residents of Ridgecrest, especially the Amateur Radio residents were left without power, and their “linked” repeater system went off the air due to internet failure. What will you do when the big one hits and your radio gear doesn’t have power?

I am going to offer some ideas that don’t require you to find, fuel, start and connect your generator that was left under the rubble that fell from your garage or storage shed shelves during the event that left you without power.

The first and simplest idea is batteries that drive your gear directly, using a 20 Amp Hour battery. Preferably NOT flooded lead acid that tend to generate explosive/toxic hydrogen sulfide gas but Gel or Lithium Iron Phosphate. The larger your battery or battery “Bank” the longer you will be able to operate. If you use a “Power Gate” type battery backup power system, you can charge the battery with your power supply and it will automatically switch to battery power during a power failure. This method does not offer lighting power and power to your computers but is an easy way to keep your radios “On The Air”.

A more elegant (yes costlier) option is a high voltage (120v) option that can operate your radios, computers, lighting etc. Pretty much a uninterruptable power supply for your shack. Our GOTAhams/GOTAhome is an example of just this type of system.

We start with several batteries, 2 ea. 4D flooded Lead Acid at 170 Amp Hr. Ea. = 340 Amp Hr. + 2 ea. GP 24 Flooded Lead Acid at 70 Amp Hr. Ea. = 140 equaling 480 Amp Hrs. capacity, we feed our radios and some ancillary equipment with direct 12 volt power through 6 Ga. twin lead distribution cables. Our high voltage equipment is connected to a 2000 watt Pure Sine wave inverter/charger sporting an internal 30 amp automatic transfer switch. When this inverter is connected to “Shore Power” or powered through the GOTAhome’s onboard generator it will charge the battery bank at about 80 amps with five stage charge control. All this power easily supports several operator stations during our regular field operations and “Field Day”. This System is easily adapted to a home shack assuming you don’t need to power your RF amplifier during these emergency situations.

Our GOTAhome has the addition of over 500 wats of Solar Panels driving a Midnite Solar Classic 200 charge controller easily keeping our batteries fully charged allowing us to leave the RV disconnected from “mains” and still power its internet, local WIFI, and security DVR and cameras.

Of course you don’t need a huge amount of batteries. 100 amp hours will do, and I have used as small as a 400 watt inverter, if your simply charging a laptop and operating a single LED lamp. My best advice here is make sure you are using an RF quiet inverter, most Pure Sine Wave types are RF quiet.

If you are operating with nearly no budget, you can simply use a small battery and just keep it charged with a float type charger. This will certainly save you buying a generator without the maintenance and fueling issues.

I will add some photos and other ideas in the future. If you have other ideas or want to show off you “Shack Back-up” power system, just send it to us on the contact page and we will add it here. ’73 Ken KC6WOK

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Also see: Portable Power

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