Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Back-up power source

During last week's power outage, I mentioned in passing how we used our Bluetti portable power station to power the refrigerator and chest freezer.

Several readers asked about this unit, so I figured now's a good time to dive into it.

We purchased this unit a couple years ago, after we moved here and realized how fragile the power grid is in this area. Anything seems to knock out the electricity: a windy day, a snowy day, a Tuesday. The longest it's been off was three days, and fortunately that outage came in deep winter when the chest freezer (which is outside on the porch) was in no danger of defrosting; all we had to do was crack the lid open and let the cold air flow in. During that outage, we also emptied the contents of the refrigerator and either stored things outside, or put them in ice chests on the porch.

But of course, not all power outages fall conveniently in the winter, so we started sourcing portable power units that would allow us to keep the contents of the freezer frozen, at least long enough for me to can everything up (in the event of a long-term outage).

Don's good at research, so he investigated a number of options and settled on the Bluetti for a number of reasons.

What we wanted was something strong enough to power the freezer and fridge for about an hour once or twice a day (depending on whether the weather is warm or cold). Assuming the doors of these appliances stay closed, that should do it to keep the food from going bad. We also wanted a unit that could be recharged in a number of ways: electricity (wall outlet), generator, solar (via panels and a PV charging cable), even via a car cigarette lighter. The Bluetti fills all these requirements.

We purchased the Bluetti AC200Max for about $1500. The user's manual says battery expansion packs are available for this unit, though we didn't purchase those. We keep the unit charged at all times since, as noted, we never know when the power will go out. It's worth noting this unit weighs 62 pounds, so it's heavy.

The user's manual indicates the Bluetti can be used to power electrical items with 2200 watts or less of power requirements. Our fridge takes about 130 watts; the chest freezer takes about 110 watts. The user manual indicates it will power a 90-watt refrigerator for 17 to 19 hours nonstop, if needed.

During power outages, we don't waste the Bluetti's electricity on anything but the chest freezer and the fridge. We don't need it to power lights, heat, or anything else. (For lights, we use kerosene lamps and battery lights; for heat we have our wood cookstove; for my laptop on days I'm working, I have a rechargeable 12-volt battery backup and wireless hotspot for internet.)

For a long-term (and as-yet undone) project, we also have some solar panels. These were an incredibly lucky find on the local Facebook buy-and-sell. An older man was moving and wanted to sell his seven 100-watt panels, all of which are in excellent shape and in working order. We got them for the amazing price of $300. And then, as if that wasn't incredible enough, the seller threw in seven 12-volt deep-cycle batteries for free! (We later purchased a charge controller separately.)

Right now the solar panels are stored in the barn. Don keeps the deep-cycle batteries charged at all times, which means that (if necessary) we can connect those batteries to the Bluetti, thus extending its longevity. A project we hope to tackle this summer (or maybe next) is to install the solar panels permanently, and have them available to charge the Bluetti as needed.

So there you go. That's our back-up power source.


  1. Friend you must be living right :-)

    Even if the batteries are half done in their lifecycle they are a blessing as a training set of batteries and the core trade in for new.

  2. We have a Yeti which is similar. It is mounted on a cart so it can easily be wheeled around. It runs much as yours does so we keep it charged all the time. It also has solar panels that can be used to recharge it, although those are much slower charging compared to plugging in to the house current. Ours was much less from Costco, but we've had it now for about two years. Wouldn't be without one!

  3. Thank you Patrice! This is a very timely post, as we are relocating and will likely be in an apartment for a few years. I thinking this week about a power source to minimally manage something like a refrigerator; the size and weight is exactly the sort of thing we would need.

  4. It is well worth your time to watch the Bluetti site as well as box stores for sales because prices fluctuate a good bit. For example another of their many generators, an AC180, is on sale right now, with a coupon code, for $649. It's 1800 watts as compared to the AC200, which is 2000 watts or 200 Max which is 2200 watts. Not as many bells and whistles, but it Will top off a fridge. The price difference can pay for a solar panel or 2, or a small battery backup. Or even 2 of these generators, which may seem odd, but if you're breaking price of whatever you purchase to cost per kwh, 2 of them would give you 3600 watts for $1300. And it's about half the weight of the AC200 Max. Use one while the other is charging. It also charges much faster.

    Bluetti has many options that are portable. They also have generator carts which might help save your back, but those are priced separately.
    It wouldn't hurt to make a spreadsheet on the options you're considering to see how they compare. No, I'm not selling them, but like Don have put in time researching options. Bluetti wins, hands down.
    What I like about the 200Max is that you can add on those batteries for a decent battery backup in case of some long term scenario, and it doesn't have to be all at once. You can buy the batteries later and continue with other projects until they work their way up your list. Most of their generators have bluetti battery backup/add on choices.
    That $649 price will sell out pdq, because most folks jump on price per kwh.

  5. Was noticing in your previous post the bluetti was being charged behind the shop, and on the left side of the pic, bright sunlight was shining from the other side of the building.
    Granted, you have solar stuff to install, but you have two buildings. As a luddite, perhaps this suggestion is just wasteful overkill. However, your new generator is portable, so even with just a 200w bluetti portable solar panel, you could have utilized the pass through charging feature to run your appliances through the day with little to no loss of charge in the bluetti. That would save fuel for the generator.
    One of the beautiful aspects of portability is that both buildings can enjoy power as needed.
    Assuming your pre-purchased solar is for your home, a panel or 2 for pass through charging at the barn might be a consideration. Depending of course on how much would be needed for power needed.