Cell phones are powerful pieces of technology that have infiltrated almost every aspect of our lives. We use them to make calls, check our email, surf the internet, play games, and too many other tasks to mention. However, without power, they are completely useless. Because they are so important to our daily lives, everyone should know how to charge a cell phone during a power outage or if they are somewhere without power.
Here are some ways to charge your phone during a power outage:
- Conserve the phone’s power
- Charge from a laptop
- Portable battery banks
- Use your car or vehicle jump pack
- Use power tool batteries
- Charge at work, school, or a restaurant
- Use a solar charger
- Power inverter
- Crank charger
- Biolite Camp Stove
Those are some ways that I have charged my cell phone during a power outage as well as some tricks I picked up from others. Some of them require just using a little forethought, while others will require you to spend some money.
First, Conserve Your Phone’s Power
When the power goes out, it can be hard to predict when it will come back on. The outage may last a few hours in a thunderstorm or could last days or even weeks in a widespread emergency. As soon as the power goes out, take the following steps to conserve your phone’s power.
Turn On Low Power Mode (Or Battery Saver)
Most phones give you the option of switching over to a power-saving mode if you need to conserve your battery. On iPhones, this setting is called “Low Power Mode”, and on Androids, it is called “Battery Saver”. Both can be turned on manually within your phone’s settings app.
Turn Off Wifi and Bluetooth
If the power is out, there probably won’t be any wifi networks to connect to. Also, most Bluetooth devices will be out of commission as well, unless you are in a vehicle. Turning off both wifi and Bluetooth will help you save power.
Close Unnecessary Apps
Many apps continue to run in the background, even after you close them. While this is happening, they are using energy. To prevent this, completely close out of any unnecessary apps.
Avoid Games and Other High-Drain Activities
Certain activities, such as playing games, watching videos, and even surfing the internet can drain a phone’s battery fast. To make sure that you still have the power you need to make emergency calls and texts, avoid activities such as these during a power outage.
Dim the Screen
One of the biggest energy hogs on your phone is the screen. Fortunately, you have a large amount of control over this. By dimming the screen, you can significantly reduce the amount of power that it drains from your battery.
Use Your Laptop to Charge Your Cell Phone
If you have a laptop, you should be able to use it as a battery bank to charge your phone once or twice. Of course, being able to do this will depend on if your laptop if fully or partially charged. If your laptop’s battery is low, this method may not work at all.
When I know a storm is coming, I will plug in my laptop and allow it to charge as much as possible. When it reaches a full charge, I will unplug it from the wall and let it go to sleep. This will conserve energy and protect the computer in case of power surges or lightning strikes. If there is lightning, I will go ahead and unplug the computer even if it isn’t fully charged.
Use Portable Battery Banks to Charge Your Phone
Another way to charge your phone during a power outage is to use portable battery banks. These come in several shapes and sizes. Some are small and may only charge your phone once or twice, while others are much larger, being able to charge a phone five or ten times.
As with using a laptop, portable battery banks must be charged ahead of time to be useful during a power outage.
Use Your Car to Charge Your Phone
Nearly every car in existence comes standard with 12-volt plugs. Most people simply call them “cigarette lighters”, even though many times, the lighter portion isn’t included with the vehicle anymore.
Several manufacturers produce small chargers that fit right inside of your vehicle’s 12-volt plug that you can then plug your own USB cable into. Some are even one-piece designs that are meant for only one type of device. They are great ways to keep your phone charged on the road, while camping, and during a power outage.
Thanks to the prevalence of USB technology, many cars don’t even require you to have a special charger or use the cigarette lighter. Many cars, like my wife’s Rav4, have USB plugs built into the dashboard. All we have to do is insert our phone’s USB cord into the plug and it will begin charging automatically.
Use a Car Jump Pack
A jump pack is a great tool to keep in your car. It will allow you to jump-start your car yourself without having to wait on a kind stranger with jumper cables. They are also helpful tools to charge your phone during a power outage or if you are off-grid. Most new jump packs come with USB charging ports that you can use to charge a cell phone or other USB device.
Power Tool Batteries
If you own cordless power tools, you may be able to use your tool batteries to charge your phone during a power outage. Most of the professional-brand tool companies produce adapters that attach to their tool batteries. I have one produced by Milwaukee, but I have seen similar products offered by Makita and Dewalt.
Also, some power tools have a USB charger built directly into them, making an additional adapter unnecessary. An example of this would be Milwaukee’s M18 Lantern and Floodlight. You can see my review of it by clicking here. It has a USB plug built into the back of it that can be activated with the push of a button.
The good thing about power tool batteries is that some of them can hold a bunch of power. My drill set came with (2) 5.0ah batteries. These were large enough to charge my iPhone SE around 8-10 times. Batteries with fewer amp-hours would provide fewer charge cycles, while larger ones would produce more. As with other battery-related charging methods, be sure your power tool batteries are charged ahead of time.
Charge Your Phone at Work…or School…or a Restaurant
Another way that you can charge your phone during a power outage is to bring your charger cable with you to work or school. If that isn’t an option, go hang out at a restaurant or coffee shop that will let you hang out for a while next to a power plug.
Obviously, this method would not be effective during a widespread emergency, but it is a valid option in most power outages. For example, the power went out in my neighborhood a few weeks ago. I used our portable power banks and most of the power in my tool batteries that night. The next morning, I took my chargers and batteries to the office and recharged everything. The power was back when I got home, but we would have been ready if it wasn’t.
One of the most popular off-grid phone charging methods is the use of a solar charger. They are miniature versions of the same types of technology that people use to power their homes or retreats.
Solar chargers come in many shapes, sizes, and price ranges. Some are barely larger than your phone and contain an all-in-one battery pack plus solar panel design. While some of them feature very impressive battery capacity, their solar panels are too small to gather enough solar energy to provide enough power in a high-demand situation.
I prefer a solar charger that has foldable panels. They take up more space, but their size allows them to have more light-gathering area than smaller chargers, allowing them to collect more energy. Some solar phone chargers, such as this one by Sunjack, even include battery banks to keep your phone charged when the sun isn’t out.
Use a Power Inverter
A power inverter is a useful tool that allows you to use your car battery or similar batteries to charge your phone or power other AC devices short-term. They work by converting the 12-Volt DC (direct current) power in your car’s battery to 120-Volt AC (alternating current).
*Note: AC and DC power are very different. In general, AC power is what you use in your house. Your lights, ceiling fans, and wall plugs all use AC power. On the other hand, battery-powered devices, such as tv remotes, cordless power tools, and flashlights use DC power. Your car battery is a DC power source.
Simply connect the inverter to your car battery using the included alligator clamps. They are similar to what you would use to jump-start a car. Be sure that the positive cable (red) is attached to the positive battery terminal and the negative cable (black) is attached to the negative battery terminal.
Once connected, you will be able to plug your phone or other devices into the AC plug on the inverter. Just be aware that your car battery isn’t an infinite source of power. If you drain too much of it, you won’t be able to start your car. Because of this, don’t run heavy loads on the inverter. Also, be sure to run your car for 10 to 15 minutes after using the inverter for 45 minutes. This will allow your alternator to recharge your battery. Do this in the driveway and not the garage. Carbon monoxide is bad.
Crank chargers, or dynamo chargers, use a hand crank to generate energy to charge your phone. While you won’t be able to charge your phone quickly, chargers such as these can give you the juice you need to make emergency calls or send text messages.
Compared to other types of phone chargers designed for emergency situations, dynamo chargers are pretty low-priced. They also usually function as AM/FM radios that can pick up NOAA weather radio.
One of the neatest ways to charge a phone during a power outage or if you are off-grid is to use a Biolite CampStove. It uses the heat generated by fire to charge your phone or other USB devices. It also comes with a battery bank to store the energy for later use.
What makes the Biolite CampStove even better is that you can use it to cook. Simply insert some sticks into the top and light it up. Considering that the region that I live in is basically one huge forest, I would never run out of fuel to cook with and keep my phone charged.
Being able to keep your phone charged during a power outage will help you stay connected to loved ones and the outside world. In dire situations, having a charged cell phone could save your life. If you know of any other ways to charge a phone without power, please add it in the comments.
Also, click here now to check out my article, Best Prepper Phone Apps for 2019. It has the best apps that I have found for a prepper to use in an emergency and everyday life.