Blog Post

Choosing the Safest Emergency Power to Get You Through a Wildfire, Earthquake or Superstorm

When it comes to emergency power, safety is critical.

During hurricanes, wildfires, earthquakes, tornadoes and other emergency scenarios, dangerous conditions will require you to take shelter or evacuate. Whether you have to board up your windows, take refuge in a basement or quickly pack a vehicle and get out of the path of danger, you’ll want an emergency power solution that is safe to use in closed spaces or extreme conditions for as long as the grid is shut down and the emergency lasts.

This guide presents safety concerns to consider as you shop for a back-up energy storage and management solution that can provide power through even the most challenging times.

Generators

Fossil-fuel powered generators are readily available from home improvement stores at a variety of sizes and price points. Generators can be selected based on their size, to power only “essential loads,” such as cell phone charging and lighting, or an entire home or business.

However, when it comes to safety, consider:

  1. Toxic Fumes
    Fuel-powered generators release carbon monoxide and toxic pollutants requiring they only be used outdoors. It is unsafe to use them inside a home, commercial building, garage or even under a carport or covered porch. Opening windows or opening a garage door does not help — the carbon monoxide in generator exhaust can sicken or kill.
  1. Fire Danger
    Most generators are powered by diesel gasoline, propane or natural gas — all of which are fire accelerants and can cause explosions in high heat.
  1. Access to Fuel
    Consider the danger associated with running out of fuel before grid power is restored. During catastrophic events such as extended power outages, hurricanes, fires and earthquakes, fuel reserves of propane, diesel, and natural gas are often difficult or impossible to come by.

Lead Acid Batteries

Lead acid batteries are one of the most readily available and least expensive sources of emergency back-up power. However, made with toxic lead and highly corrosive sulfuric acid, they also pose significant health and safety risks, particularly when used inside a home or other building.

  1. Toxic fumes
    Though there are a number of different types of lead acid batteries, Flooded Lead Acid (FLA) are among the most common and the most dangerous. FLA batteries must be installed in a ventilated enclosure to allow noxious battery gases to escape outside the home or building. Many of these ventilation systems also require small fans to draw these toxic fumes out of the enclosure, diverting critical battery power that could otherwise be used to power your electrical loads. Over-charging a lead acid battery can also produce hydrogen sulfide. The gas is colorless, very poisonous, flammable and has a pungent odor, putting you at risk.
  1. Spillage
    Lead acid batteries also have the potential liability of tipping or spilling their toxic sulfuric acid contents. Contact with sulfuric acid can cause severe skin burns, irritate the nose and throat, burn the eyes or cause difficulty breathing when inhaled.
  1. Explosion
    During the charging process, lead acid batteries produce hydrogen gas. Hydrogen can become explosive if contained in a sealed room.

Lithium Ion Batteries

Lithium ion battery energy storage offers a backup power solution that does not generate any toxic fumes, and can therefore be used indoors. However, when it comes to lithium ion batteries, chemistry matters. When shopping for safe emergency power products, it’s important to look for lithium ion batteries that do not contain cobalt.

Cobalt-based Lithium Ion Batteries

Many consumers do not realize that most lithium ion batteries in the market today contain the toxic rare earth element cobalt — which is toxic and can be incredibly dangerous, especially in a wildfire scenario.

  1. Fire Danger
    Cobalt-based lithium ion batteries actually create heat as part of their normal operation and are prone to what’s called “thermal runaway.” When you hear news reports about cell phones, laptops, hoverboards, electric vehicles, and energy storage systems spontaneously catching fire, those are all examples of cobalt-based lithium ion batteries that went into a state of thermal runaway and ignited. When wildfire danger is high, using a battery that is already prone to overheating adds another layer of risk to both people and property. To make matters worse, there is no effective way to extinguish a cobalt fire. The only response is to monitor the fire and let it burn itself out. While it burns, cobalt releases toxic fumes and often causes an explosion, endangering everyone in the vicinity of the battery.

LFP Lithium Ion Batteries

As an alternative to cobalt, look for lithium ion batteries that are made with lithium ferro phosphate, also known as lithium iron phosphate or LFP. These batteries are made with an environmentally benign chemistry that is non-toxic and do not pose the threat of thermal runaway, fires or explosions.

  1. No fumes
    With no fumes or toxicity, cobalt-free LFP energy storage solutions can be used safely indoors in rooms of any size or in a vehicle without any ventilation, such as an RV or camper.
  1. No fire danger
    LFP batteries are also the safest back-up power source in a fire scenario. They don’t generate significant heat, don’t shut down or burn out, don’t need bulky and expensive cooling systems to stay safe, and don’t act as an accelerant when exposed to flames.
  1. No toxic hazards
    LFP is environmentally benign and does not present any danger to humans or other living things.

SimpliPhi’s entire line of commercial, residential and portable emergency power solutions are ideally suited for hurricane, wildfire, earthquake, tornado and other emergency scenarios because they feature Lithium Iron Phosphate (LFP). SimpliPhi LFP energy storage and management solutions do not contain cobalt, toxic hazards, do not off-gas noxious fumes and do not pose the risk of thermal runaway or fire. With SimpliPhi Power storage solutions, you can have confidence that your power source is safe and does not put you at risk, even during the most dangerous times.