Be Prepared for Emergencies With an ITEHIL Power Station

With its two solar panels, it keeps you juiced for recreation or emergencies.

ITEHIL Power system
ITEHIL power station and solar panels.

Lloyd Alter

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Writing Treehugger posts from a cabin in the woods can be problematic, as every year the power goes out after storms take down the wires. Usually, it is just for a day or two, but there have been times when it was out for over a week. And with a changing climate, it's become the new normal to expect the unexpected.

People in the bigger cottages at the end of the lake have big Kohler diesel generators that click on and drone, but we got by with a little butane stove, flashlights, and candles—and a lot of hope that the power would come back on before my MacBook died and my next deadline arrived.

Much has changed over the years. On the demand side, we got LEDs that dropped the electrical load of lighting by 90%. Notebook computers and phones got new chips that used a fraction of the power that they used to. 

On the supply side, we got affordable solar panels and better batteries. I have been testing a system from ITEHIL with two 100-watt solar panels, and the IT500 power station with 500-watt-hours (Wh, or at 14.8V, 36 Amp-hours) of LiFePO4 (Lithium Iron Phosphate) batteries. These do not have the energy density of batteries with cobalt or nickel but do not have the cost or social issues of cobalt or nickel.

They are also safer. According to Electropaedia:

"Lithium phosphate cells are incombustible in the event of mishandling during charge or discharge, they are more stable under overcharge or short circuit conditions and they can withstand high temperatures without decomposing. When abuse does occur, the phosphate-based cathode material will not burn and is not prone to thermal runaway. Phosphate chemistry also offers a longer cycle life."
Front panel of ITEHIL unit
The front panel of the ITEHIL power station.

Lloyd Alter

The unit has every kind of connector you could want, with two USBs, one USB-C with 60-watt output, an old cigarette-lighter outlet, and two AC outlets. It even has a big flashlight on the side. It seems to be well-designed for safety, and includes warnings like "do not stick fingers directly into the power port."

It can handle loads of up to 500 watts and has overload protection that will trip out if the load exceeds this. But one has to treat that limit carefully; appliances like fridges have a big surge when you plug them in and the motor starts up. The unit can handle surges up to 750 watts.

Solar panel folded up
The solar panel as a briefcase.

Lloyd Alter

The solar panels are also clever. They fold up into a briefcase-sized package but can be set up in seconds. They come with every kind of connector you could imagine to use independently to charge up your phones or other equipment or plug into the power station. The math is straightforward; the two panels pumping out 200 watts in full sunlight will fill the power station in two and a half hours.

The next step is to figure out how to use this. The big diesel systems have switchgear that plugs them into the electrical panel so they can run everything in the home. Even though all of our lights are LED, there is no way to interconnect this to power them. So I am going to get a few separate LED bulbs and wire them in key locations, and then have portable lamps that can be recharged.

We always keep a jug of drinking water and have access to the lake, so I won't worry about the water system. The computers and phone charging won't be a problem. The biggest issue is the fridge; there is not enough power to run it. But little electric coolers are relatively cheap. I am looking at one that draws 54 watts and is big enough to hold the milk and other foods that need refrigeration.

Tree falls on street
Our street on May 24, 2022.

Lloyd Alter

When cabin season is over, I will take the system home where power outages are not uncommon. Given the way the weather has been changing and the trees have been taking out wires, as happened just a few weeks ago, it might well be more useful in the city than in the country; some people in Ottawa, Ontario waited weeks to get reconnected.

 As Treehugger's Derek Markham wrote a few years ago, these units are changing the way people can deal with emergencies, recreation, or even basic human needs.

"Having access to not just cleaner power sources, but also ones that can be 'refueled' with solar energy when needed, is not only a greener way forward, but is also a great asset when going off-grid for recreation, as it allows people to enjoy some of the creature comforts of home while camping or picnicking. But for others, who live in parts of the world with little to no access to power, whether it's because of lacking infrastructure or from the impacts from disaster or war (or just a lack of money to acquire it), having a solar charger and a battery to store the electricity in can make a huge—even a lifesaving—difference."

I feel a certain degree of comfort, knowing I have this little backup system. I hope I don't have to use it often.

The ITEHIL Power station is available at ITEHIL and Amazon. The Treehugger team has also reviewed other models with varying capacities.