Whether you live in an area prone to natural disasters or simply suffer the occasional downed electrical line, power outages have the potential to disrupt life for everyone. While having a source of backup power, such as a battery or generator, on hand is a great start, the ability to integrate that power with your home’s circuitry can make the process even more seamless. The Goal Zero Yeti Home Integration Kit (HIK) does exactly that. But before diving into the role the HIK plays, it’s helpful to take a wide-angle look at how a home electrical system works.
Understanding Your Home Circuits
Your home’s electrical system is comprised of a utility line from a distribution transformer, a meter where electrical use is tallied, a primary circuit breaker panel, and individual circuits that supply power to all the outlets, light fixtures, and various hard-wired appliances throughout your house.
One circuit has the potential to power multiple lights and outlets, and each outlet has the potential to power multiple devices. Knowing how much power is distributed through individual circuits will help you determine how long you would be able to power up that circuit with a portable power station in case of an outage.
What happens when the power goes out
When the grid goes down, the flow of power to your home’s electrical system from the distribution transformer is interrupted. This is where the Home Integration Kit (HIK) and a Goal Zero Yeti portable power station become very useful. Once installed, the HIK acts as a switch between two power sources, the main source being the distribution transformer and the secondary source being the power station.
Think of it like a vehicle with a secondary fuel tank. If the main tank (grid power) is not functioning correctly, you flip the switch (the Home Integration Kit) to the secondary tank (Yeti power station) and continue to have fuel for the vehicle.
Which circuits should you power
Working in tandem with a Yeti power station, the HIK allows you to provide backup power for up to four 120V circuits in your house. Determining which circuits those should be isn’t an exact science and will vary from household to household. Keep in mind that, due to the inherent risks involved in working with your electrical system, you must get the HIK installed by a certified electrician. In order to figure out the best backup power plan for your home, we recommend doing a little math ahead of time.
This is where knowing how much power is distributed through individual circuits comes into play. For example, if you know that the lighting in your bathroom consists of three light bulbs and each bulb uses 9 watts (let’s say they are high-efficiency LED bulbs), that adds up to 27 watts total. If you were to back up that circuit using a 1400 watt-hour portable power station, you could run the bathroom lighting for 51+ hrs (1400Wh/27W = 51.85hrs). However, if that same circuit supplies power not only to those bathroom lights, but also to a bedroom light fixture with three bulbs at 9 watts each (27 watts total) and a TV that uses 100 watts when turned on, you would be pulling a total of 154 watts (27+27+100 = 154) and your power station will run that circuit for around 9 hrs (1400Wh/154W = 9.09hrs). Now, if you unscrewed two bulbs in each of the lights you would be saving yourself 36 watts and that would increase your overall run time.
Generally, there are a number of circuits that tend to be well-suited for backup power across a variety of home setups. We recommend the following:
- Run a light or two in your most important room(s). This could be a centrally-located living or family room where there is space to gather and wait out the storm, as well as a highly-utilized room like the kitchen or bathroom.
- Power your garage door opener. In the event of an emergency, people often think about hunkering down and staying inside. But what if you need to get out? Making sure you have enough power to easily get out of your house if need be is important.
- Power your fridge in order to keep food fresh.
- Back up an outlet that supplies power to your WiFi router so you can stay connected and keep in touch through a storm.
Once you have selected your circuits and had the HIK installed by an electrician, it’s quite easy to use. The HIK is simply plugged into the AC output of a Yeti power station via an extension cable and you are able to flip the switches for each circuit from the grid to Yeti power in an outage. An informative display on the Yeti allows you to monitor runtime, input/out, and battery levels. If your Yeti is mobile app enabled, you can even monitor power usage from afar. This will give you a sense of how long you can leave different appliances/devices running and help you make a more informed backup power plan.
Adding in solar
If you live in an area where losing grid power for multiple days is a reality, adding solar into your home backup power system is a great option. It’s important to note that one of the more common misconceptions about backing up your house is centered on solar. Installing solar panels on the roof of your house is an excellent way to offset electricity costs and reduce your dependence on grid power. However, when the grid goes down, solar panels alone will not keep the flow of power moving into your electrical system even if it’s a bright sunny day. In order to harness and use the energy of the sun in a power outage, your panels must be connected to a battery that can capture and store that power.
Regardless of whether or not solar is part of your plan, having a portable power station on hand is a great low-maintenance, gas-free option for home backup power. Working in tandem with Goal Zero Yeti power stations, the Goal Zero Home Integration Kit (HIK) is able to easily move power to four circuits in your home when grid power is out.