Don't Fear The Breaker

Don't Fear The Breaker

Protect yourself, your family, and your neighbors from energy uncertainty in Texas in 2024.

7 minute read

It's that time again, Texas.

Things are starting to heat up even more and even faster than last year - a trend we're pretty much used to by now. ERCOT is out here playing hard to get as usual. The rich are booking flights, buying Powerwalls and Generacs, and otherwise protecting themselves from the inevitable consequences of treating our grid more like a financial instrument than an essential service. Meanwhile, you and me are sitting here with nothing but thoughts and prayers. But don't fret! There are a lot of things you can do to make sure you and your love ones aren't left out in the unprecedented heat. The answer, much like the problem, lies in the awesome power of the sun.

The "solar providers" (predatory loan officers with sales teams and technicians in tow) want you to think there are only two options - either cover your rooftop in panels and take on years of debt to pay it back, or leave yourself exposed to the whims of the grid operators. As a social ecology organization, we recommend overthrowing the status quo and replacing these institutions with systems that don't have these hideous contradictions, but that's clearly not happening between now and June. These solutions are arranged by price point, so if you're on a tight budget, just scroll down until the sticker shock goes away. And keep in mind that a lot of these solutions pay for themselves if you implement them into your day-to-day life. Okay, let's go!

Disclaimers, Warnings, and Important Considerations

  1. This is for educational purposes only. We are not liable for you electrocuting yourself, burning your house down, or not having backup power because you followed this little guide. If you don't feel confident to follow the advice here, please seek the help of someone who does. Please at least understand basic electrical safety before attempting any of this beyond the plug-and-play stuff.
  2. Match your panels to whatever is receiving the voltage. That doesn't mean brand for brand (that actually does not matter at all). Rather, make sure the combined voltage and wattage don't exceed the thing you're plugging into.
  3. Some of these solutions include bulk buying and purchasing used items. That usually means no refunds. So buyer beware!
  4. We Dentonites live in the Sunbelt region of the United States. While we don't receive the highest solar irradiance in the country, we do get a solid amount. It's enough that it makes both ecological and economic sense to rely on solar for a lot of our energy needs down here. If you do not live in Denton, please check your location's average solar irradiance before following this potential
  5. A lot of the stuff mentioned here is not locally available, and will take days or weeks to arrive. Always test your equipment as soon as you receive it!
  6. There is a lot of information below, but the right answer is going to depend on a single data point - your power needs. Like real needs. As in, what do you absolutely need to keep running during a power outage? Pretty much nobody needs their whole house running central A/C. That's goofy. If you have the budget for that, then fine go do that. But grid failure is not really the time to play supply chain prince like most of us are used to. So suck it up and pare down. And if you have extra capacity, consider your neighbors first before your creature comforts. Just saying!

Okay this time for real. Let's do this.

Plug-And-Play ($$$)

The Setup

EF Panel 2 EcoFlow 400W Solar Panels : $1,498

Delta Pro GeneratorEcoFlow Delta Pro : $2,599

Total: $4,057


When you need power, you just plug the panels into the generator, and then plug your devices into the outlets. That's it!


A setup like this can handle up to 1600W of solar throughput during peak solar conditions, and store up to 3.6kWh of that for off-peak use. For reference, that's enough to run a 500W window unit blasting non-stop for the entire peak time (about 6-7 hours during the summer here) plus four more hours after the sun has gone down. Enough to survive the heat itself and charge some devices, but not enough to also run a fridge or anything like that.

Considerations and Alternatives

Rooftop panels are designed to stay put in about the same conditions as the roof itself. These camping panels, however, are not as rigid as the ones you see on rooftop arrays, and as a result they are more susceptible to the elements. A realistic scenario is that you unbox these, play with them for a couple days, then put them back in the closet until you need them. As a result, they are unlikely to pay for themselves. If you did manage to take full advantage of them, this setup producing 4-8kWh per day at 15 cents per kWh would take 10-20 years to pay for itself - an amount of time that it may not even survive with daily use.

If you need a solution like this one (i.e. compact, warrantied, easy to use, no permanent mounting), but you're on a budget, consider getting a lower capacity generator or buying cheaper solar panels. Even rigid solar panels will work in a pinch, if you don't mind dealing with a couple of 50-lb panels when you need your backup juice.

Do-It-Yourself ($$)

The Setup

Rather than rehash another person's solution and add to this already long post, I'll just link it here. William Prowse has done a lot of legwork to provide DIY solutions on a budget with high capacity and reliability. This one has both a higher solar input and storage capacity than the EcoFlow, and for over a thousand bucks less. At the time of recording about a year ago, this setup ran for $2,290. Add a few solar panels from Santan Solar, and you can easily set this up for around $3-4k all-in.


Again, I'll leave it to Mr. Prowse. Watch this, then check out the link in "The Setup" above for more info.


A setup like this can handle up to 1800W of solar input during peak solar conditions, and it can store up to 5kWh of that for off-peak use. That means you could blast a 500W window unit at 100% of the peak time, then still have up to 10 hours of full-blast run time, or 5 hours plus enough residual power to run a fridge all day and still charge your laptop, a tablet, and a couple phones. You might even be able to fire up the kettle! Now we're talking.

Considerations and Alternatives

If you live in a rental, you probably don't want to mount panels directly onto your roof. Thankfully, ground mounting is a thing. You can even up-cycle old satellite dish mounts for the purpose. For a more in-depth look at ground mounting, check out this article about DIY solar by local solarpunk wizard HydroponicTrash. The article also has more information on how to save even more money by using AGM batteries and less expensive components. You'll be surprised what you can accomplish for as little as $900 if you're willing to really get into it.

Direct DC Appliances ($)


facebook marketplace used solar panels Used 365W solar panels from Facebook Marketplace: $100/ea

AC/DC Hybrid Air Conditioner: $1,299

15W USB Solar Panel:$8.85

20,000mAh 5v power bank: $28.79


It really depends on the appliance, but most of it is either directly from the panels, or through a solar charge controller. Follow the instructions on the air conditioner. It's a ductless mini-split, so it's a little more involved than a window unit.


Depends. Some things like the power banks have rated storage capacity. Others like the air conditioner will need grid or battery power to operate once sunshine has waned. But batteries aren't the only way we store energy! Once a room is sufficiently cooled (especially if well insulated), it tends to stay way cooler than it would have been otherwise. If you find a good freezer on the cheap, you can even chill gallon jugs of water and keep yourself cool with a travel A/C like this one...

or make your own!

Considerations and Alternatives

It really all depends on what you're going for here. Think about everything that can plug into a USB outlet. That stuff is all DC. And a little 15W solar panel can provide 100W of power to all your battery-containing devices over the 7-hour summer peak. So for only forty bucks, you can grab the panel and the power bank and at least be able to text and complain to your friends about how hot it is.

Speaking of friends, a lot of this stuff makes way more sense to do together. Make a little production line for DIY ice chest air conditioners. Get one or two people who are really knowledgeable and everyone exploit their expertise to learn enough to be dangerous. Buy solar panels in bulk and split them up with your friends or neighbors. (Please let us know if you do this so we can buy a few too! We can even make a trip out to Signature Solar in Sulphur Springs and save the shipping.)

Power outages are terrifying enough. Having to deal with them alone is an unnecessary burden. So let's get together and make this the best apocalypse it can possibly be!