GO MOBILE Small solar chargers can juice up your cell phones and small appliances.
When the power goes out, many people lose not only their lights but also their heat and their ability to communicate. For these reasons, it's crucial to have a contingency plan in place for energy-generation.
Going off-the-grid entirely is one way to achieve power peace of mind, but for those who can't afford a full solar array this holiday season, the GOAL ZERO ESCAPE 150 EXPEDITION KIT with Solar Briefcase Solar Panel, Power Pack, and LED Lantern Light ($549.95; goalzero.com) is a decent alternative. The system stores 150 watts of power and can charge several types of devices (with USB, 12V, and AC outlets), while the 3-watt LED lantern lasts for 50 hours on one charge with the equivalent of a 45-watt incandescent bulb.
Also check out the portable solar generators from Portable Solar Panel Biz, which range from the SCHARGER-5 (a 5-watt compact charger for $169) to the LFP 40V3 solar generator (from $2995), a durable, high-capacity, self-contained system that can handle 200 watts of solar power input, automatically recharges when stored voltage gets low, and boasts an "idiot-proof user interface."
STAY PUT Large PV systems can provide long-term reserve power.
For a less high-tech alternative, check out the COMMENCEFIRE! emergency fire and heat kit ($99.95; tobuildafire.org) includes a Mylar foil-wrapped container, a chimney, firestarters, and 20 pounds of hardwood pellets — everything you need to build and maintain a fire, regardless of the outside conditions.
And of course, BATTERIES. Whatever their voltage, whatever their brand, batteries (and battery-run appliances) will be key if electricity is lost or rationed for long periods of time. A good supply of batteries will make every Scrooge smile.