Internet is an essential component of our daily lives. Whether it is connecting with friends though social media, checking your stock portfolio, emailing your boss, or following the latest news headlines, when we lose this vital link to the outside world our daily lives are impacted greatly. This raises an interesting question. How do you get internet during a power outage? Is it even possible?
Yes it is possible to get internet during a power outage. Generally as long as the modem that connects you to your internet service provider is powered up you are going to continue to receive internet service. Using an uninterruptable power supply can power your modem and your Wi-Fi router for a couple of hours. If you need to stay connected longer you will need a small generator. An inverter generator is ideal for this purpose.
Here are some possible ways to stay connected to the internet during a power outage.
Most people have a smartphone with a 4G LTE or 5G cellular connection. In most cases cell phone networks will remain operational for at least 6 – 8 hours after a power outage begins. A battery backup system keeps the tower powered through shorter outages. Some cell phone towers also have a diesel backup generator and enough fuel to last for several days. This is not always the case and not something you can count on.
The other factor is cellular network congestion. As people lose this home broadband internet and smartphones automatically switch over to cellular networks this places additional demands on the cellular networks. In many cases this is not an issue, but in other cases the cellular network is unable to keep up with the increased demand. When this occurs you may not be able to place a call, send a text, or access the internet. In extreme cases 911 service can be impacted, although this is less common.
If you are fortunate enough to maintain a working cellular connection during the duration of outage you have several options. The simplest option is to simply use your smartphone for your connectivity. If you need to connect other devices such as a table or laptop the mobile hotspot feature on your phone will be your best friend. Most modern smartphones support connecting at least 5 WiFi enable devices to its built in mobile hotspot.
One thing you will likely want if you are using your phone as a hotspot is a external battery pack. Using the hotspot feature on your phone can quickly drain your battery. A dead battery is the last thing you want during a power outage.
If you live in an area with poor cellular coverage or you do not have mobile hotspot data included with your cell phone plan you may want to look into other options.
Uninterruptable Power Supplies
In many cases, providing power to your internet modem and wireless router may be all that is required to keep your home broadband internet connection operation during an outage. This is surprisingly easy. A typical internet modem and wireless router together use less than 30 watts. This means that they can easily be powered for hours using a interruptible power supply (UPS). A UPS uses a battery to provide uninterrupted power to devices connected to it. Depending on the size of the battery in the UPS you can expect anywhere from an hour to possibly 8+ hours of runtime if only powering you internet modem and wireless router.
For many people a UPS is a great cost effect solution that can provide hassle free backup power to stay connected to the internet. It works automatically and seamless switches over from utility to battery power as needed.
Recommended Uninterruptable Power Supplies
This model is ideal if you want to keep your internet modem and wireless router powered up for up to 2 hours. Key features include.
- 425VA / 225W Backup Battery power supply
- 6 Outlets (NEMA 5-15R): 4 UPS Battery Backup with Surge Protection Outlets, and 2 Surge Protector Only Outlets
- 5′ Power Cord, right-angle 3-prong wall plug (NEMA 5-15P)
- 1500VA/1000W PFC Sine Wave Battery Backup Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS)
- 12 NEMA 5-15R outlets
- Automatic Voltage Regulation (AVR)
- 3-year warranty including the battery
Using a uninterruptable power supply (UPS) is a cost effect method of keeping your internet modem and wireless router powered during a shorter outage. A UPS can also be used to recharge your laptop or smartphone, Of course using your UPS to charge other devices will limit how long they will be able to keep your internet modem and wireless router powered.
If you need to keep things powered longer that what a UPS is able to provide your next step would be a small inverter generator. A small inverter generator can keep your devices charged and your internet functioning for as long as you have fuel to keep the generator running. A small generator also has the ability to power other essentials such as a refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot, TV, a few lights, etc. For powering sensitive electronics you will want to go with an inverter generator which offers cleaner power output. Inverter generators are also much quieter and more fuel efficient.
A 1,000 watt generator can keep you devices charged and your modem / router powered. It can also run a few lights and a small TV.
If you also want to be able to run a refrigerator or a small window AC unit you will need to step up to a 2,000 watt generator. This will also enable you to run things like a microwave or coffee pot.
Inverter generators generally cost more than standard generators but offer many advantages including minimizing the risk to sensitive electronics. There are many brands of inverter generators, ranging from cheap no name brands up to much pricier models manufactured by Honda and Yamaha. There are also brands that fall somewhere in between and offer a fantastic value.
Recommended Inverter Generators
Key features include.
- True Power Technology provides clean, stable power ideal for sensitive electronics, tools and appliances
- Economy Mode automatically adjusts engine speeds to save fuel and reduce sound emissions
- Quiet and Neighbor Friendly fully enclosed design dramatically reduces noise levels
This model is ideal if you want to keep your internet modem and wireless router powered, charge your devices, run a few lights, etc. It will also have enough output to run a refrigerator, microwave, coffee pot, or a small window AC unit. (not all at same time). It is also very quiet.
Key features include.
- Lightweight: At only 39 pounds, this inverter generator is one of the lightest the industry
- Clean, stable power ideal for sensitive electronics
- Quiet Operation: 58 dBA from 23 feet
Generally keeping your internet modem and wireless router powered on will keep your home broadband internet functioning. Additionally cellular networks are usually able to keep you connected for a number of hours after a power outage occurs. There are however a few situations where things may fall short.
- Your internet service provider (ISP) does not have proper backup power.
- The cable feeding your internet was damaged compromising your ability to connect to your ISP.
- Your cellular carrier may be overloaded with additional traffic preventing you from connecting properly.
Most internet service providers have backup generators that keep their main equipment powered at all times and also have battery backup power at the utility pole to power critical distribution equipment such as line amplifiers. Many cable providers will deploy small inverter generators at the cable node to maintain connectivity throughout the duration of the outage. It is uncommon for internet service providers to not have proper backup power in place, however it can certainly happen.
It is also possible that you internet will not work because the cable feeding your modem is damaged. This is common if a utility pole gets hit by a car or if a tree cause damage during a storm. It is completely possible that a single event will take out both your internet service and your electricity if something gets damaged at the pole. Fortunately in this type of localized power outage you will generally not lose cell phone service. It is unlikely that the cell tower likely a mile or more away was affected. Even if it was affected, in many areas there are multiple cell towers within range and your phone can switch towers if necessary.
Cellular network overload is common particularly after natural disasters such as hurricanes, tornados, and blizzards. In extreme cases it can even impact emergency communications. Hurricane Katrina was a prime example of what can happen when critical communications are lost including 911 service.
Depending on your needs, losing your internet connection can range anywhere from inconvenient to disastrous. With this information in hand, you can be better prepared for the next outage.
You can use an uninterruptable power supply to keep your internet modem and router powered on during shorter outages. For longer outages a small generator is your best option. Another option is to use your phone as a hotspot if you have a data plan that includes hotspot data. Many of the popular unlimited plans include several gigabytes of hotspot data per month.
Yes, in most cases you can get Wi-Fi using a generator. If you power your internet modem and router using a generator you will usually be able to access the internet during a power outage. Most internet service providers have backup generators that keep their main equipment powered at all times and also have battery backup power at the utility pole to power critical distribution equipment such as line amplifiers.
Yes, you can use a UPS to power your modem and router during a power outage. Generally the battery will last for a few hours if nothing else is plugged into it. A small generator can be used if you need to run your modem and router during an extended power outage. Using your phones hotspot feature is also another option if you have a data plan that includes hotspot data.