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Outrageous Ways to Charge Your Phone During a Blackout

Outrageous Ways to Charge Your Phone During a Blackout

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During the last couple of days I came to realize that I’m kind of hooked on technology – if I want to search for anything like a recipe or the answer to any kind of question, I usually end up using my smartphone or laptop.

Sure, there’s nothing wrong about taking full advantage of modern tech. I mean, without my PC and Internet I wouldn’t be able to share my thoughts with you people. Still, the idea of being surrounded by too much tech should be a reason for concern considering that it takes one blackout to witness firsthand what life B.E. (before electricity) felt like.

In one of my articles (can’t remember exactly which one), I talked about how awesome it is to have powerless tools around the house. Of course, you can always use a manual food processor when the power’s out or a manual drill over an electric one, but some things just cannot be replaced. However upsetting this though may be, we kind of need out smartphones for a lot of things, not just taking pictures or playing Candy Crush while riding the subway.

Okay, so we established that mobile tech is one of those things that we can’t do without. The question at hand here is what in the Hell are we going to do when there are a power outage and our phone’s close to dying? In a previous article, I’ve shown you a clever way of charging your phone using a 9V battery and a car charger. That is, indeed, a neat trick, but hardly the only way to juice up your phone without using the outlet.

Well, after doing a bit of research, I’ve stumbled upon more flaky ways to recharge that smartphone of yours. Think the 9V battery hack was weird? Get of a load of these.

Harnessing the power of…cranks!

A hand-cranked flashlight is, without a doubt, one of the most useful items to be had in case shit hits the fan. Still, a flashlight is not enough. In general, those gadgets come with all sort of wicked options: AM\FM radio, music player, photovoltaic cells, USB ports, all of them sucking up that precious juice generated by the owner who has nothing better to do than to spin that lever.

Yes, I know that this might come off as a no-brainer, but many who own a hand-cranked gizmo overlook this option for some reason.

So, is the power out? Not a problem if you’re phone on the brink of death. Just plug your USB cable into your hand-cranked gizmo and start, well, cranking. It’s possible to use such a device to fully charge your phone’s battery, but I don’t see how you’ll be able to reach 50 percent without your arms going numb.

There’s another trick you can trick to boost the efficiency of your hand-cranked device. As many of these gizmos pack solar cells and capacitors, it would be wise to leave it in the sun before attempting to use the crank. Sure, it won’t fully charge your phone, but at least it will spare you a couple of hours of cranking.

Hack your landlines!

If prepping was a patient with OCD, I would say that he had a thing for landlines. Don’t get me wrong; landlines are a great way of staying in contact with the outside in case of a natural or man-made disaster. In case of a power outage, landlines will still have some juice inside. Why not take advantage of this?

Here’s a clever trick of how to get some of those amps inside your dying phone. Keep in mind that this project requires a bit of tinkering. However, when you’re done, that phone box of yours will double up as an emergency phone charger. Now, for this project you will need:

  • Phone cord.
  • USB cable.
  • 5V voltage regulator. There are usually 52V inside that phone box, so you will need this regulator in order to make the outlet compatible with your smartphone’s battery. Otherwise, you’ll end up frying your phone. Voltage regulator looks, more or less, like TV or computer chips, only a lot bigger. They have three prongs for input, output, and grounding. You can probably find them at your local hardware store, in the electronics section (the one you need is labeled ‘7805’).
  • Knife.
  • Soldering iron.
  • Electrical tape (optional).


Here’s what to do in order to hack your phone box

Step 1. Start by exposing the cables of your phone cord. Leave a plug on the other end, because that one will go in the phone box. There should be two wires: red one (this will be your input) and a green one (grounding).

Step 2. Next, expose the wires of your USB cable using the knife. You’ll see four cables: red, blue, green, and black.

Step 3. Put the voltage regulator on your work table. To ensure that you solder the wires to the correct prongs, flip the chip (the ‘7805’ should be facing you).

Step 4.  Solder the phone cord’s red wire to the first prong (that’s the left one).

Step 5. Solder the phone cord’s green wire to the regulator’s grounding prong (that’s the middle one). You’re doing great! Halfway there.

Step 6. Solder the USB cable’s black wire to the regulator’s middle prong. Yes, you can solder it on top of the phone cord’s green wire.

Step 7. Solder the USB cable’s red wire to the regulator’s output prong (that would be the one on your right).

(Optional) Use some electrical tape to cover the soldering points on the regular.

Step 8. Plug the phone cord into the box and the USB cable in your smartphone. Congrats! You now have an emergency phone charger outlet.

When life gives you lemons, make electricity.

Lemonade is not the only thing that you can make out of lemons. In case of a major emergency – say you want to send out of short message or call the authorities, it may be possible to reboot your phone using fruit-generated electricity.

Yes, I know exactly how it sounds, but it works. Don’t expect to get a full charge on a single lemon (you’ll need at least 1,000 of them to get your phone’s power cell to 100 percent). Anyway, here’s how to boot up your phone by harnessing the power of electrochemical reaction. Start by gathering your materials. For this project you will need:

  • Zinc or galvanized nails.
  • Copper nails (you can replace them with coin or paper clips).
  • Copper wires.
  • Mini-USB cable.
  • Six lemons.

Here’s how to piece together your lemony phone charger

Step 1. Expose the USB cable’s wires using a knife. Leave the mini-USB plug on the other end. You should see a red and a black wire with orange strips.

Step 2. Arrange your lemons in a circle.

Step 3. Insert zinc nail on the left side of the lemon.

Step 4. Insert a copper nail\paper clip\coin on the right side of the lemon.

Step 5. Connect or solder the USB cable’s red wire to the zinc nail inserted in the lemon on the left side.

Step 6. Connect or solder the USB cable’s black wire with orange strips to the zinc nail inserted in the lemon on the right side.

Step 7. Connect or solder the copper wire of the left lemon with zinc nail inserted in the lemon behind it. Repeat this operation to close the circuit.

Step 8. Plug the mini-USB into your phone and wait for the magic to happen.

(Advice) If you don’t have lemons around the house, you can try with oranges or other acidic fruits.

Onions make me cry, but at least I have a full battery

Because I’m madly in love with these strange science projects, I found another way to charge my phone using stuff found in the fridge. In this case, the one giving away its life so your phone might live to tell the tale is the onion. Don’t cry for me, Duracell. As in the case of the lemon charger, the onion one relies on electrochemistry. Here’s what you’ll need to whip up an onion-based electricity generator:

  • One onion (the bigger, the better).
  • Any kind of beverage containing electrolytes (I used a bottle of Gatorade for this project, but you can use anything you like or have around the house).
  • One large bowl.
  • One phone charger.

Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? Here’s how to make your first onion charger.

Step 1. Using a Philips screwdriver or an awl, poke two holes on either side of the onion.

Step 2. Fill your bowl with Gatorade or your favorite electrolytic beverage.

Step 3. Place the onion in the bowl and allow it to soak for at least 15 minutes. The holes you’ve just poked will allow the Gatorade to get inside that onion fast.

Step 4. Once the time has passed, take the onion out of the bowl and place it on a clean towel.

Step 5. Use the towel to dry your onion.

Step 6. Stick the USB end of your charging cable into the onion. Doesn’t matter where you insert it.

Step 7. Connect the mini-USB end to your phone and let the magic happen. If you’re still not convinced, drain your battery completely and connect to the Gatorade-soaked onion to see what happens.

Wrap Up

I feel compelled to stress out once more that these should not be, under any circumstances, considered permanent solutions. The only thing that comes close to an outlet is one of those portable batteries.  If you don’t have one, you should consider making a small investment. Check out your local auto stores for those jumper packs – great for starting your car when the battery’s dead, but can also help you charge other devices such as laptops, smartphones, radios or tablets.

I strongly advise you to exercise extra caution when crafting those onion or lemon-based generators. Technically speaking, they should work. However, don’t be surprised if your phone suddenly goes up in flames. If you don’t have other means of charging your smartphone, better get a meter in there to see if the voltage is fine.

Another thing to keep in mind is that phone box chargers are very tricky. Well, you don’t need a Ph.D. in astrophysics to solder a couple of wires, but it is rather difficult to get ahold of that voltage regulator.

Sure, there are plenty of websites that sell them by the dozen, yet in case of a blackout, this is not really a viable option. If you can’t find any at your local store, it may be possible to salvage one or two working ones from an old VCR or a tape recorder. I wouldn’t go tinkering around TVs because they use entirely different regulators. You can also try your luck with an electrical-powered short-wave radio.

That’s about it on alternative ways to juice up your smartphones during a blackout. What’s your take on this? Hit the comments section and let me know.

On a different note, here’s some other self-sufficiency and preparedness solutions recommended for you:

The Lost Ways (The vital self-sufficiency lessons our great grand-fathers left us)
Survival MD (Knowledge to survive any medical crisis situation)
Backyard Liberty (Liberal’s hidden agenda: more than just your guns…)
Alive After the Fall (Build yourself the only unlimited water source you’ll ever need)
The Lost ways II (4 Important Forgotten Skills used by our Ancestors that can help you in any crisis)
The Patriot Privacy Kit (Secure your privacy in just 10 simple steps)


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