Using Electric Power Tools During Fuel Shortages, Blackouts

The cost of gasoline and diesel is on many people’s minds. With rumors of shortages floating around, it is time to consider alternatives to gasoline or diesel-powered equipment.

Some areas ban gasoline powered tillers, weed eaters, lawnmowers, etc.

California banned all small gasoline engines. That means residents may not purchase small yard and farm equipment.

High fuel costs, shortages not going away soon

As much as one would like to believe rising fuel costs and lack of fuel is a temporary problem, the facts do not support this.

President Joe Biden has clarified that he has no interest in increasing oil production in the United States. In fact, he is actively shutting down oil production and not approving any new oil leases here. President Biden asked OPEC to increase production to meet our demands, but they have declined. One must remember that OPEC is notorious for giving the impression they have more oil than they actually do, which does not help the situation.

Diesel shortages are currently a major cause for concern because it fuels the trucks delivering the goods we need to stores and online retail distribution centers. During the pandemic, diesel production decreased due to the lockdowns and shutdowns. Yes, there was an enormous demand for products via mail order, but lockdowns led to a lot less trucks and vehicles on the highway. Plenty of people still work from home, but demand for diesel rose after lockdowns lifted. The problem is that the production never returned and there is no plan via the current administration to do anything to encourage that.

The power grid is under stress

There are many reasons to be concerned about the future reliability of the electric grid.

Experts predict many regions throughout the U.S. will experience blackouts this year.

The grid in the U.S. is aging and it relies on equipment and parts that are manufactured on demand. For example, the large transformers you see on light poles. There are not a large inventory of those just lying around.

Our power grid also is vulnerable to cyber-attacks and other sabotage.

Cyber-attacks are perhaps the most likely method for creating blackouts and damaging electrical equipment. Ransomware is a scam that already has been highly profitable for some. It is easier and less expensive for a company to pay the money than deal with the loss of revenue and damages that result from a lack of production or in this case, energy.

Because of these few examples, some solar power will help you maintain a better quality of life.

Power centers and solar panels allow for reliable electricity. With these products, it is possible to keep gardens tilled, mow yards, power tools.

Corded vs. Battery-Powered

My husband and I choose to use electric tools and equipment with standard power cords in most instances. We have a few 12V tools such as electric drills and a few saws.

Batteries wear out over time, and they store limited energy. With tools that take batteries, you must wait a significant amount of time to recharge. Extra batteries cost money.

You can use a power center to charge cordless power tool batteries when they are a better option.

Cords can be annoying. And you must exercise extreme caution while using a corded edge-tools like a chainsaw. Cutting through a cord is a possibility. If you do, then rewiring task to learn.

Corded tools and machines are more powerful than battery powered counterparts and cost less to purchase.

Replacement batteries for tools are expensive enough that people sometimes just buy a whole new tool.

I have to say that if you have a smaller power center and solar panel set up, a set of battery powered tools is a good option. Charging up batteries is a low-voltage task. So, while a small power center will not run some corded tools, it may be capable of keeping some battery powered tools going for small projects.

Tilling and Cultivating

My husband and I purchased a Greenworks cultivator to help with our raised bed gardens and keep things tidier between some of the tighter rows in our other gardens. It works well with our EcoFlow power center.

It is nice to know that even if gas is scarce or the price rises; we have a way to use some tools to make gardening less labor intensive. The ability to raise food increases our resiliency.


Backup heat is important. For many, wood heat is the first or second choice for whole home heating. How many of us rely on a gasoline powered chainsaw to cut up our wood?

A few months ago, I purchased a Makita electric chainsaw for my husband. In the past, he used a Stihl chainsaw for the vast majority of our firewood. If you are familiar with chainsaws, then you already know they are heavy, loud, and tiring to use for extended periods of time.

An electric chainsaw is half the weight and avoids the strain that comes with excessive vibration when sawing.

Today, electric chainsaws are half the price of a comparable gasoline-powered saw. The one aspect of electric chainsaws that takes some getting used is to remember to refill the oil. Yes, you still have to use lubricating bar oil with an electric saw. Typically, you fill the oil when you fill your gas tank. With an electric chainsaw, you must remember to check the oil periodically. Running out of gas is not a reminder.

Trimming Brush

Part of living on a back road is maintaining a very long private drive. Of course, a lot of branches grow into the roadway over time, requiring a bit of effort with a pruning saw.

In the past, we used weed eaters with a brush cutter blade but now we use an electric pole saw with a power center. It is really easy to drive around in the Kawasaki Mule and keep things trimmed compared to what we were doing. The pole saw can cut through larger limbs and it does a better job so we do not have to go back and trim things as often.

My Recommendations and Tips

Corded electric tools and equipment vary in energy consumption, and smaller power centers drain too quickly for regular use in this role.

I recommend purchasing a power center capable of storing 1000-amp hours or more if you want to use it with equipment like chainsaws and tillers. Larger power centers have the output necessary to start and power decent-sized corded electric motors. Smaller power centers may not even be capable of running a tool for even a short period.

At the same time when purchasing tools, you should consider how big a tool you actually need. Smaller electric tools cost less and they drain power centers more slowly.

The power centers I recommend in the following section are those I have used on our farm. All three manufacturers produce power centers in a wide range of sizes, so if you want some smaller, more portable units, I advise you check out their full line up and match products to meet your power needs.


We use Jackery products regularly. In fact, they are one of the first power center we tried out. After over three years of using Jackery products, I have to say there have been no major issues. Jackery recently started selling the 1500 and 2000. We have the 1000, which is powerful enough to allow us to operate our 6.5-amp electric pole saw out of the back of our Kawasaki Mule.

Jackery offers a 24-month warranty on all power centers and they have excellent customer service if you have questions. High demand during these challenging times means the larger 1500 and 2000 units sometimes have a longer wait time. The 1000 and smaller models usually ship out immediately. Also some come with portable solar panels as part of the package.

Ecoflow Delta Max

EcoFlow is a new brand in the world of solar generators, but they are quickly proving themselves. My husband and I received an EcoFlow 2000 to try out recently. So far, we are impressed with how fast the EcoFlow charges. If plugged into a standard household outlet, the EcoFlow charges up in less than two hours!
I do have to point out that the EcoFlow Delta Max 2000 is fairly heavy but that is something you are going to find with any power center of this size.

They also offer a package with solar panels.

We use this power center in the back of a wagon or UTV. If needed, a small dolly or cart could be easily added to make it less cumbersome to move around.

The EcoFlow Delta Max is a little heavier than competitors but that is simply due to the special features and materials used. As stated before, it charges quickly.

The 2000 is large enough to provide moderate backup for households when there is a power outage. Will you be able to run an entire home as usual? No, but you will be able to keep the essentials going. It is a great option for apartments or smaller homes, or if you simply want a backup system but do not want to spend the $4,000 for a large Goal Zero Yeti system (with solar panels).

Out of all of the power centers we own, the EcoFlow is the most impressive because you can do so much with it and it recharges so quickly.

Extra batteries are available from EcoFlow. You can “chain” them to the power center to increase your power storage capacity. This means you can buy the power center and have some extra batteries on hand for times that you want maximum power.

This brings me to a complaint I read from a prepper stating that Jackery and other power centers wear out after so many charges. It is true that no battery will last forever. EcoFlow at least allows you to purchase separate batteries to replenish your power center rather than being forced to purchase an entirely new unit just because the main battery ages out and doesn’t maintain a charge.

Keep in mind that it takes a lot of use for this to be a concern. All power centers should let you know in the specifications how many battery cycles you should expect to get out of a specific model.

Goal Zero

Goal Zero makes some very large power centers designed for complete house back up and major off grid projects (Model 1000 or higher). Like any power center, the more energy stored, the heavier the unit. The very large units come with a wheeled dolly, so it is easy to move around or use ramps to put in the back of a truck.

Goal Zero products are slightly higher in cost but the quality is amazing. You cannot go wrong with their power centers or any of the accessories they sell, such as LED lighting.

Portable Solar Panels

Portable panels allow for power production while working or for recharging power centers during a grid down situation.

There are portable panels out there that will reduce the drain on your power center while using electric tools. Some power centers have a maximum input, meaning adding more panels past the maximum input will not decrease charge time. Always check the specs for your power center before buying panels.

Folding Panels

Designed for maximum portability, sizes range from backpacking all the way up to the 400 watt panel offered by EcoFlow. Obviously, the larger the set up, the heavier.

[caption id=“attachment_528313” align=“aligncenter” width=“300”] EcoFlow 400W Portable Solar Panels[/caption]

The larger 400 watt folding panel we own is bulky and although one person can lift and carry it, that doesn’t mean it is easy or that you would want to carry it very far. I recommend that most people use panels that are 200 watts or below. You can usually hook up several smaller panels.

Semi-Rigid Panels

This style is popular with RV owners or those that want to easily mount a panel on the roof of a golf cart or similar. They do not fold but they are very thin, durable, and lightweight. Unlike a lot of folding panels, these are rugged enough to leave out in the weather for extended periods of time. Semi rigid panels are far less expensive than their folding counterparts.

[caption id=“attachment_528314” align=“aligncenter” width=“266”] Renege Flexible Solar Panels[/caption]


During uncertain times, it's good to have a reliable backup source of power as a way to get more work done. Doing all the work entirely by hand to maintain a home or small farm is very difficult and, in many cases, impossible to achieve.

The ability to use electric machinery to keep gardens tidy and productive is invaluable. Food production is a subject that is on more people’s minds than ever because of rising costs and environmental factors such as drought and fertilizer shortages. These tools are perfect for food-related homesteading projects.

Do you use electric tools on or off grid? What brands would you recommend to others? Do you own a power center not discussed in the article that you would like to recommend to the Peak Prosperity tribe?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at


Never had a major brand lithium battery fail in 10 yrs, my Milwaukee M18 battery chainsaw, 6" skilsaw, reciprocating saw, and transfer pump are extremely powerful as are my Oregon 40v tiller, trimmer, and chainsaw. B&D trimmers, jig saw, sprayer good to fair.
Can’t imagine using pwr center and cords. It fails they all fail. Carry power center and tool, or carry tool alone into woods?
Big power loss if you are converting DC to AC to run AC tool, why not run straight from DC?
Can use solar to charge tool batteries, easiest with small inverter but can do straight.


Recomend Sourcing Portable Power Stations With Lifepo4 Chemistry Vs Li-ion.

Nice write up Samantha.
I got a couple of Jackery 240s, but decided my next one would be twice as large and using Lithium Iron Phosphate batteries. With LiFePO4 you get more charge cycles to 80% battery degradation, typically 20-50% more. The chemistry is also a bit safer if it going to see rough handling.
My latest purchase a few weeks ago was the Bluetti EB70, link here. Currently on sale for $530, (and you can even get a military discount on that as well).
Good vloggers to check on is HoboTech here, and Will Prouse, here.


Battery Power

@107829 raises a good point, distributed energy storage reduces the probability of single point failure.
But why not have both? A large central battery and inverter to run the homestead and lots of battery powered tools.
This has been my approach; a 24V 1000 Ah battery to run the whole house for a couple of days + a small generator to recharge the big battery. (5 hours generator run time gives me enough to run the house for 24 hours.)


@randommike …is there a way to charge 18v lithium batteries (Ryobi in my case) direct from a solar panel? I have some old 255 watt panels kicking around and would like to know how to rig a charging station that didn’t invert to AC.
We have tried to use one format for all our tools, like pole saw, hammer drill, 4” circular saw, flashlights etc.
When I’m on a cabinet install job I might have 3 or 4 different drills and drivers going and so I bought a six station battery charger, but it is AC 120 volt.

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Gotta Love Them Hydrocarbons!

This is an interesting topic as it touches on so many possibilities and options: Fuel shortages or affordability, electricity shortages or affordability, abandonment of perfectly functional tools to replace with alternatives of debatable value and environmental impact (think “Cash for Clunkers”), supply of battery components (lithium- either in your “power center” or in your 18v tool battery), etc, etc. But good to have options to “get 'er done” when tools are required I guess…
I’m in the business of selling lawn and garden power tools, mostly gasoline but increasingly battery powered. Not so much corded tools as they’ve always been something…different. I own and use all types of power tools and they mostly all function satisfactorily and as one could expect. But nothing has the overall power and portability of gasoline. I’ve often wondered if people only had access to, say, 10 gallons of gas a month, how much would they put in their car to tool around, and how much would they allot to work around the house/homestead/farm? Keeping the jungle at bay is a big thing here in Hawaii…Aloha, Steve.
ps- are “we” still tilling the earth? I thought Singing Frogs Farm no-till was our default preference (coming from a non-farmer!)?


Profesional Electric Saws?

It will be interesting to see how an electric chain saw will work with a 36" bar, pulling full skip, chisel bit chain when you are trying to fall timber, here in California. Guessing Oregon, and Nevadas saw sales, and other power equipment will go up when that law goes into effect.

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“But nothing has the overall power and portability of gasoline”.
Try a Milwaukee M18 Chainsaw with a full size battery…


Battery Chainsaws

I can recommend the DeWalt DCM575 (16in/40cm bar 54v) We use it around our 17 acre smallholding for felling trees and processing firewood. It’s surprisingly powerful and has turned out to be pretty rugged given the amount of abuse it gets put through on a regular basis. (Its been through 2 new bars, 4 chains and a new drive sprocket so far)
We bought it after the Royobi chainsaw fell to bits (buy cheap, buy twice!) But to be fair the Royobi saw was more designed for a suburban garden level of use.

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Yes but it is easier to use a small inverter as you (and I) have done and just plug the commercially made charging station into it. I don’t think most such standard chargers, such as the one you got with the tool, use more than 200 watts ac if that.
BUT, I feel your pain.I have stuff to make a charger from solar to DC charging without an inverter, a little unit that directly changes 12v/24v to another desirable dc voltage. I kind of worry about safety mechanisms built into the original charger though. Measure your Ryobi batteries, and the voltage coming out of the charger, they are probably more than 18v when charged. My Milwaukee ones require about 22v to charge.
Roughly speaking and with manual monitoring I would feel comfortable charging 18v Li-on batteries with 24v (which you could get from solar some way depending on your system, two 12 in series etc.). So you would buy or scavenge a female charging socket for your battery, measure + and - carefully and hook up the 24v to it. Initially you would monitor current and voltage and time until you got a feel of how long it would take to charge. To monitor current you need the ammeter in series with the supply voltage, or use a DC clamp on meter.
Actually Milwaukee offers an M18 Charger that plugs directly into a 12v lighter socket; check if Ryobi has that also. That kind of solves this whole problem.
You could also figure out the internals of the OEM charger and what actual dc voltage it needs to operate, IE what voltage it converts the ac line voltage to, and feed that voltage into it at the correct point; that should maintain any safety elements…
There may be some sort of safety circuit interacting between the battery and the OEM charger (they have more than 2 terminals), you need to be sure to just use the correct + and - contacts when making your own charger.
But to answer your question, it’s a good bet getting a socket and feeding 24v into it and monitoring it will safely charge your Ryobi batteries. You would stop charging them when their voltage is the same that the OEM charger finishes at.

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Ryobi already ahs a lighter socket charger for your batteries!

I lean towards gas-powered items, too, in part, because it is my understanding that they can be fixed more easily by someone willing to tinker as compared to things that are electric. Also, I’m inclined to think that “planned obsolescence” is more likely to affect electric/battery-powered items (small sample size of 1 on this, though). We’ve already faced this because one of my husband’s battery-powered drills has been outmoded because the dang rechargeable battery finally needs to be replaced and “they don’t make that model anymore”. Nothing else wrong with the drill but it’ll get landfilled because of planned obsolescence crap.


@randommike Wow….Thanks….that seems very doable with the dc charger sold off the shelf. I think the next step would be to find a charge controller that would regulate for 12 VDC. I’m sure MOTS would know the best way.

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This looks like a good charge controller that can be programmed for whatever battery type a person has and also is flexible for 12v. Up to 48v applications ….

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“Actually Milwaukee offers an M18 Charger that plugs directly into a 12v lighter socket;”
Can’t find that truck charger on their website and none of my suppliers can find a way to order one for me. Do you actually have one" If so, please share the model number. Thanks

From my experience, I think there my be somthing wrong with your saws oiler, or chain tension. Should be able to go through way more than 4 chains, and and drive sprocket on a bar.
Might take a look at this guide bar maintenance tutorial from Madsens.

I did say abused!
Wore out one front sprocket, pinched the other bar out of shape sawing a large bough off a huge fallen beech which was under tension.

Excellent Advice. Prepare, Test, Adjust!

Excellent Article. I bought my solar setup, and it charges a power cell like this, that I can bring in to keep the freezer/fridge alive.
We have a generator, but anyone who has lived on one for more than a week will tell you that you do NOT run it 24x7. It drinks fuel. It’s loud. And it’s right outside our bedroom. I am in FL. Hurricanes mean we are prepared for these things.
I still have to setup the panels and see how long it takes to charge the battery to full. Then I need to test how long the freezer can run on this. Then the freezer/fridge. (Thinking ahead, I bought wireless monitors to monitor the internal temps with alarms so I don’t forget to reconnect).
First you prepare. Then you Test. Then you ADJUST.
You will be surprised how many FIRST TIME Generator purchasers, wait until a power outage to try to assemble and run their generator!!!
The first thing they realize is 2-cycle engines REQUIRE OIL added to the gasoline as there is no oil pan (read the instructions). Have everything. Open the device. Get it started. ALWAYS OPT for electric start, IMO. And keep a charged car jump starter around! Pull start SUCKS, especially if it gets gunked up, and you have to burn through it, or the choke settings are not working as planned, etc. etc. My next generator will have an button! (But I’ve had this one for 20yrs, so let that sink in!)

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one issue running motors on a battery bank is voltage drop from continuous draw; ie a fridge/freezer. Effectively you need much larger capacity than the theoretical (from the battery bank), to avoid the voltage drop damaging the motor.