Rural Communications

Part of the excitement and challenge of living surrounded by mountains, and being off-the-grid is finding the right equipment for communication purposes. We are able to get good shortwave, and moderately good AM/FM reception, but not the best. So after searching the internet we came across a company called RadioLabs in Fortuna CA who sold a modified version of the Sangean ATS-909 called the Super Sangean 909. (And we were not disappointed with the quality of this suped-up model). We used a standard spool SW antenna (included), and we were able to get great shortwave reception. The 909’s telescopic antenna gave us excellent FM, and AM (we picked up a few stations as far as the Midwest, and I’m sure more will be discovered later on).

You can check out the Radiolabs site for the modified specs, but all we can say is that it was a great investment since this radio will be our only major source of news.

The next challenge was getting a working telephone. Part of our goal was to have as few high-cost monthly bills as possible, and we all know how much a monthly phone bill can be. So we opted for a prepaid cellphone from Alltel. We chose Alltel because there are two Alltel cell towers within a 20 mile radius of our location. The problem was… we’re surrounded by mountains. So more online research led us to alternativewireless.com. Their CSR’s, Katherine and Nick were great help in guiding us to the right equipment to boost our cell signal. So we ended up purchasing an omni-directional antenna, and a Wilson Signal Booster. The signal booster can be powered by plugging it into a cigarette 12v adapter… which was a plus for us, since we have no power source installed as of yet. After the initial setup (which was quite simple) we attached the Velcro piece to our cellphone (no phone adapter needed), turned on the phone, and… presto… telephone problem solved.

Here is our antenna temporarily mounted on a 1″ x 8′ PVC pipe. We’ll decide a more permanent location for it once we finish building our house.

The Wilson Signal Booster is on the right. And… the two items on the left are our next recommendation… d.light solar lights.

We just happened to stumble across the d.light solar lights by accident. While reading an article on Rural Lighting, there was a small mention in the footnotes of a company called d.light. So after some sleuthing, we found their website. And all we can say is… what a find. Not only are these lights bright (brighter than any solar powered lights we’ve owned before), but they are inexpensive. The model with the blue top is called the “Kiran“, and sells for $15. The green light to the far left is the “Nova“, which sells for $45. Both are sold on Amazon.com (which is the only place to buy them in the US). The downside is… Amazon sells a lot of them and are frequently out-of-stock. So if they interest you, get them while you can. (As of this posting they are both in stock). We highly recommend them and you won’t be disappointed.

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