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Old 11-11-14, 07:47 PM   #1
AC_Hacker
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Default Preparing for Infrastructure Lapses...

Sorry, I just couldn't think of a better title. I thought of "Preparedness" and I thought of "Surviving... etc.", but they all sounded so 'Guns and Dogs, and Bags of Beans', and I've been down that road, and that's just not where I want to go anymore.

But I think that preparing for temporary lapses of the infrastructure seems very much more civilized and realistic and likely to happen, and easier to prepare for. I can live with that one.

Case in point:

A month or so ago, the power went out, when it was night. I was lucky to remember the general area where I had last left my flashlight, and I "brailled" my way around in total darkness for 5 minutes or so (seemed like five hours) until I found one tiny LED single AA cell flashlight.

That helped me find other stuff. So I used the inconvenient moments to take stock...

Here's what I didn't have:
  • No house lights
  • No electric cooking (resistance, induction, microwave)
  • No Internet
  • No telephone (I have no cell, I use IP-phone)
  • No mini-split heat (it wasn't very cold then, so no problem)
  • No TV
  • Dead refrigerator
  • Dead freezer

Here's what I did have:
  • Natural gas cook stove
  • Heat from the stove's oven
  • Hot water (NG demand DW heater ignited by D-cells)
  • Water (hot & cold)
  • Portable battery-powered radio
  • A refrigerator full of food
  • A freezer full of food.

Honestly, the first thing I did was to take a nice long hot shower because my gas demand water heater is always ready, and because I could. It made things much better.

But it was quite startling to be in the midst of an outage (could have been a crisis, but it wasn't) and not have any communications. I couldn't even communicate my plight to anybody... that is a problem.

Especially vexing because I know that the phone line (my dsl) is working... (at least, The Telco has it act together).

But my connection to the Internet is out because some low voltage devices:
  • my Internet modem 12V
  • my IP phone adapter (Ooma) 12V
  • my cordless phones 9V
...are not functioning because of no 120 VAC power.

Then I realized that I have all the parts scattered about because I had started collecting the parts to build a "Lapse-Proof" battery backup to keep my fundamental stuff going.

So I started thrashing about through my house with my tiny LED light looking for the pieces in the dark:
  • 12V Lead-Acid Battery
  • Inverter
  • 12V power cable to attach the two together.
  • misc. cords & cables & plug strip

Turned out that the 12V power cables were the hardest to find, and one of the cables required some modification. So down I go into the gloomy dark basement, while holding the little flashlight in my teeth, I cut and modified the cable to fit the purpose.

As I was bringing the modified 12V cable upstairs, the power came back on and the TV started yammering and all the rest of the house came alive... crisis over.

So, at least, I have all the parts together in the same place, even if they are not assembled.

LESSONS:
  • Searching for tiny flashlights in the dark really sucks. (not finding them would be much worse)
  • D-cell ignited NG demand hot water heater is very good
  • Gas stove is good to have (I also love my induction & microwave)
  • Having a kit to provide essential communications power (in the absence of a cell phone) is a worthy goal
-AC

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Last edited by AC_Hacker; 11-11-14 at 08:09 PM..
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Old 11-11-14, 09:04 PM   #2
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You should try a power outage in a foreign country some time... I got one once while working in the Bahamas. Power dropped out in the midst of taking a shower after work. It's not nearly as convenient as being at home when you're fumbling around in a dark hotel room trying to find that flashlight you packed "just in case". Once I finished getting cleaned up, I drove to the other side of the island, where there was power, for dinner. When I got back to my hotel later, power was on again, but I never forget that dark night. I now make absolutely certain I pack a flashlight or LED head lamp when I'm packing my bags for business or vacation trips. (fortunately, the power stayed on during my two trips to mainland China this year).
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Old 11-11-14, 10:31 PM   #3
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Flashlights are really nice to have - if you can find them. I've resolved that by purchasing a couple of plug-in LED lights. They are always ready, and automatically turn on when the power goes off (provided they are in the charging stand).

We used to regularly have power outages of 3-10 days, almost always caused by limbs taking down lines during storms.. PG&E restores power in order of how many customers are affected, with maybe a couple hundred houses in our area, we waited, sometimes days.

With a wood stove & natural gas wall furnace for heat, we were fine. With a well, no water. Not being able to flush toilets really sucks! Most of the time we would get by, collecting water from downspouts to flush with. For extended outages, the sky would clear leaving us with no way to flush again. Eventually, I bought a gas generator to run the well and the fridge. But, keeping a generator running for a refrigerator is maddening, Especially burning $20 in gas to save $3 in milk. Now, I put fridge contents in ice chests, and hope for the power to return soon. Haven't had to throw any milk out yet

Many years ago, after they were found liable for a couple of fires caused by limbs and power lines, PG&E really stepped up their vegetation control programs - in California, the utilities are responsible for maintaining the utility ROW. Now, we rarely have outages.

I am now planning a battery back up system for the cable modem, router and phone (Ooma VOIP). My cable provider seems to be pretty good at keeping the cable powered up during outages.

Pat
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Old 11-12-14, 03:02 AM   #4
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I tend to keep my mobile(cell) phone in my pocket at all times, the led light on that helps me locate a torch in the dark.

Our power goes out regularly, in the year we,ve lived here it seems to go out at least once a month. Neighbours tell me it's much better than it used to be!

So far we,ve lost a washing machine and a nas drive.
The washing machine was mid cycle when the power went out, control board died and machine wouldn't cycle after that.
The nas died in another power cut a few weeks later. It would power up but not mount the drives and would crash after a couple of mins. Had to buy some recovery software to read the drives on my PC and retrieve our data.

Since then I,ve added ups's to our PC's, one for my remaining nas drive, router and phone.

Have another ups waiting to be fitted to the lighting circuits for the whole house, with led and cf lighting it only takes a small ups to provide backup for all our lighting.

I started gathering some bits for a backup micro CHP unit but haven,t had time to work on that yet.

Water almost never goes off in the UK, guess if required we do have a borehole we with pump so water would not be a problem.

Steve
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Old 11-12-14, 03:24 AM   #5
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We regularly get outages here. This leaves us with no heat, light, water. Basically everything goes. I keep planning to buy a generator but somehow it never happens. Perhaps because our outages are usually short; more like minutes or hours rather than days.

I have used an inverter running from a car battery to run a few things. That is always useful because (although not efficient) I can always run a car to re-charge a battery.

Another solution after a long outage in winter is to take stuff from the freezer and put it outside, where it is often colder than a freezer anyway. Also I can freeze water outside and put it in the fridge to cool that. Not much use in the summer of course.
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Old 11-12-14, 09:21 AM   #6
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You are actually much further ahead than many because you have NG for cooking and water heating and have water pressure (city, I assume). I lived through the NE Blackout of 2003. We had no water pressure but were able to "share" power from the neighbor's generator for an couple of hours every 6 hours.

While you can do a lot with a couple of deep cycle (marine) batteries and a good inverter, you can do a LOT more with a GOOD small inverter generator. The Honda EU2000i is the "Cadillac" of this type of generator, but there are several decent challengers (Yamaha EF2400i/EF2800i and Champion).


Bigger generators are NOT better when it comes to temporary power. With careful energy usage management, you can comfortably live on 2-3kw except maybe A/C (more on that later). Larger generators use a lot of fuel which is a pain unless you have one set up for natural gas. (There are retro fit kits for portable generators.)

The simplest way to hook up your portable generator is a bunch of extension cords. Start with a 12 gauge (10 gauge would be better for over 2kW generators) to get the power from where the generator is located to inside the house (another win for smaller, inverter generators; they are a lot quieter !) Then use a heavy duty "triple tap" to split the power to your priority devices (refrigerator, freezer, furnace, etc). Use adequately sized cords (14 gauge would be good).

The tricky one to hook up with a portable generator and extension cords is your furnace. The Reliance TF151W is THE solution !

.


IMHO, transfer switch panels are a waste of time and money !



If you don't like extension cords, get a generator interlock for your breaker panel. You can still plug you generator in to an outside plug and then power the circuits YOU WANT POWERED AT THE TIME OF THE BLACKOUT and not endanger anyone working on the wiring outside of your home !


If you live in a part of the country where A/C is a "must have", buy a window A/C unit for one bedroom or a small (120V) mini split. Wire it to a pigtail on the outside of the building directly next to a god quality weather resistant outlet. When you have power, plug it in. When you don't plug it into a second small generator ! If you have a 3kW generator and are careful with your loads, one generator is probably enough.


The biggest problems with generators is fuel. Storing a reasonable amount on hand, SAFELY. Rotating your stock every 6 months or so. NG is the way to go or propane if you already own a large tank. Every generator should be started and a load applied once every 4-6 weeks just to make sure it will start.
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Old 11-12-14, 10:08 AM   #7
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I have a small 5,000 watt generator but I have been thinking about switching it to natural gas.
https://www.propanecarbs.com/

I have been eying up PTO generators I have a 36 HP diesel tractor that could run it.
I like the NorthStar PTO Generator — 7200 Watt maybe a black Friday sale.
NorthStar PTO Generator — 7200 Watt, 14 HP Required | PTO Generators| Northern Tool + Equipment

We don’t lose power very much at all but in the winter we can have ice storms. In the past we have lost power for almost a week from an ice storm and we are the very last house on this power line.
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Old 11-12-14, 10:20 AM   #8
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I'm surprised to hear you guys have as many issues as you do. Since I've been in my house, I think the power has gone out for an extended period of time two times in six years. One time was a couple hours, one was half a day. Neither were big deals at all.
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Old 11-12-14, 10:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pinballlooking View Post
I have a small 5,000 watt generator but I have been thinking about switching it to natural gas.
https://www.propanecarbs.com/
Another source for conversion kits is US Carburetion

[/QUOTE]I have been eying up PTO generators I have a 36 HP diesel tractor that could run it.[/QUOTE]
Those show up for sale occasionally on Craigslist.


Power distribution is usually the biggest issue. START PLANNING NOW !!
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Old 11-12-14, 10:49 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Daox View Post
I'm surprised to hear you guys have as many issues as you do. Since I've been in my house, I think the power has gone out for an extended period of time two times in six years. One time was a couple hours, one was half a day. Neither were big deals at all.
Concur ! 37 years in the same place and other than the NE Blackout, I have never been without power for more than a few hours and even those were rare.


I drag generator of the garage every month or 2 and run it for 15-20 minutes. Biggest issue is keeping fresh gas in it, so I never fill it more than 1/4-1/2 full.

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