Monday, October 31, 2011

AAR on storm related power loss.....

A late October snow. Wet, heavy, plentiful..... and all the trees still have leaves. The obvious happens. Trees shatter, branches fall, and power goes out. Our delicate lifeline to civilization gives way before Mother Natures whim.

Now, the power is out. The sounds left are not comforting; Ancient tree's shattering under the load, hitting the ground hard enough to shake the house. Tree's that once shaded house, garage, and vehicles now threaten them with destruction.

In the end, the worst damage suffered is a loss of electricity for a few days and many.... many trees down, waiting to be cleared.

What hardships suffered, and what lessons learned?

Heat... not an issue. The woodstove kept the house toasty warm.

Drinking water.... Six cases of bottled water on hand most of the time made that a non-issue.

Flushing water.... Experience has shown the value of filling the tub at the first flicker of the house lights. That was done, and a weeks flushing was but one large pot away.

Light... An Aladdin oil lamp with a mantle made the living room cozy. Tea light candles placed safely here and there made the house navigable. LED flashlights provided reading light with exceptionally long battery life. It was acceptable, but not optimal. Two LED lanterns were ordered, along with a big pack of D cell batteries. Providing 150 hours of reading quality light from three D's, they eliminate the fire hazard of candles and oil lamps. They will also do regular duty for night time outdoor parties and work events.

Coffee... (Of vital importance). I brewed a pot of fresh ground as soon as the lights flickered. It's quite good, even a day later... but not so tasty cold as hot. Two days in... and I am driving to the loacl town to buy morning coffee. One day this may not be an option; I need an electricity free percolator. Before spending money on one, I will browse the local Amish stores to see what they have on hand. I also need to keep a supply of pre-ground coffee in the freezer, as my grinder is electric.

Cooking.... no provisions had been made till now, except putting a pot on the woodstove. It's hot enough there for a long-cook soup or stew, but not enough to boil water for coffee or sizzle a steak. My Hibachi outdoors... works great outdoors... but is useless in a storm. A propane camp stove seems to be the answer. Possibly a propane grill, which will do patio duty all Summer as well, and can be used under the front porch in inclement weather. Maybe it will do... but I can envision times I'd simply rather not have a presence out of doors... so I think a camp stove is in order.

Electricity over the long term.... A generator would not be a bad idea. We don't NEED electricity on a short term basis (a few days), but over a longer period it would make life easier. It would also save the food in the fridge, which I am now in the process of sorting and disposing of, as required. One needn't lose more than a few armloads of frozen meat before a generator becomes economically reasonable.

I need to better evaluate our electricity needs. Right now, and easiest to deal with, the fridge... a few lights... the DSL modem... maybe the TV. Longer term, the oil furnace and well pump, but those will require a bigger generator and some hard wiring done to the house, such as a double throw switch and gen-set connection.

Regarding the DSL modem (and our laptops, and our cell phones, etc), I am wondering if a large UPS would be a good idea. Our smart phones keep us in contact with the world, as do our computers over the internet. We've come to rely on them, and having backup power to operate them seems like a wise choice. Procuring an outlandishly large UPS might not be so difficult. I may be able to get a used one headed towards the scrap heap, and simply wire in new batteries.

All in all.... we did well, especially since we could hop in our cars and head into town to do whatever we wished. If that hadn't been an option, our biggest concern short term would be boredom (Princess is not a reader). Long term... water and cooking food.

I think it will be possible to solve all the issues uncovered in a few days without electricity by spending no more than $400... give or take a lucky break. None are immediately life threatening, and can be done as time and interest permits.


ZerCool said...

A local smart fellow wrote an article about just this topic about a year ago... ;-)

Carteach0 said...


Good article, and always worth planning for.

As for us, I am not a big believer in heavy food stock that require refrigeration. I prefer things that will just sit on the shelf, happy to wait a year before consumption.

This event, what we lost can be fit into a few grocery bags. Sadly, about $50 worth of frozen shrimp I had just bought on special, a half gallon of egg nog, a jar of mayo, some cream based salad dressings, a new pint of sour cream, a half gallon of ice cream,and some defrosted veggie burgers that were in holding pattern in the fridge.

Other than that, we lost no food. Mostly because our side by side's freezer is only half stocked, even on a shopping day.

Like I said.... an aversion to stocking foods which require power to preserve.

Now... canned beans on the other hand.... THOSE we have plenty of :-)

og said...

if you can, in your budget, think about a diesel generator. Or plan on one going forward, and buy one juuust big enough to deal with a few lights etc. for now. (The small Harbor Freight ones are adequate for the job, and most are made in China anyway). When you upgrade to a diesel, the small genset will make a good portable unit for other uses. You don't want a portable diesel.

Carteach0 said...

I rent this home, so 'portable' is a must. I might be renting here for longer than most people own their homes.... or I might be moving with only a few months notice. That is also a factor in making any wiring changes to the home's circuits. A good double throw switch unit and gen-set connections cost upwards of $300 I think.

I'm thinking more along the lines of a gas/propane unit big enough to run the fridge and some aux units.

If water becomes an issue over a long term event, I have a very old hand dug stone lined well here. A stainless bucket and a long anchor rope reside in my garage. It would not be fun, but not real hard either.

og said...

Do yourself a favor, then. Make sure there is a 220 circuit next to the main box, and make a 220 cord with a plug on both ends, and lock it up.

When you need power, disconnect the house from the mains (Main circuit breaker) and backfeed genset power through the outlet with the double-plug extension cord. Much cheaper (and more portable, and more reliable) than switch gear, and you don't have to install anything.

Carteach0 said...

Og, that is how I wired the last house I owned. Once in place, it turned into a magic talisman warding off long term electrical outages in that area. At least, that is how it felt. I never used it other than as a test.

Old NFO said...

Good ideas, and diesel is the preference since you're renting. The best option is propane. Re the percolator...

I have one sitting in the cabinet all the time...