Friday, February 7, 2014
A few days without power... lessons learned.
Wednesday morning. I woke at 4:30am. I went to bed expecting ice/sleet/snow to greet me as I woke, and the prediction was 100% spot on this time. My brain kicked off about two hours before I needed to get up, and with good reason.
4:30 am. I step onto the porch and stick my slippered foot out jut a toes worth..... slicker than snot and building fast. The trees were loaded with frozen snow, and gaining weight FAST with the sleet and freezing rain.
We were going to lose power. No surprise, and no realistic chance we wouldn't.
I cranked the house heat up, made coffee, and fired the woodstove well and true. 30 minutes later... darkness. That 30 minutes was enough to get better prepared, and is surely the reason I woke so early.
When the lights went out, I already had the LED lanterns in place. (Rayovac Sportsman LED Lantern ) I have three of these around the house, and they are flat out the Cats Meow when the power goes off. Energy sipping things, I replace their three D cells maybe once a year. That's with many, many nights of outdoor use over the summer.
When I use these lanterns (kitchen, bath, living room) the neighbors invariably stop in to see if I have power, since the house is so well lit. Lighting the place without power? No problems.
Heat...... wood stove, all the way. I have a propane convection heater which I fired a few times in the basement to avoid frozen pipes, but otherwise did not need. The wood stove kept the whole house above 70 degrees, so warm and snuggly it was.
Other folks were not so well prepared, and ended up bunking in with friends or family.
On the subject of the wood stove, it suits just fine for cooking. I ran a dutch oven full of ... well..... chili I suppose.... for two days straight. As I pulled meat from the freezer that looked like it might be thawing, it went into the pot. Along with some canned beans, tomatoes, onions, and spices.... it made one kick ass chili. A neighbor came over several times for hot chili and cold beer during the outage.... (g).
Cooking... the Butane Burner Stove came in VERY handy indeed. Searing off meat, making coffee, grilled cheese sammiches, you name it. With that little beastie cooking was not an issue, power or no. When I bought it, I also purchased a 12 can case of butane fuel. So far, I have used MAYBE most of one can. That includes several power outages and several evening parties outside.
Speaking of coffee, let me say this...... OH... HELL..... YES. Being able to perc a pot of coffee ( Stainless Steel Percolator) in the middle of a power outage is a sure sign of civilization. Wednesday morning I stood under the porch, coffee mug in hand, listening to the trees near the house cracking under the weight of the ice. They sounded like gunshots, followed by slow motion car crashes as the huge trees came crashing down.
We lost enough branches of our own, with one big bastard stretching maybe 30 feet. It managed to miss the house, the hot tub, and the garage while coming within inches of each.
Water.... a serious issue when the well pump is driven by electricity. Here the water filter pitcher I bought came into serious use. Found daily in the fridge, it moved to the kitchen counter where it supplied coffee and cooking water (PUR 18 Cup Dispenser)
I have several backups in the water department. One, the hot tub, holds several hundred gallons of water suitable for washing and flushing. This trip, I managed that task with simple snow melt in a pot on the wood stove.
Water backup of last resort, and a GREAT one, is a hand dug well on the property. We came THIS close to dipping water for the neighbors horses.... just as the power came back on.
Entertainment? Books..... beer..... whiskey..... cell phone internet..... eating. In just a few short words: LIFE...... IS...... GOOD.
So where did I come up short? A bigger pot to heat water on the stove would be a good idea. Also, a camp shower would be nicer than the helmet baths I was taking.
On the cell phone front. either more backup batteries ( I have three and never went dry), or a USB power pack would be nice.
Regarding the fridge, I lost 60% of what was in the freezer.... but none of the meat or expensive things. Just the tater tots and ice cream type stuff, really. I think a larger cooler would be nice, and would be a treat for the summer parties too. Since I (purposefully) don't keep a freezer full of expensive stuff, a decent sized cooler would allow me to save pretty much everything.
Frankly, aside from missing a good hot shower, a few days without power were more like a vacation. Quiet, comfortable, cold beer, good food, lots of books..... and no ^*&&%&$@% TV blasting in my peaceful environment.
I guess I'd do it again without too much bitching.
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Now that was successful preparation!
You can solve the hot - or at least "fairly warm" - shower problem with a Zodi.
There's a one-burner model, a two-burner, and for $32 you can get the battery powered pump by itself. With a wood stove to heat the water in a metal bucket, that might be the ticket. Won't be the pressure and volume of your well pump, but it does work.
Just search amazon for "zodi" - there are also tent heaters, garden hose adapters, shower poles, etc. for the Zodi.
FYI, Walmart has them cheaper.
Good on ya for being prepared. Sounds like you did just fine.
Bottom line, you were PREPARED... Good on ya Art!!!
Ok, that highlighted a few weaknesses in our prepping here in the UK - we need more gas bottles as we have no woodburner or fireplace.
Also, re. the LED lamps, another reminder of why the phrase "rip-off Britain" is so often heard. Those lamps for which you pay USD$26.00 each, would cost us over GBP£50.00 (USD$80.00)on Amazon.co.uk.
RE: freezer. Might be time to pop for a Honda EU20001 (or other brand equivalent) to supply 115V on demand. About a grand pretty much everywhere but worth it. Small tank - 4-5 hours at half load, but 5 hours of keeping the freezer and fridge going should allow several hours for the fridge and probably 12 for the freezer before no power causes problems. RV folks have solved the problem of a bigger tank for them, google is your friend.
I've got one of those single-burner butane stoves, use it every day, even though the power is on.
Coffee, tea, single person meals, dish-washing up water, and so-on.
Reason?- Whilst in the Australian Military, we sometimes had the luxury of one-man portable field gennerators when out in the bush. Heating water was the least cost effective use of my total available generated electricity (28-30 Ampheres), and butane gas absolutely the cheapest, except for solar, but that wasn't available way back then.
One small point, if it was ás cold as a Politicians smile' outside, was there snow or ice available to pack around food to help it 'keep'?.
Just a thought.
Yes, I quite like my little butane burner as well. Handy thing.
As for the food loss..... my own laziness and wishful thinking is to blame. There was no way to know the length of the outage, and I kept hope our power would be back.
Very little was lost. Milk, butter, beer, etc was simply shoved into the snow bank. On the freezer side, all the meat was saved, losing only some perishables I honestly didn't mind seeing leave.
I made the decision years ago.... buy a generator to support a fridge and freezer full of food at the occasional outage, OR let the freezer run lean and put my food storage up in ways that don't require refrigeration (and the generator). I went the non-generator route, and geared the home towards surviving comfortable without it.
Good on ya. Here's a thought, say you don't have a wood stove. Try this Wally World alternative. RV style small propane tank available at Wal-Mart, Coleman Distribution Tree, Mr. Heater Portable Buddy Radiant Heater, gas dual mantle lantern, Coleman Rechargeable Hot Water on Demand 5 gal. Portable Water Heater. Ensure good ventilation, put tank in room to be warmed like the kitchen. Attach Dis. tree to tank. Hook Lantern, Mr. Buddy heater, propane stove and portable water heater to Dist. tree using propane hoses also available at Wally World. You now have light, heat, hot water shower and cookstove off the same source. This would also work on 100lb tanks also.
btw. how bout relocating contents of freezer to outside area such as porch or inside of car during next ice storm. Should help keep most items from spoiling during outage.
Note on those butane stoves. As great as they are, I have 2 and use them often. You can also see them being used on cooking shows all the time. 1) Buy a quality stove of you can, they will last longer. Also look for one that has a heat sink/heater for the butane can. 2) Butane does not like really cold temps and this stove will suffer if the temp drops too low. 3) Do not use in breezy areas without a wind shield. These stoves have a low pressure flame and have no wind protection. 4) Protect the cans from rust or they will leak. The cans are made to be disposable thus made from thin cheap steel. I’ve had cans rust through and leak while stored indoors.
Glad you all came through it unscathed. Up here in Kentucky we just had to deal with a few multi-hour outages, but nothing too bad.
For Coffee I recommend a "French Press" type rather than a percolator. They can be bought at most mega-mart for $10.00-$15.00.
Big stock pots for heating water, I bought mine at Family Dollar (4 gallon) for $15.00, beer brewing shops have huge pots that are great for heating water.
Get two Igloo 5 gallon drink jugs for storing that hot water for washing/cleanup. About $25.00 each on sale and if you prime them like a thermos the water will stay hot for 18 hours+
I just did 5 days no-tap water (busted water main)if anyone wants a few tips of using all stored water and what I did to have a bath everyday, water usage and how my water plan worked.
I have one. Peace....of...mind.
You could also fill up your washing machine.
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