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Discussion Starter #1
Recently here on the East Coast we had some rather extreme weather conditions that left some people without power for days. Please share with us how you were prepared, or not, and what you plan to do to be better prepared.

Fortunately for me, my home is not in an area where power failures occur often, in fact in the past 30 years we haven't lost power for more than 30 minutes except for three times, and then each time it was less than a day. The most recent time was a couple of weeks ago we lost it from 4:10 AM, until 7:00 AM. Here is my story. :)

A few years ago I bought one of those Emergency EXIT lights and for whatever reason I never installed it. Now I don't recall if it came with a cord to plug it into an outlet or if I modified it myself (as you can see I have a tendancy to modify stuff.) Well, I plugged this unit in and threw it on top of the entertainment unit. The red glow reflecting on the ceiling irritated my wife, so it ended up out in the garage.

When the power went out, it wasn't just dark, it was VERY dark. Not even the glow of an alarm clock. The emergency lights went on in the garage, and I brought them into the center of the house so that there was some light.

I learned that the exit lights only last about 2 hours, and after 30 minutes they were starting to dim. They are fine for lighting hallways and stairwells for an emergency egress, but not suitable for weathering the storm. I modified mine with LED camping lights obtainable from Walmart or Kmart. They are 6 volts, and draw 1/6th the amperage of just one of the original 5.5 watt bulbs. Also the camping light has an on/off switch. The advantage of that is that it can be turned off during the day, saving the battery, should the black out last more than a day or so.

Two sets of LED lights should last 10-12 hours, One set should last up to 24 hours.
 

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Discussion Starter #2 (Edited)
IF I do this again... I would get an emgergency light that does not have the EXIT sign. The one with the exit sign is more expensive, and has red LEDs (for the EXIT) that will remain lit when there is no electricity, and the only way to turn them off is to take the cover off and disconnect the battery.

A back up light like this is available for around $30, the camping light another $7.00
So for less than $40 You can have emergency lighting that will last about 20 hours.

There are the plug in the wall LED flashights available for less than $10 each that will offer enough light for you to move around, to find candles or whatever. I prefer the style of the two on the right in that they shine out from the wall, rather than up towards the ceiling or down to the floor.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
After I got the lighting going, I wanted to turn on the TV to find out how wide spread the outing was, what caused it, and get an estimate on how long it is expected to last.

Darn... no electricity, no TV!

OK... go get the radio in the garage.
Darn... it takes 8 C cell batteries. I bought them and didn't put them in and they were used for the kids toys! Hmmm, 8 batteries = 12 volts. Out came my drill battery, and a couple of jumper wires. I had previously marked the pos and neg poles of the battery. I jumpered the battery to the inside of the battery case.

It really surprised me how important it was to me to be able to listen to the radio.

What I did regarding the radio now is, I bought new batteries and put them in, but I put a small piece of carboard between the end terminals so that it can not run on batteries. Essentially they are being stored in the radio and will be fresh in an emergency.
 

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what i did regarding the radio now is, i bought new batteries and put them in, but i put a small piece of cardboard between the end terminals so that it can not run on batteries. Essentially they are being stored in the radio and will be fresh in an emergency.
Brilliant !
 

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Cool, nice work! I have one of those wind up Radio's and one of those LED flashlights you shake to power up. Hate being in the dark when the power goes out.
 

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I cheat. Got a 10k gen set. powers the house, and keeps the boiler on(thats the biggest reason) that way i wont freeze up. I use a isolator switch that kills incoming power from the power co and uses the generator. then when the power comes back on, a yard light will come on and let me know, I just flip the switch back and kill the gen set. This way I have my computer still, and my TV, blue ray player, etc...

Its a lot more expensive than what you've outlined, and you've made some good suggestions, however its cheaper than having to repair the plumbing when it freezes and splits wiping out drywall flooring and all the other damage that happens with water spraying everywhere
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I have a 5K generator, but I didn't think my neighbors would appreciate me cranking that baby up at 4:00 AM !

I always kinda wanted to get one for emergency purposes but for the extreemly infrequent power failures we have, I just couldn't justify the $500 - $800 expense. Especially since I have one with this motorhome, and I had one with my last.

My brother recently gave this one to me. He had no spark. It has a low oil level switch. See picture below. I am told that they often fail, and the quick fix is to just cut the wire that goes to it. Then be sure to keep an eye on your oil level.

Mine shorted to ground, and killed the ignition.
 

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Its always a good idea to keep a close eye on your oil level. For the cost of those switches I would of done the same thing.

As far as disturbing your neighbors, if you have a decent muffler on your gen set all should be well. Traffic drives by right? This will be even quieter than normal traffic.

Personally I sleep better with an engine running. Years of running diesels...

I have a friend in Livengood who has no power company as he's only about 100 miles from Fairbanks. He has two gen sets and a battery bank with a power inverter. His inverter has a computer in it that monitors the condition of his batteries. When the voltage drops to a specified level, the computer will automatically fire up one of the generators. Once the batteries are charged then the computer shuts off the generator. Next time the batteries need charged the computer fires the other generator. That way the load gets shared between two gen sets. His computer also monitors how long each generator is used and will not use one if it is due for service. Once the service is done and you reset the timer in the computer it will be used in rotation once again.

All totaled his system cost him around $15,000. And then he has diesel delivered out to the house. Combined with heating his house, he has a total diesel usage of around 2000 gal. per year. He does suppliment his heating with a wood stove.

I plan on building a similar system eventually at my place. I also am in the works o building a bio-diesel processing plant. This will cut down on my diesel usage.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
I'm fortunate enough to have two homes. One is natural gas, steam heat; the other is natural gas forced air heat.

Steam heat does not require any electricity to move the steam through the pipes, but it won't work in a power failure. The reason being... there is an electric operated gas valve. It opens to allow gas to flow to be burnt in the furnace. If the pilot light goes out, power to that valve is shut off, and the valve closes. Mine operates on a step down transformer at 12 volts. In an emergency, I can use a car battery to power the thermostat, and that gas valve.

The forced air heating system would require a generator for that gas valve, and the blower motor. Probably less than 15 amps 110 volts. = 1650 watts. Mine is less than 12 amps 110 volts = 1320 watts.

People on well water may have additional issues. Anyone have any experience with that and want to comment?
 

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1320 watts is only peak power draw, once your furnace is on it draws a lot less.

Both my boiler and my well are on 20 amp circuit breakers. I just replaced the pressure switch on my water system, installing a 40/60psi switch. Before anyone buys a generator, look at the power output. There are two ways to rate generators, and it can be misleading. Some rate their generators at 5kw, but its PEAK power. Those are ok, but just be aware that they will only run at about 3kw continuosly. Look to see what the continuous power output is. Then you wont be overloading your generator.

Thinking about being prepared for emergencies, go to FEMA's website. I cannot post links to websites yet, otherwise I would just post the link. Just google FEMA and you can find it. Dig around, and you will find a good basic list of emergency supplies to keep on hand. Think about the specific requirements of the area that you live and adjust your list accordingly. It never hurts to be prepared, then you have an opportunity to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
 

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It never hurts to be prepared, then you have an opportunity to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
Excellent Point! I myself am prepared for the end of the world.

Here's a link to Emergency Preparedness, I apologize that it is not FEMA's link.

Individual Preparedness

As for power outages, they happen quite frequently where we are, however, it is something we are fortunate enough not to have to worry about, as our house is a "hybrid" for lack of better wording. That being said, we do have a backup generator for the compressor that is NOT hardwired to the house, God Forbid the compressor can't be used during a power outage..... :rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Wow a hybrid house!? Want to share a few details?
 

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Emergency Preparedness: 50 gallons of gas & 20 gallons of diesel to weather most emergencies. It seems that I live at the end of the line for electricity......it fails way too often. Remember the east coast power outage a few years ago? I'm soooo glad I had a generator, 13.5K watt surge, 10K continuous. It handles my house and work shop w/o breaking a sweat (6K sq ft total).......both have AC. The shop has it's own utilities and uses almost as much power as the house since it's used for toy storage too :)
 

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Wow a hybrid house!? Want to share a few details?
Awww Jeez, Poppy, you might just as well have asked me to explain Einstein’s Theory of Relativity, (both special and general), probably would have done it better justice. I knew the minute I typed the word Hybrid, it would come back to bite me in the …

Okay let’s see if I can get it straight – there’s the cage, and inside the cage is the spinny wheel and then there's the hamster, the cage is wired to the fuse panel and when the hamster runs on the wheel electricity!

Sorry, couldn’t resist myself……..

In all seriousness, our home is not off grid. I hope I get this right, cuz the easy answer is “it’s magic” Our home’s energy/electricity is supplied, generated, supplemented (again not sure which word to use) via a combination of natural renewal sources the sun and the wind. The energy is collected/stored in some kind of battery thing that uses an inverter to converted it from DC to AC or is it AC to DC, don’t ask me to explain it any better or which is which, as it’s still just magic to me. During power outage conditions any extra or stored energy/electricity is used from the battery backup thing to supply power, the big compressor will suck every last KW real fast, thus the generator.

I NEVER use a dryer, I rarely use a stove, prefer to use the Big Girl BBQ (propane burns clean) and yes all year and yes you can bake a cake and cookies on it. I try to stay away from thing’s that require batteries, (most of our flashlights are the wind up kind, solar powered or rechargeable) and if I have too, I use the rechargeable type, I also collect rainwater for many, many, many uses, compost, recycle, freecycle, grow my own crops, I am working very hard to leave a 0 carbon footprint and a future for my children and their children.

Awwww Jeez, Poppy, now I’ve gone and hijacked your thread with my Eco-Friendly Environmentally Correct Tree Hugger mentality. But since I’m here anyway, did you know that both Margarine and Twinkie’s are only 1 molecule away from being Plastic….. :rolleyes:
 

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Discussion Starter #15
[QUOTE]Our home’s energy/electricity is supplied, generated, supplemented (again not sure which word to use) via a combination of natural renewal sources the sun and the wind. The energy is collected/stored in some kind of battery [/QUOTE]

Wow! Good for you. Down here in the states, if you generate more than you use, the power company has to buy it back.
 

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... It never hurts to be prepared, then you have an opportunity to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.
In a "previous life" I worked for a Fortune 500 company and was responsible for medium sized group of computer servers. When the east coast black out hit a few years ago, I rushed in to the server room to see all of the emergency light on and all of the computers humming away (the UPS had approximately 90 12V lead acid batteries). We even had a flashlight with working batteries !

After standing around for about 10 minutes wondering when the power would be back on, we started to shut down all of the servers in a controlled fashion.

As they "It is nice when a plan comes together !"
 

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Discussion Starter #17
We have a hurricane about to hit the east coast. Although we don't have to worry about heat, in the summer, lights, and a radio, cell phone chargers, and back-up batteries for other electronics may be a good idea.
Refill prescription meds at this time may also be a good idea.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Recently, October 29th, we got hit with a very heavy wet snow storm, and because it is so early in the season, most of the leaves of trees had not yet fallen. Trees, without leaves would have weathered the storm easily, but due to the increased surface area to hold snow, there were more broken branches, and downed power lines than I have seen, maybe ever.

It is a day short of a week later, and thousands of people are still without power.

I loaned my generator to a friend, who ran his house on it for 4.5 days and nights. He'll be buying one of his own soon. The power failures were so widespread, that his, his mother's, and brother-in-law's houses all lost power. Normally they would go to the one least effected.

Fortunately the temps have remained above freezing, so no frozen pipes or burst boilers.

If you had to leave your house without power or heat, do you know how to drain your water lines, boiler, and hot water heater if necessary?
 

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Poppy,

Being a gasman by trade and a PK (plumbers kid) I was taught to add anti-freeze to the toilet bowl and tank if the power goes out. Also a little anti-freeze in the floor drains and "P" traps will keep all sewer gasses and other nasty vapors from entering structure. Completely drain the water lines, boilers, water heaters and leave the faucets open, hot and cold. Watch the kids aquariums as well!
 

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When I was a kid our power went out a lot. My Dad had a generator and a super huge thick extension cord (fatter than a garden hose). What he would do was pull the wires out of the fusebox for the furnace and plug them into the extension cord, the extension cord got plugged into the generator and poof we had heat. For the summer he had the breakers marked to be removed and plugged into the extension cord for the fridge and freezers so no food loss would occur.
 
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