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Emergency Power
Old 06-28-2017, 01:49 PM   #1
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Emergency Power

Lately, I have been thinking of how a natural disaster could cut off the power supply for days or even weeks. A few years ago, a windstorm damaged many power lines in our area. My home was powerless for only two days. But, others I know had no electric power for a week to ten days.

How to get some electric power during an outage is what I am looking into.

No, I can't put a big gasoline generator next to my home.

I am talking about enough power to run some lanterns, a radio, keep my phone and laptop charged, run the electric shaver and stuff like that. (I can cook with my old camp stove and even use the stove to heat water for a sponge bath. I'll eat down the fridge ASAP.)

I have been looking a solar powered devices, battery backup devices and such. All seem very expensive and have limitations.

Any thoughts on this? I see companies like Goal Zero that have a lot of power backup devices and solar cells, but they are expensive and I am not sure they work that well. Some reviews I have seen of solar powered chargers were not great. - they require most of the day in direct sunlight just to charge a few batteries and some small devices.

I am thinking hand cranked charging devices might be more practical than solar.

Any thoughts on any of this?
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Old 06-28-2017, 01:53 PM   #2
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One place to look is on the RV forums. Many of those folks use solar panels and can stay "off the grid" for weeks or even months at a time. They would likely know how to do what you're looking for.
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Old 06-28-2017, 02:17 PM   #3
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It can be done, but remains costly. Solar panels plus home batteries like those from Tesla are the big components. I looked into it about a year ago and the system cost to provide 80% of our daily summertime use was around $30000.

Such a system would not fully heat our home during winter. Maintenance cost on the system would be extra.
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Old 06-28-2017, 03:23 PM   #4
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How about a small generator. You can get very small and quiet 1kw or so inverter generator for not much. Or you could get an inverter you can run from your car battery.
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Old 06-28-2017, 03:29 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Chuckanut View Post
I am talking about enough power to run some lanterns, a radio, keep my phone and laptop charged, run the electric shaver and stuff like that.
My power was out for 54 hours last October after a hurricane. I used a pure sine wave power inverter like the one below connected to a 12v battery to watch the local news on TV. I disconnected it when I wasn't using it to prevent the battery from draining prematurely.

Edit: Corrected the link below after Souschef in next post reminded me there are different types of inverters. I bought a pure sine wave version for sensitive electronics instead of modified sine wave version.

https://www.amazon.com/MicroSolar-60...+inverter+600w
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Old 06-28-2017, 03:36 PM   #6
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How about a small generator. You can get very small and quiet 1kw or so inverter generator for not much. Or you could get an inverter you can run from your car battery.
+1 I have an inverter, but some things do not like the square waves, like digital devices.
Harbor freight has small generators. I saw one that is 2000 watts and is $429.
Were I to but one, I would want a dual fuel generator that I could run off propane.
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Old 06-28-2017, 03:45 PM   #7
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As we are retired and travel at the drop of the hat is an option, our emergency play is to leave. In the past 12 years we have had 2 major outages. Each lasted for two weeks. That is where we are on the priority list for getting power back on. Our plan is to shut the power off at the house, raise the windows an inch or two, empty the fridge and freezer and travel. As we get older and this may not be a good plan, we will have a whole house generator put in. Currently most of our neighbors use portable generators in the 3,000 to 5,000 watt range. (Fans, TV, Fridge, Freezer and sometimes a window ac unit)
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Old 06-28-2017, 04:13 PM   #8
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Do you have natural gas at your house? If so rather than gasoline (which can become unavailable in the event of a major power outage), consider powering the generator from natural gas. About the only major disaster where the gas was shut down was Katrina, because of flooding. Otherwise gas stays on longer than electricity after a natural disaster. Then you would have an outside gas outlet installed where you want the generator and be set.
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Old 06-28-2017, 04:16 PM   #9
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Do you have natural gas at your house? If so rather than gasoline (which can become unavailable in the event of a major power outage), consider powering the generator from natural gas. About the only major disaster where the gas was shut down was Katrina, because of flooding. Otherwise gas stays on longer than electricity after a natural disaster. Then you would have an outside gas outlet installed where you want the generator and be set.
in houston we had a standby generator that ran on ng

it was nice to have during ike when everyone else lost power for 17 days
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Old 06-28-2017, 04:24 PM   #10
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My power was out for 54 hours last October after a hurricane. I used a power inverter like the one below connected to a 12v battery to watch the local news on TV. I disconnected it when I wasn't using it to prevent the battery from draining prematurely.

https://www.harborfreight.com/750-wa...ter-69660.html
+1

For what OP is talking about "enough power to run some lanterns, a radio, keep my phone and laptop charged, run the electric shaver and stuff like that." a small, cheap inverter is plenty. The one you linked is $38 and 750 watt continuous.

If the car is close enough to the house to make that convenient, that may be all you need. Then you don't need to worry about maintaining a separate battery. Or take them to the car to charge them (if the lantern has a rechargeable battery).

The key is, add up how many watt-hours you would use in a day. Use an LED lantern, and a small radio and phone/laptop chargers don't need much. Then make sure you can get that from your car battery so that you can drive it enough to charge it, or maybe a couple 5W solar panels would be enough to keep it topped off? I just bought a couple on Amazon for ~ $15 each for an outside project. If you get 5 hours of strong sun, that would be ~ 50 watt hours. That's 5 hours of running a 10 W LED (~ 40W equiv), you can figure watt-hours on your other things.

A car battery might be ~ 100 Amp-hours, so at ~ 12V that's 1200 watt hours (but be conservative, you need to be able to start your car to recharge it!).

edit, you answered this: No need to keep a fridge going? That's a biggie. But if you don't keep a lot on hand, probably cheaper to just replace it than plan to have enough power if these are rare events.

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Old 06-28-2017, 04:24 PM   #11
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10 years ago, our area had a series of outages. I bought a 5.5HP generator, just in case.
Just n case never came, so my $189.95 purchase was in vain. Still in the box which still has the factory seal.

But... on a related "emergency" problem. Yesterday and last night, I was at Woodhaven Lakes, while DW was here in Peru. She called me yesterday afternoon on an important subject. Nothing showed on my Tracfone... At 6pm, i tried to call her,just to check in. My phone showed "no connection".. I drove to the "Gate" and was told that the cell connections for AT&T and Tracfone were down, and that no one had showed up to the transmission towers to fix the problem. (I used a neighbor's Verizon phone to call DW and let her know about the problem) The connection was not restored until 2AM today, so down for 13 hours.

FWIW, there are probably only about 1500 sites in use now, but this weekend, we are expecting a "gate count" of about 17,000. The resort is not hard wired for phone or internet.

As you might guess, I'm not too happy about the situation... At our age, we worry about falls, and other health problems.

So... what to do about this seeming indifference by whoever is responsible for maintaining cell phone connections? Who to contact? Who to complain to? Would tracfone even know that there was an outage?

What if.... "I've fallen and I can't get up." or worse..... No connection, no 911.

Would appreciate your thoughts or alternate solutions.
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Old 06-28-2017, 04:28 PM   #12
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Were I to but one, I would want a dual fuel generator that I could run off propane.
This is the dual fuel generator I use, it would have to be total armgetaian before it is ever used with gas, propane rules. I bought it for a cheaper price because it was a scratch and dent. I still can't find the scratch or dent. 4,400 max 3,500 continuous.

DuroMax XP4400EH Dual Fuel 4,400 Watt Hybrid Propane/Gasoline Portable Generator With Wheel Kit And Electric Start
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Old 06-28-2017, 04:36 PM   #13
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I did not have power for 7 days after Hurricane Wilma. I did not go for the cheap generator but went for a mid-grade Troy Built. I burns 5 gallons in 8-10 hours if you do not over load it so you cannot run it 24 hours for a week.
If I was willing to spend the money I would have got a large propane tank but for code purposes it had to be a long way from the house and under ground. What a joke.
If you do get a gasoline generator DO NOT LEAVE gas in the tank.
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Old 06-28-2017, 04:45 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by MBSC View Post
My power was out for 54 hours last October after a hurricane. I used a pure sine wave power inverter like the one below connected to a 12v battery to watch the local news on TV. I disconnected it when I wasn't using it to prevent the battery from draining prematurely.

https://www.amazon.com/MicroSolar-60...+inverter+600w
Just a clarification - I thought that sounded cheap for a "pure sine wave" inverter. The one you linked is a "modified sine wave" inverter. Which is marketing speak for "not anything at all like a sine wave!". It is a square wave with a 70.7% duty cycle on each polarity, which gets you back to the .707 RMS of a sine wave. That's typical of these inverters, and most things work fine on them.


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Old 06-28-2017, 05:07 PM   #15
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Do you have natural gas at your house? If so rather than gasoline (which can become unavailable in the event of a major power outage), consider powering the generator from natural gas. About the only major disaster where the gas was shut down was Katrina, because of flooding. Otherwise gas stays on longer than electricity after a natural disaster. Then you would have an outside gas outlet installed where you want the generator and be set.
Agreed. For this reason, I bought a dual-fuel generator: natural gas and propane. That way, I can use it at home as well as at my mountain cabin. At home, I have a subset of circuits wired into a separate electric panel so that I can keep operating lights, regular outlets, and a number of appliances for extended periods of time (even some small space heaters, though NOT the AC).
All depends on how often you have to deal with power outages. We are in hurricane country AND we get nasty ice storms in the Winter, so trouble is not uncommon and it's worth it to me to pay for some backup options. 2 weeks without power is no fun when its hot OR when its cold... (been there, done that )
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Old 06-28-2017, 05:16 PM   #16
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We live on the east coast of Florida. Three direct hurricane hits within 13 months 2004-2005 alone. Multiple near misses and I've lost track of how many tropical storms.

A 4kw gas generator does the trick for us along with a window ac unit for the bedroom. Enough to run lights, TV a fridge and window shaker. (no hot water heater though). I have a 'dead man's plug' for the dryer outlet to power the house after disconnecting the main breaker.

We still have a landline and keep an analog phone for when the cell towers die.

You realize how quickly things go downhill when gas stations run out, the lights are off everywhere, and the grocery stores only take cash.

YMMV
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Old 06-28-2017, 05:41 PM   #17
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We were in an all electric home in February, 2002 when a major ice storm killed the power, two weeks later service was restored.We did have a wood stove that kept the house at 55 and a lot of batteries. DW had a large(expensive) salt water aquarium and that was very challenging to keep oxygen and the proper temperature. She lost zero creatures.

After that we bought a small 2000w Honda. Quite and easy to maintain. Our last home had a ng furnace in addition to the heat pump, I had a furnace guy hook it up so I could run the blower from the Honda. I looked at whole home systems and they were too expensive for me.

Our current home I can run a gas fired "wood stove" from the Honda and a couple of lights, maybe start the fridge every day. Should be ok.
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Old 06-28-2017, 06:09 PM   #18
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Just a stray thought:
If you only need minimal electricity and can get by with just a battery and an inverter, be sure to keep a trickle charger on the battery. Otherwise you'll probably forget about it and it will be dead when you need it.
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Old 06-28-2017, 06:22 PM   #19
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Re: my comment on emergency cell phone service... which in many ways is more critical than power failure.

I have done some research and have come to the conclusion that Communications Service Providers have no legal obligation, or liability for their failure to provide services.

Taken to the logical conclusion, whether it's me, you, your mom or dad or your aunt Nellie... who has a critical life threatening crisis and is unable to use emergency services due to communications failure... it doesn't matter if the failure happens due to an act of nature, human error, or neglect. Furthermore, there is no penalty for failure to make efforts to restore the service in reasonable time... or at all.

We have stronger rules regarding Video Gaming, here in Illinois.
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Old 06-28-2017, 06:25 PM   #20
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.........I am talking about enough power to run some lanterns, a radio, keep my phone and laptop charged, run the electric shaver and stuff like that. (I can cook with my old camp stove and even use the stove to heat water for a sponge bath. I'll eat down the fridge ASAP.)
............
All you need is a trolling motor battery, a solar panel and a controller.
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https://www.amazon.com/docooler-Cont.../dp/B007VLMRP2
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