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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Back-up Power

   So, Friday again… I have something new to talk about today. I know this will come as a relief to the 2 emailers that have been heckling me all week! I also want to remind you to check in the “Swap Meet” section from time to time as I will continue to add items as I have the time. I also caught a clerical error on the asking price for the silver coins – sorry, its fixed now.
Back-up power options?
   What do we have in this category? What do we need to have? This is personal question that only you can answer individually. I used to put this in to a much higher priority level than it turns out to be, for my family at least. I’m not saying that I like it when the power goes down but it shouldn’t be the big freakfest that a lot of folks turn it into.
   Most modern homes do have a large amount of electrical requirements and I don’t want to do without these for the long term but in a pinch, a few days to a week, we should be able to get by… What are the main things that we really need to focus on for that period of time?
   Lets start with the big items first. Your furnace or furnace fan for those of us that heat with natural gas, refrigerator/freezer, electric range and or microwave… What else do you have? There’s an endless list of little things we all like to have but certainly we can do without for the week in question. We can also do without most of the things on this list too.
  We talked about back-up heating options just a week or so ago, so we won’t hit that one again, other than to say we may want to consider adding a generator powered option for the furnace fan. What about cooking? Do we really have to have the electric kitchen stove up and running? I bet we can come up with a work around for this too! The one appliance that I think we should give some long thought to is the refrigerator and or freezer, even more so if your family is running a second stand alone freezer.
   First, we have to give our personal lists a good looking at and see what the highest consumption items are going to be that will need to be replaced with an auxiliary back-up power source. For us, the “Preppers”  its the refrigerator, we don’t have a second freezer right now but we do keep a fairly stuffed frig/freezer throughout most of any given month. Maybe the use of the microwave would be nice from time to time throughout the day as well… Let’s figure these power needs in and see what we are really up against…
  What I’ve come up with for us is that we will need to have the capability of a 1500-1800 watt power source to use intermittently throughout the day. With this mostly being for the refrigerator and powering it only on a limited basis, probably twice a day for an hour or so. If we keep the doors closed the remainder of the time we will maintain the interior temperature fairly well!
   Since we know we’ll need to cover this wattage requirement anyway, we’ll have the generator to use with other things, like the microwave as well. Most all of the household small appliances that I looked at specifically could be powered with this same generator. Additionally, part of my plan is to maintain a stock of rechargeble batteries for the various lights, radios and even the alarm clock!
   Keep in mind that I am only outlining what we are planning to do for this particular situation. Your personal list may be very different than ours. It doesn’t take much to keep us comfortable, since we have alternate heat and cooking sources available. All of us at our house are fairly healthy too, some families will have medical requirements that will necessitate a different level of electrical power. This is why the personal list is so critical, I can’t possibly tell you how much power you will want or need to have.
   Some folks are going to want and be willing to pay for the full gamit of back-up power. This could include a large diesel generator rated to run 24 hours a day. Don’t laugh, that equipment is out there and available to those of us willing to spend the money to purchase it. I have even begun to see some very nice equipment that would power several homes in any neighborhood, at the same time, available for 15-20,000 dollars. Yes, that’s a lot of money but if the situation were appropriate and you were willing to stock sufficient fuel supplies -why not!
   My point is, figure out what you feel you have to have and then see what you might be able to add from the “Wants” list and then make your equipment selection. I’m going to run through some of the generators that I am personally familiar with and also a couple of additional pieces of back-up equipment that have come in handy for me.
Honda EU2000iHonda EU2000i
   First, my personal back-up generator… It’s the Honda EU2000i, this is the little red generator that could… It is a real work horse and I couldn’t give it higher ratings. It is rated at 1800 watts continuous and 2000 starting or surge watts. This generator has been idea for us – it will power the refrigerator, microwave and whatever other small items we need. We’ve pressed it into service at the office from time to time as well. It won’t run all of our office equipment but we can have a computer, printer and the internet up while everyone else is standing around.
   The best feature with this particular genset is that it is exceptionally quite. In addition to being well designed for quite running, it also has a switch to drop it down into “Standby” mode. This lowers the idle speed even further while it isn’t under heavy use. I believe the fuel tank is a gallon or close to it and I’m able to run it under load for several hours per tank. If we choose to just run the thing for an hour in the morning and evening, we could milk out a 5 gallon fuel can for the better part of week. However, we all know that if the generator’s available, the TV and other stuff will undoubtedly be utilized if possible. Maybe doubling the fuel reserve to 10 gallons would be safer but even this is a relatively small reserve to maintain…
The "Screamer" The "Screamer"
   Next up is a slightly larger unit, both in wattage and physically. This is a generator that I’ve owned for about 10 years. It’s a good generator but we nick-named it the “Screamer” for a reason. This bad boy is loud, not something that I would relish using in a neighborhood situation. Even out in the toolies, this baby would bring a lot of attention your way. It’s rating is 4400 watts and we have used it to charge batteries for an 12 volt alternative energy system that was installed at our original BOL. Depending on your personal needs, this thing would serve well but is a gas guzzler in comparison to the Honda. I think that unless it was for very intermittent use around the homestead, there would be better options.
   Of course, their is no end to the amount of power capabilities that a back-up generator could provide. Many industrial applications have LARGE generators permanently installed on location to provide for outages. I took a picture of one that is installed at a pump location for a local golf course. This one’s a largediesel and has a good sized fuel storage unit incorporated with the generator. While these serve some commercial purposes, unless you are developing a neighborhood watch on steroids, we’ll keep the more manageable sized equipment.  
   In addition to the generator, what else could we do to have the back-up power we need when the time comes… What about something as small as a well stocked supply of batteries. Disposable batteries are the cheapest but aren’t as sustainable as the rechargeable one’s. I suggest taking a look into what your households true battery needs are. If nothing else having a spare set of batteries for all your equipment, should be the bare minimum!
"Mini" - power utility replacement"Mini" - power utility replacement
   Like everything else you could take this level of preparedness to a much higher degree than the minimums. If you have the funds to get a rechargeable battery bank into rotation, do it!  I have a ways to go in making this level a part of our power system.
   I have incorporated two small additions to the normal household gear and they’ve come in handy on several occasions. One is this rechargeable jumper battery unit. It has a set of jumper cables attached to the back of the unit and will actually start a vehicle with a dead battery. I carry a real set of cables too but this option is far more convenient than getting someone to help me. It also has the standard cigarette lighter socket and a small built in light.
   The micro-light would fall into the category of -”Better than nothing” but the power outlet is great for keeping the cell phone charged when the power goes out! I’ve had the power go down at my office on several occasions and this came in handy since my cell phone became my only office phone and I spend a lot of time on it.
   This jump pack can be charged with regular 110 volt AC or while your driving around in your vehicle. It charges much quicker on AC but will eventually fully recharge in the BOV. I keep it charged b bringing it in the office with me once every couple of weeks. It usually is fully charged again before lunch and goes right back in the BOV.
Jump Pack and small inverterJump Pack and small inverter
   The second little piece of gear is also pictured in the photo with the jump pack. It is nothing more than a small 150 watt power inverter. I know what your thinking, 150 watts why bother? I found this little guy on sale at the sporting goods store and it was perfect for keeping my laptop charged in the field. I could just plug the laptop in when I put it back in the case and let it recharge while I was driving to or from or whatever. I like to always have my equipment fully charged! I know this isn’t the best for the batteries but I just can’t ge in the habit of letting my stuff go dead before recharging?
   Well, these are the things that we have collected and put into place for the inevitable power outages that visit the “Prepper” household. I have plans to improve on these and have yet to get anything meaningful “Systematized” out at the BOL yet. We could employ the same setup there but I have bigger dreams of a much more elaborate and self-sufficient arrangement for over there. I’ll keep you all posted and share the inroads that I get accomplished as they occur.
   As usual, let me encourage you to ponder this topic for a couple of days and maybe actually sit down and write out that list and take stock of where you are now. You might already have it all handled but it would be better t know for sure than to wait until it’s to late to do anything about it… I’m just sayin!

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