You may remember from Monday’s brief post that I ran into some problems with my SHTF power-outage plan last weekend. So what happened?
About 9:00 am or so the power went out – right smack in the middle of my shower. Mrs Jarhead was busy folding clothes in my son’s room and hadn’t noticed yet. The house was warm, the fridge and the freezer would keep for awhile, there were no immediate concerns, so instead of hooking things up right away we decided to do some chores in town first. There have been times when I’ve gone out and got everything hooked up and as soon as it was running the power came back on.
We got home around 1:00 or so and the power wasn’t on yet, so I pulled the generator out and got it running. First note: make sure you start your generator monthly. I had to crank on it for awhile before it started whereas this summer it started after only one pull.
Once it was running I had to go looking for extension cords, surge protectors and the like to get my appliances hooked up. I wanted to have the freezer, fridge, pellet stove, some lights, and the laptop or the TV and DVD player set up. Everything worked fine except the pellet stove.
The good thing is that I have a kerosene heater as a backup and since the temperature didn’t go down below 29 degrees it stayed nice and warm in the house; however, that did not solve the problem of the generator not running the pellet stove.
I have booked appointments with a couple of electricians to come over to the house for a visit. One of the things I’ve wanted to do for awhile is set up a transfer switch, so the generator will run directly into the house. It’s going to cost some money: quotes ranged from $600 to $800, but I’d rather have a trained electrician do it right. Basically what a transfer switch does is tie your generator into your house’s electrical system so that when the power goes out you don’t have a whole tangle of cables running through your house like a construction zone.
Another good thing about the transfer switch is it will also allow me to use my water pump, so I can draw water directly up from the well. Awesome!
If you have the money another alternative is to have a much larger system such as a 8kw backup generator or higher with fail-over installed. These generators are usually propane and will usually run much of your house instead of just a few appliances. Some of you mentioned this in comments on Monday’s post. The downside is that these systems start at around $4,000 – at least that’s what I’ve got for quotes so far. If you have the cash to throw at a system like though, it’s a very good way to go.
So What Worked?
With all this talk you might think it was a total failure. Quite the contrary! I had plenty of water for flushing toilets in the form of my rain barrels outside. I had plenty of potable water in the basement for drinking not to mention my Royal Berkey Water filter that I didn’t have to break out.
Despite the problem with the pellet stove the generator ran the fridge, freezer, lights, and the TV with no problem at all.
My neighbors came over with their two-year old daughter and her and my son played in the living room. They weren’t quite as prepared as we were, so we opened our door and welcomed them into our home and they stayed until around 8:00 pm. By that point my two year old son – who hadn’t napped all day – was in complete melt-down mode. After they left he fell asleep on the kitchen floor before we could get him into bed. Talk about a tired little boy!
I should have checked the generator with the things I wanted to run ahead of time instead of assuming that because a few power tools and some other small gadgets worked I was all set.
While having a wood stove would be the ideal that’s not in the cards in the immediate future, so getting the pellet stove running on the generator is on the docket for this week. The electrician will check out the generator while he’s over and let me know what’s going on.
This one may become a non-issue with the installation of a transfer switch, but I’ll throw it out there: if you’re going to use a generator without a transfer switch know exactly what appliances you want to run, and have cables and surge protectors to run from the generator to the applicances stored in an easy to get to spot. I ran around stealing surge protectors from different areas of the house and when the power came back on I had to put it all back again. Not a huge deal, just a pain in the butt. If I don’t get the transfer switch I’ll definitely put one of these kits together.
Luckily the power was out for less than twenty-four hours here, which gave me time to assess the situation without causing a huge disruption and it gives me time to get my ducks in a row before the next big storm comes rolling through.
Long Term SHTF
Let’s say TSHTF for a long period of time measured in months, or even years, instead of a week or two. What then? Unless you had the means for a resupply of gasoline, propane, or whatever it is you use for backup electricity, you’re going to run out.
Your best bet for sustainable electricity would be solar or wind, hydro electricity, or even geothermal, but that topic is for another day. Again, I’ve got to stop before this becomes the never-ending post.
What are you plans for when the lights go out? Are you ready for when TSHTF? Are you sure?