Emergency power

Discussion in 'Survival & Sustenance Living Forum' started by FALPhil, Oct 14, 2008.

  1. FALPhil

    FALPhil New Member

    282
    0
    0
    This old geezer in my office (and he is really old, because I am an old fart, and he is older than me) and I were talking about possible scenarios in which we would find ourselves in the future. One of our concerns was power. He has a pretty effective and relatively cheap solution for emergency power needs.

    He has two deep cycle marine 12v batteries in his cellar that are hooked up to a solar recharging panel on his roof. The batteries drive a DC/AC power inverter. He thinks this set up will enable him to run his refrigerator for about 8 hours in a 24 hour period, which should be enough if you only open it once a day.

    I wanted to bounce this off of you guys and get your opinions.
     
  2. Quasi

    Quasi New Member

    310
    0
    0
    I read about a setup like that recently in a zombie novel which I can't remember the name of at the moment. Seems like a good setup if you're in an area that sees a lot of sun.

    I'm thinking about getting a propane-powered standby generator, but then again I'm not sure why the gas line would be any more reliable than electricity.
     

  3. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    I actually put in a Kohler back up generator and it's the Natural Gas type. I chose that over the propane for a couple of good reasons.

    One - I work for the power & gas company and all of the "down time" for outages is reported every year. The power always takes major hits during storms because the lines are above ground coming from the source, like Bonneville Dam, so they are susceptible to trees and wind damage. Over half the lines in Washington State are above ground, well over half actually when you factor in the long run Transmission lines that carry the high end voltages.

    The gas lines are all underground, and any time they can't go underground, like a bridge crossing, they have to be encased in steel and then that encased in concrete. Down at 36" the temp is always about 68 degrees, so you don't have much in the way of "nature" affecting the gas lines. We get a dig up here or there each year, but for the most part the gas reported outages are usually 1/50th or smaller of the total down time for the power lines just because of the nature of the beast. If a gas line is down for a neighborhood, usually it can be re-routed rather quickly by an automated system. Power lines being down have to be fielded by a crew and the reroutes are usually done by manpower in the field. There aren't many auto-switches on the main power lines in this area, or other parts of the country I have worked.

    Second - I didn't have to install a propane tank and worry about it's condition, whether I had enough propane in there or not. The above ground units are ugly and the below ground units are a pain in the rear end because of all the procautions you have to take - unless you want to install them all on private property, out behind the house and just say "screw you" to the local inspectors, which is definitely your right.

    So, after doing a lot of research, I went with the Kohler and an Automatic Transfer Switch, so within 10 seconds of the house power going down, the generator comes on line and house stays well lit, warm, and no doubt the envy of some of the neighbors. We live out on a lateral feed, only one pole line coming into our area, so when that one power line gets compromised, we can be out for DAYS.

    The area I live in now was not where I was living when we got hit with those two back to back storms in late '06. The residents in my little area were without power for a week because of the house count versus miles of plant passed. There were just bigger areas to get back on for less work.

    So far I have had it in for a little over a year, we have lost power twice and the unit came on line, worked perfectly, and I didn't even have to leave the comfort of the living room to make any changes. :D

    JD
     
  4. Quasi

    Quasi New Member

    310
    0
    0
    That's good info, JD..thanks. We just had an electricity outage of about 2 days due to Ike remnants, so this is getting higher on the priority list.
     
  5. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    Yeah, hit me up if you have some questions moving forward. I did a TON of research into these things before we purchased and I started with Kohler, because I knew the name, went around the horn and ended up right back with Kohler for a lot of reasons.

    Lowe's actually had the exact model that I wanted, the 12RESL, with the kit that included the 100A ATS ( Automatic Transfer Switch ) for a year no interest, which was perfect. I was able to work a deal with a buddy ( he's an electrician who also did the home wiring for me ) to exchange the 100A for a 200A and now the whole house is wired into the unit.

    The unit is really pretty quiet when it's running full tilt, and it's basically maintenance free. Do a service like once a year, less if it runs a lot, after the first year of service ( one service in the first two years ) and you are good to go.

    The one thing that was a question was whether or not the standard gas line to the house would fire the thing off, and after much searching, it turns out the good folks at Kohler know what they are doing and a normal "residential" gas line and manifold will fire that baby off with no problems.

    Since I usually have to work during storms in my area of operations, it's nice to know that the woman and the dog are home, safe and sound. A little peace for the mind in not having to worry about them as well. Plus we have satellite and wireless internet, so if the power is out, and the generator is on, she is still entertained and not calling me every 20 minutes wondering if I am coming home soon. :rolleyes:

    I'll post a couple of pictures tonight if I remember to bring the camera home...

    JD
     
  6. BigO01

    BigO01 New Member

    578
    0
    0
    Sounds like you found the perfect solution there JD , way to go bud .

    Two questions for you how long was the power out and can you recall how much of a difference running the Natural gas generator bumped up your gas bill for that month ?
     
  7. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    You know, I was thinking someone was going to ask that ( $$ ) question, and I am going to have to say I have no friggin idea. :eek: I don't honestly know because the female unit handles the bills, I just fork over my half each month. I will see if I can find out.

    Both times it was out in the last year, it's been about 3 to 5 hours, so definitely nothing to get in a twist over. However, one of the nights was a Sunday and being able to take a hot shower on Monday morning was definitely worth it. :D

    I'll check on the financials tonight and see if she recalls the bills around that time...

    JD
     
  8. bkt

    bkt New Member

    6,964
    0
    0
    Sounds a little optimistic to me. If I were him, I'd get a bunch more batteries and boost the voltage/amperage. Of course, it depends on the draw of the fridge.

    His basic principle is sound: that's how alternative energy set-ups work. You have wind/solar/microhydroelectric units trickle-charging a bank of batteries which run through an inverter to provide a house regular A/C current.

    Two 12v batteries may not cut it.
     
    Last edited: Oct 15, 2008
  9. FALPhil

    FALPhil New Member

    282
    0
    0
    Well, we do live in the sunbelt. I was kinda thinking that two batteries were not enough, and that four might be more viable, but at four, you need a battery compartment with spark free ventilation. I don't think that 2 batteries would produce enough hydrogen gas to be too much of a problem.

    I like JD's idea of a natural gas powered generator. However, I live in a situation that if civil unrest was the SHTF scenario, gas would be cut off in short order. My county is always butting heads with the city across the river, where the gas is.
     
  10. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    Here's a picture of the generator itself & here is a picture of the tie in to the existing Natural Gas Manifold:
     

    Attached Files:

  11. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    Here's the secondary panel with the built in ATS:
     

    Attached Files:

  12. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    So, basically the Kohler's all come with a pre-fabricated pad that the generator sits on. I had a 4 foot by 6 foot slab of concrete poured when I expanded the driveway, so I could drive and anchor the generator down and not worry about it walking off, since I didn't have a fenced yard at the time. :rolleyes:

    The generator from Lowe's came with the whole ATS panel, which I swapped out with my friend the electrician, and we mounted it between a couple of studs in the garage wall. It also came with a 12 foot "pigtail" to tie in from the generator to the panel itself. It was a piece of cake to install, a couple of concrete bolts drilled into the foundation, routed the insulated "conduit" and we were ready to go. The initial pigtail came with romex, which is fine, but since I had access to some heavier gauge wire, we pulled the romex out and pulled new copper in. It wasn't necessary, but this was my first house purchase and I wanted everything to be nails.

    The one thing they don't tell you is that you have to buy additional breakers if you want seperate circuits for the whole house. You can hard wire the thing with just the couple they give you, but that is not the way I wanted to go. Luckily my buddy had an open account for a very large commercial job going at the time, so a few breakers fell off the truck and were a perfect fit. ;) I saved them 4 weeks and some cash on the power installation to their new strip mall, so I figured it was a wash at the end of the day.

    So, there you have it. That's my set up. When the power dumps, this baby fires off, it runs on Natural Gas, so I never need to do anything except monitor the temp and the oil level on the unit. It's warrantied for like 5 years parts and labor, so I am pretty happy and the missus is even happier since she never has to worry about be home in the dark alone while I am out saving the countryside from the ravages of Mother Nature.

    JD
     
  13. cbw

    cbw New Member

    280
    0
    0
    Not having deep pockets like Mr D I have a 5ooo watt gasoline powered generator that I manually hook up to a 220 outlet which feeds the main breaker in my attached garage. I had a electrician friend do the wiring into the main breaker for me, set up a separate 220 goesinto-comesoutta outlet. We loose power at least 3-4 times each winter and spring from wind or ice and snow. It will run all night on a tank of gas, and in the winter I always keep 25 gallons on site. This provides enough juice to run;
    well pump -110v
    2 refrigerator/freezers
    several lights
    furnace (natural gas with 110 blower 3 speed fan)
    Garage door openers

    Of course we try to minimize all power use when the system is being used. It does not have the wattage to handle the start-up draw of the central air in the summer, but we can run several ceiling fans.

    I have $500-$600 in the generator and some beer in the install. Had it for about ten years and it's never let me down. I also used to use the generator around the back timber for power before I became disabled. I do like Mr. D's setup much better, but you get by.....
     
  14. Dillinger

    Dillinger New Member

    23,972
    1
    0
    There is NOTHING wrong with that set up at all cbw. The most important thing is to have a safe, warm and well lit place for the family to be if/when the bad times hit.

    I lucked out in the fact that, after years of traveling for work, living in hotels, I met a gal who also had a great job, very few bills, and a desire to have a small but well equipped domicile. We don't live beyond our means and we don't have anywhere NEAR the biggest house or the biggest yard on the block, but we have a nice, safe and comfortable place that will always have the lights on. :D

    JD
     
  15. hillbilly68

    hillbilly68 New Member

    994
    0
    0
    Thats a good feeling to have, knowing that you have the means to be comfortable if the power goes. As much as we move I can tell you from experience that things you take for granted or dont give a second thought to will prove to be painful in the event of an interruption of services. We rented a house once by pictures only and the description was "fireplace". Well it had one of those 70s inserts that the dude had put an electric light that turned on to replicate a "fire". Electric stove, electric furnace. So in the kansas ice storm what did we have? Nothing. Need a good split between gas, electric and backup to be a viable shelter in bad weather. At least the portable backup genny at a minimum, the hard wire like you gents have is the best solution if you arent all over the world every year or two. i really dig the gas backup, have seen those before but I hadnt known anyone that had one. Good comfort factor when the lights go out!
     
  16. Angeleyes

    Angeleyes New Member

    126
    0
    0
    My whole house runs on electric including base board heaters.
    I'm in New Mexico and I get buku sun and wind so I guess I'll be looking into solar and wind :)
    My real main concern is if the power is gone for good, I want my pump for the water well to work since the pump is down 160ft :(
    There has been a break-thru in solar panels by some South Africans. Just do a search: solar breakthrough south africa and some articles will come up!
     
  17. c3shooter

    c3shooter Administrator Staff Member

    21,455
    595
    113
    Have similar battery set up- mine are 155 Amp hr deep cycle. Limiting factor is size of charging panel, and it's output. I use a 2500 watt inverter, runs fridge/ freezer, can charge from vehicle if needed ( have truck w/ BIG alternator)
     
  18. cbw

    cbw New Member

    280
    0
    0
    Dillinger thanx for your input and I glad you have what you have! Were all just doing the best we can.
     
  19. MichaelG

    MichaelG New Member

    158
    0
    0
    After Ike, we were without power for a few days before turning on our generators. We have 3 of them, but only 1 is needed to run everything in house...(hooked into main breaker) but they are of no use if you get hit by a hard hurricane, such as Ike or Katrina, and the gas prices sky rocket and everywhere is sold out.

    My grandfather and uncle both used their welding machines to get electricity into their houses for the fridge and television, though I am not sure how they did it, it used less gas.

    (End of pointless ramble.)
     
  20. cpttango30

    cpttango30 New Member

    13,934
    4
    0
    i want the set up like Big D has. but right now I have flash lights and candles. If I could I would rig my kids bikes up to a generator and make them peddle their butts off. I should have at least a small genny to run the fridge and freezer. The last time we lost power it was for about a week and I got to sit outside at night and look across the street at the Wawa that had power the next day after it went out. Turns out that they are on the same circuit as important stuff like schools and medical facilities.