How long could your house run without grid power today?

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  #1  
Old 07-03-12, 09:33 AM
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How long could your house run without grid power today?

After the fun of the blackout a number of years ago, and the large storms hitting North America (like this past weekend), I'm taking a serious look at my current home and wondering, How long could I keep it going without grid power, as it is today before running into trouble?

Given my winter/summer requirements are different, Lets say it was this past weekend or this current week.



Myself, if I didn't need heat from the boiler, I could probably get 2 days from my generator's 5 gallon tank if I turned it on every couple hours to cool the freezer and fridge.
Not really sure how long I would get with the sump pump on a car battery and inverter.
 
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Old 07-03-12, 10:35 AM
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For years I have been intending to set up my house to run on batteries. Lots of online places sell crappy 2 cycle generators for $99 dollars which ought to be good enough for charging the batteries and keeping the neighbors awake. Big expense would be an inverter for the refrigerator, a couple of 12v fluorescent lights and a 12v TV. I'd probably need hospitalization if I went with out my computer but I could always unplug the refrigerator from the inverter to get on line.
 
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Old 07-03-12, 10:58 AM
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Without lifting a finger, I have about an hour of internet (including VOIP).
If I shut down my desktop computer right away, I can connect the UPSs in series and buy myself another ~30-45 minutes.

My ultimate goal would be to have the sump pump, well and boiler on solar/battery banks. Too bad it would never pay for itself.
As thinks currently stand, I am pretty sure I'm good for 2 summer days before I have to start doing drastic things to save the house and us. Because of our commute to work, I can honestly say that I should have 10-12 gallons minimum of fuel on hand between the two vehicles. During the winter time, my one car is parked with a full tank.
 
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Old 07-03-12, 11:22 AM
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I lose everything other than cold water when the power is out. Several years ago, we had a blizzard on a day when I was off work and home watching my then infant daughter and the dog. It was 10 F and very windy and the power went out, which means I lost the furnace. The driving would have been a nightmare so I was still trying to come up with options four hours later when the power came back on. During that time, the temperature in the house had dropped a grand total of three degrees so I took that as proof my house had been insulated and air sealed well.
 
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Old 07-03-12, 11:40 AM
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We went a week without power last year. It was the first time we had lost power for more than a coule of hours in nearly 30 years. After a couple of days it really sinks in how much we depend on electricity. No power really sucks.

No lights, no water (I'm on a well) no communications (cell towers had no power) no internet, no refrigeration, no shower, etc. After 3 days we had no toilet until I started hauling flush water from a nearby river. A generator might have helped for a couple of days, but there was no gas available within 30-40 miles. On day 5 we drove to a motel just to get a shower.

If I expected to be around a lot longer I would probably look for some degree of self sufficiency. Probably a mix of wind and solar.
 
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Old 07-03-12, 11:48 AM
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Wayne Mitchell,
Sounds like you live in a similar arrangement to myself. I was recently given a generator (my dad's old one) so that is the only reason I have one. Cycling it's usage to keep the freezer from totally unthowing would buy me some time, but probably not 5 days worth (unless I start sifoning the cars).
Probably beyond day 2, we'd be doing an awful lot of BBQing and eating a lot of meat, with a side of more meat.
 
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Old 07-03-12, 01:09 PM
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I'd say much depends on where you get your utilities from. My last house had NG, below ground electric (locally), cable and city water.

When we got hit by a hurricane the electric was out for about 5 days. Water, gas, telephone and cable were pretty much unaffected. They had boil alerts for some areas but not us. Since the gas was on we had no issues with hot water (basic WH not a power vent) or cooking. Contractor neighbor brought home a humongous generator and supplied 4 neighbors for a few hours each day.

UPS allowed about 1 hr PC usage a day. Wife was still active duty and I worked at HD so we were only home in the evenings after day 2. Our main issue was lighting...but we solved that with battery lanterns, flashlights, and such.

If I was still living there, I'd probably get a small 2kw Honda gennie to power the fridge, UPS, and a few lights. With that (and gas supplies)...I could have lasted indefinitely. Of course we aren't talking about a breakdown of civilization as we know it.

Living in the boonies might be a different story. Though if you live in the REAL boonies...you already know how to survive.
 
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Old 07-03-12, 01:35 PM
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Like Gunguy I could pretty much go indefinitely. My little gennie will keep the refrigerator, furnace, Internet or TV/DVD all running along with enough lights to function fairly normally. Cooking would be via microwave oven or countertop convection oven and a hotplate. The generator is fueled via natural gas so as long as that is intact I'm fine.
 
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Old 07-03-12, 02:24 PM
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I'd probably need hospitalization if I went with out my computer but I could always unplug the refrigerator from the inverter to get on line.
Good plan! They will have generators and possibly wireless internet there for you to use.

I wouldn't last long without power. I plan on getting a water powers back up sump for that. Other than that, I'll be in the dark. I have been fortunate not to experience any prolonged outage in my life.
 
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Old 07-03-12, 05:34 PM
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I'd go indefinitely, as I can run my laptop and some lights off my solar panel, and the town over the mountain uses their on generation plant, which will allow me to run the 4kw genny that powers our house.
 
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Old 07-03-12, 07:22 PM
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I find that divvying up the circuits on a smaller generator makes sense, too. I have a 6.5 kw Kubota dual fuel and run it off propane, which will last.....well until the propane runs out. I need water from the well, and can heat it on the gas stove. I need DSL, TV, accessories, so my office and living room are included. Refrigerator and small appliance receptacles. Only necessary lights are on the system. Face it, you can go to the bathroom in the dark with a candle
 
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Old 07-03-12, 08:54 PM
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Good plan! They will have generators and possibly wireless internet there for you to use.
Maybe not. A couple of years after I moved here there was a major storm with severe flooding. One of those 100 year floods that actually seem to happen here every few years. Well the rain came down faster then the pumps pumped and the electrical rooms and emergency generators were in the basements of the hospitals in the Medical Center. Guess what happened with the pumps when the electrical rooms filled with water. No electric at many of the hospitals for many days.

Well it was a 100 year flood so no worry couldn't happen again. So when it happened again a couple of years later there was surprise and big plans to move the electrical including the generators to the roofs and build removable flood gates across the entrances to the underground parking garages. Then budgets and reality of limited funds worked their magic and plans were tabled.

When a killer tropical storm stalled over the city twenty or so later every one was surprised when the basements flooded once again and the electrical rooms flooded. To read the papers and watch the news it was as if it had never happened before. The past was never mentioned by any of the reporters.
 
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Old 07-03-12, 09:19 PM
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This brings up a good point about twenty or so years ago it seems like there were not so many power outages as there are today. Kind of crazy too as to how fast or slow you get your power back up. Case in point a couple of years ago here in College Park Maryland we had to wait several days to get our power back on and at our friends house in Tennessee who lost power a few days later they had their power back on within hours. They had no baby storm either there was a great deal of damage. Luckily for us we were prepared as we have a gas generator and it did work for at least twenty four hours and then I had to give it gas. I think me and my neighbor who had a gas generator too only had to go to a gas station once for gas, but sometimes finding an open gas station that has gas is problematic as they run out of gas. We have had thoughts of buying a natural gas generator but the cost of having it installed has kept that idea to the back burner for now.
 
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Old 07-04-12, 03:45 AM
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I tell you, I sure wish we had natural gas in the area I'm in now. Would sure make things a lot easier as long as the supply was there.
 
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Old 07-04-12, 08:00 AM
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After talking to a guy from VA who was affected by the storm and has almost the exact same freezer as myself, I last a fair bit longer than originally suspected.
He said after 14 hours of no power, his bread was starting to soften up, but his meat was still fairly solid.
If I remember correctly, it took ~45 minutes to bring the freezer from room temp (~18'C) to -18'C. My generator has an approximate 8 hour run time on 5 gallons of fuel.
With those numbers, and everything considered equal, I could run the freezer for 45 minutes, every 12 hours, and see 5.3 days worth.
Toss in a 25% margin of error (also accounting for pressurizing the well tanks), I've got about 4 days of run time before I would have to start siphoning gas from our vehicles.
 
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Old 07-04-12, 08:49 AM
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Following Irene we had no internet, landline or cell service. Landline service was restored around the same time as the power but it was a day or two later before we got internet or cell phone service.

If there is a major power outage it's probable that the other also utilities will be affected. We're still pondering buying a generator. I think all I would need is enough power to run my well pump and refrigerator but the problem is with widespread, long term outage there may not be any fuel available.
 
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Old 07-04-12, 09:14 AM
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Mike

You wouldn't have to even run the gennie that long. Since you wouldn't be bring it from room temp.

To prevent softening of anything like ice cream or bread (yuck...I hate bread thats been frozen)...you'd want to run it a bit more often but for a much shorter period. More like 15 min every 8 hrs or so.
 
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Old 07-04-12, 09:29 AM
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Vic,

You are probably correct about the run times. I was more or less trying to throw some ball park numbers together. I did live in Toronto (Ontario) during the big blackout a few years ago. Back then there was very little in the freezer to worry about and other then the heat, we had little to worry about.

The only real area of concern for me would be if a major storm hit while I wasn't home. Our sump pump doesn't run as often as it did when we bought the house (fixed the eaves and the downspouts), but I do not have a UPS or battery pump setup to run in a power failure.
 
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Old 07-04-12, 11:15 AM
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You could convert the generator to gaseous fuel and then have a couple of 100 pound propane cylinders for fuel. Propane doesn't deteriorate in storage like gasoline and can also be used for a portable stove or barbecue.
 
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Old 07-04-12, 11:47 AM
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That's exactly what I have, Furd. Even using gas in the Kubota, you had to fill it up every 2 hours of run time. PITA. With propane it can run for days and seems easier on the pocket book than gasoline. Found that owning a couple of 100 pound tanks is cheaper than having the gas company install a tank and paying rent on it if you don't fill up with them every year
 
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Old 07-04-12, 12:16 PM
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If you can afford it you get one of those whole house generators that run on NG. like you said as long as the NG keeps flowing you have power for everything in the house including A/C.
 
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Old 07-04-12, 12:26 PM
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For those of us in the sticks, NG is only a dream.

I've looked at those whole house packages. Costco has some nice setups for about $2500
 
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Old 07-04-12, 01:54 PM
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Absolutely agree about the 100# propane tank. If you are going to have to rely on a generator trying to find gasoline during an emergency might be a real PITA.

Furd I gotta' disagree at least a bit about the shelf life of gas. Non ethanol gas will last for a couple of years without a stabilizer. Supposedly ethanol gas has a shorter shelf life but it can be cycled through vehicles or lawn mowers. The shelf life is less of a problem than the availability.
 
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Old 07-04-12, 03:59 PM
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Finding "non-ethanol" gasoline would be an exercise in futility for me as I live in an urban area.

Besides, I don't want to store gasoline in or near my residence even if it was completely stable and would last for decades. That stuff is just a bomb waiting to go off, especially when you have arsonists on the prowl. It is also why I have an electric lawnmower.
 
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Old 07-04-12, 05:03 PM
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That much of a problem with arsonists out your way?
 
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Old 07-04-12, 09:36 PM
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But you drive a car with a 20 gallon tank of fuel right behind you right? They could siphon the gas from your tank.
 

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Old 07-04-12, 11:32 PM
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drooplug
That much of a problem with arsonists out your way?
Not my particular neighborhood but in the greater Seattle area, yes.

flirty1
But you drive a car with a 20 gallon tank of fuel right behind you right? They could siphon the gas from your tank.
Nope. My Toyota has something in the filler pipe that won't allow a siphon hose. I know, I tried it.
 
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Old 07-05-12, 04:13 AM
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Because of the size of my yard, I need to use a gas mower, snow blower, etc. The shelf life of fuel is not a huge issue as I tend to siphon my lawn mower gas from the generator's 5gallon tank (takes 2.5 mower tanks to cut the grass), and then top the generator up with fuel. This way I am always moving the fuel and always have a full tank for the genni.

If during the winter, I'm guarenteed 12 (UK) gallons of premium fuel as my car gets parked for the winter, and always with a full tank. The van never has below half tank, so there is another bunch of fuel if needed.
 
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Old 07-05-12, 07:04 AM
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If I was looking at long term off the grid power I would be looking at Lister. Some run off vegetable oil.

This guy George from Washington helped me rewire my gen for full 120v using both windings. Very smart man.

I have no affiliation for this site and am just friends with this gentleman and enjoy his reads.

Lister 6/1 Generator

Here is a interesting read.

Exposure Testing






http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=gEW4w0pJGIc
 
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Old 07-05-12, 11:20 AM
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Mike - How long has that diesel been around? I swear it's the same one we had as a backup for a wind powered pump more than 50 years ago.

I found a retailer - it's a pricey setup. With only a 3KW capability a bare bones - no genny, no skid, no tank etc. was over $1500. OTOH I agree it would probably outlast most of us.
 
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Old 07-05-12, 12:39 PM
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Mike - How long has that diesel been around?
IDK. Its an old design but I assume they are making complete parts for them. New/old stock?


Look at this baby!!! ( Adjust your volume down. Lister runs in the background when opened)

Vegetable Oil Lister Type 6,600 Watt Generator


And they make a 3000watt version for just about $2500. Thats all I need. They are continuous watt type.

Lister Diesel Generator 3,000 Watt


I want one. You can get off the grid with one of these.

Hmmm, vegitable oil????

Sams club has this @ 13 bucks. 35 ilbs = about 5 gallons. Come to less then $3 buck a gallon. But where I saw it online may be old information.

Bakers & Chefs Clear Frying Oil - 35 lbs. - Sam's Club


But in keeping on topic, you can run off the grid for a long time if your geared up properly.






 
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Old 07-05-12, 01:22 PM
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At our local fairgrounds we have a hit-and-miss engine set up for display and entertainment of flatlanders. I do believe they would run virtually forever and use teaspoons of fuel doing it!!
 
  #33  
Old 07-05-12, 02:32 PM
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Larry - We used to call them one lungers .

Thump . . . . . . . . . Thump . . . . . . . . . Thump . . . . . . . . Thump . . . . . .

PS - I had a VT game warden call me a flatlander once. Not too many years ago. I was not happy. When I was done setting him straight he apologised. Where I grew up calling somebody a flatlander was like calling somebody a hack.
 
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Old 07-05-12, 03:27 PM
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Nooo, Wayne. It's not a slam, at all. We're in the mountains. Population 7500, except in the summer when it swells to 15,000 mainly from the influx of Tow Guy's relatives in Florida....hence, flatlanders. Highest peak in Florida is 342 feet Most of them have never seen a leaf change color, really!!
 
  #35  
Old 07-05-12, 03:39 PM
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Larry, the leaves change color in fla. When I lived outside of Orlando I had a maple tree in the front yard. The leaves would change color, fall off and new leaves take their place - all in the space of one week. A busy winter would see the leaves fall and still need raking long after the tree was full of new growth.
 
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Old 07-05-12, 03:50 PM
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Wifey lived off Semoran on the Conway chain and they had orange trees, but the trees never lost leaves, it seemed. Seasons are a little weird in Florida, anyway. That would be exciting to see in regards to the maple tree and it's fast transformation.
 
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Old 07-05-12, 03:53 PM
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The banana trees at the corner of my lot were even more amazing. A hard frost would kill them. I'd take a machete and cut them down to the ground, go to work the next day and by evening they'd be 2'-3' tall. Never had the time but I swear you could sit in the shade and watch them grow
 
  #38  
Old 07-05-12, 05:55 PM
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Larry - I grew up in Vermont. Even though I lived on a flat island in the middle of a flat lake anybody that wasn't from VT was considered a flatlander. They could have been from Leadville CO, elevation 10,000 ft, they were still flatlanders.

The warden stopped me (actually I stopped - he could never have caught up to me) I was in a bass boat registered in SC and he was giving me some crap about flatlanders needing to be careful running at such high speeds ( I don't think he had ever seen a bass boat) - all this on a lake I had grown up on.
 
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Old 07-06-12, 03:07 AM
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Wayne, he just didn't appreciate the need for speed when bass fishing, huh? Point A to Point B as fast as it will go, settle down, fish, then WAO to the next location. Simple.
 
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Old 11-06-12, 10:27 AM
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I thought I would bump this thread as those in the North East US can probably provide some good insight after the big storm.
 
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