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#161419 - 01/05/09 06:36 PM Annual Cold Weather Power Out Test
MartinFocazio Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2154
Loc: Bucks County PA
We did our annual cold-weather power out test over my holiday break. This is a simple test. I turn off the power, fire up the generator and we try to go about our lives for a day. Our generator is "critical systems only" - it won't run the whole house. Every year I learn a little something new.

The Good Stuff
1. CFL's + Generator = Lots More Light For Your Watts.
We've replaced 80% of the lights in our house with CFL's. While I hate how they look, how they sound and how they perform in cold weather, I love that I can basically turn on any/all the lights in the house with no meaningful increase on load on the generator.

2. Wood Stove + Cast Iron = Dinner As Usual (for the most part)
Our wood stove has a nice flat surface that's optimal for cooking. Boiling water, simmering - all of it worked fine for a simple meal. No baking solution was apparent, didn't seem to matter.

3. Less Beeping, Pinging and Glowing Stuff.
When we go to "critical systems only", the kitchen is (mostly) shut down, as is the laundry room, most of the living room and all but a few lights. The water well pump and septic pump remain on. Except for the distant rumble of the generator (it's way out in the shed, connected to the transfer switch via underground feed to the house), it's amazing how many things in the how glow (our dishwasher has this blue "Ready" light that's like a freaking aircraft landing zone light), hum (the water softener and water neutralizer run at various odd times, there's some sort of a fan that runs on any number of gizmos in my home office) and the random beeping (the washing machine emits an "all done" 9.546 Khz warble tone that's so loud the mice in the basement explode if nearby, the Dryer emits an 8.344 Khz tone for the same purposes at about jet-engine volume). Add to this various other electronic gizmos that seem almost sentient in their random mono-voiced beep language and you have a house that's never quite quiet. Unless you kill most of the power.

The Bad Stuff
1. Don't forget your livestock. When I cut the power and turned on the generator, I simply hit our transfer switch panel and various loads and a few outlets in the house went on generator power. Note that I said "in the house" - I didn't think about the water heater in the henhouse, and the water froze right up. The solution was simple - a shovel full of coals in a pan and then plopped the waterer over that - but I didn't notice until I went to pick up eggs and saw a frozen waterer.

2. Fuel is a Giant Pain In the Buttocks and Gasoline Generators Suck.

So, there I am with 10 gallons of gas, and I need to deal with keeping the generator filled 5 gallons at a time, I have to drive to the gas station and haul a dangerous flammable liquid that stinks in my car...and I have a 400 gallon tank of perfectly useful diesel home heating oil...and they bring it to me when I need it, and it's more stable than gas...and...in an emergency, I can get to larger quantities of fuel oil in any number of places....and..I could, maybe, make my own diesel from stuff I can scrounge...and..what the heck am I doing with a Gas generator anyway?







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#161428 - 01/05/09 07:08 PM Re: Annual Cold Weather Power Out Test [Re: MartinFocazio]
scafool Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 1534
Loc: Muskoka
commenting on;
The good stuff #2.
You can bake in a dutch oven if you really need to. Get the one with no legs and set it right on the stove top. You really dont need top heat on it because the cast iron will heat up enough to bake.
Bread can be fried too.
Skillet bread, bannock, pan bread, pancakes, pitas, etc.
A friend of mine makes bread in a pressure cooker. It comes out like chinese steamed buns when she does that, good but no brown crust.
Do not use the pressure weight on the pressure cooker or the bread won't rise.

The bad stuff #2
Maybe you could set up a schedule and only run the gen set a few hours at a time. There are a lot of places in the world where power is only available on a part time basis.
Instead of powering the water pump steady, keep a bucket of water for washing and so on, fill up the drinking water jugs, have a shower and then shut it off again.
unless of course you have other stuff that beeds constant power.
If the Mennonites can go without power for 300 years you should be able to get through an afternoon without it.
_________________________
May set off to explore without any sense of direction or how to return.

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#161443 - 01/05/09 08:03 PM Re: Annual Cold Weather Power Out Test [Re: scafool]
benjammin Offline
Rapscallion
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/06/04
Posts: 4020
Loc: Anchorage AK
Baking on a cookstove with Cast iron? I make flour tortillas in my skillet on the stovetop at home regularly.

However, if you have a bag of charcoal, you can bake anything using a dutch oven. Even just a good wood fire out back will do in a pinch. Got a charcoal grill? It'll work just fine as a firepan. Those square portable ones you see at Walmart and Home Depot for $30 to $50 make excellent firepans. A 20 lb bag of charcoal in the garage will do you at least 4 to 7 pots of fresh baked bread or biscuits or dump cakes or what have you.

Sometimes you gotta think outside the box, er, house.
_________________________
The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.
-- Herbert Spencer, English Philosopher (1820-1903)

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#161444 - 01/05/09 08:06 PM Re: Annual Cold Weather Power Out Test [Re: scafool]
MartinFocazio Offline

Pooh-Bah

Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2154
Loc: Bucks County PA
Originally Posted By: scafool


The bad stuff #2
Maybe you could set up a schedule and only run the gen set a few hours at a time. There are a lot of places in the world where power is only available on a part time basis.
Instead of powering the water pump steady, keep a bucket of water for washing and so on, fill up the drinking water jugs, have a shower and then shut it off again.
unless of course you have other stuff that beeds constant power.
If the Mennonites can go without power for 300 years you should be able to get through an afternoon without it.


Indeed, the power out test presumes that we'll run power intermittently. We're well-equipped for food and water and all that - I have a ready supply of 150 gallons on hand for drinking, and we're able to capture greywater for sanitation (flushing). I also have a large (150' x 80') pond suitable for toilets and sanitation directly, and with a little filtering and bleach, it's good to drink. It's a pain in the winter to use the pond water, the ice is often thick!

In addition to powering the well - to replenish the water tanks - I need to power the other end of things - the Septic system, as our final tank has a pump to a sand mound, and if that pump fails to run, I'll have an overflow condition that will spill into my yard and pond. Not good. I have 3 young kids, and you can only tell them "don't flush" so many times - they forget.

The baking tips - thanks for those, I know my wife loves her cast iron frying pans, a dutch oven would be ideal. Pressure cookers scare me.

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#161461 - 01/05/09 09:45 PM Re: Annual Cold Weather Power Out Test [Re: MartinFocazio]
scafool Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 1534
Loc: Muskoka
[quote=martinfocazio Pressure cookers scare me. [/quote]

Yup, I can understand that. I used to be like that but then I started using one a few years ago.

I understand about the toilet flushing too!
It is 5 gallons of water every time somebody goes pee!
Other than shutting the supply valve to the toilet tank or unhooking the chain to the flapper valve inside the tank I don't know how you prevent it.
Besides, you still want to be able to flush turds so that your toilets don't clog right(?).
I guess it is just something you have to live with, it is a very strong habit to overcome even for an adult.

More useless information:

Onan makes nice small diesel gen sets.
Kubota and Isuzu make nice ones too but they seem to be more expensive.
Companies use them a lot for running light plants (illumination) for construction and highway crews.
They are heavier than gasoline engines which is why they are not sold as lightweight portable generators and are usually mounted on small trailers instead.
I am sure you have seen them when driving past crews doing road repairs.

You might be able to find a gently used one fairly cheaply.

At one time Onan made their smaller diesel gen sets so they could be started with a crank or a pull cord, but I doubt if they still do that

If you have a tractor:

My older brother raised pigs (about 2 thousand pigs in the barns) and had a backup generator for the pig barns.
It sat on skids bolted to a concrete pad in a shed beside the barns.
It was strong enough to power all the lights and fans in the barns, plus supply the house.
It was not strong enough to run the manure pumps at the same time. (They tended to be 50 and 65 horsepower pump motors, so no way.)
It did not have its own motor but was designed to run off the tractor's PTO.
(Farmers always have a few spare tractors around doing nothing ;D)
It was a lot larger than the one shown here, http://www.lsuagcenter.com/en/lawn_garde...or+Tractors.htm


It would likely be too big for what you need but it saved the capital cost of large motor that was only to be used in an emergency.
Also because the tractor is in constant use with contant maintenance, there was no worry about stale fuel, flat batteries, clogged filters, etc, etc.

I have seen that type of gen set go very cheaply at farm auctions. They are not something you just pick up and throw in the back of a truck.

Sorry to run on like this, but I have no chores to do today and it is still bitterly cold out
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May set off to explore without any sense of direction or how to return.

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#161476 - 01/05/09 10:48 PM Re: Annual Cold Weather Power Out Test [Re: scafool]
OldBaldGuy Offline
Geezer

Registered: 09/30/01
Posts: 5695
Loc: Former AFB in CA, recouping fr...
"...It is 5 gallons of water every time somebody goes pee..."

FIVE gallons? You need a new toilet, the new ones use much less water than that!!!
_________________________
OBG

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#161535 - 01/06/09 03:44 AM Re: Annual Cold Weather Power Out Test [Re: benjammin]
scafool Offline
Pooh-Bah

Registered: 12/18/08
Posts: 1534
Loc: Muskoka
Originally Posted By: benjammin
... if you have a bag of charcoal, you can bake anything using a dutch oven. Even just a good wood fire out back will do in a pinch. Got a charcoal grill? It'll work just fine as a firepan. Those square portable ones you see at Walmart and Home Depot for $30 to $50 make excellent firepans. A 20 lb bag of charcoal in the garage will do you at least 4 to 7 pots of fresh baked bread or biscuits or dump cakes or what have you.

Sometimes you gotta think outside the box, er, house.


Good point
_________________________
May set off to explore without any sense of direction or how to return.

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#161543 - 01/06/09 04:02 AM Re: Annual Cold Weather Power Out Test [Re: scafool]
GarlyDog Offline
τΏτ
Old Hand

Registered: 04/05/07
Posts: 776
Loc: The People's Republic of IL
I like the idea of the underground cable from the shed. I think I will make the same improvement this Summer.
_________________________
Gary








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#161567 - 01/06/09 12:15 PM Re: Annual Cold Weather Power Out Test [Re: MartinFocazio]
williamlatham Offline
Enthusiast

Registered: 01/12/04
Posts: 244
Loc: Stafford, VA, USA
The Dec/Jan 09 issue of Mother Earth News has an excellent article on hearth cooking. Not quite the same as a wood stove, but a place to start. It was excerpted from the book The Magic of Fire by William Rubel (also the author of the article). It may be online at www.motherearthnews.com, but I have not checked.

Bill

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#162081 - 01/09/09 06:29 AM Re: Annual Cold Weather Power Out Test [Re: williamlatham]
Susan Offline
Geezer

Registered: 01/21/04
Posts: 5163
Loc: W. WA
Use a 5-gallon bucket of sawdust or stove-pellets for pee, use the toilet for solids. Remove the toilet handle and put it where the adults can find it.

If you really did need to use water from your pond, I wouldn't plan on chopping through the ice every day if I didn't have to. I would open a hole and transfer water to a water trough either in the barn (if you have enough animals to keep the temperature higher than outside) or on the porch, out of the wind, with straw bales packed around it, with some sort of insulation on top (more bales?).

I don't know the temperature limitations, but livestock people will chop a hole in the ice of a horse trough and drop a football or tennis ball into the hole. The wind shifts the ball around and prevents the hole from freezing up again. They say...

Sue

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