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#253301 - 11/13/12 08:08 PM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
Lono Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 10/19/06
Posts: 1013
Loc: Pacific NW, USA
Originally Posted By: Paul810

We didn't see a single power company truck working by our area for about a week, which led to a lot of people wondering where the heck they were. However, there was about 7 trucks working at the substation nearby. Not sure how all that works, but it definitely seemed like they had to fix that substation before they could even think about working on the lines heading to various neighborhoods. Our area was one of the last places to get power in town. We're on a dead end side street that needed to have three poles replaced.

I suspect most of the folks in this Forum are familiar with the triage system for restoring electricity, but here is how they do it in the PNW, courtesy of Puget Sound Energy's website: http://pse.com/aboutpse/PseNewsroom/MediaKit/3813_how_power_gets_restored.pdf

My experience has been, the more you begin to see power crews out and servicing your neighborhood electrical lines, the better the offers of food and water etc to the crews doing the work. They're typically on shifts of 12-16 hours on and 12-8 hours off, and coming from places like Wyoming and Kansas to restore power. They really bust their butts, and occasionally one or a few of them die doing this work. After 9 days without power we offered warm food and hot drinks, and they strung the power line to our house that was literally the last 200 ft of line in our zip code - plus they fixed the metal pipe on our roof that the line runs into, which is usually another step that you have to contact a local electrician to do.

Fire fighters, cops, and linemen for the county - three of the best professions if you ask me.

Edited by Lono (11/13/12 08:09 PM)

#253313 - 11/13/12 10:25 PM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
Arney Offline

Registered: 09/15/05
Posts: 2485
Loc: California
Originally Posted By: Paul810
I thought that would have been true after hurricane Irene, when it seemed like everyone bought a generator. But then I found that a lot of people who didn't use them or only used them for a short while turned around and sold them on Craigslist/in the newspaper/ebay/etc. I guess they figured they wouldn't ever need them again.

It's interesting that so many folks have garages full of stuff they haven't used in 20 years, but they're selling off their generators shortly after buying them?

I'm curious if the generators just didn't meet their expectations? Maybe they were disappointed that they couldn't keep "everything" in their home going with the little portable gennie that they battled to buy at the big box store in the aftermath of some big storm?

Expectations should be based on information, but for panic purchases, that often isn't the case and they just knew at that point in time that they wanted a generator--any generator. When it didn't meet their inflated expectations, they end up with buyer's remorse and want to get rid of it, even if they have a perfectly fine piece of equipment now. I don't know. Just a theory.

#253320 - 11/14/12 01:26 AM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
yee Offline

Registered: 12/10/11
Posts: 169
Interesting thought about diesel generators. I lost my gas 7.5k generator due to equipment failure about 3 days in. It turns out to be due to dynamo failure. At least part of the failure is due to a PLASTIC endbell! Unfortunately, Coleman went out of business (Powermate, the name was bought out by someone) and parts are NOT available. I am considering a diesel genset but failures in CT are frequently due to down wires (read...snow). Given the difficulties in starting a diesel in the cold without power, wouldn't it be difficult to run a diesel genset. This particular storm was in relatively WARM weather.

I like the idea of having a small gas generator to run JUST essentials. I might steal this idea.

I like the idea of chaining up gas supplies. Looting was NOT a problem this time around where I am but you are right; I should chain up the gas cans once a storm is forecast.

Conway Yee

#253324 - 11/14/12 05:00 AM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
lordnoble Offline

Registered: 03/14/12
Posts: 27
Loc: Upstate NY, USA
Awesome post! I had an epiphany moment just the day before the storm was supposed to hit. I had gotten some things together, but hadn't really gotten anything packed. Fortunately, luck smiled on us and we never lost power. Can't imagine what sort of hell we would've walked back into had we been told to evacuate. I'll have to read this thread several times to absorb it all and make a proper plan.
Again, thanks for taking the time to post this. It'll certainly help me work toward being better prepared next time.


#253335 - 11/14/12 08:45 AM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: yee]
Paul810 Offline

Registered: 03/02/03
Posts: 1428
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: yee
I am considering a diesel genset but failures in CT are frequently due to down wires (read...snow). Given the difficulties in starting a diesel in the cold without power, wouldn't it be difficult to run a diesel genset. This particular storm was in relatively WARM weather.

Being a diesel mechanic, the first big problem I notice people have with starting diesel engines in the cold is that most people fail to use the proper oil. They try to use the standard 15w40, which is only good down to about 20*F/-7*C. The old fix for that used to be switching to 10w-30 in winter.

Nowadays, we have synthetic 5w40 and even 0w40. These are good down to about -20*F and beyond. We buy CJ-4 rated 5w-40 for all our diesel equipment and it's started perfectly fine for us down to -27*F (which is the coldest we've ever had our trucks, and the block heaters weren't even plugged in!).

The second problem people have is that they fill up their generator or equipment with fuel in the summer, and then forget about it until winter. Well, winter diesel is formulated differently from summer diesel to have a lower gelling point. If you don't use the right fuel it can start to gel once the temp gets below freezing. The old fix was adding some #1 diesel (kerosene), up to about a 50/50 mix.

Nowadays we have diesel anti-gel additives (also called diesel winter conditioner). This stuff can keep a diesel engine starting down to about -40*F. We use Power Service Diesel Fuel Supplement (comes in white bottle).

The third problem comes down to batteries. Diesels require a higher torque starter than a typical gas engine and therefore require more amps at startup. If you've got an electric starter you want to make sure you've got batteries in good condition that are well charged. We use smart trickle chargers to help maintain batteries on seldom used equipment (specifically Deltran Battery Tenders).

If you use the right oil, use a good anti-gel, and perform basic battery maintenance, you shouldn't have any problems starting a diesel genset in winter.

[On a side note, just like you keep spare spark plugs on hand for a gas engine, I recommend keeping spare fuel filters on hand for a diesel. I like to change them when I change the oil, about every 200-400 hours. On gas generators I'll change the plugs and oil every ~100 hours.]

#253336 - 11/14/12 09:11 AM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
Tjin Offline

Registered: 04/08/02
Posts: 1821
Are there any issues using winter diesel in the summer?

#253338 - 11/14/12 09:24 AM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Tjin]
Paul810 Offline

Registered: 03/02/03
Posts: 1428
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: Tjin
Are there any issues using winter diesel in the summer?

Nope, never had any problems with it. The downside though, is that winter fuel is less energy dense than summer fuel. This means, in a vehicle, you get less miles per gallon. In a generator, it means a shorter run time on a tank.

#253341 - 11/14/12 11:07 AM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
adam2 Offline

Registered: 05/23/08
Posts: 478
Loc: Somerset UK
A suggestion regarding home sized diesel generators.
These normally start from a 12 volt battery (large units are more often 24 volts starting)
If you have such a diesel generator and it fails to start readily, dont forget that you can normally use jump leads from a car with a running engine.
Some people only think of jump leads for starting other vehicles, not generators.

Double check that the vehicle battery and the generator starting battery are the same voltage.

Another last ditch option for a portable generator that wont start, is to take it to someplace that has line power or a large generator available. Use a line powered charger/engine starter and allow it to warm up.
Once taken home it should start readily whilst still warm.

Both the above are are a lot of faffing around, and it would be better to keep the engine and battery in such good condition that there is no question re starting.

#253343 - 11/14/12 01:37 PM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: Paul810]
spuds Offline
Old Hand

Registered: 06/24/12
Posts: 822
Loc: SoCal Mtns
Paul,I see reports of whole house generators,installed,start at 5 grand,would that be accurate?

#253350 - 11/14/12 03:21 PM Re: Notes from Sandy [Re: spuds]
Paul810 Offline

Registered: 03/02/03
Posts: 1428
Loc: NJ, USA
Originally Posted By: spuds
Paul,I see reports of whole house generators,installed,start at 5 grand,would that be accurate?

Pricing really depends on your power requirements. There are automatic standby systems that go for under $2,000, but they're only in the ~6kw range. Depending on your house, that might be enough to run everything. For me, with a 200amp service, it's not even close. If you own a mansion with a 400amp service, you're looking at spending a lot more.

The 20kw units we ordered are about $4,000 a piece shipped with the included transfer switch. We'll run the gas lines ourselves and my friend, an electrician, will install the transfer switches. We're figuring total cost should come in well under $5000 a piece, but if you had to hire someone to do the installations I'm sure you could easily eclipse that.

All in all, the first thing you need to look at is your power requirements. Then, look at applicable generator setups. At that point you can start to see how much money you're looking at and get estimates on installation.

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