Login Join Maker Pro

# A week off the Grid; Lessons learned.

V

#### Vaughn

Jan 1, 1970
0
Thanks to Hurricane Francis, we recently (involuntarily) spent 7 days
disconnected from the South Florida power grid. Even though we were far more
prepared than our neighbors, it was an uncomfortable experience but we learned a
bunch.

Our Equipment: Coleman Fluorescent lanterns, Cheap battery TV, 90 watt PV
system with 4 batteries and 12 V. yard lights, 3KW Onan CCK with 220# of fuel,
350 watt Honda "lunchbox" genny, 1.5 KW SPS/inverter, Power transfer panel.

What worked:
1) The PV system: The yard lights confused our neighbors who were convinced we
still had juice. I had made a portable 12V. distribution panel which was handy
for running the little TV, one Colman lantern, and for recharging the cell phone
off of the PV system.

2) The Coleman lanterns: I can't say enough good about these things. They will
run off of internal lantern batteries, "D" batteries via supplied adapters, or
12 V. via the available cigarette adapter. If you use it on low, you get
whole-room light that you can read by, and it will last on internal batteries
for 30 hours! It would run off of my PV system forever.

3) The Honda 350 watt genny: I have almost given this thing away several times
because it is too small to run the two things we want most; our 'frig and our
AC. It was the only thing that worked and it sipped fuel! On a couple of
quarts of fuel, it would run a fan in our bedroom all night. We also used it
for very limited whole-house power by running a battery charger to the PV system
and powering the transfer panel with the inverter.

What did not work:

My beloved 30-year-old Onan CCK! First, I was appalled by the fuel
consumption. It only gave me about 3 hours on a 20# tank, which implies that my
220# supply was only good for a couple days. But that mattered little because
the thing quit on the second day. It was ignition trouble, and I can only blame
myself for inadequate maintenance and not having spare points on hand. I have
known that Onan since it was just a baby, and I don't remember the points cover
ever being open.

I have ordered parts for the Onan, but I think it is time to move up to
something like a Honda EU-3000 and perhaps add a dual fuel kit.

Lessons learned:

1) Maintain your genny! Think about dual (or even triple) fuel systems. I
love LP gas because it does not go bad in storage, but you can't expect to
easily buy more after a disaster. Gasoline may be in short supply, but efforts
will be made to make it available within a very few days after a disaster and I
found myself wishing that my CCK was equipped to use it. I also found myself
looking longingly at my Natural gas meter. What size genny could I run on my
little 1/2" gas service? Again, you can't count on the NG system being up after
a disaster, but if it is, you will not run out of fuel.

2) Buy fluorescent lanterns!

3) Get a battery TV. They can be found for less than $20.00 and will run off of internal batteries, 12 V. or 120 VAC. I don't know how they do it for that price. 4) We have already bought a 3 cubic foot 'frig that should run off of the Honda lunchbox. 5) Ice is not available for chest coolers after (or before) a hurricane. We have two 5-gal water coolers and my plan was to fill them up with ice before the event, all of the ice disappeared several day before the 'cane and none is yet to be found. I understand FEMA grabs all of it that is available for free distribution. "Free" distribution means that you must use your scarce gas to drive out to the fairgrounds, and stand in line for hours to finally be handed two bags of ice. Gotta be a better way. 6) Freeze gallon water jugs in your freezer several days before the event. It will give you a couple days of cool and then you can drink the water. Don't forget to freeze some milk. Any ideas? Vaughn M #### [email protected] Jan 1, 1970 0 2) The Coleman lanterns: I can't say enough good about these things. Would you be so kind as to give an exact model number of the units? And also tell us where you bought them? Thanks so much! Glad to hear you are safe P #### Phil Jan 1, 1970 0 Any ideas? Vaughn Last time we were out of power I noticed the only phone that worked was an old regular phone , all the cordless phones quit working without electricity. K #### Ken Jan 1, 1970 0 Last time we were out of power I noticed the only phone that worked was an old regular phone, all the cordless phones quit working without electricity. Yes that's normal. H #### Harry Chickpea Jan 1, 1970 0 Vaughn said: Thanks to Hurricane Francis, we recently (involuntarily) spent 7 days disconnected from the South Florida power grid. Even though we were far more prepared than our neighbors, it was an uncomfortable experience but we learned a bunch. Our Equipment: Coleman Fluorescent lanterns, Cheap battery TV, 90 watt PV system with 4 batteries and 12 V. yard lights, 3KW Onan CCK with 220# of fuel, 350 watt Honda "lunchbox" genny, 1.5 KW SPS/inverter, Power transfer panel. What worked: 1) The PV system: The yard lights confused our neighbors who were convinced we still had juice. I had made a portable 12V. distribution panel which was handy for running the little TV, one Colman lantern, and for recharging the cell phone off of the PV system. 2) The Coleman lanterns: I can't say enough good about these things. They will run off of internal lantern batteries, "D" batteries via supplied adapters, or 12 V. via the available cigarette adapter. If you use it on low, you get whole-room light that you can read by, and it will last on internal batteries for 30 hours! It would run off of my PV system forever. 3) The Honda 350 watt genny: I have almost given this thing away several times because it is too small to run the two things we want most; our 'frig and our AC. It was the only thing that worked and it sipped fuel! On a couple of quarts of fuel, it would run a fan in our bedroom all night. We also used it for very limited whole-house power by running a battery charger to the PV system and powering the transfer panel with the inverter. What did not work: My beloved 30-year-old Onan CCK! First, I was appalled by the fuel consumption. It only gave me about 3 hours on a 20# tank, which implies that my 220# supply was only good for a couple days. But that mattered little because the thing quit on the second day. It was ignition trouble, and I can only blame myself for inadequate maintenance and not having spare points on hand. I have known that Onan since it was just a baby, and I don't remember the points cover ever being open. I have ordered parts for the Onan, but I think it is time to move up to something like a Honda EU-3000 and perhaps add a dual fuel kit. Lessons learned: 1) Maintain your genny! Think about dual (or even triple) fuel systems. I love LP gas because it does not go bad in storage, but you can't expect to easily buy more after a disaster. Gasoline may be in short supply, but efforts will be made to make it available within a very few days after a disaster and I found myself wishing that my CCK was equipped to use it. I also found myself looking longingly at my Natural gas meter. What size genny could I run on my little 1/2" gas service? Again, you can't count on the NG system being up after a disaster, but if it is, you will not run out of fuel. 2) Buy fluorescent lanterns! 3) Get a battery TV. They can be found for less than$20.00 and will run off of
internal batteries, 12 V. or 120 VAC. I don't know how they do it for that
price.

4) We have already bought a 3 cubic foot 'frig that should run off of the
Honda lunchbox.

5) Ice is not available for chest coolers after (or before) a hurricane. We
have two 5-gal water coolers and my plan was to fill them up with ice before the
event, all of the ice disappeared several day before the 'cane and none is yet
to be found. I understand FEMA grabs all of it that is available for free
distribution. "Free" distribution means that you must use your scarce gas to
drive out to the fairgrounds, and stand in line for hours to finally be handed
two bags of ice. Gotta be a better way.

6) Freeze gallon water jugs in your freezer several days before the event. It
will give you a couple days of cool and then you can drink the water. Don't
forget to freeze some milk.

Any ideas?
Vaughn

Good ideas in general.

We were only out of power for a couple of days and fortunately the storm had
cooled the area enough that a fan was quite adequate for cooling at night.

Our van is set up for overnight camping and it contains a Trace 2KW inverter
with charger, marine trolling battery, dorm refrigerator and microwave, plus a
built in tv. We have a 5kw Coleman generator for extended power outages at
home.

When the storm approached, the Trace was plugged into normal power to keep the
battery topped, and a heavy duty extension cord snaked through the garage and
into the house.

When power went out, the Trace automagically switched to battery and we ran a
compact flourescent lamp and small tv off it. (Those $20 tvs from Brandsmart are amazing for the price, but the tiny black and white picture got old fast.) After a few hours I plugged up the (energy efficient) house refrigerator for an hour to bump up the cold. During the storm night we powered just a small fan while sleeping. Once the bad weather was over, the Trace got plugged into the generator to recharge the battery, and we fired up other items. I was disappointed that the microwave didn't like the generator power and operated at reduced output, but we had power enough to spare that we ran a neighbor's refrigerator, light, and tv as well as our own. I didn't do too much else because one of my customers had lost a hard drive and, since they had power, they were planning to reopen the next day. I had to work networking their computers at home and rebuilding their system in addition to fielding calls and clearing some debris. The second day I pulled out a small 6,000 btu 120vt AC and closed off a room for air conditioned comfort once the temps and humidity started to go back up. It worked like a champ. If it hadn't, we could have slept in the van on hot nights (plan B) using the van AC. Cooking was easy on a camp stove. Lessons learned: I need to get a new electrical entrance. The current one doesn't have a main breaker or transfer switch so everything had to be run via extension cords. Whatta mess!!! I have to get a decent muffler for the generator. These cheap generators are very noisy and use after 10 PM pisses off the neighbors trying to sleep in the heat. I'll have a local shop weld a small auto muffler to the proper size iron pipe. Dunno if I'll build an enclosure or not. I liked having the genny in the protection of the garage during the storm. Even though the Trace has an auto-shutoff to protect the battery, I found it best to run the van alternator when I bumped the refrigerator again a couple of times before the weather was good enough to start the generator. A second battery would have helped, even though the extra weight is too much for regular use in the van. Although the generator could run an element of the hot water heater, I stuck a five gallon steel pail of water in the generator exhaust stream and had nicely hot water for washing. In a northern climate, I would be figuring out how to co-gen for heat. I had already learned the hurricane drill from past hurricanes and had shutters up quickly, plenty of water stored, and hit the stores and gas stations very early at odd hours, almost totally avoiding crowds. The long lines for plywood at the last minute are amusing. The hyperbole of some of the weather coverage has become an art form. In every hurricane we've had come close, at least a couple of the newspeople will report - "Plywood is flying off the shelves at Home Depot" and "Water is flying off the shelves at Publix." Apparently these two items must be affected earlier than other items by hurricane winds. Perhaps Max Mayfield should station someone at Home Depot and Publix to watch for those flying objects that portend the arrival of a hurricane? 1 #### 1234 Jan 1, 1970 0 Show off ...why the heck are you running yard lights during a hurricane? Why do you even live there??? Am I subsidisying stupidity via my insurance premiums? I cant wait untill that little slit of land falls into the ocean....... Just kidding lol I am braceing my self at present for the minus thirty crap 1 #### 1234 Jan 1, 1970 0 Too funny what was your first clue? When the lights went out? M #### Mike Wilcox Jan 1, 1970 0 1234 said: Show off ...why the heck are you running yard lights during a hurricane? Why do you even live there??? Am I subsidisying stupidity via my insurance premiums? I cant wait untill that little slit of land falls into the ocean....... Just kidding lol I am braceing my self at present for the minus thirty crap Snipped That's what I can't figure out, how in hell can they get insurance down there? In Ontario, Canada, if your basement floods twice in 20 years you become high risk and have a hell of a time even getting insurance. What are the rates like in Florida? M #### [email protected] Jan 1, 1970 0 I am braceing my self at present for the minus thirty Minus thirty crap? What is that? Getting ready for cold weather? If yes..... how and what are you doing? V #### Vaughn Jan 1, 1970 0 Mike Wilcox said: That's what I can't figure out, how in hell can they get insurance down there? In Ontario, Canada, if your basement floods twice in 20 years you become high risk and have a hell of a time even getting insurance. What are the rates like in Florida? Actually, the state has to operate a special coinsurance fund to help in insurance companies in case of a major loss. We pay about$2000, but our
neighbor was recently quoted $6000 and she elected to "go bare". Before Hurricane Andrew, we were paying less than$500.00.

V

#### Vaughn

Jan 1, 1970
0
Would you be so kind as to give an exact model number of the units?

My units are model 5355 http://flashlightsunlimited.com/delanterncamp.htm
which I bought for less than $20.00 at a "Big Lots" discount store. I bought them out, (got several for friends and family) and I have not seen any more there. I don't see that specific model on the Coleman website, but this one is similar http://www.coleman.com/coleman/colemancom/detail.asp?product_id=5327-700&categoryid=1045 . They have several models, including one with a remote control. I would avoid the rechargable one. Vaughn M #### [email protected] Jan 1, 1970 0 My units are model 5355 Thanks vaughn!! Dumb question..... but instead of lanterns to light up and area.....what abt wearing long life LED head lamps on your head and just pointing light where you need it? Would be more compact and mobile. No? V #### Vaughn Jan 1, 1970 0 Thanks vaughn!! Dumb question..... but instead of lanterns to light up and area.....what abt wearing long life LED head lamps on your head and just pointing light where you need it? Would be more compact and mobile. No? To me, it would not be the same as really lighting up the room. Real light just adds a feeling of normal living. By the way, I am going to buy or build something like you describe (with red leds) for night flying someday. Vaughn J #### john Jan 1, 1970 0 if you have a genny get a exhaust system made from stainless about 2 foot long put a water jack on the out side a 1/2 inch gate valve at the bottom (inlet) at the top just have something you can connect tube to and you have warm hot or boiling water same as gold miners use to warm there wet suits if you can get you hands on a still to do home brew spirts distilled water is the cleanest by a long shot D #### danny burstein Jan 1, 1970 0 In said: 6) Freeze gallon water jugs in your freezer several days before the event. It will give you a couple days of cool and then you can drink the water. Don't forget to freeze some milk. squish them about 1/3 before filling them (2/3 of the way...) and then place them in the freezer. It''ll prevent them from bursting and will also give you ice cold water ten minutes after you add some warmish water. R #### Richard Jan 1, 1970 0 Vaughn, your story is a good example that preparedness counts, and that everything should be checked on a regular basis to ensure it will work as wanted when needed (just like the battery in the smoke detector). I really loved reading the part about the neighbours being messed up on seeing your solar yard lights! <grin> My Experience: I have a similar experience (but nothing as traumatic as a hurricane) yesterday here in the Pacific Northwest. After much procrastination ( 1.5 years! ) I finally got a charge controller for my 1400 AHr (@72 hr rate) battery bank last week and a small 700 watt modified sine wave inverter. My PV system consists of four 30 watt single cell type solar panels that I obtained surplus for a song and dance. It is grossly undersized for the battery bank but its just the start for now and originally intended it for running my amateur radio equipment. A severe wind and rain storm hit my home area while I was away and I had arrived home just as it was hitting. Naturally the power went out and lasted for just over 5 hours. I had my tradtional Coleman naptha fueled lantern to provide plenty of light and a bit of heat (had to ventilate though to prevent CO buildup), and have several flashlights and spare batteries -which I had just purchased a couple days before!-. If the power was out for quite awhile, I could fall back on my Coleman campstove and a backpacker stove for cooking a hot meal. I also have one of those LED head-lights the cavers use and I am able to recharge its battery. I used it for reading. During my 2nd hour into the power failure, I plugged my fridge into the inverter to keep the food cold and to keep the freezer part from thawing. I still had phone (no cell or cordless for me) and contacted my ex-wife and infant son to find out how they were doing. All they had were a couple of candles, and two flashlights. They ended up coming over to my place to stay and brought the food from their fridge and freezer to store in mine. *AHEM* My ex-wife after seeing me sitting comfortably with light (a couple of CF's plugged into the inverter) and a television while the town was blacked out in the middle of some severe weather for several hours prompted her to recant all the negative things she said about my surplus batteries and solar panels -- to put it another way: she ate her own words! hahaha... however, she did have the last laugh when it was discovered that when I went to fire up the Coleman stove to make up some popcorn, there wasn't a lighter or a match to be found in my apartment!!! <banging head against wall> Fortunately, I have elderly neighbours and I went to check on them to make sure they were ok and asked to borrow some matches and offer my fridge to keep some of their food from going bad. (milk, etc..). It was a good experience and it showed some of my areas of weakness. And I believe my neighbours will be more tolerant with me moving my panels around trying to get the optimum sun exposure. What I learned: 1) Keep a spare lighter on hand!! 2) A Toshiba DVD player didn't work very well on a modified sine wave inverter. 3) Cats sitting in your lap will help keep you warm. 4) That telling the solar electric naysayers "See? I told you so" really does feel sweet, indeed! Now I need some serious panels (75 watt jobs) and a true sine-wave inverter of larger capacity. Thanks for your story! V #### Vaughn Jan 1, 1970 0 Clarence said: I bought some "Trouble lights" intended for auto repair. !2 Watt lamp in a plastic tube with a hook to hang it up, used in a tent for camping. Has a Lighter plug on the cord and I have a 12 volt portable battery pack. One lamp runs about five nights on a pack. At least 4 to 5 hours a night along with my radio. I can use two at a time on the charge and since I can charge the pack from the car on a camp out it will last a long time. Cheaper too, I paid$11.95 each for them. I have seen them for under \$10 since at "Big Lots".

Good idea, exactly the type of thinking I was hoping this thread would
generate. I think I will get some of those to hang in my sheds.

Vaughn

P

#### Paul Victor Birke

Jan 1, 1970
0
Great Stuff Richard, thanks

Paul
Vaughn, your story is a good example that preparedness counts, and that
everything should be checked on a regular basis to ensure it will work as
wanted when needed (just like the battery in the smoke detector).

I really loved reading the part about the neighbours being messed up on
seeing your solar yard lights! <grin>

My Experience:

I have a similar experience (but nothing as traumatic as a hurricane)
yesterday here in the Pacific Northwest. After much procrastination ( 1.5
years! ) I finally got a charge controller for my 1400 AHr (@72 hr rate)
battery bank last week and a small 700 watt modified sine wave inverter. My
PV system consists of four 30 watt single cell type solar panels that I
obtained surplus for a song and dance. It is grossly undersized for the
battery bank but its just the start for now and originally intended it for
running my amateur radio equipment. A severe wind and rain storm hit my
home area while I was away and I had arrived home just as it was hitting.
Naturally the power went out and lasted for just over 5 hours. I had my
tradtional Coleman naptha fueled lantern to provide plenty of light and a
bit of heat (had to ventilate though to prevent CO buildup), and have
several flashlights and spare batteries -which I had just purchased a
couple days before!-. If the power was out for quite awhile, I could fall
back on my Coleman campstove and a backpacker stove for cooking a hot meal.
I also have one of those LED head-lights the cavers use and I am able to
recharge its battery. I used it for reading.

During my 2nd hour into the power failure, I plugged my fridge into the
inverter to keep the food cold and to keep the freezer part from thawing. I
still had phone (no cell or cordless for me) and contacted my ex-wife and
infant son to find out how they were doing. All they had were a couple of
candles, and two flashlights. They ended up coming over to my place to stay
and brought the food from their fridge and freezer to store in mine. *AHEM*
My ex-wife after seeing me sitting comfortably with light (a couple of CF's
plugged into the inverter) and a television while the town was blacked out
in the middle of some severe weather for several hours prompted her to
recant all the negative things she said about my surplus batteries and solar
panels -- to put it another way: she ate her own words! hahaha... however,
she did have the last laugh when it was discovered that when I went to fire
up the Coleman stove to make up some popcorn, there wasn't a lighter or a
match to be found in my apartment!!! <banging head against wall>
Fortunately, I have elderly neighbours and I went to check on them to make
sure they were ok and asked to borrow some matches and offer my fridge to
keep some of their food from going bad. (milk, etc..).

It was a good experience and it showed some of my areas of weakness. And I
believe my neighbours will be more tolerant with me moving my panels around
trying to get the optimum sun exposure.

What I learned:

1) Keep a spare lighter on hand!!
2) A Toshiba DVD player didn't work very well on a modified sine wave
inverter.
3) Cats sitting in your lap will help keep you warm.
4) That telling the solar electric naysayers "See? I told you so" really
does feel sweet, indeed!

Now I need some serious panels (75 watt jobs) and a true sine-wave inverter
of larger capacity.

Thanks for your story!

P

#### Phil

Jan 1, 1970
0
1234 said:
Too funny what was your first clue? When the lights went out?

Not sure.... weather channel mentioned something about hurricane Opal
having visited the area , what do you think?

1

#### 1234

Jan 1, 1970
0
Oh the usuall yard work clean up ....new furnace filter oil the blower.
Get the boots out of the closet.
Check the anti freeze in the car...stuff like that. Thats minus 30
celcius btw.

Replies
5
Views
770
Replies
24
Views
4K
Replies
0
Views
689
M
Replies
0
Views
1K
Mark Zacharias
M
Replies
13
Views
1K