The Big Prep: Generators, part II
Two weeks have gone by since the major Mid East Storm winds devastated the electrical power for 11,000,000 homes and countless businesses. Everyone lost something, and as I had mentioned last week, our generator died. We are all tied to the grid of power. This is modern life affording us convenience and comfort, and in many cases life support for the infirm and elderly. Although true I have advocated many times the necessities of having candles, kerosene lamps, wood stoves and such of an era gone by, we are still on the grid.
Baring a major natural disaster such as a Volcano, nuclear attack, or an asteroid crashing us all back to the stone age of the sixth extinction you will have your night-lights on. Electricity is here to stay. You will expand in time for more convenient freezers, refrigerators, air conditioners, electric automobile chargers; just look around you – the computer, the lights, and the coffee pot.
I notice the hardy souls who go camping: they mostly bring small campground generators, battery packs, video games and cell phones. Many use travel campers with electric generators; and all campgrounds now have electricity available on the grid.
This leads us to consider assessment of our immediate growing needs as a priority consideration. My previous articles on generators go back 30 years before McMansions and major household energy suckers. Today it is all changing except it is more expensive and that zoning codes are to be considered.
My location is in a very remote-rural part of southwestern Virginia in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. This 300-year-old deeded land and Civil War House was not connected to the electric grid until the late 1950’s. Water was hand drawn from a spring box and human waste was deposited in a traditional outdoor privy, a Septic waste system was installed in the 1970’s as well as add on construction, and currently a 200 ampere service from the electric grid as opposed to the original status quo fused switch box of 15 amperes facing the road.
Today half of America lives in an apartment. When the grid fails there is a scramble for convenience mostly aimed at the 3 days of perishable food in the refrigerator. Gated communities and the like need to address a separate emergency power source for the common good, or approval/zoning for installing your own power source as a backup.
Recently I learned of a lakeside development of near 300 cottages. These cottages are at peril for potable water alone from the community well –obviously not large enough to sustain 300 homes even though the generator may pump it dry. Before you buy into developments you need to examine the provided necessities. A six-inch well will do well at 300 feet to provide 7 gallons a minute. Now divide that among 300 houses.
Cities are going bankrupt and with no money are only half completing water supply and sewage pumping in many communities. Privies are not allowed in suburbia and especially gated communities.
This leaves the homebuyer with a rural home and being self sufficient – well as self sufficient as you can become with no zoning and building on your own. I am still grandfathered for a privy. My spring has to be backhoed out to regain flow, and I had better get that done this year.
I think it was fortuitous that my WINCO Generator died after 24 years. Tine to upgrade! Of course my wife was years ahead of me in subtle suggestions I get off the pot and upgrade. Sometimes it takes a disaster to wake you up.
Most homeowners who have natural gas connection are in the best of spare electrical power. You can connect up a Generac 8K generator and probably run most everything basic. Otherwise you will have to go propane gas storage and many people cannot afford an additional huge propane storage tank for 3 weeks, without power.
Then there are the gated communities rules, and the new fashion of burying the big tanks.
They may seem unsightly. Personally I think they are beautiful and as personal property if I ever sold I could take them with me, or negotiate a separate sale. Then again with these add ons my property sales value goes up, but taxes are still low (I hope),
Speaking of propane tanks – my outdated Winco Generator burned 2 gallons an hour at 10,000 watts. My new Generac burns 2.9 gallons an hour at a full 20,000 watts – less at reduced load. I mention this as a thought to calculate how big your propane storage tank need be. If you read my earlier article of 1989 with Hurricane Hugo I though two 100 lb – 4 gallon each propane tanks would put me in the safe zone. I was dry the next day and off to get a 500 gallon tank. Consider what you will be operating – say 2 gallons an hour and you need at a basic minimum 2 hours twice a day to recharge the refrigerators and freezers. With smaller generators you will be switching off the electrical water heater and the stove. Maybe more air conditioners too. You have to add up the total watt consumption, add 20% for today’s generator, then look at the fuel hourly consumption based on how many days you plan to survive with a generator.
You might review Katrina and the still ongoing nuclear FukuShima disaster in Japan.
Gasoline powered generators abound in this area. During the recent crisis people were flocking to the gasoline stations with cans to fill up to run their generators. Most purchased generators are in the 5000-watt range. If you have a well pump or other 220VAC power energy sucker you will have to have a bigger gasoline generator. I keep two in the workshop. I would suggest that when you buy your gasoline powered generator you buy one of good named quality from a business that can service and guarantee warranty. I recommend from personal experienced that Blacksburg Power in Christiansburg Virginia phone (540) 382-3121 provides top units. Currently they are selling “Made in the USA” Briggs and Stratton generators from 3500 watts to 12,000 watts. Briggs is moving from China and relocating in Alabama. More Jobs. Elsewhere there are many fine lawn and garden retailers who offer excellent services.
However, most people in an emergency buy an underpowered unit, fail to put in oil, and use alcohol based gasoline. Also they make the fatal mistake of running the generator non-stop, and within a day the undersized non-commercial part time designed China generator burns up. Use these units on an intermittent basis.
I have seen people store and operate these carbon monoxide producers, (a deadly gas) in a basement, and kill off the household. These units, all units including natural gas, and propane gas have to be installed to operate OUTSIDE the house. Also gasoline is highly flammable, and you can burn your house down.
Unless you have a switching device your electrics generator hooked up to the house can and will feed electricity back into the power lines and electrocute a lineman working to restore your power. You will need an on/off switch box.
I used one of these switch boxes for years and now with the Generac it is automatic switching with line safety. I can just roll over and go back to sleep.
An electrical generator is the wave of the future with increased global high temperatures causing blackouts, uncharted winter storms and potential doomsday scenarios. I would suggest if you are within a hundred miles of Fancy Gap, Virginia, you have a heart to heart talk with a Generac professional generator man who can advise you.
I recommend from personal experience: Pat Mullins, P.O.Box 104, Fancy Gap, Virginia 24328, phone: business (276) 728–2882 or cell (571) 220-0240.
I also want you to know that I receive no remuneration for promoting people, or businesses.
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