The only thing nice about winter is that what you did to prep last summer is sure to break down in the cold. That is the big test! However, technology does keep rolling on and we keep improving everything with VISA assistance on Amazon.com. When we have disappointments I fall back on the old military days and examine what really went wrong; prepping for the next blizzard, power outage, trees down, cold feet and no water.
I would think that this past year has been a downer for most people, excluding the politics of course. The political smoke and mirrors never change; they just become craftier, more obscene- a sociopath nightmare. Since there is little do about politics I will focus on the more mundane things like trying to improve our lot.
First off in this discussion will be generators. All my positive rants about Generac have come to naught, either because of Hurricane Sandy and the lack of parts on order, warranty, or poor shipping department. The installation was fine, the machine ran well but the service was interrupted due to a faulty computer. Yes, computers are in everything and the slightest tweak in power fries their wires. My technician had to drive a hundred miles south in order to get a new computer module and buy one from another dealer as repeated requests from the factory resulted in no compliance. Go Figure. Today the new computer will be installed- will it work? I will let you know in two hours.
I have spoken to a number of propane generator people and for the most part their problem is that they run out of propane. A big 20,000-watt generator at full load burns up to 3 gallons an hour. If it runs 24 hours that is 72 gallons and with our last storm at this location in Floyd County we were (again without power for 4 days). That is 288 gallons. A 500-gallon tank really holds only 325 gallons, and that means I have only, at best, 127 gallons left at 3 gallons per hour or you can figure your lights are out in 42 hours. I switched to my spare tank and will have Clark Gas and Oil fill my empty tank up. Ahhhh VISA!
Good news. Since this is a 20,000 watt generator and I do not probably use more that 9,000 watts, the measurement of propane filling vs.: hours of run time showed we used 1.3 gallons an hour. That is cheaper than gasoline or diesel.
This implies quite clearly you need to do one of two things: ration your run time for important times of the day or night. Freezers, refrigerators, water well, furnace heat, medical items and of course the calming TV news and weather.
You can also buy with a VISA forever debt an extra two or three propane tanks. The larger the tanks the bigger the discount when filling it up; then again 1000-gallon tanks are not cheap. Here is the catch 22 you have to calculate the predictability of when and how much propane you need and if you have any credit left. The natural gas hookup people are laughing up their sleeve, but I recall how natural gas was turned off in Roanoke during Hurricane Hugo and when it returned the price doubled. Go Figure!
There is a third option of renting a tank although in time the cost equals what it would have cost you to buy a new one originally. My local Clark Gas and Oil tells me they have used tanks for sale.
In my situation the only real need for electricity is to run the well pump. You cannot make it without water. This leaves me with the option of a smaller – just for water- portable generator. This means my two portable gasoline generators must be ready to go. This is what I have learned over the years with generators- especially hand pull start types.
Gasoline left in the tank and filling the carburetor will usually get sticky. I have always used STABIL that cleans out everything but leaves tiny little sludge that sometimes clogs the needle valve. The newest product on the market, which I am trying this year is: FRESH START sold through the Briggs and Stratton distributor. They claim a storage life of two years and no gum ups. I ordered 5 gallons. My favorite dealer is: Blacksburg Power in Christiansburg VA. Oh! They are out of generators until April from the factory but did get in about six from a distributor.
I also have shifted to non-ethanol gasoline for all my small engines. No more alcohol. Reiner VA Stop and Shop sells at a pump non-alcohol gasoline. I am hoping that this fuel coupled with the FRESH START will keep me going.
Wait! There is more. With your generator engine, propane, natural gas or gasoline engine sitting out in the cold for days on end and you want it to start you had best use a magnetic block heater and if it has a battery start, a battery blanket wrap or flat rubberized plate, (assuming you have AEP service in the mean time) plus of course low 5-10-30 weight oil. I keep a couple spray cans of EITHER sold as a spray in the carburetor filter as a backup.
Thieves may be targeting your generator. The Generac is mounted on six inches of concrete and bolted securely. The roll around portable units are best left in the workshop-garage-carport and chained down.
Northern Tool in Roanoke, and on line, offer an interesting small roll around Propane low-pressure 8000-watt generator you can run off a 20 lb propane tank. This might be a low cost option for many who need electricity for water. Most 20lb tanks are used for outdoor Bar-B-Qs now a days. There are plenty of exchange stations hither and yon. Although awkward for some, a 40 Lb, or 100lb bottles may be had too. Keep in mind that a 20 lb tank is 1 gallon, a 40 lb tank is 2 gallons and a 100 lb tank is 4 gallons. There are switching pressure regulators for these low-pressure tanks. I use these on my chicken house hanging infrared back up heaters. Chickens get cold too.
If you use small tanks like above and you are in a blizzard-far, far away in the bush and you have a big 500 or 1000 gallon tank you can buy a connector hose and fill the smaller tanks-just in case you want to prep.
UPDATE on GENERAC. Pat Mullins was on time and we exchanged the computer. Same problem. In fact on closer inspection there was black soot around the electrical generator and that means the entire heavy unit has to be replaced by Pat. To make matters worse the factory has to have him check off 200 items to prove it is the generator before they will ship a new replacement unit. Diane of course is hopping mad at a $12,500.00 cost for a super hands off unit that does not work, and they will not outright exchange on the warranty. This does not bode well in the winter with already two major power outages. So I will be back to my lawyer days, write some scathing letters and if it is not fixed in three weeks, I go to court. I will keep you posted.
In the mean time I am off to Blacksburg power to pick up a part and my older/new/unused generator that was in for a check up. That means I will have two working generators, and three dead generators. Maybe I should go in the generator business. The bottom line is I will have some power, at least water and freezers.
From what I hear on the grape vine there are some really desperate non-electrical people still out there in the hinterlands. Some good souls up in Hurricane Sandy area are still in tents. I wonder what happened to all the FEMA trailers that were recalled.
Since the ground has frozen the snow and ice storm expected tomorrow will stick to the ground. Take your meats and other perishables and place them in the summer time cooler ice chests. Lacking ice cubes, you can scrape up snow and close the lid leaving the chest on a porch in the shade, where animals will not open it.
The weather service makes some interesting comments on global freezing and we are in for it on this coast. I suggest going back in the archives, and looking up prepping/bug out kits and the like in case your car breaks down too. You need to carry warm sleeping bags, foods and such. This brings me to mind about the news from North Korea today that says they are going to nuke the USA as soon as they get their ICBM’s and nukes to work correctly. Sounds like Iran. In any event this is the latest preppers scare that may come true. I would not live in a major city, assuming their rice machines can be accurate to hit what they are programmed for. I think San Francisco, San Diego and Los Angeles would be first strike. Maybe with their submarines made in Germany they could Tomahawk Washington D.C. These are very bad political times and I do not think appeasement is the best policy. Nuke’em first and be done with it. That is my political position.
More Challenges: The Generac pales into insignificance right now due to the major flooding we had yesterday. One third of my concrete bridge over the babbling brook was washed away in a flash flood. So we cannot get out, and no one in. There is some peace and quiet to that state. Being prepped with food, two working generators, fuel, ad etc we are set till the water goes down and we can assess the damage and what to do. So we are at full stop waiting for the water to go down. The big threat in this area is the old time dams built before AEP that have no water spill ways could burst. That implies all low lying homes and infrastructure may be washed away like the famous “Johnstown Flood”. If you are in the path of one of these dams be careful, water travels faster than you can run.
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