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When the lights go out in the city

Posted by admin on Jun 19th, 2008
Jun 19

The last two days in the San Fernando valley have been…excruciatingly hot. Yesterday matched a record high of 106 degrees, and I’m not sure what today’s high was yet but it was probably in the same triple digit range. On top of the extreme heat today we lost power in our neighborhood twice. The first time was around 4:00pm – pretty much the hottest time of the day inside our house – until around 6pm, and then again around 9pm. I’m actually sitting in the dark, on my laptop with my Verizon broadband usb modem typing this. I’m a geek at heart, so I think it’s kinda cool 🙂

The power outage, besides being a HUGE pain in the tukas (sp?), has shown me just how prepared we really are for power outages. We could be better prepared, but for the most part, for short outages up to around 12 hours, I think we’re not doing too bad.

I used to have a boat. I loved that boat. I miss that boat. The only thing I have left from the boat after I sold it are the two marine batteries (I believe they are 850ah) that I’ve kept for the last few years. They have been *tremendously* handy – I use them for all sorts of projects around the house…including power outages. I currently have them wired in parallel (i.e. positive to positive, and negative to negative), and have a cheapo 750 watt inverter hooked up to them. Off the inverter I have an extension cord that feeds into the house which connects to a power strip. Off of that power strip I’m running three fans (one for my son’s room and two for the living room) and my laptop (which is also currently charging my cell phone). I could also power my 37″ lcd tv and my dvd player (since the cable is out) if I wanted too, but with a laptop I don’t need to use up all that valuable electricity and can just watch a movie on my computer. We also are using the outside solar yard lights in the house which actually work pretty well when turned upside down on a table. Kinda romantic too 😉 Three of those light up the living room well enough and they last for about 8 hours! For cooking we have a propane bar-b-que, which is great on any hot day – not just for power outages. As my wife has found out, by turning on one burner in our house to boil water on a hot afternoon can raise the overall temperature of the house by four degrees!!

So how prepared are you for a power outage? That’s a question a person might want to ask themselves before they find themselves in the middle of such a situation. We are nowhere near where I’d like to be as far as preparedness for power outages, but I think for not really giving it much effort we’re doing pretty well. I’d like to get about six more marine batteries, a 200+ watt solar panel, a 2000 watt inverter, and to build a small wind turbine to really make things comfortable, but that will take a little bit of time to save up for. I’m guessing that the cost of my current setup, if I was to go out and buy it new, would be around $275 – $85 for the batteries from Costco (x2), $30 for 6 solar yard lights, and about $75 for the inverter. That’s assuming I wouldn’t need to get a battery charger or an extension cord. If I could build my system up so I could hook up my 850 watt portable AC in addition to what I have now then I’d be good, although my wife might say differently 😉

What are your minimum requirements for power outage survival? What do you already have to meet that goal? Let me know!! I’d like to hear your ideas about what is essential during a power outage.

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