Hey everyone and thanks for checking out some content frome that is not a product review. This is not a rant feat or bitch session, this is me relfe timg on my weekend and how I was able to do a dry run through our families storm season readiness plan. I hope it is both interesting and informative.
Also important, I’m now editing and posting fromy phone and it sucks… Alot. If something seems choppy or strange like place ment of a pic or break in a paragraph it’s because I’m working with what I have. I apologize now for that.
Its been a rather calm storm season so far. Checking over my family’s readiness plan and preparations has been on the to do list, but we all know how it is. So after working all week, quitting time is still slowly approaching. Finally I get off work and shoe horn my way into traffic, its Friday night and I don’t have any plans. Finally, a much needed night to just hang and relax. But as life and luck would have it, I have no power when I get home. Decision time… get upset and frustrated or use this as an opportunity to run through that family plan. I have a cold beer decide that this is an opportunity to find out there the weaknesses or holes are in our plan.
Hey at least its Friday, and not Monday, cause this could have easily been a very crappy start to the week.
A lot of the intricacies of my family’s plan is stored in my mind, yes I know this is not the best place. Despite having heard about documenting this process for your family I have not done this yet, but I have an opportunity for running through this part of process with a mind set for recording the details in order to document the whole thing so that if I am not home my wife and kids can set things up themselves. Also I am documenting this for the purposes of sharing my lessons learned with you guys and gals.
Lets run the plan:
Where to start?
- I focus on the things that are on borrowed time, we have food and medicine that we cannot let spoil, so we need to figure out a way to get the refrigerators and freezers turned back on so that things don’t go bad.
- I focus on needs. Light, and food. Lights because there can and most likely will be a need for light to see. Obviously its way easier and less time consuming to use a microwave than get a charcoal grill going.
- I focus on comfort. Fans to circulate air, isolating and cooling a room for sleeping, radio or tv for entertainment, wifi for communication.
What are our emergency power options? We have 2 cars, 2 power inverters and a 8k generator. Lets discuss the inverters first.
Each of the 12 volt inverters has large power wire connections. I have sacrificed two sets of automotive jumper cables for this purpose. One end of the cables has the clamps cut off and have been connected to the power inverter and the cables stay attached to the inverters. The other end, goes to the car battery and each clamp attaches to the respective positive and negative connections. The vehicles should be started and left to idle when providing power. I was able to run two combination fridge / freezers and one chest deep freezer easily. I had power to spare but didn’t need to push the inverters.
My personal preferences on inverters:
- Some people recommend screwing or bolting the inverter to a board and leaving the inverter under the hood of your car. Since I am using butchered jumper cables I have the freedom to move my inverter to a flatter, safer, cooler place next to the car. I can set the inverter on a chair, trash can, bucket or other flat surface. This is for two reasons. First having the inverter out of the engine compartment helps keep the inverter cooler and they do get pretty hot. Second I do not have to worry about it vibrating and falling off the car or into areas it shouldn’t be.
- Pre determine your needs or intentions, don’t buy a massive inverter it will put a huge strain on your cars electrical system. I would go 1-3k and I would certainly not be running a 3k off anything less than a full size truck or suv.
- I look for socket style connections instead of lug style because the end of the wire is stripped back to expose only what you need to make electrical contact and the bare wire is inserted in the lug limiting or reducing the potential of accidental arcing
Using my generator.
When we had our house built we had a generator transfer switch panel installed. That is the box in the middle, in the pic below.
Our intent was (and still is) to eventually get a whole home generator but haven’t done that yet due to cost. We have a large portable 8 kw gas generator. I get out the generator, strip off cover start by checking battery, oil and fuel. All were in good shape. I wheel it around to the electrical panel. I started the hook up process by shutting of the main breaker coming into the transfer switch. This is the top switch in the pic below. This isolates my home from the electrical system (GRID), so that I don’t have power coming in from the power lines, and so I don’t feed power into the system. Next I switch the source switch to the generator power position. Again see pic below, this is the lover one with the tiny bar sticking out of the panel.
Real quick side note, the system is capable of doing these two steps automatically once we have the large permanent generator installed but for the purposes of this write up I’m doing this process manually.
Next I go to my main panel and turn off every breaker for my home so that there is no immediate demand on my generator on start up.
Now I go back to my generator panel, for temporary use I had an electrician wire in a 20 foot extra heavy duty generator power lead into my switch panel. I just roll this up when not in use and hang it from the generator panel with a bungee cord. It can be seen in the first picture of my panels.
I got this wire extension and ran it to the generator. Plugged in the special plug. The plug I have on this lead has a special pattern and once the plug is inserted into the power panel on the side of my generator it sort of locks in place to ensure against accidental disconnect from vibration.
A significant note about this plug. There are a shockingly small and disproportionate amount of these on the shelves at the home improvement stores. What I mean is nearly every generator sold has a plug option like this and there is not nearly enough to go arround. You should source a couple plugs and the correct wire long before you need it. Trust me on this.
Once plugged in I am ready to go through the start process for my generator unit. Basically I just need to open the fuel cutoff valve so the engine has flowing fuel, choke the engine to get it to cold start.
Pic of fuel valve.
Personal preferences on generators:
- I pull the pull start cord a couple times slowly prior to using my electric start, not to start the engine, but to get fresh oil moved around in the motor since the motor has not been started in a while.
- Prior to using the electric start I ensure that the breaker on my generator giving power to the plug and to the panel for the house, is in the off position. Some generators will not allow you to start the engine if the breaker is not in the off position.
- When finished I leave the engine running and shut off the fuel flow valve and allow the engine to consume what remains in the line so that there is not residual fuel stored in the line or carb fuel bowl. This reduces likelihood of having a dirty carburetor later.
- Usually this is one of the first major preparation purchases, often its purchased in panic mode, its purchased by someone who doesn’t know much about operating or maintaining this piece of equipment. YOUTUBE IS YOUR FRIEND HERE!!!!! This was one of our later purchases, we got our inverters firs and that’s where I strongly recommend people start.
One thing I realized I need to do is color code my breakers for ease of use during a situation like this.
- Non essentials = x color, all of this color get shut off and not used at all.
- Hot water heater
- Dish washer
- Furnace (depending on weather)
- Exterior plugs
- All or x color are essentials or optional and get phased on to run off generator or cycled on off to use other things as needed.
- Certain rooms as needed (kitchen or family room)
- A/c if possible, in our case no (see good investments section)
- Fridge or kitchen gfci (incase the car supplying power via inverter needs to be driven or otherwise used like going to get gas for generator)
- All of x color are major power consumption and everything else has to be shut off to run these ect…
- Water well
- stove / oven
A word on water:
Remember me mentioning a pool in the title of this article? For us, this was a major addition to our home and a major addition to our preparedness as well. Wait how the hell is a pool!? Let me explain. We live very rural, when we decided to move buy rural land and start from scratch. We used “No municipal utilities” as criteria for our search. I dead serious here. We had to have a very expensive water well drilled. The well runs on electricity, and it’s a substantial electrical draw as well. So when you are running on invertvers and a generator you have to budget power. This means if you want to use a microwave to heat up food, you may have to shut off lights and fans in another area so you don’t over load your generator.
We can use buckets of water to fill our tanks on out toilets or simply pour into the bowl and achieve the flushing action required to dispose of waste. This water also works well for washing your hands. I don’t know about all that filtering pool water for drinking nonsense, and I guess its possible but I really didn’t need to so I sure as hell was not going to. We have several cases of bottled water as a matter of daily life, and could shut off everything and run the well if necessary. Most importantly the pool is super useful when you lose your power and you have triple digit heat. No bs it was in the high 80s at night. Cooling off before bed, after getting everything squared away for the night is such a relief. It did wonders for my mood.
When our house was built the builder installed the garage doors but didn’t include or install garage door openers. WTF? Yep that what I thought too. We did without for while but finally gave in and got one. I went into this from the position of whatever works and is affordable. When I ended up with was on the higher end of quality and cost. Hear me out, cause im not bragging here. Im making a serious recommendation here.
I got the Ryobi garage door opener kit. It touts a whole list of cool features but the two most useful and important for us are the fact that it can be operated on one of the cordless rechargeable battery packs that works for Royobi’s line of cordless tools and the LED lights built into the belly of the opener, that provided very useful motion activated emergency lighting. Im not going to write a long dissertation on why you should ditch your current opener and get this. I will say that if you need to replace an opening look into these openers. Hell some of you may be able to justify swapping yours out. I was able to open and shut my garage doors several times and still have light in the garage all night long with the onboard battery pack. It was not until I was thinking about the whole experience that I realized how legitimate of a prep this was.
Another great thing to have plenty of is LED head lamps, I will include a pick and link of ours. If you are working in the dark these are a must.
Short range FRS radios, these are nice when you are playing with breakers and you have a spotter inside able to tell you what is on and off.
We have opted to use a room with a connected bathroom for our gathering and sleeping room. This room can be isolated with its own power if needed and can be isolated from other rooms for purposed of cooling for comfort. For this room we purchased a small window mounted a/c unit that can be operated with power from one of the power inverters. This is for several reasons but most importantly not running the generator at night. Again, no long dissertation on why you need this. If you see the value, consider getting one. Ours cost just over $100.
Where were the holes:
Extension cords and plug splitters, man I seriously thought I had what I needed. I had to rob components from my aquaponics tanks to get things hooked up like I wanted. I would highly recommend that even if you don’t shut off your main breaker and do a test run you should at least figure out where you want to park your car(s) and do a layout with your extension cords so you know where you stand and what you need ahead of time. No sense in wasting your time with a 100’ cord when a 30’ will work.
A short term electronic programmable timer for the extension cords powering the fridges and freezer. In theory they don’t need to constantly be drawing power.
Knowing what breaker controlled what area. I wasted a lot of time and effort walking back and forth before thinking about using my FRS radios.
Light discipline… my house looked like an airport runway from the end of my driveway. Not a huge issue in this instance but could potentially be an issue.
Im thinking I may add a power tap that is at the well its self. Im considering just getting a second smaller generator only for powering the Water well. I have my reservations with this. Also it means having to completely isolate that circuit to not damage either generator. I could in theory just leave the breaker off at the main panel and energize just the well circuit again with a dedicated generator.
A kill-a-watt meter, I really wish I had one of these prior to this. I will be getting one of these on payday. And testing everything to see what the power draw is, I don’t like running calculations for power consumption manually… I do enough calculations at work.
Bottom line, yes I can think of several more enjoyable ways to spend a Friday night. All up, it was a good learning curve for us. I have several things I can do to streamline this for the future. Alright everyone, I hope you found this information engaging, informative and valuable. If I forgot something or didn’t cover something please don’t hesitate to email us be sure to put (Q for TX Joe) in the subject line. Or join us on our discord server where we have a preparedness channel, as well as homesteading and gear channels. You can ask us questions in real time, and participate in our ongoing discusssions.
Thanks and till next time, yall stay safe.