Can we all get back to normal now, after that amazingly anticlimactic election?
But speaking of things not being back to normal, some folks are still reeling after
Hurricane Superstorm Sandy. Even one frequent commenter here at the blog still hasn’t been heard from, and while that could be just because he’s not talking to us, he and his family were near “ground zero” New Jersey — where some folks are still reportedly without power, reliable food supplies, or running water, 10 days after the storm hit.
So much for the old “three-day” supply recommendations.
Maddeningly, many government sources are still feeding us the three-day pabulum, even though Katrina, and now her sister (or is it brother?) Sandy have shown how painfully inadequate those recommendations are.
Well, you already know that. Before Sandy we were talking about generators and keeping food safe in power outages (talk about good timing). A reader from Germany had some things to add to that discussion and I wanted to post them here.
This is from “California Joe,” whose mini-bio is below.
Freezers and blackouts: A good freezer (top loading) can bridge a three-day blackout, when full. When half-full, less. Low energy consumption per cubic foot and year equals good freezer. It’s even cheaper to buy a highly efficient freezer than a standard freezer and a generator. A good freezer will not only keep the electricity bill down, it will even take care of your precious grass fed beef when blackout occurs during your absence (weekend trip out of state to haul in more meat).
Used high quality freezers: 8 years ago I bought a (then 10-15 years old) used 12-cubic-foot freezer. It had been sold in the early nineties with the claim of 198 kWh/year. It still uses about 10% less than that. Talk about aging in grace. It’s an AEG machine, maybe one of the best ever built. They sometimes used it in early solar electric systems back when those systems were ridiculously expensive. The freezer cost me 10 €.
Starting a freezer on an electric generator/alternator: In the first few seconds of starting to run, a freezer (as any compressor engine) can use up to 12 times the running wattage. So my 75-W-freezer will need a 900-W-generator minimum simply to start. Look up the wattage of your freezer though, it may be waaay higher. I remember Ragnar Benson using 400-W-freezers :-/
If a generator is too big, it wastes a lot of fuel. Especially petrol engines don’t run efficiently when almost idling. My running freezer will use 75 Watts, so a 2500-W-generator would be bored as hell.
2000i Honda generators are top notch. Therefore the price – they are worth it. I decided to use a cheap china built generator with Briggs & Stratton instead. Good enough for infrequent use. In an RV or an off-grid homestead I would use the Honda (or diesel).
Long term storage of petrol fuel: even stabilized ethanol free petrol stores best in metal containers like military surplus jerry cans. Why this? Petrol contains some highly volatile stuff which over times permeates through plastic. This is the reason plastic petrol cans get “hollow cheeks” over time. Wrapping them in contractors grade aluminium foil helps. When the highly volatile stuff is gone, the remaining fuel is low quality and will make problems when starting an engine. A running generator engine will usually have no problems consuming a mix of new fuel and “hollow cheek” stuff. Don’t try this with your Ferrari. ;-)
“California Joe” (the handle is a nod to the old U.S. sniper; he has never been to California) is “an engineer, anarchist and do-it-yourself junkie. I work in solar energy research and live in a rural southern Germany. Life-changing moment: During college, I bumped into the 1995 Loompanics Catalog (in a headshop, actually). Biggest project: Turn old farmhouse to energy-efficient dreamhouse.”
“Joe” also emailed a fair bit of information about solar power systems and batteries, which might be a topic for another day or something I’ll mail to friends who have to deal with it. Me, I’m not “doing” solar again until I can buy a complete solar kit-in-a-box, with EZ instructions, guaranteed to power full-size houses on the Pacific NorthWET coast. On, and for under $5,000.