Some folks just Will Not Learn

The world is populated by idiots.

Im in the bank this morning and the teller and the woman next to me are talking about the power outages that continue in many areas around here. This woman is saying how she hasn’t been able to charge her laptop, that she has no water (well pump), that she’s going to lose the food in her freezer, and how she hates being in the dark.

I gently steered the conversation to ask her if, when this is over, if it will change her behaviors and perhaps she’ll keep some battery-powered chargers around for her cell phone. “Oh, no..this almost never happens.”

You know, your house almost never burns down, you almost never have your car stolen, you almost never get cancer, and you almost never get disabled from your job….yet you have insurance in place for that, so why not this?

For these… clueless idiots…. it appears it truly is better to curse the darkness than buy generator.

My buddy on the other side of town is still without power after a transmission tower (not a power pole, mind you…a transmission tower) decided to go horizontal not far from him. Is he inconvenienced? Yes. He has no internet. Is he still in the game? Absolutely. He has not one but two of the Honda generators. He’s got his freezer, fridge, lights, cell phone charger, and all the other accoutrements of civilization up and running. And he has some stored gas on hand to keep it that way. As his neighbors live out the lifestyle of “Home & Garden: North Korea Edition”, my buddy drinks hot coffee, has lights, has communication, and can continue to run his business. (And also the means to keep it if someone decides his bit of civilization needs to become their bit of civilization.)

I still need to do some after action things… I need to top off the tank on the generator, get all the cords in one place, put some emergency lighting in that one place, log the run time for the generator, pick up some accessories for the extension cords, etc. But, all in all, the generator did the trick.

The EU2000 is too small to run the entire house, but Im thinking of picking one circuit in the house and seeing if I can’t have an electrician come in and set that one circuit up with a transfer switch. That way, I can have one room of the house with the outlets running. The alternative, which I’m also seriously considering, is an entirely new circuit throughout the house of emergency ‘red outlets’ that are completely independent of the house panel and would solely be connected to the generator.

The Honda EU2000 usually runs right around a grand. Worth it.

19 thoughts on “Some folks just Will Not Learn

  1. Did you pick the EU due to the low noise factor?
    They’re stupidly expensive which is why I’ve longed for one but will never pay that much for not-a-whole-home gennie. We have an 8500w Generac – paid $450 for it. Could run the whole house except both AC units.
    My complaint is that 75db is pretty loud. For long term use, I’ve explored the possibility of putting it into a sunken underground ‘hole’ to deaden the sound. The only ‘flaw’ in the plan will be the vibrations through the ground. I think they’ll carry pretty far, but I’ll have to experiment with it to verify. I think some insulation around the edges and rubberized ground pad would help.

    In a SHTF natural disaster when compared to a grid down, civil unrest situation, I’d still want to be able to hear what’s going on around me even though zombie hoards are not likely to be roaming.

    It’s too bad about that lady. Not sure she ‘gets it’ and likely think that things like what you’re going through are an inconvenience instead of a teaching moment. Besides, if things were *really* bad, the local Gov and NatGuard would be out to help, right? 😉

    • I would think another flaw in that plan would be carbon monoxide building up, filling the hole and choking the engine. The EU2000 is pretty quiet. I had it sitting on my porch and I could barely hear it from the other side of the house.

    • I’ve seen smaller military generators (couple kw units) run in a 1-2′ deep hole without any CO issues so as long as the hole was a reasonable depth I don’t think it’ll be an issue.

      You get what you pay for as far as generators. The Honda or Yamaha 2kw inverter generators (I’ve got a Yamaha) are lightweight, quiet and will run forever. Not to mention they just sip fuel (mine will do 5hrs on a gallon at full load). I also like the ability to put it into a car trunk if I need to due to it’s sub 50lb weight.

      Yes, a bigger gen will let you run your whole place. It will also be a much larger target due to a larger noise signature and will use significantly more fuel.

      You make your choices and accept the consequences. I’d expect that with similar maintenance either the Yamaha or Honda will be running long after a larger unit from a different company has failed.

  2. Mine is so loud, my primary generator keeps me awake, along with the neighbors. I lock mine up in the covered fenced dog run, which is locked, but also chain it to the fence posts. I run the cord to the genset in the garage through a lockable access panel on the outside. Over the last 23 years I lost power frequently, upon installing the genset, several years ago, havent lost it since, go figure. I have two backup generators, one for a friend in need, when needed. I also have the portable battery backup system in the house if needed too. Long ago, I lost my power for 15 days, learned a valuable lesson.

  3. My Yanmar 5’s is hooked into a transfer switch. It makes good sense but it’s also a law here now that if you are powering your wall sockets with a generator you have to have some positive method of preventing inadvertent back powering of the grid. I have to do load management in the house as far as what combination of equipment I can run.

  4. If you go the “one emergency circuit route” the best way is “several emergency circuits” with a transfer switch. One receptacle in each room on one circuit, fridge&freezer on one, ceiling fans & lights on one, a receptacle outside (or near the garage door). If you’re adding that circuit, or building new (yay!) it pays to carefully plan where those receptacles are. Pro tip: despite the expense, LED light bulbs are your very bestest friend when living off the generator.

    Residential electrical panels (technically called “load centers” or “distribution centers”) have two 115 volt busses in them (A and B), each fed by one phase cable, and circuit breaker connection tabs on the busses alternate L – R (usually odd numbered breakers are on the A buss, even numbered on the B buss). A 230 volt circuit requires two adjacent breakers (mechanically joined to operate toegether), one of which will engage a connection tab on each buss. I won’t describe ways to power the panel without using a transfer switch because that’s a violation of the national electrical code (NEC), but…..since you have a 115 volt generator, and if you get a second EU2000 and a coupling kit you’ll have 2X wattage but still only 115 volts, you can power only one side of the busses. So, figure out which existing circuits are critical and move the breakers to different positions to get the critical circuits on one buss.

    Is should go without saying, but TURN THE MAIN BREAKER OFF TO REMOVE ALL POWER FROM THE ELECTRICAL PANEL BEFORE REMOVING THE COVER AND MAKE SURE POWER IS OFF. DO NOT WORK ON OR IN A PANEL THAT IS POWERED. FYI, if the main breaker is inside the panel (newer installations have the main breaker outside inside a user-accessible section of the meter box) WHEN YOU TURN THE MAIN BREAKER OFF THE LARGE CABLES FEEDING THE MAIN BREAKER ARE STILL HOT. If you are not competent with high voltage, or even slightly uncomfortable around electricity, hire an electrician to move the breakers. Whatever you spend will be much, much cheaper than a funeral.

    Electricians should – but sometimes don’t – plan circuit connections within the panel to equalize the load between the two busses. When you’re moving breakers around be careful you don’t shift too much load to one buss, or to one circuit (NEC calls for circuits to be loaded at no greater than 80% of rated capacity, so for example a 20 amp circuit should have no more than a 16 amp load at any given time).

    EU2000s are rated at 2K watts peak, 1600 watts constant; that’s not a lot of watts to work with, so it’s beneficial to use something like a Kill-A-Watt or similar tool to determine actual wattage draw. Equipment with motors experience startup draw (called “locked rotor current”) 5-9X running draw (ex: my fridge draws 136 watts run, 1160 start). Even though the heavy start draw lasts only a second or two and quickly falls, not having adequate generator capacity to handle it is tough on generators and the equipment.

    • Lots of good info there, thanks! My electrical needs are actually pretty small…I just want to be able to run a light, my radios, my computer and router, and a small battery charger. Of those, the light, charger, and radios, could actually all be run off a DC battery bank (a work in progress). The generator really shines for keeping the freezer/fridge going and keeping my internet connectivity up.

    • Such a well written and knowledgeable post, I’m sure you meant to say to move the breakers AND the wiring for those circuits to the critical essential buss. Minor overlook but I can imagine someone thinking that just moving the breakers moves the system around.
      “I read it online! it must be true!”

      Other than that, kudos, excellent post!

  5. That setting up one room in the house for these emergencies makes sense to me. Maybe an interior room (I imagine power outages in the winter are far more dangerous) for the more insulation and protection from light escaping ? I’ve been trying to talk my wife into allowing me (yeah – I know who REALLY rules the roost :^) to build a platform (think bunk bed) for a water bladder to be installed in top bunk. Rods across to make a closet, with more storage below that.

    That lady in bank is clueless – this will likely come back to haunt her. Thanks for the post.

    • @ j.r. guerra – RE: water storage in the top bunk – water is 8.33 lbs/gallon, 62.3 lbs/cubic foot, so 50 gallons will weigh 416.5 lbs plus the container. You’ll need a pretty strong bunk bed, and don’t forget to reinforce the floor the bed is sitting on. Please let me know who has the courage to sleep under 400+ lbs…..

      These folks ( as well as a number of others have vertical storage tanks; their vertical 250 gallon tank is 30″ in diamater and 89″ tall. That’s still 2100 pounds filled, so the floor structure has to be able to support it.

      Water comes in 2 flavors – potable (drinking, cooking) and non-potable (toilets, washing). Non-potable can be stored anyplace it’s accessible and won’t freeze, even if that means minor contamination (think swimming pool). Potable should also be accessible and sealed against contamination. 5 gallon water jugs (Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes, the local water delivery outfit) can easily be stored horizontally on restaurant wire rack shelves. Behind me against the wall as I type this is a 4 ft wide X 14 in deep X 86 in tall wire rack shelve set with 12 in spacing between shelves (that’s 7 shelves), and it’s sitting on concrete slab. The bottom 3 shelves hold a dozen 5 gallon water jugs, canned food is on the rest of the shelves. The food, BTW, is mostly in “food units” – cardboard boxes 12 in L X 9 in H X 9 in W, each holding 24 15.5 oz cans – 8 of protein (chili, corned beef hash, etc.), 8 of vegetables, 8 of fruit. Each box weighs about 27 lbs and has 4 P38s or P51s taped to the underside of the top flaps. The boxes are labeled with content (FU for Food Unit, V for vegetables, F for fruit) and the purchase date (“54” for example means it was purchased in May 2014) so oldest gets eaten first. The same restaurant supply place that sells the shelving also sells plastic forks, spoons and knives in boxes of 1,000 each. A set of 3 boxes was $38, and two friends bought 250 of each, cutting my costs (Pro tip: other than what you put in the food boxes, a quart freezer bag will contain 20 each of forks, spoons and knives). In the food boxes between the cans are knives, spoons and forks, so a box is complete – food, can openers and utensils to eat it with. Staples has the boxes, $18.50 per 25, free shipping to their store.

  6. The “red outlets” plan is probably cheaper and easier than trying to reconfigure your existing wiring. Even in new construction I suspect it would have an advantage.

    At one time I was a fan of low-voltage DC wiring to power emergency lighting and a few appliances, but the cost of DC-to-AC inverters has dropped, their efficiency has improved, and the quality has improved. 120V AC emergency circuits make sense now.

  7. After living through a couple fairly extended power outtages I decided to go the other route and figureout how to live the best I could without power. No kids or freezer full of meat to worry about, so battery powered lights, a backup charger for the cellphone, wood heat, and propane to cook with works fine for me. Anything USB powered can also get recharged in my car.

  8. What if you were to put the fridge and freezer on a couple of twelve volt batteries and an inverter and charge the batteries from the generator? That way you could run the fridge and freezer on maybe 150 watts of charging power while the inverter and the batteries took care of startup wattage peaks.
    Is this a good idea? Why? Why not?

  9. For charging really low power items (cell phones, VHF radios and scanners) I wheel the solar generator on to the porch and plug all devices into it. (Extra batteries to charge while those items are in use is a large bonus) Large amp items get the generator. I’ve had good luck with dedicated extension cords and a power strip on the end. As per the previous article on your EU, good strong cables are recommended as these will probably get walked on. Avoid the small two strand “zip wire” you use for your christmas/festivus lighting.

    I would love to run red outlets in the house but the cost would be enormous unless I were doing a renovation. Then something interesting like an outlet that is red on top and green on the bottom is what I’ve been thinking about. Red being 110 and green being 12VDC, a simple AC plug wired to a 3-gang 12v cig plug while a power strip on the 110 side could do wonders. (But I also plan on moving more into solar and wind as backup) As always just have to watch those power loads on your system.

  10. As an EU2000 owner, they are the thing to have.

    We had a bit of an ‘inconvience’ here in North Alabama back in April 2011. I kept my chest freezer and fridge very happy for 6 days, running the genny for about 18 hours each day. For daily startup, I staggered the devices so both compressors wouldn’t hit the EU2000 at the same time (hey, it is ONLY 2KW) but otherwise I just let things rock along. Once mid-day hit, I’d plug in the battery charger and top off a deep-cycle battery so we could watch DVDs in the evening. We never used any AC lighting since we had sufficient camp lighting, so why bother.

    And +1 on the seperate circuit system in the house. Next house will have a single outlet installed in the ceiling of each room, near the doorway. Said circuits will go back to a secondary panel that will have an ‘open’ connection so I can energize it with genny power or with batteries (charged via mains/genny/solar as available). I can do the install myself, one room at a time, without breaking the bank.


  11. “Home & Garden: North Korea Edition” – You’re killin me man! LOL!

    What is amazing is how totally helpless some people are. Not the slightest ability to help themselves through a minor upset in the system.

Comments are closed.