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.

Powerwall

So you guys saw this? Tesla Motors, as a development in their car-battery technology I am assuming, says they are going to be offering a ‘plug-n-play’ battery that will be suitable for home use. Now, you and I both know that ‘home use’ means a few lights, some entertainment devices, and other small-draw items, because you ain’t running your refrigerator, freezer, well-pump, furnace blower, and hot water heater off a battery small enough to hang on your wall. Oh, you could run a household like that off of batteries but it would be a battery (or battery-pack) the size of a cargo container.

Really, this is a brilliant move for Tesla if they pull it off. The car side of their business is obviously heavily invested in battery technology, so if they develop an uber-battery it would only make sense to put out out into other, non-auto markets as well. The market for $200K  $100k electric cars is probably pretty small compared to the market for $3500 batteries that, ideally, work better than any existing backup battery or off-grid-cabin battery.

My own efforts as of late are still in the DIY/beginning-hobbyist stage. I’m planning out a small battery system to maintain a charge off of household current when the power is on, and to be used for DC applications (lights, radio, battery charging, security system) when the power goes out. But thats a much longer post (or, really, couple of posts).

In a happy little world, I’d have something like one of these batteries up at my very-attractive, yet heavily-reinforced concrete off-grid Beta Site. The world would convulse into spasms of chaos, I’d pack up and head to my little quiet bastion of security, and patiently wait for things to calm down…all the while enjoying LED lighting, radio communications, laptop, and security surveillance. Ah, the great American (survivalist’s) dream.

Go read some Heinlein sometime, or just Wiki it, and look up “Shipstone”. In the books, the shipstone was a revolutionary technology that greatly improved batteries. Or, as the book says, “To call a Shipstone an improved storage battery would be to call an atom bomb an improved firecracker.” In the book, shipstones didnt create power, they simply acted as containers for it. And you could stuff a lot of power into one. Every so often someone comes up with some ideas in battery technology that looks similar to Heinlein’s fictional supercapacitor. About eight years ago the big thing was ‘nanowire‘ technology that would, allegedly, increase a lithium-ion batteries output by 10x. Haven’t read much about it since then.

Anyway, if Tesla has made any strides in the battery arena, I think it would be a classic example of a business having a small branch or division that was ancillary to their main business become more profitable than the main business. Serendipity.

Generator run day

Nice day outside. Time to set out the generator and run it for a while to make sure everything is working for when we need it.

20150419_145545I keep a copy of the startup/shutdown instructions attached to the generator so there’s no doubt about doing things the right way. Sure, I commit as much of it to memory as I can but you never know when someone else may be needed to start/stop it and this way they can have all the proper info right there.

In a crisis the only thing I really need the generator for is to keep the freezer/fridge cool and maybe run the furnace blower. In the winter any food can simply go outside and the generator will be mostly for just running the blower and charging batteries.

Household emergency lighting will be mostly LED lights run off a couple deep-cycle batteries. Thats a project I’m kinda working on at the moment.

 

Link to two TSP podcasts on backup power

Someone in comments pointed out this link to me and it was worth sharing:
http://www.battery1234.com/

Its a page with two episodes of The Survival Podcast on the subject of emergency backup battery systems. I listened to both episodes and was quite pleased. Lots of information and lots of very specific information…names are named. Yeah, everything the guy discusses is linked to on page and available off Amazon, but I thought the content of the two articles was so good that who was I to begrudge the man a chance to make a few bucks off his links?

I listen to TSP on and off…Far too much permaculture and gardening content for me. Not saying its not important, just saying that it gets boring after a while. Anyway, the two episodes at the link were, in my opinion, quite good and I recommend them to anyone who is still behind on getting some sort of backup/emergency power system in place.

Repurposing Christmas lights

I’m not going to get into posting a commentary about the election. I’m fairly confident that, by and large, things in this world have reached a point that playing musical chairs in Washington won’t do much to change the path we’re on. As Kosh pointed out, once the avalanche has started its too late for the pebbles to vote.

This isn’t to say I’m one of those ‘If voting changed anything they’d make it illegal’ idiots. I vote every chance I get. While it may not make much of a difference in terminal performance it might affect the exterior ballistics a touch.

And before I move from the topic, let me leave with a joke: Did you hear the one about the Illinois Democrat who said that when he died he wanted to be buried in Chicago so he could remain active in the party?

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My wife, sadly, like many wives, has a ‘crafty’ bent that can only be appeased by sacrificing greenbacks on an altar at the local Michaels shop. I go with her to help keep her under control but also because, if youre creative enough, you can find something preparedness-related in pretty much any store. One thing I found of interest was a string of tiny LED Christmas lights that ran on 3 AA-batts. Something very similar to thisproduct. My planned use was to splice the wires to an old solar panel that was used to charge some yard lights and use the string of LED’s to illuminate the house numbers. However, I discovered that these are excellent lights for odd places that dont require huge amounts of light…like the interior of my gun safe. Affixing them inside the gun safe around the interior of the door frame lights things up perfectly. I’d like to mount a photoresistor or pressure switch to turn them on/off when the door is open/closed, but they appear to do a nice job of showing me where things are. Since they run on three AA-batts and LED’s draw low power, its not too hard to imagine some useful emergency lighting options…most notably to light a pathway to emergency gear…much like the lights on the floor in the aisle of a plane.

I’ve seen pictures of peoples storerooms and basements where light ‘ropes’ are used to provide a sort of emergency area lighting and it seems an interesting idea. Most of the ‘ropes’ you come across this time of year (CostCo and WalMart are full of them right now) run on household current but use a 12v transformer, so you could, I suppose, just run them right off a DC power source. On the other hand, since my use would be for emergency lighting to guide me to my stash of gear, they could be considered a ‘one time’ use item. That is to say, in a hypothetical scenario, the power goes out and I’m standing in the dark. I hit the Big Red Button and five or six of these daisy-chained lights light up guiding me to where I keep all the gear. Since all the strings are running off a battery pack meant for one string they’ll remain lit only for a brief amount of time….but by that time I’ll have gotten to my gear where my other illumination supplies are. I suppose I could use a larger battery pack but then I’d have to get some resistors or something in there to keep from putting too much current through the LEDs and burning ’em out. Should be an interesting project.