Lessons learned

Life gives you the test first, then the lesson. Study beforehand.

Ice storms happen in my part of the country. This is where it starts raining when the temperature is above freezing, but it drops below freezing overnight while it continues to rain. This leads to trees and powerlines having a layer of ice on them, which is a lot of extra weight. The power lines will come down from this extra weight, but usually get “help” by falling branches as well.

I had that happen to me in February of 2022. About half of my city lost power. My house lost power for four days, while the high temperatures of those days remained below freezing. Due to my particular circumstances, bugging out to a “warming center” or hotel outside the affected region was not an option.

I have a portable propane space heater to keep a single room of my house warm enough for the people and pets, however that wouldn’t keep the pipes from bursting. I needed a generator to run the furnace to prevent that. We had utility gas and water and Internet, just no power. Everyone had headlamps and stationary lamps for light with lots of batteries when it got dark outside.

I have been planning on getting a generator for some time, and I had done the research and knew which one I wanted. I had been saving for it, but I just didn’t have enough saved to get one. So when this hit, I took that cash, raided the emergency fund, and drove to the closest location I could find that said they had what I was looking for, which was about 75 miles south of me. They had ONE generator that was marginal to my anticipated load. I got it and back home I went. Got it home, hooked it up… and it was a couple amps short of what I needed to run the furnace. Crap.

The next day, I find the next closest location that has the generator I’m looking for, called them and had them put my name on one, then headed 120 miles northeast and got the one I wanted in the first place.

This one was able to run my furnace, my router and all of our computers to keep us entertained. I could have run my refrigerator also, if I had the extension cords. I ended up using my computer’s power to run the fridge when I wasn’t using it.

It actually worked out for the better to have both generators. The first generator actually had the capacity to run everything but the furnace. Since all of my computers and the like are on UPS’s, when I needed to refill the gas on the big generator, I could fire up the little generator, move the computers over to it, then shut down the big generator to refill its’ tank.

Lessons learned:

  • I know the amperage draw for all of the critical and essential pieces of equipment, so I know how to arrange the strings of extension cords to power them.
  • I know which breakers to trip so I don’t backfill the grid with my generator and electrocute a lineman fixing my power.
  • I have “pigtails” (a short extension cord that’s male on both ends and the hot/neutral wires reversed) so I can plug into a circuit and power it, rather than unplugging stuff from the wall to plug into the extension cord.
  • I am planning on having outlets installed that connect to the light circuits and furnace so I don’t have to run cords into the attic to power them.
  • I know fuel usage for my various generators. This means I can extrapolate how much fuel I need to store for a given emergency. I already have several 5 gallon gas cans if the gas stations can’t pump fuel for a while, and have several 2lb and 20lb propane bottles.

There’s more that has to be done, but that covers 90% of my needs for when this happens again. It’s all comfort after this point.

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