Covered Topics

Please see the list of the topics I've covered. It's located near the bottom of the page. Thanks for stopping in!!

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Off Grid Power - Lessons Learned During a Recent Power Failure

Readers of my blog will remember the Battery Cart posts dealing with an off-grid power supply of my own design and construction. A few weeks ago, we had a windstorm which knocked out the mains power in my area for several hours. During that time, I was able to test the capabilities of my power supply. To follow are findings and lessons learned:

1) The Battery Cart worked as intended - maintaining some lights, operating radio and computer gear, and keeping my Internet modem energized.

2) My Internet Service Provider does NOT provide emergency power for its network. While my battery system performed admirably in keeping the equipment on MY END operating, I had no Internet service through my ISP. I had to rely on a "wireless hotspot" cellular modem to use the Internet. It was through the cell modem I was able to get online to learn of how widespread the outage actually was.

3) I have ANOTHER pair of batteries in the basement to power the sump pump during an outage. And while the inverter I had SUPPOSEDLY could in theory run the sump pump, it was NOT able to start the sump pump in reality. I had NOT actually tested this before the power failure because I hadn't had the inverter that long. Note to self: GET an inverter that WILL run the sump pump - or risk having a flooded basement during a REAL emergency. I purchased a new, heavier duty inverter which came in the mail a few days ago. It needs to be tested ASAP.

4) "Op-Sec", or operations security. My next door neighbor came over and asked me if I knew what happened with the power - AND how it was I still had power. From outside, as it was getting toward dusk, he saw my ONE work light shining through the living room blinds. Silently, I pointed to the green battery cart sitting next to my work table. He replied "Oh my God, I forgot you had that big battery!" The point of this is that others WILL notice if you are running lights, or your TV, and WILL investigate to see how you are lit up when the other houses are dark. This could be a serious security breach during a prolonged crisis. Note to self: Have some tarps, thick sheets, blankets, whatever as "black-out drapes" if you are going to use lighting inside during early morning/evening or nighttime hours. Likewise, keeping the ham/shortwave radio or any music turned down would be a wise suggestion - don't attract unwanted attention to yourself by running your stereo loud enough for passersby or neighbors to hear.

5) "IP Phones". I already knew this, but if you have an "internet phone" such as provided through "AT&T U-verse" or Time Warner's Cable voice service, you will very likely lose your phone service during a power failure for the same reason I lost my regular Internet service - see point #2 above. These new "IP Phone systems" are NOT like the old POTS [Plain Ol' Telephone Service] lines of old that DID stay up for a time during power outages. Having a cell phone as a backup, even if you normally use a wired "house phone", is important. My elderly mom learned this the hard way when SHE lost her power and the UPS that ran the "AT&T U-Verse box" failed after 30 minutes. I don't know whether or not this has changed from a year ago, but when my mom got her IP Phone system, AT&T did NOT even offer a backup battery in their units!!

6) TEST your equipment REGULARLY! I can't stress this enough. Exercising your equipment regularly will familiarize you with its use, its strengths and weaknesses, and also will quite likely reveal maintenance issues BEFORE they become a show-stopper during "the real deal".

Anyway, I hope these pointers help someone.