Organic Prepper: How to Deal with Rolling Blackouts: Notes from South Africa

In this article from the Organic Prepper, a South African writes notes about dealing with rolling blackouts and alternate forms of power like generators and solar power. It has some good information on battery cycles and reducing your loads. While I haven’t seen as much damage to equipment from power outages as the author of the article, it does happen. Some power utilities will help you put in a whole house surge suppressor. Our local utility will put one in at the meter for around $6 per month charge.

Living in South Africa we have had our share of rolling blackouts nationally. The cause: nefarious activities. The result being us forced to find ways to ensure we are not affected as badly.

The problem is better now, but it has highlighted that it is not just a South African problem, but in actual fact a Western world problem. We all are totally reliant on a massive aging infrastructure that can come tumbling down like a house of cards, with or without help.

Another problem is the cost to keep the national system operational. In some areas, it is not a priority to resolve the regular failures.

For getting started with backup power, remember that NEEDs vs WANTs –  a huge price difference.

  • UPSs – with like 2 up to 8 100ah batteries. Good for a number of hours depending on use – most cost-effective solution
  • Generators – works for some, but cheap ones cost more as they damage some electrical appliances over time.
  • Solar inverters and panels – power failures, what is that? And you save a lot of money afterward IF YOU DO IT RIGHT.

What is also good to know, when the power goes off, switch off your distribution board, leaving just the light plugs on. When the power comes back on, lights come on, wait a few minutes for the grid to stabilize, before switching things on. We have lost computers, internet modes, freezers/fridges, alarm systems etc, damaged when the grid goes off and back comes on. UPS’es have the best protection for this.

How does one solve the issues from frequent blackouts?

Here are some pertinent notes from my own experience.

  • Older fridges/freezers have a huge start-up current, necessitating a bigger inverter and they use a lot of kWh over 24 hours. Upgrade them to an A++ or even A+++ model, as soon as you can. It will save you on utilities and can be powered longer on batteries.
  • Lights: obviously CFL and / or LED, and not cheap LEDs. They are cheap for a reason. Test the wattage, it may be more than the claimed wattage “saving” you nothing. Check the claims lumens.
  • Putting lights on solar is not a “savings”. It is actually an increase in cost for batteries are more expensive per kWh than utility power costs per kWh because lights are use when there is no solar power. So switch to the best lumens for the lowest watts, and switch the light off when not in use, biggest saving ever.
  • Stove/oven/kettle – entire kitchen – on solar power is doable, but expensive. Utilities are cheaper. Kettle take few minutes to boil, microwave also a few minutes, why spend more on inverter and batteries to power them. Use gas. Gas per unit of power may not be cheaper than utilities. Check what you are paying for each.
    Maximum savings are: Switch off at the wall, not in standby, for all the standby power adds up to a lot of power paid for, yet not used.
  • When all the occupants of a house are asleep, say 11pm – 5am – how much power is used during that time? Excluding alarms and outside lights – which have a motion sensor to switch on. Figure this out and find places to cut.

The Rules of Running Backup Power Efficiently

Right, now that you have a few notes to consider, here are the rules that we have found important when using backup power like a generator.

The very first rule: NEEDs vs WANTs

Needs are much cheaper than wants, like you WANT to power your entire house during a power failure, or do you just NEED to power very selected devices like a fridge, lights, cell phone chargers?

The second rule: Know your loads and runtimes and match the batteries to that…

Click here to continue reading at the Organic Prepper.

Washington Examiner: Start Prepping! Electric Grid ‘Prime Target’

The Washington Examiner has a short article up summarizing the findings of a recent 90+ page National Infrastructure Advisory Council report on Catastrophic Power Outage Start prepping! Electric grid ‘prime target’ of terrorists, ‘profound threat,’ says council.

In a new report that warns that the electric grid is the “prime target” of terrorists, Americans are being urged prepare for the up to six months without electricity, transportation, fuel, money, and healthcare.

“People no longer keep enough essentials within their homes, reducing their ability to sustain themselves during an extended, prolonged outage. We need to improve individual preparedness,” said a just-published report to President Trump.

“There needs to be more individual accountability for preparedness,” adds the report, “Surviving a Catastrophic Power Outage,” from the President’s National Infrastructure Advisory Council and published by the Department of Homeland Security.

It looked at the potential of a power outage of up to six months and recommended Americans have enough supplies on hand for a minimum 14 days, a standard for some prepper organizations.

“Build a Culture of Preparedness includes objectives to incentivize investments that reduce risk, including pre-disaster mitigation; closing the insurance gap; helping people prepare for disasters; and better learn from past disasters, improve continuously, and innovate,” said a key recommendation… A prior governmental report also called for presidential action to protect the grid. That report warned of a threat to world order in an attack…

Some of those warnings from the report are below:

  • Given the growing frequency and severity of disasters and other risks, there needs to be an increase in individual accountability, enterprise, and community investment in resilient infrastructure.
  • There is a misconception that events occur infrequently.
  • There needs to be more individual accountability for preparedness.
  • Resilience at the state and local level will be critical to enable people to shelter in place and facilitate faster recovery. Any event that requires a mass evacuation will use up critical resources, clog transportation pathways, and reduce the workforce necessary for infrastructure recovery.
  • Electricity, fuel, clean drinking water, wastewater services, food/refrigeration, emergency medical services, communications capabilities, and some access to financial services have been identified as critical lifeline services that would be needed to sustain local communities and prevent mass migration.

Read the entire Examiner article by clicking here.

Off Grid Ham: Introduction to AC Inverters

From Chris at Off Grid Ham, An Introduction to AC Inverters. Even if you’re already happily running all of your ham radio equipment off grid, at some point you might wish you could run something that wants 120V AC. If you’re not a ham radio operator, and you’re looking into running some household stuff from a battery/solar system, then you also are probably interested in learning something about AC inverters.

AC inverters are like other technology in that during the early  years they were very expensive and didn’t work particularly well. Over time they were tweaked and improved and today inverters are better and less expensive than their ancestors. I suggest including an inverter in your off grid plans even if you don’t think you need one because the day may come when it will be an essential asset. Furthermore, if you have any intentions of owning a larger solar energy system to power common household devices, then a familiarity with AC inverters is a must…There are three basic types of AC inverters on the market: Square wave, modified sine wave, and pure sine wave. Which one will work for you depends on what you plan on powering and of course your budget…

Click here to read the entire article at Off Grid Ham.

Champion 7000/9000 Generator on Sale at Costco

Costco in Kennewick is currently having a sale on the Champion Dual Fuel 7000 watt generator. This generator sold for $799 a couple of years ago, and currently sells for $699 on Costco’s website.  In store, it is on sale now for less than $550.

The Champion Power Equipment 100419 7000-Watt Dual Fuel Portable Generator is the perfect combination of versatility and convenience. Whether you need power for your home or next project, Champion Power Equipment makes powering your life more convenient than ever.

The convenient electric start includes a battery, plus Cold Start Technology ensures a quick start in cold weather.

Easily monitor power output and track maintenance intervals with Intelligauge, which allows you to keep track of voltage, hertz and run-time hours. Designed with a low oil shut-off sensor, this unit includes 1.2-quarts of 10W-30 oil.

Operate your Dual-Fuel generator right out of the box on gasoline or propane, and easily switch fuels with our patented fuel selector switch that allows for safe switching between fuel sources.

Using gasoline, the 439cc Champion engine produces 9000 starting watts and 7000 running watts, and will run for 11.5 hours at 50% load when the 8.5-gallon fuel tank is full. It produces 8100 starting watts and 6300 running watts, and will run for 5.5 hours at 50% load when using a 20-pound propane tank. Also included is a 3.3-foot propane hose with a built-in regulator.

With a noise level of 74 dBA from 23 feet, which is a bit louder than a vacuum, this machine can provide home backup in an outage, plus the Volt Guard™ built-in surge protector prevents overloads and keeps your equipment safe.

All the outlets have covers and include a 120/240V 30A (L14-30R) locking outlet and four 120V 20A GFCI protected household outlets (5-20R).

Champion’s thoughtful packaging and clear directions make setup hassle free, plus the foldaway U-shaped handle makes it easy to store, while the never-flat tires in the included wheel kit make transport a cinch.

Buy this EPA certified and CARB compliant generator with confidence – Champion Support and our nationwide network of service centers will back up your purchase with a 3-year limited warranty and FREE lifetime technical support.

Features:

  •  Dual Fuel – Operate your 7000-watt portable generator right out of the box on either gasoline or propane, plus the unit holds 1.2-quarts of oil (included) and has a low oil shut-off sensor
  • Electric start – Power up the 439cc Champion engine with the handy toggle switch, battery included
  • Intelligauge – Keep track of voltage, hertz and run-time hours to easily monitor power output and track maintenance intervals
  • Powerful – At 9000 starting watts and 7000 running watts on gasoline and 8100 starting watts and 6300 running watts on propane, trust Volt Guard™ built-in surge protector to prevent overloads
  • Champion Support – Includes 3-year limited warranty with FREE lifetime technical support from dedicated experts

Items Included: Smart Charger, Engine Oil, Wheel Kit, Oil Funnel, Propane (LPG) Hose, Battery