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.

Off Grid Ham: Grounding Your Off Grid System

Chris Warren over at Off Grid Ham has a nice article about the often confusing concept and execution of system grounding in Grounding Your Off Grid System. He’s not just talking about grounding your communications gear, but also your solar panels, and generators. Don’t get burned; learn to ground.

It’s hard to follow.

One issue that seems to come up a lot in the off grid radio realm is proper system grounding. The rules and expectations are hard to follow. There are a lot of opinions out there. Many of them are accurate, others are not. Today we’ll go over some basic grounding principles for off grid ham radio. This is by no means a comprehensive guide.

All the same basic grounding concerns with commercial power also apply to off grid energy. Electricity does not behave differently just because it comes from a renewable source. Finally, lightning does not discriminate!

What exactly is “ground”?

In the most simple terms, “ground” is a reference point. If you remember your basic electricity training for your amateur radio license, voltage is an expression of potential energy. However, potential doesn’t mean anything unless it is compared to something. For example, if you are standing on the roof of your house you have potential energy (via gravity) when compared to your yard. If you are laying flat on your back in your yard you have no potential energy compared to the yard because, after all, you’re already in the yard. You can’t fall if you’re already down, right?

Electrical grounding works the same way. Electricity needs a place to go, and it will not go anywhere without potential. Ground provides an electrical reference point. This has many implications for the operational effectiveness and safety of your off grid system.

Grounding outdoor equipment.

If electricity needs a place to go, it’s best for it to have a defined safe path instead of letting it find its own way. Off grid hams should place a high priority on grounding antennas and solar panels.

Connect (bond) solar panel frames together with 6 gauge copper wire attached to a conductive metal pipe or rod pounded into the ground. Be sure also to connect any metal support structures. Grounding lugs made specifically for solar panels are available from many sources including (of course) Amazon. Ground rods should be at least six and preferably eight feet deep. Getting a ground rod down that far will be a problem for many hams. You can substitute two or more shorter rods in place of one long one (be sure to bond the rods to each other).

GROUNDING

OFFGRIDHAM.COM ORIGINAL GRAPHIC ©2019

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

Honda Recalls Some 2200 Generators

From the Consumer Protection Safety Commission:

Name of product:
Honda EU2200i, EU2200i Companion and EB2200i Portable Generators
Hazard:
The portable generator can leak gasoline from the fuel valve, posing fire and burn hazards.
Remedy:
Repair
Recall date:
March 20, 2019
Units:
About 200,000
Consumer Contact:

American Honda toll-free at 888-888-3139 from 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at https://powerequipment.honda.com/ and click on “Recalls and Updates” at the bottom of the page for more information.

Recall Details

Description:

This recall involves Honda EU2200i, EU2200i Companion and EB2200i portable generators. The recalled portable generators were sold with a red or Camo cover. The names “HONDA” and the generator model name are printed on the control panel. The serial number is located on a lower corner of one of the side panels of the generator. The following model numbers and serial number ranges are being recalled:

 

 

Model START SERIAL NUMBER END SERIAL NUMBER
EB2200iTA EAJT-1000001 EAJT-1005474
EU2200iTA

EU2200iTA1

EU2200iTA2

EAMT-1000001 EAMT-1260796
Remedy:

Consumers should immediately stop using the recalled generators and contact a local authorized Honda Power Equipment service dealer to schedule a free repair. Honda is contacting all known purchasers directly.

Incidents/Injuries:

Honda has received 19 reports of fuel leaking from the fuel valve.  No injuries have been reported.

Sold At:

Authorized Honda Power Equipment Dealers and The Home Depot and other home improvement stores nationwide and online from February 2018 through February 2019 for about $1,100 to $1,300.

Manufacturer(s):

Thai Honda, of Thailand

Importer(s):

American Honda Motor Company Inc., of Torrance, Calif.

Manufactured In:
Thailand
Recall number:
19-088

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