How to survive a hurricane with Backup Power. Part 2.

Once again our friend, Neal, has incredibly great advice for keeping your house from being without power. You too will be awed by the results!!

Hi John,

Since a lot of us are thinking about storms these days, I’d like to remind everyone, especially folks new to making their own power, that you probably have a perfectly good, heavy duty generator out in the driveway. Yep, your car. Some of them will even produce 110 volts with no added equipment.  If you also have a golf cart in the garage, you already have an 8-10 kwh battery bank you can use in an emergency by adding a $200 inverter.

Looking back at a hurricane that took our power out for 5 weeks, we started out not having any idea how long the power would be out.  I was reluctant to drag the 3500 lb. diesel generator out of the barn if I didn’t have to. We had an automatic battery backup system for the lights that we could tap into for the kitchen basics, but that would reduce the battery life to two days. Initially we powered two fridges, microwave, coffeemaker and TV from our cars.

Alternating between an F250 and a big, red Chrysler LHS, we used the running vehicles’ batteries and an inverter to make the 110 for a few days. (DON’T do this with the cars in a closed garage or you could die!!!) After we got the chainsaw and tractor to move enough trees to make the  half-mile run to the street the challenge was to clear a mile of street to get to an escape route to a main highway. There were miles-long stretches of rural roads with not a single power pole left standing. By that time it was pretty clear it was going to take a while to get the grid back up. I shut down the car and dragged out the diesel. I ran it a little in the mornings and evenings to charge the 8 GC batteries in the backup system and give a little 220 for the water heater, stove, clothes dryer etc. (With that scheme we had a fairly normal lifestyle and only burned 43 gallons of diesel the whole time.)

Meanwhile, I loaded up a trailer with batteries and an inverter for Mom’s house so she could keep her fridge going, charging the batteries from her minivan. We even pulled a hand-operated antique washing machine I had on loan to the museum so she could do laundry. The neighbors were awed.

In Pensacola, my brother had a manual battery backup system (inverter, 4 GC batteries and a Rubbermaid tote) on the balcony of his townhouse. A set of heavy cables from his pickup truck kept them charged.

Getting one of John’s Sun Electronics DC emergency kits is a good way to get started toward maintaining a bit of normalcy after a storm and with the inexpensive solar panels he has, you might not even need to run the car for power. He also has everything you need to put together an automatic battery backup like I had. That is a great building block if you want to add solar panels later.

Just having some lights on during and after a storm is a tremendous boost to morale. Make your power backup plans BEFORE the storm. Don’t overlook resources you already have and be sure to top up your tanks while the pumps are running and the lines are short.–Neal



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