John’s latest email ad blast warns of storms, fire, floods and just about everything short of a Biblical plague of locusts. The point is to get you busy on putting together a backup power system. From there, solar is easy.
Sure enough, first day of Hurricane Season, a storm forms in the Gulf. It is the darndest thing, though. It formed near the panhandle and headed down toward Cuba, where it petered out, giving South Florida a good rinse.
But since then, thunderstorms have been beating us up in the panhandle. A few minutes ago I was seriously considering hiding under the bed with this current storm that is raging. The only way I can write this is that I am on backup power, because the grid conked out.
The power just came back on, yesterday, after a two day outage, but the storms come daily. I took my solar boat Sun King over to neighbor Connie’s house to provide power when her generator would not start. The big lithium battery pack is great.
Yes, it is a boat, but it has a 16.6 kwh battery, solar and a 5kw inverter. Useful during a power outage. Photo: Sun King on Pensacola Bay by Nicole Long.
We’ve quit measuring rainfall in inches. We’ve gone to how many feet the river is up. Peeking out the window, I see that I have some more trees down in the yard and I really need to fix the massive hole in the barn roof.
So, does that make John, Sun Electronics’ owner, a prophet? No, he’s just old enough to have figured out that history repeats itself. Bad things happen all the time and you need to be prepared. If you want to call him anything, call him a Solar Evangelist, as he has been preaching solar for half a century, now.
In the meantime, though, seriously, you need to be ready, because something will happen. It’s the law: Murphy’s Law. Take Connie’s generator, for example, she had not run it in 3 years and it still had the same gas in it. To her credit, she uses non-ethanol gas and it stores better, but by the time her friend George got it running, it was pretty raggedy sounding. A surging generator is not good for your appliances. My own gasoline generator needs to be run and have fresh gas put in. When I put it away, last year, I made sure the carb was empty by running it with the fuel valve shut off. The gasoline generator is backup to my two diesel generators, which are backup to my solar and batteries. That’s right, old Uncle Neal doesn’t like sitting in the dark.
That email ad I mentioned has a dandy backup power system advertised cheap. It is very similar to the one I had for so many years, except I paid a lot more. 2kw inverter, lots of batteries and assorted cables. This is not solar, but solar is easily added, when your budget is up to it, especially at John’s sale price of 12 cents per watt. You can wire this system up in the garage and use it like a portable generator. Since the inverter is also a charger, you can wire in, or have wired, a sub panel or a generator panel (Check Lowes or Home Depot) and put everything in a nice enclosure, or maybe a “doghouse” in the back yard. Lights, fridge, microwave, coffee pot and maybe a a smaller TV (for weather updates) go on this emergency circuit.
My early backup system had a few more watts and ran on 24 volts, but the 12v system can actually be handier because you can recharge it with your car (not with the garage door closed). Why buy a noisy generator when you already have a 4000 lb generator with a big tank in the driveway? From experience, the system John is selling will keep the lights going for 4 days and you’ll be able to run Mr. Coffee and the microwave. If you want to plug in the fridge, cut that back to 2 days without recharging.
It would be a good idea to have a little stock of camp-style food that is easy to fix with the hot water from the Keurig (oatmeal, noodle cups, cocoa, soup) or easily nuked in the Radar Range. There are portable induction cookers and butane stoves that are great for emergencies and camping. Walmart and Cabelas and such places sell buckets of emergency or camping food that will store for years.
I always keep some MREs, too. They last a long time, but not forever. My stock from the 1980s has been declared hazmat. I donated a couple of cases to an Army instructor who teaches how to inspect MREs. He has not asked for more. My Hurricane Katrina MREs are now a little iffy. If the bag is bulging, save the cocoa, coffee and matches and toss the rest to the raccoons. They will eat anything, except Vienna sausage.
Well, this round of storms has passed. Guess I need to get out the chainsaw and see if I can tow the solar boat over to Connie’s. You, check your generator, freshen up your gas cans and lay in some groceries. Consider a battery backup system, too, if not full-on solar.