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Long term planning for power outages

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by Badfish740, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    I have started use deep cycle in my truck .I make too many short trips and the regular batteries just dont hold up in those conditions. If i add a higher amp alternator it would make an excellent generator although use a lot of gas.

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  2. btuser

    btuser Minister of Fire

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    Even though it's a big battery (495lbs) it's listed at 18 kw/h. I know it's juice in it's pure form so let's say 90% efficient. If a gas generator (5kw) is only 30% efficient, and runs about 1/2 the time doing nothing it's true efficiency is only 15%. You could do better by shutting down and only using a few hours/day but I don't roll that way. I'm a (bt)user.

    There's 36 kw/gallon in gasoline, so the volt at 90% (18kw/h * .9 = 16.2 kw/h storage) and a generator at 15% (36kw/h * .15 = 5.4kw/h per gallon) you're storing only 3 gallons of gas in the Volt in the battery. I'd love to know the efficiency of the Volt's charging circuit (I'd imagine close to 30%) so I could do the numbers. It may turn out to be much better than your typical generator due to the battery's storage buffer. It would act as built-in load shedding, and you'd only be using what you need as you need it. I'm sure the car is smart enough with just some software changes and the correct transfer switch.

    Of course, no matter how many warning stickers you put up a whole new group of people would be running their cars in the garage.
  3. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    I've got a sump pit in my finished basement about 18" from carpeting. After reviewing a LOT of options for my sump, I opted for a commercial battery backup pump....the "Watchdog Special" middle of the road...not their cheapest or their most expensive. Thinking about it for a while, I came up with a lot of scenarios that it covered...when I'm asleep or out of town during that freak thunderstorm, when the (quality) primary pump fails for some reason, when the genny running the primary quits for a couple minutes during a maximum water event, when the genny won't start and can't be revived quickly, etc. The commercial system also has a 'low water' alarm on the battery, which will be a PITA when it goes off, but better than a dead battery. Folks on the internet don't like the batteries Watchdog sells, say they only last a couple years. Whatever, I want the piece of mind and my local hardware store sells them. I sized out the battery to nominally cover the Irene event last year (~6" rain). Etc.

    During this event I had my HF genny ready to go, and ran the primary sump off that during the major water. And I still had backup if the genny failed.

    My (cheapo) plan for my all-electric, flood-prone house is:
    $250 for the backup sump
    $100 for the HF genny
    $65 for nice steel 5 gal Jerry can, a 1 gallon oil-gas mixing jug, stash of 2-stroke oil, plugs, etc.
    $50 for a bunch of indoor extension cords.
    $35 Coleman propane camp stove and some 1 lb tanks
    existing wood insert.

    On day 4 w/o power we still have space heat, a fridge, a dry basement, plenty of CFL light, can cook, and had warm water in the DHW tank.

    I am currently considering wiring in a manual transfer switch and getting something like a 2000W inverter generator.....but I'll prob wait a couple months and then decide if I still want. The wife likes her comforts...I may do it for her.
  4. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    Have you considered a water powered sump pump? I just hooked up one and that baby pumps some serious water.
  5. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    I did but nixed it b/c I wanted something 'automatic', and for the water power then it would have to be hard plumbed and in my finished basement that would be tough to run the supply. During Irene my mid-size Zoeller primary was only running ~50% duty cycle (for about 36 hours). The battery guy could (nominally) cover that w/o help.
  6. Seasoned Oak

    Seasoned Oak Minister of Fire

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    My water meter is 2 feet away fron my sump so it was an easy install. Wont work if you are on a well that needs an electric pump. I also have two sumps the second if and when the pump fails in the first one .
  7. Highbeam

    Highbeam Minister of Fire

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    Thinking about downsizing from a Champion 4000 that gets 12 hours from 5 gallons to a honda 2000i for cleaner power, better fuel economy, and quietness.

    I have a standard fridge in the house and a relatively modern upright freezer in the garage. Can a 2000 honda handle these two firing up at the same time? It's not about the plated amperage of the firdges, it's about the surge load so how does your honda 2000 do?
  8. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    I had the same concerns, and also considered operating costs.

    I read that they use a gallon of water for every 2 gallons pumped. We have had storms that overwhelmed my 1/3HP pedestal pump - probably 2500-3000 gph. using 1500gph from the city water to pump that would cost me $15 dollars per hour at our tiered water rates (and it would only take 10hrs running at that rate to push me into tier 3 rates and drive the cost to $30 per hour).
  9. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Since we are talking pumps. Our problem is a stone basement and a high water table. In 2010 the spring rains started to overwhelm our primary 1/3hp and it was running 24/7. So I want a backup capable of 2000+ gph @5ft

    In that size range Im looking at around $800-$900 for a decent system. One example is the Zoeller 510 which uses a high quality 12v Marine bilge pump (Rule 4000) and gets about 6 -7 hr runtime on an 80Ah battery. But its almost $700 before you even buy the battery!

    Doing some investigation I determined I could piece together my own setup using individual components, and add more capacity and extra house backup capability for similar money.

    A setup Im considering:

    Rule 4000 pump (10A @ 12v) - $200 (from a marine supply house)
    piping and float switch - $75
    Universal Battery Group 4 deep cycle 200Ah 12v - $350
    Powermax 35A 3 stage deep cycle charger/maintainer - $100 (from solar/backup power supply houses)
    Xantrex 600watt pure sinewave inverter $150
    wiring, box/misc $100
    Total: $950



    For about $100 more than a canned system I get over double the backup pump runtime and the ability to run some light 12v and 120v loads around the house. In a long outage I could charge the battery off the generator for 2-3 hr twice a day and run the pump, laptops even a small TV all day. Also the battery and charger are probably better quality and longer lasting than the stuff in those canned battery sump systems.

    This is just one option I pieced together on a couple hours research. I am going to do more research before buying anything.
  10. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    I've spent a good deal of time thinking about this sort of thing and here is what I currently have in-place. Background - live in NEOhio in a 1970 split level. Well insulated, wood heat (gas backup), can live in the lower level in the summer comfortably without AC.

    Water - relatively shallow well with submersible well pump. I can run the well pump off of my generator (wired into transfer switch - more details below) or, for longer term outages, I can yank the pump and use a well bucket. Further, I have a Big Berkey water filter, keep campden tablets (handy hard cider also), iodine crystals, and bleach on hand - variety of ways to filter water. I have access to multiple rain barrels along with local spring.

    Heat - hey, this is hearth.com! PE insert in lower level of home, Napolean 1150P in kitchen level. Can use the two burners to convenienty cook with wood indoors if necessary.

    Electric - I have a manual transfer switch wired in to my main panel. I have a 7200W continuous duty gas generator. I keep it full of gas, keep 20 gallons of gas arond for short-term storage (very frequently rotated with the gas used for mowing/tilling), and an additional 20 gallons of gas that has been treated for long-term storage. I rotate the treated gas annually. My plan with the generator is not to replicate "life as usual", but to cycle the well pump, charge deep cycle batteries, etc. I also have an 800 watt inverter that I can use off of the vehicles. Principle tasks for it are (1) cycle the deep freezers in the garage and (2) power sump pump if necessary.

    Basement - very active sump pump with heavy rain. I have a 1/2 horse sump which is AC. Watchdog backup sump pump which performed well ealier this week during its first real test. I also keep a second duplicate AC sump with pvc pre-installed so that if the primary one dies, I can swap on the fly. Finally, I have another generic backup pump for either the basement, back patio, or whatever might need it. This is stored in a 5 gallon bucket with hole drilled in it so I can plop it down where ever it is needed. Garden house and extension cord are kept coiled inside of the bucket for fast transportation and setup.

    Future plans - I'm currently planning a deep cycle battery bank that can be trickle charged with solar, charged with grid AC, or charged via the gas generator when it's operating. I'd like this to run both small-draw items like fans as well as be able to cycle the battery backup sump. I'm ordering a second DC pump as back up to the Watchdog. In an extended outage, I wonder how long that small DC pump would last with frequent cycling? Also looking at expanding my rain water storage with IBCs instead of the smaller rain barrels I currently use.
  11. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Tim-

    You seem to be thinking along the same lines I was, just more/bigger loads. What capacity battery bank where you thinking of?
  12. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Not sure yet - I need to figure out power consumption of the battery backup pump and time its cycling rate.
  13. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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  14. semipro

    semipro Minister of Fire

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    All this talk of combinations of bigger and smaller generators makes me wonder if you use a smaller, quieter, efficient generator like Honda 2000 augmented with some batteries and an inverter/charger to handle both the constant loads like lights and fridge as well as short-term higher loads like well pumps.

    You could either run the generator constantly and use the additional capacity of the batteries/inverter only for high loads or (more elegantly) you could size the battery/inverter combination to handle all loads with the generator coming on only as needed to recharge the batteries. (I realize that this generator is not electric start but I'm talking conceptually here).

    The battery/inverter setup (basically a UPS) could handle short outages without any generator.

    Doesn't sound cheap or easy though.
  15. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    That's kind of what Im doing... It wouldn't make economic sense except for the fact that I already have the generator and need the battery setup no mater what for the sump backup. I *think* its not much added cost to make the battery take double duty which is why I'm considering it.

    The trick is the generator has to be sized just a little bigger than your averaged load so it can recharge the batteries between power spikes. In effect you are building a power system for the house that works like a gas/electric hybrid. which is another part of the motivation here - its kind of a fun engineering project :) Oh the fun Id have designing and building a system if I lived in an off grid cabin someplace he he he



    (OTOH If I lived in a house didnt have any pump loads to worry about I'd get he Honda 1600w inverter gen only and be done with it.)
  16. woodgeek

    woodgeek Minister of Fire

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    I had drawn up a similar system at one point, and thought about getting a magnum inverter/charger that would autoswitch a couple 120V circuits (for $600 more than your charger and inverter)....but never pulled the trigger.

    I guess it comes down to whether the 'overwhelm' events only happen rarely and with large advance warning (like a hurricane) or if they can also happen sporadically (i.e. a good 'once in every few years' thunderstorm). If the latter is possible....then you do def need a bigger automatic system.

    Looks like your total cost is comparable to a (quality) 2000W inverter generator that would be capable of powering a 1/2hp or larger pump (a more conventional option). And the battery system would likely be 'zero down time' unlike a generator. And with this system you could get a 'cheaper' or smaller generator to keep the system going for long duration events....
  17. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    I'd like to get to the point where I need the generator only to charge a battery bank - the battery bank could manage all loads (not simultaneously). I'd also like a better way to store more fuel than 5 gallon cans (I store these in a metal cabinet made for storing flammables).

    You guys with the whole-house generators (like the Generac) - are you able to control when it comes on line manually? It seems that most of these setups have either a timer and turn on after detecting no grid power after a set time period or are designed to turn on almost immediately? I like the idea of one that is hard plumbed into a natural gas line, but would still like manual control. I can envision any sceranio where I'd need or want to run any generator constantly - they are simply too loud and inefficient.
  18. peakbagger

    peakbagger Minister of Fire

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    GIve it a few years, small natural gas fired fuel cells are getting close.
  19. maverick06

    maverick06 Minister of Fire

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    There are lots of questions here that dictate what you want. Be it the electric hot water heater, the AC or just the fridge? I got tired of the power outages and bought a little inverter generator so that i could power all my electrics safely. Its been wonderful. I just lent the generator out to my aunt a few wiles away who is still without power. It will only power the small stuff (2000watt) but it does all that i need. But this all depends on your needs, for me, its perfect, thanks to my insert! maybe not for you.
  20. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    That sounds like a big battery... like off grid house size.......
  21. jharkin

    jharkin Minister of Fire

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    Do you have a model #? I thought those magnum energy inverters where big $$$$. I did see one Xantrex unit - the Prosine 2.0 - that has a 2kw inverter, charger (100A) and auto transfer circuits, but even that was over $1200... and way overkill for small backup needs. Probably need over 500Ah of battery to feed that beast.
  22. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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    Two thoughts on water pumping; I think they make 110 submersibles and probably soft start models that don't require the high starting amps, also, it seems to me that a large water holding tank in the basement with a booster (or hand or pedal) pump would supply plenty of emergency water. You could even have the tank in the attic or buried above the house for gravity feed.

    Ehouse
  23. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    Not really - my disclaimer in ( ) of "not simultaneously is key. The biggest draw items I have are my well pump and sump pump.

    Regarding water pumping - you can move water all day long with small, 12V pumps if you don't have to work too hard against gravity. Not much volume, but but it work.
  24. timfromohio

    timfromohio Minister of Fire

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    The best water situation I can think of is artesian well or spring above house level coupled with a cistern feeding into the house via gravity. Of course, I'm sure our modern landscape is just teeming with properties ripe for this setup!
  25. Ehouse

    Ehouse Minister of Fire

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    Next best would be to create this set up with a wind mill water pump or hydraulic ram pump.

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