Friday, March 11, 2011

Back-up Power

"Marriage has no guarantees. If that's what you're looking for, go live with a car battery."
-Erma Bombeck
One of the items on my to-do list is to get a backup power generator. But there are so many issues and questions. What size, how does it work? And there are dangers: it must be used outdoors, gasoline must be stored, etc.

A good starting point is an How Emergency Power Systems Work from HowStuffWorks.com. There are 6+ pages in the series so be sure to read each:

  1. Introduction to How Emergency Power Systems Work
  2. Emergency Power Options and Goals
  3. Understanding Your Power Needs
  4. Choosing Between an Inverter and a Generator
  5. Hooking the Power into Your House
  6. Lots More Information
Some of the things I learned:
- add a gas stabilizer for gas stored more than one month
- know the peak pull of an appliance. A fridge may not pull much juice while idling but when the compressor turns out, power pull will spike. Many sites on efficient energy usage only report the average power used.
- consider alternating appliances. Run the fridge to cool it down, then unplug it and let the well pump increase the water pressure. Both won't work at the same time but you can stagger usage.

Bottom Line

There's an alternative to gas powered generators now, power inverters. Inverters attach to large batteries (like a car battery) and convert the direct current to alternating current for appliances. There are quiet and safe and affordable in small sizes. Sadly not so cheap for 5000 watt sizes and they may only last for a few hours to a day at best.

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