Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

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Call_Me_Op
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Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:24 am

I live in the Northeast and we typically get several brutal "Northeasters" every winter. These storms essentially trap me in my house (I live alone and have back issues) due to extreme snow drifts, can have hurricane force winds, and are often followed by zero F or subzero F temperatures. I have never lost power (over a decade) during the winter - at least not for more than a few minutes - but for the past several years I have worried "what if...what if I lose power (and heat) during one of these blizzards." I have forced hot-water by gas heat. The heating needs electricity to run. If I were to lose power for (say) a few days, my hydrionic heating pipes could freeze and could cause a real problem. More importantly, I might not survive.

So I have been wracking my head over what I should do to address this theoretical possibility. Here are 3 options I am considering, but wish to draw upon the wisdom in this forum. I am trying to avoid resorting to option 1.

1.) Plan to try to get a plumber in to drain the heating system (may not be possible due to weather and overwhelming demand) and get myself (somehow -maybe with help from authorities) to a hotel or other shelter. I would need to somehow get through large snow drifts, or get help shoveling a path.

2.) Spend $6000 on a gas heating stove (direct vent) that may never be needed. These can run without AC electricity.

3.) Spend $10,000+ on a standby generator that may never be needed. One concern here is I am in a neighborhood with houses fairly close together. I am in an urban/suburban area. The concerns here would be noise and I might stick-out like a sore thumb because none of my neighbors have standby generators.

A portable generator is a non-starter for me. I have a bad back and no garage. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
Last edited by Call_Me_Op on Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:32 am, edited 1 time in total.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

PFInterest
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by PFInterest » Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:29 am

evacuate to Florida as needed.

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Watty
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Watty » Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:01 am

We have a natural gas insert with realistic looking fake logs in our fireplace that can run without electricity. We don't live in a harsh part of the country but we have had a few power outages in ice storms where we would turn that on to at least keep the living room from getting too cold. We actually like it since it is so easy to just turn on and when we go to bed we can just turn it off and close the fireplace flue and not have a draft.

We got it years ago but I don't recall it being terribly expensive since we already had a natural gas line near the fireplace.

In an emergency you would not want to have a dead cell phone so you might get a "cell phone battery power pack" and keep it charged so that you could use that if your cell phone battery went dead.
Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:24 am
my hydrionic heating pipes could freeze and could cause a real problem.
I had never heard of that so out of curiosity I Googled it.

If you Google "hydronic heating freeze protection" you will see lots of suggestions which at a glance seem to be centered around adding antifreeze to the system. Are you sure you don't already have that? The first step would be to contact your service company and ask them about what sort of freeze protection to use.

Call_Me_Op
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:11 am

Watty wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:01 am
Are you sure you don't already have that? The first step would be to contact your service company and ask them about what sort of freeze protection to use.
Hi Watty. Good question. I will have to find out.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

RickBoglehead
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by RickBoglehead » Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:24 am

Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:24 am
A portable generator is a non-starter for me. I have a bad back and no garage. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
A portable generator should NEVER be put into a garage. NEVER.

You can buy an electric start portable generator, store it outside with a cover on it, and keep the battery on a trickle charger. You would also need to keep an adequate supply of fuel, with conditioner in it, and stock that you regularly rotate, to ensure you can keep it running until power returns.

I've not gotten an estimate on a permanent generator, but "$10,000" seems high based on research I've done in the past, especially if you get one sized to your emergency needs only. I don't know what the concerns are about proximity to other homes and sticking out like a sore thumb - are you concerned that in a failure all your neighbors will be jealous that you have power?

No plumber is going to come and drain your heating system in times of crisis like a massive power failure in a blizzard.

Antifreeze in the heating pipes reduces efficiency (requiring a bigger system), and needs to be the proper type to not poison the water supply should the one-way valve fail. And it doesn't stop you from freezing to death.

Based on your description, there are steps you need to take to ensure your safety, and your current setup is unsafe.

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leeks
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by leeks » Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:31 am

As you live alone, I would see the highest priority is ability to communicate. Assuming you have a landline phone connection, ensure you have a handset that works without electricity. An extra cell phone battery (as mentioned above) or something equivalent also makes sense.

You mentioned that your houses are close together, that is perfect because your neighbors would be the most accessible source of help if you need it (to shovel you out, etc). Invest in those relationships. Seriously. Offer to help them once in a while (bringing in mail when they are out-of-town, feeding a cat, lending tools, back-up babysitting, receiving packages, drop off groceries if they are home sick, etc). Whatever is appropriate and that you are able to do. I'm not saying you have to spend a lot of time or money but if a couple times a year you find some kindness to do for a few of your closest neighbors, they will be more likely to come to your aid if needed. And make sure you have their phone numbers.

Maybe there is a neighbor you can hire to mow your lawn and regularly shovel snow, with the expectation that they would also be on hand for shoveling and any other assistance you might need in extreme weather. Maybe you buy a snow blower, and offer your adjacent neighbors use of it if they also do your walk/driveway. Maybe you mention that you have a great stockpile of candles/dry food/whiskey and you would love to share if there is a power outage in exchange for whatever help you need. A supply of cash on hand so you can offer to pay for things would also not hurt in case of a severe emergency situation.
Last edited by leeks on Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

pennybags873
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by pennybags873 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:39 am

Every part of the Country has different types of emergencies.
So, ask yourself, what do you want to be prepared for.
For me it's SNOW in the Winter and FLOODING in the Spring.

1) Canned Foods you could eat during a snow storm / 5 day supply.
2) 'Extra' Sump Pump all ready to be installed in ever needed.
3) Electric Space Heaters if your Furnace malfunctions.
4) Evacutation List of what you would need to take in a hurry.

Call_Me_Op
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:44 am

RickBoglehead wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:24 am
Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:24 am
A portable generator is a non-starter for me. I have a bad back and no garage. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
A portable generator should NEVER be put into a garage. NEVER.
Hi Rick,

I was thinking of a garage as a place to store the generator when not in use, and from which to wheel it outside when I would need to use it.

My inclination at this point is to have a permanent standby generator installed. It would be viewed as insurance. I may never need it - similar to other insurance. I know that in my situation, I cannot handle a portable generator. My hope is that I could locate it in an area that is not subject to snow drifts and raise it a few feet off the ground so I do not need to go out and clear the snow during a blizzard.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

Thegame14
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Thegame14 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:33 am

install a natural gas generator...... or get solar panels with a battery that can hold a charge for a few days.

Call_Me_Op
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:41 am

Thegame14 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:33 am
install a natural gas generator...... or get solar panels with a battery that can hold a charge for a few days.
Thanks - I am leaning that way (generator). The solar panels plus batteries is much more expensive.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

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jabberwockOG
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by jabberwockOG » Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:42 am

If you don't have friends or family nearby that can easily come rescue you I suggest you move to a nice warm place every year for the winter or just move permanently. The house can be winterized right before you leave and then opened back up when you come back. Your bad back will be even worse if you slip and fall on the ice and snow. Lots go folks to Florida or Arizona for 3-4 months every winter and if I lived up in the ice and snow zone I'd do the same.

easierfuture
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by easierfuture » Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:44 am

I don't know anything about home ownership, but I do spend a lot of time outdoors in the North Eastern winters.

As far as cold-temp survival goes, you can purchase a -20F sleeping bag for under $100. The clothing you already own, layered up, indoors, would probably be enough to survive the temps.

As far as food goes, you can purchase a Mountain House Survival Kit that will last 14 days for under $300. These packs will stay fresh for 20 years and only need boiling water to re-hydrate. You can use a cheap propane or isobutane camping stove to boil water. Isobutane performs better in extreme cold temps.

You can also get a few 15,000 mah USB battery packs for $20/each to keep your phone charged. A headlamp (with extra batteries) is also very useful to have due to the short days in the wintertime. Lithium batteries perform better in extreme cold temps.

Call_Me_Op
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:52 am

easierfuture wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:44 am
I don't know anything about home ownership, but I do spend a lot of time outdoors in the North Eastern winters.

As far as cold-temp survival goes, you can purchase a -20F sleeping bag for under $100. The clothing you already own, layered up, indoors, would probably be enough to survive the temps.

As far as food goes, you can purchase a Mountain House Survival Kit that will last 14 days for under $300. These packs will stay fresh for 20 years and only need boiling water to re-hydrate. You can use a cheap propane or isobutane camping stove to boil water. Isobutane performs better in extreme cold temps.
If I didn't have money due to my index fund investing, I would consider these rather uncomfortable-sounding alternatives. :)
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

Thegame14
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Thegame14 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:56 am

Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:41 am
Thegame14 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:33 am
install a natural gas generator...... or get solar panels with a battery that can hold a charge for a few days.
Thanks - I am leaning that way (generator). The solar panels plus batteries is much more expensive.
The solar panels plus battery also have a federal 30% credit, and you will not have an electric bills anymore and in some states you will earn Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SREC, I get about one per month and sell them for $200, so yes the solar panels cost $30K, but I get $9K back from Uncle Sam, and then save $2K a year on electricity costs and earn $2K a year in SRECS, so the $21K balance pays itself off in about 5 years, a natural gas generator you will pay about $8-10K may never use it and it has no other use. Also solar panels help save the environment.

easierfuture
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by easierfuture » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:17 am

Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:52 am
easierfuture wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:44 am
I don't know anything about home ownership, but I do spend a lot of time outdoors in the North Eastern winters.

As far as cold-temp survival goes, you can purchase a -20F sleeping bag for under $100. The clothing you already own, layered up, indoors, would probably be enough to survive the temps.

As far as food goes, you can purchase a Mountain House Survival Kit that will last 14 days for under $300. These packs will stay fresh for 20 years and only need boiling water to re-hydrate. You can use a cheap propane or isobutane camping stove to boil water. Isobutane performs better in extreme cold temps.
If I didn't have money due to my index fund investing, I would consider these rather uncomfortable-sounding alternatives. :)
First of all, there is nothing uncomfortable with any of these alternatives. Secondly, in the original post you mentioned that you may not survive. Would you rather survive with "uncomfortable-sounding alternatives", or die in luxury?

goodlifer
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by goodlifer » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:21 am

Are your power lines buried or do you have utility poles? Our are buried, so I don't worry too much about losing power in the winter, but I am concerned about brown-outs in the summer. If your main concern is powering the heating system, you should be able to get a smaller stand-by generator for much less the $10,000. We were quoted $11,000 for a whole house generator and we have kind of a large house. Or you could offer one of your neighbors an outlet if they agree to start your portable generator for you. That would probably be the cheapest option but the least reliable one. No one needs candles anymore. A few flashlights will be more than enough. Trust me when I say that candles can be dangerous, especially with curious cats and cats tend to run much faster than expected when they light themselves on fire. My cat was fine after a trip to the vet and some burn cream, btw. If you are going the canned food route, try to opt for tabbed cans. I also have a bad back and arthritis, and I cannot open a regular can without a powered can opener on any day. I keep a supply of freeze dried foods for camping and the packages are much easier to open compared to a can. For sleeping in the cold, I have the Teton Sports Deer Hunter -35 sleeping bag, and it is like sleeping in a soft, fuzzy furnace.

k73
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by k73 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:31 am

You appear to be approaching this as 'what if I lose power', but I would approach this as 'what if I lose heat' instead. There are other scenarios which would result in the same outcome, including your heater simply breaking down.

Another thing to keep in mind is, are you comfortable with your backup plan having a common single point of failure with your primary? For example, a standby generator would likely depend on gas. Are you ok with the risk that if the gas goes out, it'll simultaneously take out your heat and your backup plan for heat? What about your breaker box or other central points of your electrical system?

If you just want to address the possibility of power outage, another possible option is an electric car which can power your house. I haven't looked at the specs, but I've read they can be a viable option to a standby generator. Obviously depends on power requirements of your system and output of car battery bank. If you already have an electric car this could be a relatively easy option (compared to having a standby generator installed)

At some point, you just need to get out and deal with the potential mess when you get back, or pay someone else to deal with the mess. If you have health issues or are going to be dependent on others for some reason, you should figure out that point ahead of time and have a plan. And be at peace with the likelihood that you'll pull the trigger on this evacuation plan and be sitting in a hotel room somewhere when the weatherman says "wow, we really botched that forecast"

Nate79
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Nate79 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:33 am

Thegame14 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:56 am
Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:41 am
Thegame14 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:33 am
install a natural gas generator...... or get solar panels with a battery that can hold a charge for a few days.
Thanks - I am leaning that way (generator). The solar panels plus batteries is much more expensive.
The solar panels plus battery also have a federal 30% credit, and you will not have an electric bills anymore and in some states you will earn Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SREC, I get about one per month and sell them for $200, so yes the solar panels cost $30K, but I get $9K back from Uncle Sam, and then save $2K a year on electricity costs and earn $2K a year in SRECS, so the $21K balance pays itself off in about 5 years, a natural gas generator you will pay about $8-10K may never use it and it has no other use. Also solar panels help save the environment.
Do solar panels really work in a deep snow emergency situation? I would think they would be covered with snow and not provide any power. Kind of defeats the purpose.

Call_Me_Op
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:43 am

easierfuture wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:17 am
Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:52 am
easierfuture wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:44 am
I don't know anything about home ownership, but I do spend a lot of time outdoors in the North Eastern winters.

As far as cold-temp survival goes, you can purchase a -20F sleeping bag for under $100. The clothing you already own, layered up, indoors, would probably be enough to survive the temps.

As far as food goes, you can purchase a Mountain House Survival Kit that will last 14 days for under $300. These packs will stay fresh for 20 years and only need boiling water to re-hydrate. You can use a cheap propane or isobutane camping stove to boil water. Isobutane performs better in extreme cold temps.
If I didn't have money due to my index fund investing, I would consider these rather uncomfortable-sounding alternatives. :)
First of all, there is nothing uncomfortable with any of these alternatives. Secondly, in the original post you mentioned that you may not survive. Would you rather survive with "uncomfortable-sounding alternatives", or die in luxury?
A rhetorical question I assume. :)
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

Call_Me_Op
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:48 am

k73 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:31 am
You appear to be approaching this as 'what if I lose power', but I would approach this as 'what if I lose heat' instead. There are other scenarios which would result in the same outcome, including your heater simply breaking down.

Another thing to keep in mind is, are you comfortable with your backup plan having a common single point of failure with your primary? For example, a standby generator would likely depend on gas. Are you ok with the risk that if the gas goes out, it'll simultaneously take out your heat and your backup plan for heat? What about your breaker box or other central points of your electrical system?

If you just want to address the possibility of power outage, another possible option is an electric car which can power your house. I haven't looked at the specs, but I've read they can be a viable option to a standby generator. Obviously depends on power requirements of your system and output of car battery bank. If you already have an electric car this could be a relatively easy option (compared to having a standby generator installed)

At some point, you just need to get out and deal with the potential mess when you get back, or pay someone else to deal with the mess. If you have health issues or are going to be dependent on others for some reason, you should figure out that point ahead of time and have a plan. And be at peace with the likelihood that you'll pull the trigger on this evacuation plan and be sitting in a hotel room somewhere when the weatherman says "wow, we really botched that forecast"
K73, excellent comments. I do have electric heaters in case I lose gas. The bigger risk at the moment is losing electricity. One solution to get through such a situation is a gas fireplace that can be manually started (standing pilot) or electronic ignition with battery back-up. The advantage of the gas fireplace is it is dependent only on has, not power grid, not breaker box, etc.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

Thegame14
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Thegame14 » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:49 am

Nate79 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:33 am
Thegame14 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:56 am
Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:41 am
Thegame14 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:33 am
install a natural gas generator...... or get solar panels with a battery that can hold a charge for a few days.
Thanks - I am leaning that way (generator). The solar panels plus batteries is much more expensive.
The solar panels plus battery also have a federal 30% credit, and you will not have an electric bills anymore and in some states you will earn Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SREC, I get about one per month and sell them for $200, so yes the solar panels cost $30K, but I get $9K back from Uncle Sam, and then save $2K a year on electricity costs and earn $2K a year in SRECS, so the $21K balance pays itself off in about 5 years, a natural gas generator you will pay about $8-10K may never use it and it has no other use. Also solar panels help save the environment.
Do solar panels really work in a deep snow emergency situation? I would think they would be covered with snow and not provide any power. Kind of defeats the purpose.
The snow melts off of them faster than a roof, and they are sloped so the snow can slide off of them. That is why you need the battery to hold a charge for the time when there is no sun.

Call_Me_Op
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:51 am

goodlifer wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:21 am
Are your power lines buried or do you have utility poles? Our are buried, so I don't worry too much about losing power in the winter, but I am concerned about brown-outs in the summer. If your main concern is powering the heating system, you should be able to get a smaller stand-by generator for much less the $10,000. We were quoted $11,000 for a whole house generator and we have kind of a large house. Or you could offer one of your neighbors an outlet if they agree to start your portable generator for you. That would probably be the cheapest option but the least reliable one. No one needs candles anymore. A few flashlights will be more than enough. Trust me when I say that candles can be dangerous, especially with curious cats and cats tend to run much faster than expected when they light themselves on fire. My cat was fine after a trip to the vet and some burn cream, btw. If you are going the canned food route, try to opt for tabbed cans. I also have a bad back and arthritis, and I cannot open a regular can without a powered can opener on any day. I keep a supply of freeze dried foods for camping and the packages are much easier to open compared to a can. For sleeping in the cold, I have the Teton Sports Deer Hunter -35 sleeping bag, and it is like sleeping in a soft, fuzzy furnace.
Thanks for the ideas. My power is above ground - hence more susceptible.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

InMyDreams
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by InMyDreams » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:53 am

I look at these guys every time they come to Costco:
HOW TO BACK UP YOUR HOME WITH THE YETI HOME INTEGRATION KIT

https://www.goalzero.com/?msclkid=97e85 ... oal%20Zero

and think about buying just enough panels and batteries to run my (gas) furnace in winter, and refrigerator in summer.

And it would have immediate use, because you want to use it from the get go, so it would reduce your power bill.

Haven't done it - they're not in the budget.

Hug401k
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Hug401k » Fri Nov 09, 2018 12:27 pm

Hi OP, We must live near each other! My last house had some of the same challenges that you mention (plus toddler residents), so we've spent some time thinking about this. Here are some thoughts.

1. Wood stove or pellet stove. It might be less than having a gas line moved or installed. Challenge- bad back.. but you can bring in wood a bit at a time all fall. Or order those fire logs off of Amazon and have them delivered to your doorstep. Carry in one at a time. Our wood stove can really give off some heat. Will your pipes freeze? Maybe but everyone will have the same problem at that point! Also, before a storm, make sure to turn the heat up to a nice cozy temp to keep the water moving and give you some warm time if the heat does go out. Also, know where your heat pipes drain if you do need to drain them. This doesn't involve much more than a lot of buckets.

2. Gas logs.-vented- We just bought a small Jotul vented gas stove that sits in an existing old fireplace. $6k seems high. If it's not too hard to move your gas line, you may be able to go with 4k. Also, bonus, nice effect to have even when the power is on (if you are spending all this money, enjoyment counts too!)

3. Gas logs, unvented. You can now add unvented gas fireplaces in most places (except a bedroom in MA) Perfect for the situation you are describing.. $1900 plus the gas hook up. Just saw one for sale on the Tractor Supply website.

4. Have a gas stovetop (looks like you have gas in the house). This won't resolve your base issue, but it helps quality of life. A nice stove top cooking hot soup helps a lot more than you think. Invite the neighbor with an electric stove top for hot coffee. You have hot coffee - you are suddenly the hero of the neighborhood. (from experience)

5. A whole house generator is NICE - and saves having to move food outside, bring snow in, etc but like you said, pricey..but ultimate safety step. I'm thinking you could use it with the gas line so no oil requirements? Bad side, does nothing for you 99% of the time.

6. Generator - portable. Maybe sure you spring for the hook-up to the furnace. Per your issues, you either need to find a permanent spot outside or make a friend that will move it. People are very generous in emergencies, don't doubt your neighbors. Especially if you offer coffee and a phone charge out of it.

7. Make sure you have a back up charged battery for a cell phone or an old fashion phone to call police/fire dept/neighbors if things get bad. There are ALWAYS centers open for shelter in urban areas. No reason to be worried about your life when you are surrounded by people willing to help. You don't want to be that person where they say "Why didn't they just call us!?"

Old house we went with #4, #6 and #7. Our current house is much larger, and already had a wood stove, so we will be using #1, #2, #4, #6, #7. This is probably overkill, but my husband prefers to be prepared.

Good luck!!

GmanJeff
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by GmanJeff » Fri Nov 09, 2018 12:46 pm

In the aggregate, you have received sensible advice:

1. A quality sleeping bag and winter clothing which can keep you from freezing even if you have no heat
2. Sufficient food and water (and medications) on hand to last through an emergency period
3. Consider solar, both to reduce your dependence on power from your local utility during a crisis, but to also achieve year-round energy efficiency and savings, and perhaps improving your home's re-sale value
4. Emergency communications - sufficient fully charged supplemental batteries or solar or hand-cranked power supplies to power a cell phone. If conditions deteriorate to the point where you feel your life is genuinely in danger, call the fire department and they will make every effort to transport you to suitable shelter.
5. Consider relocating, whether permanently or seasonally, dodging the bad weather and its consequences. Just don't relocate to another problematic environment with different predictable risks, like major flooding.
6. A generator is a possibility, but requires regular maintenance, testing, and a fuel supply sufficient for the duration of an emergency.
Last edited by GmanJeff on Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Watty
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Watty » Fri Nov 09, 2018 2:40 pm

If you get a bid on a generator be sure to ask about if you need to keep it clear of snow.

Solar panels have two problems;
1) They can get covered with snow.
2) In the winter the days can be very short and sun will be low in the sky. There may not be enough daylight to generate much electricity.

Call_Me_Op
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Fri Nov 09, 2018 4:08 pm

Thanks Watty. You do need to keep the sides of the generator clear of snow so they can vent. My plan would be to put it on the NE side of the house, which does not get drifts during the big Northeasters, and also to raise it a few feet off the ground. I believe that by doing this, the snow will not block any vents.

The only flaw in the generator solution, as someone pointed out above, is there is one single-point of failure - and that would be the breaker box. A vented gas fireplace does not have a single point of failure (except for perhaps a massive blackout that kills my electricity and the power to the natural gas pumping station), but is overall a very limited solution otherwise. But given the rarity of power outages where I am, the gas fireplace ( a big one - 40,000 BTU) is still an option I am considering. You are right above that if I need to go out and clear snow from the generator, that is a huge minus. I need to mull that one over.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

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jharkin
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by jharkin » Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:09 pm

I’m in New England and like others my backup to stay warm is a wood stove. Unlimited heat.

I’ve got Natgas to cook and I do have a small portable generator but that’s mainly for the sump pump. I can use it for the fridge,etc but it uses a lot of gasoline to run so only as needed.

How far north are you? We get nor’easters here around Boston but the winds don’t reach hurricane strength... maybe 50mph or so gusts in a bad one, but I’ve never seen anything close to actual sustained hurricane (75mph) wind. Temps reaching zero happen, but rarely.

Sounds like you are way up there in Maine or northern NH. If you are far from emergency services or any reasonable size town you want to consider stocking non perishable food, water, first aid kit, etc as well. And flashlights.

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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Sat Nov 10, 2018 6:40 am

jharkin wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:09 pm
I’m in New England and like others my backup to stay warm is a wood stove. Unlimited heat.
I do not have a chimney and the price to add one is actually comparable to a standby generator with installation. If I were to go the stove route, it would need to be direct-vent and gas. I am not comfortable with vent free. The issue is for a few k$ more, I can get the standby generator and (should I lose power) have my forced-hot water heat as well as all of the other amenities the electricity enables.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

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willthrill81
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by willthrill81 » Sat Nov 10, 2018 10:46 am

Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:44 am
RickBoglehead wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 8:24 am
Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 7:24 am
A portable generator is a non-starter for me. I have a bad back and no garage. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated!
A portable generator should NEVER be put into a garage. NEVER.
Hi Rick,

I was thinking of a garage as a place to store the generator when not in use, and from which to wheel it outside when I would need to use it.

My inclination at this point is to have a permanent standby generator installed. It would be viewed as insurance. I may never need it - similar to other insurance. I know that in my situation, I cannot handle a portable generator. My hope is that I could locate it in an area that is not subject to snow drifts and raise it a few feet off the ground so I do not need to go out and clear the snow during a blizzard.
Standby generators are a decent solution if you have natural gas (which you do) and are willing to pay the high price tag. However, they are NOT a zero maintenance solution. Most of the need to have their oil changed every 100 hours of operation, meaning every four days (some can go 200 hours). You must then turn off the generator, drain the oil (usually with an oil drain tube), refill the oil, then start it back up. It's not difficult or physically demanding, but it must be done or else you will ruin a very expensive generator in short order. And no, service technicians will be too busy during a power outage to do this for you.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

mrb09
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by mrb09 » Sat Nov 10, 2018 12:52 pm

Nate79 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:33 am
Thegame14 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:56 am
Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:41 am
Thegame14 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:33 am
install a natural gas generator...... or get solar panels with a battery that can hold a charge for a few days.
Thanks - I am leaning that way (generator). The solar panels plus batteries is much more expensive.
The solar panels plus battery also have a federal 30% credit, and you will not have an electric bills anymore and in some states you will earn Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SREC, I get about one per month and sell them for $200, so yes the solar panels cost $30K, but I get $9K back from Uncle Sam, and then save $2K a year on electricity costs and earn $2K a year in SRECS, so the $21K balance pays itself off in about 5 years, a natural gas generator you will pay about $8-10K may never use it and it has no other use. Also solar panels help save the environment.
Do solar panels really work in a deep snow emergency situation? I would think they would be covered with snow and not provide any power. Kind of defeats the purpose.
This happened to us. The very first year we got our solar and batteries installed, we had a snow storm that knocked out power and dropped about a foot of snow a day over thanksgiving week. Our batteries are only good for about a day. So each day of the storm I had to shovel the panels, and we still didn't make much power due to the cloud cover/falling snow. That's when I realized the high correlation between "events that knock out power" and "events that block the sun".

Although now that California power companies are preventively turning off power during high fire conditions, the solar/batteries actually works well for us during the summer.

(we also have a wood fireplace, propane stove and pump our well water uphill to gravity feed back, so we're covered otherwise)

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willthrill81
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by willthrill81 » Sat Nov 10, 2018 1:13 pm

mrb09 wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 12:52 pm
Nate79 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:33 am
Thegame14 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:56 am
Call_Me_Op wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:41 am
Thegame14 wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 9:33 am
install a natural gas generator...... or get solar panels with a battery that can hold a charge for a few days.
Thanks - I am leaning that way (generator). The solar panels plus batteries is much more expensive.
The solar panels plus battery also have a federal 30% credit, and you will not have an electric bills anymore and in some states you will earn Solar Renewable Energy Credits, or SREC, I get about one per month and sell them for $200, so yes the solar panels cost $30K, but I get $9K back from Uncle Sam, and then save $2K a year on electricity costs and earn $2K a year in SRECS, so the $21K balance pays itself off in about 5 years, a natural gas generator you will pay about $8-10K may never use it and it has no other use. Also solar panels help save the environment.
Do solar panels really work in a deep snow emergency situation? I would think they would be covered with snow and not provide any power. Kind of defeats the purpose.
This happened to us. The very first year we got our solar and batteries installed, we had a snow storm that knocked out power and dropped about a foot of snow a day over thanksgiving week. Our batteries are only good for about a day. So each day of the storm I had to shovel the panels, and we still didn't make much power due to the cloud cover/falling snow. That's when I realized the high correlation between "events that knock out power" and "events that block the sun".

Although now that California power companies are preventively turning off power during high fire conditions, the solar/batteries actually works well for us during the summer.

(we also have a wood fireplace, propane stove and pump our well water uphill to gravity feed back, so we're covered otherwise)
Yes, unless you have an oversized solar array and can keep snow off of the panels, they are a very poor option in the winter because the sun is weakest at that time. And most folks with solar power don't have a battery bank, so they only have power while the sun is shining, and they may not have any then either since many of the grid-tie inverters shut down if grid power is lost.

Get a generator and fuel for it. You're unlikely to regret it.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

bhsince87
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by bhsince87 » Sat Nov 10, 2018 1:18 pm

If you have nat gas, and can afford it, the automatic backup generator is the way to go. Be aware that it might need to be cleared of snow if it is drifting. As others have mentioned, a friendly neighbor could help with that (along with an occasional $20 bill)

A cheaper alternative for heating is a few kerosene heaters. The modern ones are not smelly, and kerosene can be stored a long time. I have two to use in my basement to keep pipes from freezing if need be. Have a woodstove in the living area.
Retirement: When you reach a point where you have enough. Or when you've had enough.

go_mets
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by go_mets » Sat Nov 10, 2018 2:22 pm

After Hurricane Sandy:
I bought :
an inverter that runs on car battery
a 100 ft heavy duty extension cord to run into the house from the car parked outside
Mr. Buddy propane heater
a long-reach butane lighter to ignite gas stove to cook and heat water
perhaps a butane cooktop if you don't have natural gas

for indoor lighting, buy solar lights that can be charged outside

someone here or else where posted : http://www.solar1234.com/

I still need to get a UPS that can power cable modem.

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willthrill81
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by willthrill81 » Sat Nov 10, 2018 5:51 pm

go_mets wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 2:22 pm
After Hurricane Sandy:
I bought :
an inverter that runs on car battery
a 100 ft heavy duty extension cord to run into the house from the car parked outside
Mr. Buddy propane heater
a long-reach butane lighter to ignite gas stove to cook and heat water
perhaps a butane cooktop if you don't have natural gas

for indoor lighting, buy solar lights that can be charged outside

someone here or else where posted : http://www.solar1234.com/

I still need to get a UPS that can power cable modem.
Good strategy!

We have a natural gas furnace, and those just use 120 volt power. I put an extension cord on the furnace and wired a dedicated outlet right next to it that it's normally plugged into (yes, this meets code). When we lose power, I plug the extension cord into my generator, and our whole house stays nice and toasty. Alternatively, we have a natural gas fireplace with an electric blower in the center of our home that heats the entire home fairly well. The fireplace itself doesn't need power to start, but the blower needs 30 watts of power to run. I can run from that an inverter hooked up to either our car battery or another battery kept for backup power.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

go_mets
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by go_mets » Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:41 pm

It was only during Hurricane Sandy that I realized that my natural gas water heater also needed electricity to run.
As does the furance.
:oops:

mouses
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by mouses » Sat Nov 10, 2018 8:11 pm

jharkin wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:09 pm

How far north are you? We get nor’easters here around Boston but the winds don’t reach hurricane strength... maybe 50mph or so gusts in a bad one, but I’ve never seen anything close to actual sustained hurricane (75mph) wind. Temps reaching zero happen, but rarely.

Sounds like you are way up there in Maine or northern NH. If you are far from emergency services or any reasonable size town you want to consider stocking non perishable food, water, first aid kit, etc as well. And flashlights.
In my more Southern area of New England near the coast, temps of 20 below and winds well above 50 mph happen several times a winter.

My 16kW Generac plus installation cost $7800. I haven't done this yet, but consider a sound blocking enclosure:
http://www.prleap.com/pr/179874/acousti ... d-to-quiet

If I were the OP, I'd also think about something like an inwall natural gas heater.

A Mr Buddy heater is inadequate.

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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by willthrill81 » Sat Nov 10, 2018 8:22 pm

go_mets wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:41 pm
It was only during Hurricane Sandy that I realized that my natural gas water heater also needed electricity to run.
As does the furance.
:oops:
Yup. Both they both only need 120 volt power, and the smallest generator out there can power either of those appliances.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by neilpilot » Sat Nov 10, 2018 8:33 pm

willthrill81 wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 8:22 pm
go_mets wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:41 pm
It was only during Hurricane Sandy that I realized that my natural gas water heater also needed electricity to run.
As does the furance.
:oops:
Yup. Both they both only need 120 volt power, and the smallest generator out there can power either of those appliances.
Of course not all NG water heaters require electricity. I have 2 50-gal water tanks that require only water and natural gas, not 120v electricity. The gas valve is piezoelectric, powered by the heat from the pilot light.

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willthrill81
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by willthrill81 » Sat Nov 10, 2018 8:34 pm

neilpilot wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 8:33 pm
willthrill81 wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 8:22 pm
go_mets wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 7:41 pm
It was only during Hurricane Sandy that I realized that my natural gas water heater also needed electricity to run.
As does the furance.
:oops:
Yup. Both they both only need 120 volt power, and the smallest generator out there can power either of those appliances.
Of course not all NG water heaters require electricity. I have 2 50-gal water tanks that require only water and natural gas, not 120v electricity. The gas valve is piezoelectric, powered by the heat from the pilot light.
Our fireplace is the same.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

five2one
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by five2one » Sat Nov 10, 2018 10:32 pm

Portable generators can be bought with wheels...even four wheels.
Push button start and can run on natural gas.

Add a transfer switch to the house and large propane/natural gas and done.

Otherwise, stock up on water, food, cold clothes, camp stove, and plug in lights.

My sub-$1000 generator runs a fridge, freezer, office fridge, coffee pot, wifi, multiple computers, tablets, smart phones, floor heaters, and floor lamps.
I keep a couple gas cans filled and it runs all night on a full tank.
I still have plenty of juice left.

Don't sweat the oil, filter, etc. as you can get easy kits with a ball valve or DIY one from Lowe's.

If you are overwhelmed and able, just drive south.

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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Shallowpockets » Sat Nov 10, 2018 11:38 pm

What is the probability that this may happen? How long have you lived there and has it ever happened before? Cold can be there without the snow. Surelyi inyour time there you have had cold that your system survived? Be realistic in your concerns.

mouses
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by mouses » Sun Nov 11, 2018 1:12 am

Shallowpockets wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 11:38 pm
What is the probability that this may happen? How long have you lived there and has it ever happened before? Cold can be there without the snow. Surelyi inyour time there you have had cold that your system survived? Be realistic in your concerns.
In my area we have had multiday power failures about once a winter for the past three years.
five2one wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 10:32 pm
My sub-$1000 generator runs a fridge, freezer, office fridge, coffee pot, wifi, multiple computers, tablets, smart phones, floor heaters, and floor lamps.
I keep a couple gas cans filled and it runs all night on a full tank.
Not really feasible in a week long power failure with gas stations not able to pump gas, even if the roads are not a mess with snow, and the person looking for gas is elderly and not able to go to substantial effort to find a working gas station every day that isn't out of gas or hasn't long lines.

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willthrill81
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by willthrill81 » Sun Nov 11, 2018 1:18 am

mouses wrote:
Sun Nov 11, 2018 1:12 am
five2one wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 10:32 pm
My sub-$1000 generator runs a fridge, freezer, office fridge, coffee pot, wifi, multiple computers, tablets, smart phones, floor heaters, and floor lamps.
I keep a couple gas cans filled and it runs all night on a full tank.
Not really feasible in a week long power failure with gas stations not able to pump gas, even if the roads are not a mess with snow, and the person looking for gas is elderly and not able to go to substantial effort to find a working gas station every day that isn't out of gas or hasn't long lines.
1. Keep enough fuel on hand to not need to refuel during a power outage. We keep 70 gallons of gasoline on hand, and our generator runs over 5 hours on a gallon.
2. Don't run the generator 24/7. Run it for 1-2 hours 2-3 times a day. That's enough to warm up/cool off the house, keep the refrigerator/freezer cold (especially with blankets or sleeping bags thrown over them), run the sump pump, cook your food, etc.

Using both of these tactics, we could run our 2400 watt generator in this way for months, literally. I don't expect that we'll ever need to do that, but we can also use the gasoline in our vehicle if needed. You can also get stoves and lanterns that run on gasoline.
“It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don't keep your feet, there's no knowing where you might be swept off to.” J.R.R. Tolkien,The Lord of the Rings

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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Sun Nov 11, 2018 7:31 am

mouses wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 8:11 pm
jharkin wrote:
Fri Nov 09, 2018 10:09 pm

How far north are you? We get nor’easters here around Boston but the winds don’t reach hurricane strength... maybe 50mph or so gusts in a bad one, but I’ve never seen anything close to actual sustained hurricane (75mph) wind. Temps reaching zero happen, but rarely.

Sounds like you are way up there in Maine or northern NH. If you are far from emergency services or any reasonable size town you want to consider stocking non perishable food, water, first aid kit, etc as well. And flashlights.
In my more Southern area of New England near the coast, temps of 20 below and winds well above 50 mph happen several times a winter.

My 16kW Generac plus installation cost $7800. I haven't done this yet, but consider a sound blocking enclosure:
http://www.prleap.com/pr/179874/acousti ... d-to-quiet

If I were the OP, I'd also think about something like an inwall natural gas heater.

A Mr Buddy heater is inadequate.
Hi mouses,

Which Generac model do you own - the Guardian? Are you concerned about the noise from your standpoint or more with respect to neighbors?

It seems that all of the in-wall natural gas heaters carry a Prop 65 warning with no explanation as to specifically why.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Sun Nov 11, 2018 7:35 am

Shallowpockets wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 11:38 pm
What is the probability that this may happen? How long have you lived there and has it ever happened before? Cold can be there without the snow. Surelyi inyour time there you have had cold that your system survived? Be realistic in your concerns.
Good point - I do have an obsessive personality. I have lived here for over a decade and we have only lost power a few times - never during a blizzard and I think the longest one was a few hours during the summer. This is a theoretical concern for me. If a power outage happens at any time other than during of shortly following a blizzard, I will have easy access to my car and can go to a hotel or somewhere else. It is really when I am trapped by a blizzard that is my concern.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by Call_Me_Op » Sun Nov 11, 2018 7:43 am

five2one wrote:
Sat Nov 10, 2018 10:32 pm
Portable generators can be bought with wheels...even four wheels.
Push button start and can run on natural gas.

Add a transfer switch to the house and large propane/natural gas and done.
My problem is I do not have a garage. I would have to keep a portable generator in my shed located at the back of the property, which can be very inaccessible during or after a blizzard.

If I plan to stay here a long time, my property needs some redesign so I can store things and then get them onto the driveway easily.
Best regards, -Op | | "In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity." Einstein

mouses
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by mouses » Sun Nov 11, 2018 10:00 am

Call_Me_Op wrote:
Sun Nov 11, 2018 7:31 am

Hi mouses,

Which Generac model do you own - the Guardian? Are you concerned about the noise from your standpoint or more with respect to neighbors?
Both. The model number is G0070371. The label with info and perhaps the model name con only be seen if I take off the front panel...

dknightd
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by dknightd » Sun Nov 11, 2018 10:07 am

Have you looked into the option of using a battery bank instead of an external generator?
You can buy lots of battery storage and an inverter for the cost of a whole house generator.
My needs so far are pretty modest, and I'm still healthy.
My boiler is a single pipe steam system. The only reason it needs electricity is for the ignitor and thermostat. I can run it off a couple of car batteries in the basement for a couple of days. Hot water is all gas, with the associated small utility cost to keep the pilot running. I have camping gear, and a small generator to recharge batteries as needed. If we loose power in the winter (most common) I load stuff into coolers and put it outside.

A whole house generator has the advantage of longer run times as long as natural gas is flowing.
A battery bank has the advantage of being quiet. For now I use a hybrid system. I'm not sure what I'll do when I get too old to deal with it.

edit: If I did put in a whole house generator I'd put 15amp outlets that the adjacent neighbors could use. Most whole house generators run a self test once a week. They might be more happy to tolerate that noise if they had an outlet they could use in an emergency ;)

go_mets
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Re: Seeking Advice - Emergency Preparedness

Post by go_mets » Sun Nov 11, 2018 10:33 am

dknightd wrote:
Sun Nov 11, 2018 10:07 am
If we loose power in the winter (most common) I load stuff into coolers and put it outside.
That was my thought too after Hurricane Sandy.

If the outdoor temp is 30F, it is certainly going to be cold enough to keep frozen food frozen. :happy

I bought some frozen food before Hurricane Sandy. Not the wisest move.

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