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Prepper Fail

Our weather went from muy caliente to muy húmedo pretty quickly overnight. At around 2:50 the house went silent as the power went out but pretty quickly the silence was replaced by thunder shaking the house and torrential rain. It was one of those gully washers, I went downstairs to check things out and with the power out the only times I could see outside at all were during lightning flashes and even then the rain was hitting the window so hard it was just a blur. Went back to bed hoping it was going to be a short outage but a few restless hours later I was back up, still no power.

It was pretty widespread…

…stretching from areas north of us down to Anderson, Indiana. As the storm moved out, around 17,000 Indiana & Michigan Power customers were without power and their guys got on the job right away, from damaged poles to downed lines and tree strikes.

We weren’t too worried, we have a brand new dual fuel generator so we went out to fire it up. It was already gassed up and the oil was filled so it was ready to use. Followed the directions but when we hit the electric start nothing happened. Nor when we tried the manual pull start. Ruh roh. We messed around with it for a bit and while my wife was watching Youtube trouble shooting videos (it is a sign of the times that even when the house power is out, we can still get internet on our phones) she said “The battery is hooked to the engine, right?”. It sure looked like it but I was poking around and noticed something. The wire connecting the battery to the engine was wire tied up to the frame but when I pulled on it I noticed that the connections weren’t actually connected, although you couldn’t tell by a casual look. Hooked the ends together….

….light under the start button came on, one push and she was running. Ran the extension cords in the house to run the fridge and the chest freezer in the garage, figuring that the other chest freezers in the small barn would be OK as long as no one opened them. At 1:51 PM the lights came back on and we put everything away.

See, we knew we needed to run the generator to make sure everything was operational but we just never got around to it until push came to shove and we needed it. It was always on the list but something else always took priority and it never happened. It is a pretty beefy generator and we can hook it to the house but we don’t have the proper extension cord to go from the generator to the house outlet, again something we meant to do but didn’t get around to it. We got that figured out as well and ordered the heavy duty cable, and when it arrives we are going to do a dry run to make sure everything works and figure out how much we can run on the generator. Lesson (hopefully) learned:

Check your shit before the Shit Hits The Fan.

Our preps aren’t just for an end of the world scenario but for the little stuff as well. Seems like I need to spend a little more time worrying about what to do in a multi-day power outage than which color Lancer mag would look coolest in my post-apocalyptic AR set up. Check your shit, make sure you know where it is and make sure it works. It doesn’t bode well for a major catastrophe if I am fumbling on a small one. In a major situation we probably won’t have Youtube to bail us out.

Life is busy but make the time to check your shit so when your life is on the line, you are as ready as you can be.


      • Old geezer

        I read a couple of days ago the deep staters will soon update their regs such that backup generators will effectively be outlawed … they put out too much pollution or some other excuse.

        If true, for fence sitters it may be time to jump.

        Next question, what exactly is the need for this new reg ? Timing is … per plan ?

  1. realwesterner

    Great topic, man. In N. Idaho we had a whole house generator installed wherewith there is a transfer panel and dedicated propane TANKS which were manifolded together. When the power went out (once for 8 days), the thing fired right up, We only ran it during the day and mostly only for to run water. No fuss at all-definitely recommend this approach if you can either do the work, or can get someone to do the work. In the SW(where there is a perpetual shortage of tradesmen willing to take your hundred dollar bills) at our new homestead/farm we have a portable generator big enough to run the well pump. I made a one-sheet, bullet-points recap in my own handwriting and in my own words of the startup, hook up to elec panel and shutdown procedures. Makes the whole deal much simpler when you’re tired/cold/have other things running through your brain. It is stored with the generator in a plastic sheet protector. Makes my life much easier.

  2. Mahtomedi

    If you hook the generator to your house wiring you need to pull your main disconnect so you don’t feed power back into the grid. It makes the repair linemen quite unhappy.

      • SmileyFtW

        Electrical stuff shouldn’t scare you. It is straightforward and predictable… especially basic house wiring. Get someone to get you up to speed that you trust. I’m in Texas but would help if I were closer.

      • LGC

        some things are worth hiring experts for. Stuff like that is totally worth it. And you’ll know it’s done to code and be safe.

      • Gryphon

        If you only have a Portable Generator, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to install a Transfer Switch, as you won’t be able to Run a lot of things at once. The SAFEST way to use a small Generator is with Extension Cables- You can get a heavy, 50 or 100-Foot Cable with a Twistlock Plug for the Main Outlet on the Generator (find out its Type, it will be marked on the face of the Outlet) and then on the other end a Junction Box with multiple Outlets for regular 110-Volt Cords. This setup lets you keep the Generator a long way from the House, but with 10-Gauge Cable, not loose too much Voltage.

        Even if you Turn Off the Main Breaker, ‘backfeeding’ into the House through, say the Dryer Outlet, is still Unsafe, as you need to use a Cable with two, exposed Male Plugs. and if Anything goes Wrong, since it’s Not to Code, your Insurance Company will Ditch you faster than a Russian Khinzal Missile…

  3. 3g4me

    I’m with you – electricity and wiring are a mystery to me. We bought a few solar generators and portable panels over the past few years, but thank God the previous owners of our property – in their one brief year here – installed a Generac 22kW and bought a 1000 gallon propane tank. Current cabin is small enough that we should have enough fuel to run critical appliances and most importantly the well pump for a good long while. That is my priority until we can get a large water holding tank (say 2000 gallons?) purchased and buried between the very deep well head and the house. Figure the solar ones will handle the fridge and freezer. We had a smaller, portable duel fuel generator we gave to our older son. Still on the fence about the expense of some sort of permanent solar backup system – plus the learning curve to keep such a system operable. And if we add on to the cabin or build a bigger house (not a mansion but a second bathroom and bigger kitchen would be really appreciated) we will see what we will need then.

    Like everything else, it’s a question of time and money.

    • Arthur Sido

      Solar batteries are super expensive and have some issues, the Amish around here upgraded for the most part to a new kind (lithium?) that are tens of thousands of dollars but I also know Amish who run appliances and air conditioning with no issues.

      • Bob Barker

        Probably lithium iron phosphate batteries (LiFePO4 or LFP). Much smaller and lighter than other types, especially lead-acid, and can be charged several thousand cycles.

  4. Shillelagh Pog

    Keep the starter battery charged, and start the generator once a month to test/run it. Keep the fuel stabilized with PRI-G or at least Stabil.

  5. Coelacanth

    If you have a whole or partial house generator, learn where the shutoff is, as well as oil and filter change procedures. Most are not meant to run fo more than 48-72 hours. Essentially they are large lawn tractor engines and will need service at regular intervals. If you run it for a few hours every other day you can really stretch the maintenance intervals geeatly

  6. Xzebek

    Have you considered an whole house standby generator with auto start? I had one installed a couple years ago and it has been great. Anytime there is a power interruption fir mire than a few seconds it kicks in. Its powered by a 500 gallon propane tank which only fuels the generator. It can run for a long time. Power outages in NW Montana are common so I think it was a good investment.

  7. Bobsuruncle

    A whole house generac on propane, automatic switch, with a small 2200w honda backup portable inverter genset with a propane conversion kit on it, a large tank, and say a 25#, 40# and 100# propane tank tucked in the garage as backup is the way to go. Use the portable tanks with a catalytic heater that mounts on top for emergency heat. I have one that on high is 40,000 btu. Ive moved away from using gasoline, except in my cars, bikes and chainsaws to as much propane everything as i can. Converting electric stove soon. Propane stores much better, convert to propane or lng. Im in hurricane alley, been here through numerous hurricanes, seen some stuff happen, hence the concrete bunker, tractor and such. A 12 or 24v 600-1,000 watt gel battery solar battery back is a good idea also. For sustained emergencies, Im using a 600w set of panels, w/ a 24v, 3750w inverter for fridge and freezer backup and some led lights. We get plenty of sun here so might as well capitalize on it. The whole house solar is a scam. One is none, two is one and three is better. Happy hunting. Glad to hear your situation wasnt more than a teaching moment as the gay kenyan would say.

  8. Don Curton

    Be careful with today’s shitty gas. Try to find ethanol-free gas if possible, and use some sort of stabilizer. Storing it a long time without running it can lead to fouling and gumming up the carb. I have one that’ll run the RV and the fridge and freezer, so I’m pretty set there. Can’t run the whole house but will have A/C in the RV and that’s good enuf.

  9. realwesterner

    I used to work in a sawmill (N. Idaho) in the boiler/kilns. We did an awful lot of millwrighting/mechanical work there, but we were required to take some basic electrician class on line that showed principles and terminology and a bunch about high voltage arc-ing. Then we were required to sign a document for our personnel files to the effect that we’d never touch the electrical aspects of any of the equipment. We had to occasionally lock out the ESP (super high voltage), so I am with SMILEYFTW. Once you learn about it, it shouldn’t bother you a ton.

  10. Colombo Salvage & Arsenal

    So much old make it work with what you got comes to mind… Pullys and belt and old universal G.E. Motor with a lawn mower converted to a generator phase timed with an old plug in alarm clock. Removing ethanol from gasoline with water for storage and 2 stroke equipment. Double male “suicide” cords. Gas engine or 12v well pump conversions. Even played with wood gas way back…

  11. Scott

    Here in FL we loose power alot. I run my generators out of fuel between storms. Change the oil each season and they always start easily enough.
    I also only use non ethical gas.
    I have found starting them every month to be a pain in the ass.

    • Gryphon

      Scott- Running the Generator Dry when you are finished with it is a good idea, even if you have Non-Alcohol Gas. The alternative is to Stop the Generator by turning off the Fuel Valve (between the Tank and Engine- there is one so you can change the Filter)

      I have a 12-KW. Gasser in the Shed behind the Barn, I keep it Full of Fuel and Stop it that way- also, Run it once a Month like Religion, and Change the Oil every 30 Hours or so. (Less if it is a small Engine.)

  12. John Wilder

    Back when I did a lot of camping with the Scouts (before they embraced The Narrative) I got down to a pretty good understanding of the gear. A “power off” weekend is always a good idea.

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