On day 12 of our 14-day adventure, I woke up to a house that was only 46 degrees Fahrenheit. That was the point that I said, “Screw this!”, and went out to buy a generator. Believe it or not, I found one too. I even got the transfer switch so that it could be properly wired into our service panel. We will never have to go through such an extended outage again. Or will we?
The generator is great. It runs for 10-12 hours on a tank of gas, is quieter than most of the generators out there, and it powers about 90% of our house. It rocks. It also has a six-gallon gas tank, which means while I’m used to buying two cans of gas every summer, those same two cans of gas would last only 16 hours while using the generator. Damn.
Lesson learned: We didn’t have enough gas, but then, we didn’t have a generator at first either. If you get a generator, make sure you know how to use it, and make sure you have enough gas. Make sure that more than one person is trained on how to hook up and start the generator, and consider that not everyone is capable of lifting those heavy gas cans. Finally, make sure that you have somewhere safe to store all that gas.
I put together a document with pictures and a checklist, and put that all in a red folder near the transfer switch. My 13 year-old daughter can hook it all up and keep it running if I’m not home. In fact, I think I’ll make her do it even if I am home. That thing is heavy!
Imagine being without power for two weeks. You’re dirty, tired, cold, hungry, and lets be honest, probably jonesing for some quality time-wasting of the Internet variety. Not only can power dip and surge for a while after it’s been restored, it can be down-right dangerous.
When our power finally came back online, everything seemed OK, if marginally so. I normally wait a few hours to bring the computers back up because I know to wait for the street power to settle down. This time we did have some sags, and a couple of surges, but for a week they didn’t stop. In fact, they seemed to get worse.
Having lived through a $3800 well repair once before, I immediately cut off the well pump from the street power in order to protect it. Almost immediately, the cable Internet feed went out. What next! It turns out that the cable going out was about the best thing that could have happened. While cutting off the well pump was great for the pump motor, it removed the nice ground path being used in lieu of the neutral feed, so the electricity found the next best thing – our cable TV line.
Lesson learned: Don’t blindly trust the power when it comes back on. In our case, I called the electrician who, after I described the problem, told me over the phone that we had probably lost neutral. Between his advice, my cutting off the well pump, and the properly grounded cable installation, we suffered no damage or injury. We were lucky. If you see the lights getting brighter and hear buzzing after the power comes back on, call an electrician.