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Monday, July 17, 2017

generating caution


GENERATING CAUTION

I’m going to attempt to write this article on generators as prepper equipment and I hope I’ve done a decent job.  I don’t like “do this and die” articles any more than my loyal minions who dutifully slog through my drivel.  Not that I’m saying systematic problems have solutions, but that an alternate way of doing things should be proposed even if it is less a solution than at least a work-around.  For instance, electricity in general has no long term substitution.  You can only go as long as your batteries, ten years ( if you can’t make your own Edison battery, forget “forever” batteries.  The commercial solution blows, at $1200 for something like a 200 amp battery.  A car battery costs $70 and is 600 amps, for comparison ), or solar panels, thirty years.  Then it is game over for electric and you are back to using candles.  As I never tire of telling you because it is important ( and it makes me look smarter, the Potemkin Village where the Survivalist Guru lives ), I was forced to use candles for several weeks when I first moved off grid and we had three weeks of solid clouds, my panels were the old style and didn’t charge ( the new light weight mono’s can trickle charge even as it is snowing ), besides being only thirty watts total, and I had been using the old pre-LED incandescent auto bulbs, so even with two 800 amp batteries which were in theory full charge I was quickly without power.  And that was ONLY using the batteries for light-I was resolved to live minimalist in power requirements.

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Candles blow the biggest mule member you can imagine, and that is putting it nicely.  The only thing we could do was look at each other and snarl, them get up to do something and trip over whatever.  Not only does that tell you how dependent we are on outside factors for entertainment, it showed that if they survive my kids are going to be stuck in the dark cursing the gods.  It also points out that in 2008, there were no bright, cheap LED flashlights and lamps.  They were at that time ( again, the affordable ones ) as weak as the candles.  Any LED’s you have that might be from that era, stash in a popcorn or Christmas tin can wrapped up-just in case of EMP-and save for barter.  Spend the few bucks it takes to buy newer, far brighter ones, using no more power ( don’t go ridiculous and get 800 lumens and expect those batteries to last forever, however ).  I’ll assume you have the separate issue of AA batteries and a charger already squared away.  Light bright enough to play cards or read or whatever, is REALLY friggin important.  For your sanity and peace of mind ( tactically, a different matter and don’t get me started on night vision-the toy versions are cheap enough to be acceptable for use, but I hate the concept of relying on them in general ).

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Illumination, which is the most important aspect of electrical generation, does not need a generator.  That should be obvious.  Solar panels really shine in this aspect, as far as return on and requiring a frugal investment only.  But where do most folks think they need a generator at?  Down south, for refrigeration and air conditioning.  Besides an oven, perhaps two of the biggest energy pigs out there.  So folks, facing a hurricane, rush down to Home Despot and buy the biggest assed generator they can, so that they can cool the house and keep the freezer running.  First, most run down in the general panic and find they are out of stock, and second if they buy one or have one on hand, they are generally buying a huge hunk of crap.  After a few years I broke down and bought a generator, mostly so I could write at the B-POD instead of just at work ( a sacrifice that was unappreciated, but I am as a saint, giving to the masses freely my heart, soul and life force.  You are certainly welcome ).  What.  A.  Hunk.  Of.  Feces. 

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I cannot convey my hatred and disgust, my unbridled rage, to an extent you’ll ever understand.  Chinese generators are the worst thing you can spend your money on.  They are built to last, literally, less than dozens of hours prior to something breaking.  My second parts failure occurred less than one hundred hours in ( I think that is generous.  It could be a lot less as I only ran the thing an hour or two a week ) and I gave it away to a mechanically inclined neighbor who ran it for a few weeks, got far less than a thousand hours out of it, and turned it into parts.  I should have taken the $150 and bought another panel or two, but back then they were still very expensive and I thought I was being smart budgeting in a gallon of gas a month to keep the batteries charged as I used more power.

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If you are in a hurry and buy Chinese because you need a really big generator as disaster looms, it is going to last that one period of no power for several weeks, and that will be that.  At most you get another years natural disaster out of it.  Chances are good that you will spend a lot more on a generator than what the meat in the freezer is worth.  If you live in the South, heck if you live in the north, anywhere east of the 100th Meridian and you live in an overpopulated area with even more aged infrastructure than normal, and power is going to go out for weeks at a time, you need an alternate to AC and freezers, rather than a way to keep those pigs going.  Even if the power generation never stops, a fable on par with Fracking Independence, more and more people every year with less and less infrastructure maintenance due to greed and incompetence and lack of money means you’ll see more and more power outages.  Why do you want to overpay to buy a hunk of crap that takes precious gasoline you must store at an additional expense, more and more often?

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You are putting yourself in the same situation that the country is in,  relying on imported fuel with poorly built infrastructure hoping for a little bit more time wallowing in luxury.  Yes, AC is about the only way to comfortably cool you in a humid climate.  But let me ask you this.  Why are you living in that climate if you are dependent on AC?  It is an Oil Age product and that era is on its last legs.  If you don’t want to live in the South using Old Timey methods of cooling, why are you there now?  Sooner or later you’ll be back to the Candle Illumination version of cooling.  In the meantime you can use solar panels and batteries and rotary fans, if your home is under some shade.  That is how I lived in Florida, although to be fair that was on the coast with the ocean breeze.  Living without a freezer is easy enough, you set up an outdoor kitchen and can all your meats.  That also doubles as a fuel substitute as you can eat from the can when the power is out ( or, you’ll just use a lot less fuel to re-heat, to conserve your propane ).  So, keeping your freezer running is also forcing you to use more fuel to cook, anyway.  If you live in the South, you almost MUST can, to get used to power interruptions.

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Swamp coolers look cool, a fish tank pump bringing water up to the top of a woven mat and it trickles down.  On one You-Tube video, a guy had his whole open half sliding glass door done up like this, with the back the house having a fan in the attic access drawing the air through the woven mat and up and out.  You use almost no electricity doing it this way and the house stays comfortable, but alas swamp coolers work where there isn’t the humidity issue, in the desert, where there are water issues.  Another non-long term solution.  In the desert, it is best just to go underground.  In the water saturated dirt back East, I would advise building above ground and having dirt banked walls and extra insulated roofing.  Another cheap work-around they are using in humid India is a junk air cooler.  It is nothing more than a board covering a window facing the direction of the breeze, and holes cut in the board you stick a bunch of two liter plastic bottles through.  You cut the bottoms off the bottles, and that is where the bottle rests on the board ( cut for a snug fit, so all the air is directed through the bottle ), facing outside.  The narrow opening of the bottle faces inside.  The breeze, as it is forced down into a smaller opening, naturally cools.  How “cool” is that?

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Generators are only good for prepping if you are a Disaster Doomer ( one who thinks ‘Murica will always be great, the perpetual empire, the three hundred year fracking oil independent nation-‘cause, you know, technology will always save us-and the only thing ever, ever in all the history of ever  that will EVER happen is the odd natural disaster we will quickly recover from like with Katrina.  Oh, wait… ).  And even then they suck unless you have lots to invest.  The only good generator for personal rather than institutional use is a Japanese manufactured one and the only thing they are good for is living off grid.  NOT for survival, survivalism, prepping or powering a doom-stead.  They are a luxury item intended to get the spouse off grid, and are NOT to be relied on long term or in a protracted emergency because they are ONLY for luxury and comfort and NOT for keeping you alive.  Anything you need a fridge for, like insulin, you have a solar refrigerator for ( don’t rely on an icebox if you can help it ) and anything that needs to be frozen should be canned instead.  And you need to live with a breeze rather than a Artic Machine if you live in subtropical areas.  Gee, I wonder how all those folks in Central and South America live without AC?  You can’t cope in the American South substituting intelligent building for energy waste?  And if you are stuck in a crappy building you can’t develop a work-around for?  How about fast growing shade trees and extra insulation?

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Generators are short term solutions ill thought out, wasteful and expensive, if used to keep the on-grid lifestyle on life support.  Used intelligently as a supplement to alternate energy, for short term use to create luxury off-grid that you aren’t dependent on, that is all fine and dandy.  Personally, I would put the same money into solar panels while they are still cheap.  But I live in a sunny locale.  So a generator for you isn’t a bad thing.  Just use it as a tool instead of a crutch.

END ( end 'o the article Amazon link http://amzn.to/2ttptba )

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22 comments:

  1. Having well water, a generator would be able to keep you in water. If I knew how to hook it up. I used most stored fuel in the lawn mower, so... Ya, I'm going to die with the rest of the idiots.

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  2. the battery in my wife's chest is 5 years old. She would have died 5 years ago without her implant. It has about 2 years of power left before she has to go in and get the device changed out. The new ones last about 10 years so realistically that should see her and me through to the end. I think it is sad people buy 1000's of dollars worth of solar so they can leave all the lights on and shit plugged in like they did when they were on the grid.

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    Replies
    1. My last boss in Carson had the heart battery changed and was then did mere months later. I think from the stress of the wife. Implants cheat Death and The Fates. Beware their revenge.

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  3. I have a generator that I bought a few years back, and still have it. It’s not a Honda, but it has a Honda motor, so it’s a pretty decent unit. If you’re going to get one, and plan to use it beyond occasionally, get an 1800rpm unit, as opposed to a 3600rpm unit.

    Going from memory, but if I recall, most solar cells operate on cloudy days at around 10% to 30% efficiency. The trick is to figure out your total needs, then figure what you would need even when output is at its lowest during the cloudy winter days. Depending on your needs though, this could add up.

    If you could afford it, Earth tubes, in conjunction with Earth sheltered, is the way to go for forever free climate control. Frankly, I don’t know how people survived in the south before AC or fans. I can’t sleep if I’m hot and sweaty.

    Not to sound negative, but if a person needs things like insulin to survive in their day to day lives, they are probably not going to survive the type of collapse that you’re referring to here. Unless of course they have figured out how to synthesize what they need (I previously posted a link on how to make your own insulin; it’s not easy).

    Candles and oil lamps can be okay. The trick is to utilize mirrors. You can often find the large hanging mirrors for a reasonable price at a thrift store. I know that we gave a few away over the years.

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    1. I'm not sure what my solar generates. I just used a daily total of one hours rated output and never got into trouble again.

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  4. Jim,

    Such a timely article. Just last week we bought a little 2000watt peak, 1600watt continuous-run Japanese (now made in Tiewan) generator. With the electrican's fees to install the transfer box and additional toys, we've got about $1400 in it. Down here in Pahrump, today it's 100 degrees by 10:am where we live. I figure we've got just enough juice to keep one room cool and run our fridge if the power goes out. We store 15 gallons, and I've got a van with a 35 gal. tank. Better than nothing, I guess. But alas, as your blog says, stuff runs out, eventually., so I guess we're just delaying the inevitable in a worst-case scenario. Anyway, as I said, better than nothing.

    Cheers,

    Bob

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    Replies
    1. Since you are a fellow Nevadan I can't say anything bad. I'm sure that will change :)

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    2. Pahrump? Say hello to Art Bell for me the next time you see him, and ask him if he will introduce me to one of those aliens he knows :D

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    3. Art is probably hiding the aliens to keep all the anal probing to himself. I just found his old book on the global superstorm at the library sale for $1. I couldn't help myself buying it.

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    4. Yeah, I’m familiar with the book Jim. It’s good that you didn’t pay anymore than a $1 for it. I think he co-wrote it with that Whitley Strieber dude (who’s nuttier than squirrel poop). Art’s fairly sane, but he’s probably the flakiest dude that I’ve ever heard of in my life.

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    5. No, I overpaid for it at $1. I bought it when it originally came out, full price, wasn't blown away but not too disappointed, but to buy it again? When the library has a copy to check out? I think the aliens were mind probing me, forcing me to buy it.

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  5. You are spot on about generators. During an ice storm I watched people's lights come on from their generators. About a day later all the lights went out again as they ran out of gas and the roads were impassable to get more. My solar electric system had no problem keeping the lights on and well pump flowing. (I can fetch water from the well overflow so the pump is not necessary, but nice)

    When my wife and I travel down south for the winter, we avoid AC like the plague for the first couple of weeks. That gives our bodies a chance to adjust. We drink plenty of water. I can run a small fan on the van's solar panel if things get too stuffy.

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    1. I adjusted pretty easy w/o AC. Course, I was young. Still, it seems the need for AC is more a reflection of modern buildings.

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    2. My Honda EU 1000 will run 48 hours on six gallons of gas. In combo with the 200 watts of solar panels I can run my freezer, lights and a fan or two. So the generator really only need kick in once in a while.
      If the wind is blowing I have an Air Marine wind Genny that will put out up to 400 watts.
      Sure glad I kept all that stuff when I sold the sail boat !!

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    3. Any idea on the run time on a Honda prior to mechanical refurbishing, on average?

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    4. We've been running the Honda 2000 watt generators to supplement the solar.

      We've had to replace the pull cord a time or two and change the oil. That's it. We run them almost every day for a few hours for five+ years.

      The Honda's are great little generators.

      Idaho Homesteader

      p.s. It's huckleberry picking time so I don't have much time to comment lately.

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    5. I knew they were good from being a Honda, I didn't know they were THAT good. Thanks.

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  6. Here is sit, stuck in my cubicle, and I am nearly shivering. It is @ 90F outside I spent the weekend mostly out in the heat trying to build between heat recovery breaks. The radical change in climate from indoors to outdoors is one of the things making so many people chronically ill.
    Dress appropriately and let yourself adapt. It saves money and energy.

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    Replies
    1. It isn't the radical change, per se, but the length of each stay. Hot as hell, go into a walk-in freezer for a few minutes, no problem, but staying in each climate half the day, your body doesn't know to crap or go blind.

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    2. I've been doing two hours outside working and then an hour inside cooling lol !

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    3. You're doing better than me working outside. I'm going to use elevation as my excuse:)

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