Tropical Storm, No Power, Great

Tropical Storm, No Power, Great!

You don’t have to be a survivalist to have a basic backup system in place for brief disruptions of power. A simple backup plan can keep your family occupied until life returns to normal, and you don’t have to buy a $10,000 generator to accomplish this.    

We were affected by a tropical storm and had no power. A great time to test my “emergency supply.” Since I knew the power disruption was temporary, all I was concerned about was my frozen goods, water and lighting. I would highly advise my readers to purchase a 12 to 24 volt chest freezer (they are not cheap). Even with short disruptions of power, this freezer will save your frozen goods as well as your refrigerated goods. Having ice for cold water and having food at hand is better than throwing out rotting meats and milk so to resort to eating dry goods. The chest freezer I own is well over 10 years old and is a SunDanzer. I am not promoting this manufacture, but it is the only 12 volt freezer I ever had as my primary storage for frozen goods with or without a power outage, (See Figure 1).

Figure 1

When you buy a freezer like this, you will need a AC/DC converter. I ordered on-line a heavy duty inverter used in the medical industry (ELPAC), this unit was not made to power a freezer, yet has lasted as long as the freezer with NO problems with supplying power over the years (sizing the unit to the watt load of the freezer that is around 80). (See Figure 2).

Figure 2

When I encounter a power disruption, I normally wait 2 hours for power to be restored. Normally it is. But with a tropical storm covering  a wide area of destruction, I knew the line crews had more than they can handle and my power will be out for quite some time. Before the storm hit, I top off two marine 12 volt batteries just in case. After waiting 2 hours, hooked up my two batteries in parallel (with jumper cables), and now I had a working freezer again and my cold foods were now safe.  With solar panels and charge controllers, my freezer will run for weeks if not months on this system. This freezer will cycle the cooling loop then power off. On for around 8 minutes, (if foods are already frozen), then off for around 40 minutes.  With cycling, since the freezer was already holding zero degrees at the time I lost power, it only had to maintain the core temperature therefore reducing current draws by not running continuously. I did attach a voltmeter so to monitor the power drain. For over 12 hours, there was no noticeable loss in battery voltage (See Figure 3).

Figure 3

After the freezer was up and running on its own, I moved all of my frozen goods from my refrigerator/freezer (120 volts), to my chest freezer (12 volts). I then moved all my ice and ice packs to the refrigerator to keep that cold. I could have made ice in the chest freezer then move the ice to the refrigerator like we use to do back in the 1920’s with “ice boxes.” The power was not off long enough to go through the trouble. So there! I had ice, milk, orange juice, meats, etc, whenever I wanted them and never had to throw any food away! By the way, I could have purchased a 12 volt refrigerator as well, yet this too would require batteries, so I stuck with just the freezer.

In a future post, I will cover my M1 unit powering my deep well that requires 240 volts AC. I would only use this setup if power was lost for weeks. For a short outage, all I needed was the bath tub filled with water and fresh water to drink. To supplement my bottled store bought water, I also have a 7 gallon water container. Since I am on well water, I had to treat this water with chlorine bleach. I added so may drops of bleach to each gallon. I also treated my tub water to keep it fresh also. The tub water was great for washing dishes and to assist with toilet hygiene.

For lighting, before the storm hit, I charged my portable ultracapacitors, (CAPs), with my solar panel. Since there is no specific CAP charger other then solar charge controllers, I simply hooked up a diode to a solar panel and topped off my two sets of CAPs that only took a few minutes (See Figure 4).

Figure 4

Since these were my spare CAPs, I have no balancing circuits to bleed the charge so they held the voltage well. I can always oversize my CAP bank so the internal voltage of each cell never exceeds the rated voltage by the topped off charge voltage.

Lighting my LED bulbs were easy just by using alligator test leads. I have a box of test leads that I use all the time. Since I test and experiment all the time, I don’t take the time to hardwire anything. I am always changing my configurations. In this case, I had a LED lamp downstairs and one upstairs. No need for candles but could has used them. I love scented candles and the mood lighting they produce, but in a power outage, with no air-conditioning, I simply cannot turn on a switch for more light when I need it. Those who burn candles all the time still like to turn on an electric kitchen light when cooking then cook by candle light (See Figure 5).

Figure 5

The LED bulbs I am using are rated at 3.5 to 5 watts at 12 or 24 volts DC. For most of my DC devices I want the voltage combination option of 12 or 24 volts since my CAPs, or M1, may top off at 19 volts. My freezer also is rated for 12 to 24 volts DC. The LED bulbs made specifically for 12 volts will burn out at higher voltage. Ultracapacitors discharge current linearly. One volt for so many amps of energy. Unlike a chemical battery that has power density, CAPs do not. What is great about CAPs is the fact that these are industrial devices designed for heavy amp use in buses and electric cars. Under light use, like for lighting a LED bulbs, they can almost last a lifetime. Also, they charge in minutes not hours, great for solar or pedal power. The CAPs I own are past their prime and no longer hold the manufactured capacitance when new, yet still hold quite a bit of capacitance and will level off as they age, but they will not lose the ability to hold a charge. The set up shown in figure (5), started at 13 volts, the LED produce bright light for about 1 hour, dropping to 11 volts (5- watts). As voltage decrease, so does the brightness but so does the power draw of the bulb, down to 3 watts. The lower watt draw on the CAPs will allow this bulb to run for hours (8 hours total). In about four hours on this CAP bank, the brightness would equal close to 5 candle power down to 9.5 volts. Most of us are most productive at sundown before heading to bed. Depending on the season, daylight hours, 4 hours would be sufficient for one evening of lighting.  Simply having a second CAP bank will double the hours of brightness, even better, a bike generator would top off these caps in minutes. Ultracapacitors are not cheap either. I have purchased mine over the years when they were not worth much on Ebay. Now, even the old scuffed up, dented ones are expensive! This is due to their longevity and heavy duty life. My upcoming featured post for my M1 unit, I will demonstrate the importance of having CAPs on hand.

“Just buy a battery operated lantern from a super everything store.”

This must be said for those who would say; just buy a battery operated lantern from a super everything store. Yes any store stocked lantern powered with AA  batteries will perform about the same as this demonstration, for a fraction of the coast and setup. But this website is not dedicated to the “non” survivalist. What is demonstrated here are concepts that will provide a survivalist power for years if needed. The M1 and CAPs are heavy industrial duty storage devices to power not only lighting, but water pumps, freezers, transmitters, milling machines, blowers for smelting, and so on. With a AA battery powered lantern, those batteries and lantern are designed to fail in a few hours (duty life). That’s why they are all made of inexpensive plastic and cheap to buy. Great if you have well stocked Home everything stores or grocery stores around the corner to buy another one. For those who would question, what if the store shelves are empty due to a disruption in our infrastructure? I would rather have the CAPs any day then throw away batteries.

I am ready for the next outage to try new concepts and any suggestions by the reader is welcome also.

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