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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

How the power went out



The grid went down twice within a few days. Normally it’s the usual suspects, high winds, heavy snow, that sort of thing. Both times the power went down the conditions were mild. So what took down the grid? Traffic accidents did it. Poles were taken out by drives who lost control.

After the first outage the power company e-mailed me a questionnaire about the outage. It was the normal sort of thing, asking questions about how I thought the situation was handled. The final question was how about how I thought the company could improve. My suggestion was that the CEO and top management could resign. (It’s my opinion that they are overpaid and corrupt.)

When the power went out a couple days later I had to wonder if they just read my questionnaire and cut my grid power out of spite. Seems a bit paranoid of me, but never underestimate the pettiness of a major corporation. Turns out is was a second vehicle running into a service pole accident. Of course, if it happens again in a few days I’m going to start to wonder.

When bad weather conditions are predicted my normal standard operating procedure is to top off my house batteries from the grid. That way if it the power goes down the house system is starting with a full charge. As luck would have it this last time my batteries were at about medium to low charge.

So what did that mean for our day to day life? We still ran the water pump, lights, TV, and my computer. What we didn’t do is laundry or use the microwave. One of the reasons the batteries were a bit on lower side is that the next day was predicted to be sunny. I knew they’d get topped off in the sun the next day. No need to use grid power when the sun will do the job for free. All we had to do was to not go crazy with power usage for one night.

I actually get more annoyed by the fact we lose the Internet at the same time. That also takes down our phone service. We are on the side of the mountain that’s shaded from the cell tower so cell phones don’t connect here. One of my concerns when that happens is how massive the power outage is. If it’s local it’ll be fixed in day or so. More widespread outages could take weeks.

One handy guide is the lights across the lake. They are on a completely different loop than my side of the lake. If they still have power the situation is limited to my loop. When they are in the dark the outage is much more widespread. It could take some time to get power back. When the other side of the lake is also dark, I resort to my battery powered radio. It’s got batteries, a crank generator and a solar panel. If the closest radio station is on and not in a panic things aren’t too bad. If they are down I can switch to short wave stations and find out what’s going on in the world.

-Sixbears

12 comments:

  1. Sounds like you may need to invest in an alternate communications device, whether a satellite phone or a HAM system.

    Sketchy powergrids are fun, are they not?

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    1. I am looking into something like an in-reach with text ability. Not in the budget right now.

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  2. I recall that you have a wireless Internet ISP? Is the failure on their end? If so, maybe you could suggest they add some battery backup to the wireless relay points. Seems like $300 - 500 might allow a battery & trickle charger at each relay. Might make some customers happy and get them bonus points with the FCC (there was a regulation change several years back about cell tower sites supposed to stay up for a week(?) after the grid goes down, but I don't think that applied to Internet providers).

    Also, maybe it is time to re-check cell signals. T-Mobile has been putting out 600MHz support all over the country. That has a slight chance of bending over terrain. You would really need to check all four major companies with very recent phones to make sure they support current LTE bands to see if something might work now.

    (oh, I usually just lurk, but since I'm commenting anyway, definitely great to hear of your improving health, stick with what is working! And that COHO trail sounds wonderful)

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    1. At home my Internet service is over fiber optic cable. They run on the same poles as grid power so almost go down at the same time.

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  3. Sounds like a pretty good system.

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    1. It keeps the lights on and the water flowing.

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  4. I am a Ham Radio Operator and believe me, they do come in handy in emergencies. I have a unit that I can use to get on frequencies from 300 meters to 440 hz. BTW, look up the Garmin InReach which is, I believe, a satellite communication unit. It should work well for you no matter where you happen to be.

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    1. The thing about an in-reach is that it'd be a good thing to have on a boat and could be used at home in an emergency too.

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  5. It's nice not being reliant on a power grid. Takes a bit of effort to keep it all maintained but worth it when you go out and realise that everyone else has been in the dark all day. Grid outage can still affect our comm.s though, and smoke signals are not an option in our tinder dry SE Oz climate.
    Good thing that you (and we) have built in redundancies.

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    1. It's nice having power that the electric company can't turn off. Still need to improve emergency communications.

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