We had our first ‘lights out’ drill this week. Unfortunately I can’t call it a success, other than in the sense that we learn from our failures (hopefully).
Coming off the successful test of powering the deep freezer (for over four days), using the batter bank and inverter – I was ready to take the next step. This one was to see how the battery bank would do powering devices inside the house we would like to be able to use during a power outage.
- Power two lamps, to light the living room / kitchen area, each with two CFL bulbs (compact fluorescent lamp – low energy)
- Power our 29 inch TV (older cathode ray tube type) and DVD player
- Charge the cell phones
- Use the microwave for limited cooking
- Batteries were discharged after about 1 1/2 hours of watching the movie (The Sting), and having the lamps on
- I forgot to charge the cell phones
- The microwave tripped the breaker after less than two minutes
What I learned:
- LED flashlights are great; I love our new Duracell Daylite LED two D cell flashlights
- Thoroughly check, and be familiar with, your equipment – before the incident
- Ensure the battery bank is fully charged
- The inverter shuts itself off when the batteries reach 10.50 volts
- Buying a quality system and running it through a cheap circuit breaker is dumb
What went well:
- Storing the main extension cord near the battery bank (14 gauge, 50 foot)
- Taking the opportunity to teach Ryan about the circuit breaker box
- Having plenty of accessory extension cords
- Once lamps were on (from batteries), putting the flashlights in a central place (easy to find in the dark)
If the power had really been out, we would have fallen back on our redundancy planning and gotten out the lanterns and candles.
The biggest mistake was assuming that since the battery bank, through the inverter, had been plugged in for almost a week that the batteries would be fully charged – so I didn’t think to check first. Yesterday (several days after the drill) I discovered the circuit breaker (a cheap plastic one)–between the batteries and the inverter–had failed and wasn’t allowing the batteries to charge. After seeing that I realized that during our drill our batteries probably weren’t fully charged (likely very low charge to begin with).
I rewired the batteries directly to the inverter (there’s still the inverter’s internal circuit breaker, the external one was a backup) and the batteries immediately began recharging. I’ll order a higher quality circuit breaker this weekend. When the breaker arrives, I’ll do an unofficial drill during the day and see how long the fully charged batteries will run the lamps, TV and DVD player. (Buying stuff is easy, this testing and figuring out is a pain…)
We also transplanted our pepper plants (one jalapeno and one habanero) from the garden into pots so we could bring them into the house for the winter. I hadn’t known until recently that peppers, in their natural habitat, are perennials; we think of them as annuals because our winters get too cold for them to survive. Next year we’ll just put the pot outside for the summer. So instead of starting with brand new plants again, we’ll have mature ones and see how they do. As a baseline, this year we got three, very mild, jalapenos and no habaneros at all.
Lastly, we had budgeted money for buying fish antibiotics this month. So I ordered AQUA-MOX (amoxicillin 500 mg, 100 capsules), AQUA-FLEX (cephalexin 500mg, 100 capsules) and AQUA-ZOLE (metronidazole 250mg, 100 tablets). I stored them away in a cool, dry, dark location in their original containers.
What did you do?
(Monday: The Hassles of Storing Gasoline)