What to do when loss of power

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Cookie, Jan 2, 2007.

  1. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    I was hoping someone could answer this, in regards to, what to do if you lose your power--heat, electricity, due to a winter storm. How can you keep your pipes from freezing? Especially, if their is not another source of heat, ie fireplace, etc.

    Would it be suggested to shut off the main water, and open all the facets?
  2. kordts

    kordts In the Trades

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    exurban Chicago
    I would rather trickle water from the kitchen sink and lav.
  3. Verdeboy

    Verdeboy In the Trades

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    For a short power loss, do what Kordts suggested.

    For a longer one in very cold weather, it's probably better to turn off the main and drain all the pipes and hot water tank.

    Also, pour antifreeze into the toilets and sink traps.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2007
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    power loss

    Unless the plumbing was designed with draining in mind, and very few are, forget about draining it sufficiently that it will not freeze. There will be pockets of water, usually in the most inconvenient places, that will freeze and possibly break. Running the water periodically to keep its temperature above freezing, or a gradual stream, are the only good assurances that it will not freeze, other than a good generator to restore a modicum of power.
  5. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    I know who did that, nice cookie, thank you.
    Last edited: Jan 6, 2007
  6. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    A small generator is what my wife and I use, as we do not have city water and even a summer storm can knock out the power and leave us with pipes that might just as well be frozen. When the power goes out and we need water and/or heat, we have a simple setup that isolates the house from the utility company and provides power for the refrigerator and either the water pump and a light or two or the furnace and television ... kinda like "Green Acres". But to do that without purchasing a large generator, we can only have a 1/2hp water pump that runs on 120v.
  7. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    A generator would be ideal. But, how can I put this, I have mastered working a microwave, a stove, an oven, a blender, even a salad spinner, but, a generator? I don't think so, I know nothing about them.
    Last edited: Jan 7, 2007
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Can you use a pull start on a lawn mower? You can buy them with electric (battery) start, or if you want to spend more money, they can automatically start and switch over when the power goes out...just depends on how much you want to spend. The easiest thing is to just plug in the things you want to run into the generator when the time comes. If you want to leave it hooked up and have it switch things (a manual switch is cheapest), you need a transfer switch and to rewire those things you want to power through that switch. In one position, it gets power from the utility company, in teh other, it comes from the generator and never the twain shall meet!

    A small Honda generator is pretty quiet.
  9. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Depending on how many things you want to power- say a water pump for the well, the frig,and the heat, verses just a few lights, you could either wire it in, or use a small portable.

    If you want to make it stationary, and automatic, look at natural gas or propane to power it.

    You can get one big enough to power the entire house if you want with automatic switchover, so you'll not even notice when the line power goes out.
  10. kordts

    kordts In the Trades

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    Around here, 5 grand is probably about right.
  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Most of these things are designed to sit outside on a concrete slab - this puts the CO and other exhaust gases outside as well as the sound (which is fairly quiet - similar to an a/c unit).
  12. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    Well, that could work, if it doesn't need a lot of room on the concrete, if about the size of an AC. That price, Kordts, might be a hinderance. But, the last time, the power went down it cost me a couple of hundred dollars. I will have to keep it in mind.

    At least now, I remember about trickling the water thanks to Kordts. Funny, you forget. The last time it happened, this season infact, I said, to the boys, " what did daddy do?" We couldn't remember. And, the pipes froze. Not good.

    So a thank you to you all, but, Kordts a BIG BIG thank you to you, cause that always worked here before for my husband, and will for me. Last winter they froze twice, yikes.
  13. ToolsRMe

    ToolsRMe New Member

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    Location:
    CO
    I used to live in a place where the power went out about four times a year. The first year we moved there the power was out for four days.

    I installed a backup generator and it cost about $2K. I have since moved and still have that portable generator.

    If you want to go "cheap but safe," here's how I did it.

    Figure that a 5000 Watt generator (That's enough for a "Greenacres" sort of thing but enough for emergencies) will run about $600. It's enough to run a refrigerator, furnace electricity, a garage door opener and a few lights.

    Then you NEED a "transfer switch". What this does is isolate the generator from the power provided by the utility. Having the utility power come back on when the generator is running is a nice way to start a massive fire.

    Transfer switches cost in the range of $200 to $500 for a small generator. They have the advantage that you can move power around as you need it. Say, run the refrigerator for an hour and then run power to the furnace to keep the pipes warm.

    Figure that an electrician is going to work about 3 hours to install the transfer switch. So now you're looking at about $1500. Figure another $500 for "odds and ends" (like 30 Amp cables) and some battery powered emergency lights so that you can actually get to the generator and the transfer switch without killing yourself.

    I kept (keep) the generator in the garage. This allows me to start & run the generator in bad weather. Of course, you need to open the garage door; but yo can safely run a small generator for a few seconds (a few minutes?) in a garage in order to get enough power to open the garage door.

    When purchasing a gasoline generator (assuming you go the cheap route), make sure that the tank is large. It's a pain repeatedly filling up a small tank. My tank is 10 gallons. DON'T get a 3.5 gallon tank.
  14. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    generator

    It doesn't have to be gas - as Kordst pointed out - you can get a generator that runs on natural gas or propane. A bit pricier, but it sounds like it might be worth it for you...

    Another option might be to go solar - usually costs a lot to get & install, but check out this option:
    http://renu.citizenre.com/
  15. Rancher

    Rancher Guest

    Cookie, you haven't mentioned if you are on natural gas or have propane available, however they make several dual fuel generators out there... I'm not vouching for this brand, however Northern Tool normally stands behind the stuff they sell.

    http://www.northerntool.com/webapp/wcs/stores/servlet/product_6970_200306416_200306416

    This is what I would have if my power went as often, or for as long as yours does.

    Rancher
  16. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    Propane would actually be best, I believe. The last time I went to start my gasoline generator to be sure it was "ready", I ended up first spending several hours cleaning gummy sludge (gone-bad gas) out the tank and carburetor. Propane or natural gas would not do that, and propane could be available even when natural gas might not be.

    Another possibility might be connecting a couple of stationary bicycles to an alternator to charge batteries supplying power to an invertor, but that would likely require 24-hour pedaling just to run the furnace for a few minutes every hour!
  17. mohawkdream

    mohawkdream New Member

    Messages:
    5
    loss of power

    i live in the north east what i did was put a wood stove in the basement with 3 vents so heat can travel to the upper floors, realy safe at keeping my grandson away from it, every thing i read sofar are righton
  18. kordts

    kordts In the Trades

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    Location:
    exurban Chicago
    Cookie,
    you are welcome. The 5000 figure is exurban Chicago. That gets you a permanent N.G. gennie. It is installed outside, piped off the gas main, and wired to your electrical panel. You don't flip any switches or pull any cords. It starts when it senses there is no incoming juice. It stops when the juice come back on. No maintenance or fuss.
  19. ToolsRMe

    ToolsRMe New Member

    Messages:
    145
    Location:
    CO
    Then you want to "do it right". It's gonna be (to me) expensive. I doubt you'll get away with less than $10K plus a fair amount of maintenance.

    The good news is that if you spend enough money you can go completely off grid. If you add solar you might actually be able to sell power back to the utility.

    My friend has a ranch in San Diego. If you go with a diesel generator and batteries and "pure sine wave inverters" you can go completely off grid. If you have the diesel delivered then the marginal cost per kilowatt is about a penny. That compares with ten times that for most of the country.

    You'll need to do the research to see exactly what you risk/reward and internal rate of return is. Plus you'll need to actually learn how this stuff is put together.

    But it could be quite rewarding if you do.
  20. vaplumber

    vaplumber Guest

    If you have public water, ie city or county main, open each faucet to a slight trickle just above a drip. If you have well or cistern, then the best suggestion is either several small propane or kerosen heaters (remember to provide ventilation) or better yet, if you have gas or oil heat, and can afford to do it, a small generator of about 4000 watt for oil, or 2500 for gas furnace with an electrician to set it up for a manual switch over. The wattage figures I provided are excessive to allow you to run the fridge and a small radio for news.
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