Monday, December 22, 2008

When backups to backups to backups to backups fail, better have a Plan E

I awaken this morning to a momentary cessation of the usual domestic whirs and whispers, followed by a strident chorus of about 10 UPS's all telling me that our power went out. Quite surrealistic, really, with echoes and all. But, since the last Big Freeze of 1996, We Are Prepared, with our 7 KW generator out back tied in to a transfer switch. Or, we would be, had I kept up the watch on the state of charge of the generator battery.

So, Plan A didn't work out - not enough charge to run the starter. But there was enough to hold the LP valve open, so I embarked upon Plan B - the generator has a pull-cord. Now, a 7KW generator is a twin-cylinder 16Hp little beastie, not at all portable, and I am not the Adonis with all the right bulges of my youth any more. So close to an hour later I give up on that and take a rest.

Aha! Plan C - the cute yellow emergency battery pack! er, well, not quite. Turns out the test button lighting only the green LED is more or less lying. Maybe it will be enough with re-run of Plan B when tied in parallel to the primary battery? Again, not so. In fact, the E-Pack is lower in charge than the primary and pulls everything down further.

Well, maybe Plan D will do better. I have this huge 175 WH deep-cycle RV battery for my astronomy gear. Another sweaty 1/2 hour ensues. By this time I am getting worried about the fridge and freezer contents, and don't even want to think about the pre-pump septic holding tank.

At this point I ran out of prevously imagined backup plans. So I begin to consider how in the H I could get one of our vehicles close enough to the back door of the garage so as to be able to reach the generator with the jumper cables. This is a pretty radical thing to do, it would involve a lot of moving heavy stuff around - vehicles belong in the front of the garage, and Stuff at the back. But while casting around for magic puzzle space to move things into, my eyes pass over and then return to a nondescript trash bag covered lump under the bench. Well, what did I think I used to charge up that big RV battery when out on a week's wilderness Astro party camp-out? My trusty 1KW Honda generator. Coupled with the old RS 12V battery charger. So Plan E comes to fruition, and will probably get promoted to Plan B should this ever happen again. Run the Honda, plug in the charger, hook same up to primary battery, give it about an hour to settle in, then try the starter again. Voila!

The other part of Plan A for power outages worked like a charm. The generator is a tri-fuel type hooked up to a huge 250 gal LP tank, and it was topped up just last Wednesday. So I do not have to hassle with periodic gasoline refills, or with storing the nasty stuff. Why such a large tank? The 1996 outage left us without power for a week. At the time, a tankfull of LP was about $200. A deal for a week of comfort in otherwise trying times, And in less trying times it runs a friendly faux log fireplace in the living room.

Fortunately, the outage today only ran from 9 am to 6 pm. But you never can tell. So better have a Plan E just in case...

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