Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Back up power at home

If you live in areas prone to power outages, there's a couple things you may want to consider.

One's a generator.

The other's a power supply transfer switch.

The transfer switch allows us to plug in the generator from outside, and then manually (and safely) switch over selected household circuits to generator power when needed.

Using a small transfer switch like the ones from Reliance Controls, not all household circuits are wired for generator power, but enough are to lessen the inconvenience of a long term outage. And when running a small generator like the Honda, circuits can be switched on and off to prioritize which ones are needed at certain times while avoiding a generator over-load.

You won't get 220 volt appliances to run on a small generator like the Honda EU2000i, but you can probably get a gas-fired furnace or refrigerator, as well as some basic lighting and power outlets, up and running safely using it along with a small manual transfer switch.

The intent here isn't to live long term off-grid. But having some access to basic electric-driven functions during the next intermediate to long term power outages (be it a half day or several days) should make things go a little easier.

I've had noisy rattle-trap generators for years, but the Honda is new addition since our storm caused power outages of a couple weeks ago. Easy to move, easy to start. It runs quiet, and puts out clean power that's safe to use with delicate electronics. I've been wary of using my old school "dirty power" generators in recent years for fear of damaging delicate microcircuits that now control so many modern electrical devices.

Honda generators are priced on the high side, but the Honda is built by Honda at its plant in Thailand. Most the other less expensive brands apparently come out of contracted factories in China. I went Honda because of their long term record, and their parts and service network, but there are other less expensive brands that also get plenty of favorable reviews.

I still pull out my older generators from time to time, but tend to use them only to power stuff like drills or power saws, or to charge batteries that can then be used to power inverters to power today's sensitive plug-in electronics.

I've previously blogged about the utilitarian practicality of those little generators available for around a hundred bucks from places like Harbor Freight. Mine makes a good back-up for charging batteries on days when solar's not producing. But, yeah, it's kinda noisy. And for charging batteries, I only use mine with an old school manual charger.

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