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What is your power failure plan?

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  • What is your power failure plan?

    Good Monday morning to you ATF fans.
    Hubby and I are in the planning stages of adding on to our farm - barn, small horse facilities, add on to our existing home, etc. (You may have seen a post awhile back). We're currently thinking through a plans to deal with various forms of power outage. For heat, we have a wood option on our furnace. However, we have a very deep, drilled well and as such, keep about 30 gallons of potable water on hand at all times (we don't live there full time). We would like to invest in a generator, but ideally, I'd love to have some sort of hand pump, or something I could operate without electricity if possible. I know the Amish in our area operate pumps from a cistern with a windmill, which could also be another thought.

    Does anyone have any experience with this? As always, your comments are appreciated!!

  • #2
    Candles and wine : )

    I'm sure someone with a more comprehensive plan will chime in.


    • #3
      Originally posted by Mukluk View Post
      Candles and wine : )
      This sounds like a great plan!


      • Original Poster

        Ha- Yes! I love it!!


        • #5
          Generators are saviors. Last winter, we had an ice storm that knocked out power for a few days- all of our neighbors were bringing food to put into our garage freezer because we had it hooked to the generator. Plus, you can flush your toilet too lol.


          • #6
            A windmill would not be cheap and no wind means no water. We have 2 wells, one at 75’ and one at 300+ on our farm and with an average horse population of 40 hand pumping would be never ending. I have a generator mounted on wheels, 8000 watt peak, 6000 continuous, 120 and 240 volts. Paid around $700 10 years ago. I wired my well pumps with their own plugs. Turned off their breakers incase the power should come on and plug into the generator and fill the various tanks. Pretty simple. I have since installed a “transfer” panel which takes everything off line from the “grid” and plug the generator into it. If the power should come back on while the generator is running it will automatically take the generator off line. Our generator is too small to run the whole house so I did the math and just wired the “necessities” that it could handle. When the “big horse wins” I will get a proper natural gas fired, quiet generator that can handle everything for around $6,000.


            • #7
              Seriously? Go for the generator. If I were making a major construction, I'd budget in an auto generator if possible. (propane run) But if the budget can't handle it, go for the portable generator. (gas run) They even make PTO generators, they run from your tractor's PTO. (if you have a tractor)

              Hnad pumps and windmills are useful but they won't trump the usefulness of an actual generator. And having one removes the worry of power loss. Having a big, properly wired one means actually kinda looking forward to power losses, LOL!

              With an alternate source of heat to keep you warm and keep pipes from bursting, you won't need to run the generator all the time. But generators are *always* worth every penny they cost; for their use during a power loss and for the peace of mind when the power is working. Too many people put off buying them due to wanting to spend the money on something more "fun" instead of what they consider an expensive insurance plan that they won't get to use often. But every time the power goes out...they vow yet again to get one. And then put it off again when the power comes back on.
              You jump in the saddle,
              Hold onto the bridle!
              Jump in the line!


              • #8
                Right now: sit in the dark weep softly

                I would love to install one of those whole-house generators that runs on city gas as I got lucky and this farmette has a city gas supply.
                Hard to justify the $3K+ though, as I've only had one "major" outage in 9 years - and that lasted 11 hours.
                Go NIPSCO!
                *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015


                • #9
                  Currently? Look up at suddenly dark ceiling and say "oh...power's out."

                  We had a major storm in 2005 or 2006, and the farmette I had at the time was without power for three days. That sucked. Thankfully I had friends in town so I could go there to shower, but I also had to haul tubs in my truck to fill with water for eight horses and my toilet. Suuuuuuuuuuucked. And it was cold.

                  A generator would have been nice.

                  It'll be in the budget for when DH and I buy property, unless we're on city water somewhere.
                  COTH's official mini-donk enabler

                  "I am all for reaching out, but in some situations it needs to be done with a rolled up news paper." Alagirl


                  • Original Poster

                    I should have clarified. Hubby is *obsessed* with the generator (we will likely go with propane) so that is totally happening. Perhaps I am a little bonkers in wondering what I would do if the genny died? Or didn't work? We will be moving from the inner city to the country, so I am trying to plan for most contingencies.

                    Such as, can firefighters hook up to your well to fight a blaze on your property? Do people put stand pipes in for those reasons?


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by sarafina View Post

                      Such as, can firefighters hook up to your well to fight a blaze on your property? Do people put stand pipes in for those reasons?
                      New construction out in the country where I used to live had to install a water tank for the firefighters. A decent sized swimming pool also worked. Back there the firefighters also carried pumps to suck the water from whatever source they could find, because generally fires burn up power lines which means your well pump might not work. I'm thinking of wildfires rather than house fires. I don't know if they'd bother with a well unless it has a fast enough rate of refill.
                      Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                      Incredible Invisible


                      • #12
                        When we built our house over 10 years ago, we had a panel installed to which we can attach a portable generator and run "essential" things like the well pump, heat, etc. I put "essential" in quotes as I think the builder put our TV room on their too, which is amusing as that is hardly essential in this household!

                        Prior to our building, I knew this area was plagued with power outages, some lasting for 5 to 10 days, but since that time the power lines were all redone and since moving here, we have only had a few very short outages. Which has led to some complacency around here and we never bought a generator! I think this is the year that we will, however, since all horses are home and I worry more about them than us.

                        We do keep large quantities of water on hand, which I rotate to keep fresh in times where I think it likely we will lose power. I have flashlights all over the place so they are handy (and working!) should the power go while, say, in the barn. If bad weather is headed our way, we make sure all the big troughs are full. We keep a phone that works when the power is out (as long as phone lines still function) -- especially important as our cell service is bad here.

                        We don't get as severe of weather as other parts of the country, so it isn't that dangerous if we lose power -- we won't freeze, or get buried under snow. More just inconvenient. Water is the only thing I worry about and we are generally okay there with some planning.


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by sarafina View Post

                          Such as, can firefighters hook up to your well to fight a blaze on your property?
                          I would assume your site well is not equipped to handle the flow that fighting a fire uses.


                          • #14
                            I'm really interested in the horse-powered generators myself. In our last power outage, gasoline was in very short supply and many of the folks who had spent $$ installing gasoline-powered generators were SOL when their gas ran out. Even if you have a propane tank to power a generator, it'll eventually run out. But the horse will still be walking about. I gather they can be used to recharge batteries, which can be used to run a generator, so you'd only have to work the horse intermittently. I think. Don't know anyone who actually has one.


                            • #15
                              About the genset. I worked at a nursing home in my youth and they were required to have a big one in the basement. Every month they were required to log a test run of about an hour. So I worked there for three years and we only had a problem twice. Once it wouldn't start and the other time it spun a bearing or something, the thing started to shriek and the lights got blindingly bright and then it quit with a big cloud of smoke. At any rate a good well maintained genset should be as trouble free as your car, but if you ignore it it'll get the same issues.

                              Next question is are you going to use it? We used our Honda every year back at our old home, for up to four days at a time. We had a spaghetti network of extension cords going to the important stuff through a little niche in the door frame. We've only used it once that I can recall here, when DH had to go out to some guys farm and cut up some lumber to take home. The power just doesn't go out much here. Of course when it does it's out for days and the one time we didn't need refrigeration, we just took everything out of the fridge, curtained off the front room and half the house to save heat from the kerosene heater and put the food in the cold half.

                              Really it depends on what you are starting with. Our old house had a propane wall heater, a propane cooktop, a big old woodstove, city water, electric water heater and a no pump septic. This place is all electric except for the decorative fireplace, so forced air heat and A/C, electric stove, electric water heater but does have city water and a no pump septic.
                              If you have a well and a modern septic with a pump you need some wiring done to get that into your gen system. If you have an electric stove and hot water heater, those create more issues.
                              Courageous Weenie Eventer Wannabe
                              Incredible Invisible


                              • #16
                                There are some terrific links on this page for developing firefighter access to your water supply.


                                The two main points are:
                                1. Having the right fittings
                                2. Having those fittings clearly marked, such that a strange crew from out of the area driving on to your property could find it and access it from their truck even with most of the area obscured by haze and smoke.

                                Of course, you must have enough water on hand to make it worth their while as well.

                                Part of our power failure plan is having water tanks. It wouldn't be fun, but we could get water from our tank and into buckets in an extended emergency.

                                A wired in generator powered by propane is a great plan. The thing about generators is that you can't expect them to sit idle in the garage for years and then be ready/able to run when you have an emergency and it's dark and cold - the gas goes bad, the parts seize up, etc. The fuel needs to be fresh and the motor needs some sort of regular exercise.

                                I would like to add in some solar panels with an option to run from them for our needs, but it's a complicated endeavor to have them on the grid most of the time but still usable when the sun and the power are both out.

                                We have a wood stove that can heat and cook as needed.

                                At the very least, this year I'd like to add some small solar devices that would allow me to recharge the phone, laptop, etc. If we have water and internet, we can get along for a while.
                                If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket


                                • #17
                                  We have a 6500 watt portable and a 20KW whole house unit. Being on a well and with hot water heat, bad things happen without electricity for extended periods. Sure is nice to hear that big boy crank when the power goes off.


                                  • #18
                                    Manual transfer switch and a portable generator.

                                    My portable generator is not powerful enought to run the whole house, so we picked what key items are wired to the manual transfer switch: well pump, fridge, microwave, ceiling fans, lights, hot water heater, pressure tank, blower fans for the wood stoves; and which items are not wired to the transfer switch: oven and the a/c.

                                    Get an electrician to install the manual transfer switch.

                                    Or spend $$$$ and get an auto-generator to run the whole house


                                    • #19
                                      Ours is low tech. Generator, but it's not permanently hooked up. I occasionally use it for other things. I have an easy way to hook it up to the house, empty the gas after it's used, and keep a spare, new carburetor-which I needed after the wait between hurricanes Fran and Isabel (another new spare on the shelf now). It does a fine job of running the water pump.


                                      • #20
                                        We are at the end of a very long, very old line and have lost power almost once a month, in the winter some years for over a week in blizzards.
                                        Since we have been in a drought that means no storms, we have lately not had as many power failures as we used to have when storms took lines down.

                                        We have had a whole house propane generator with an automatic panel for decades, mostly because you can't be without water when you have livestock to keep tanks full for.

                                        Our livestock tanks, horses also, are not little ones, but the larger type that holds much water.
                                        Around the house, there are some 20' livestock tanks that the fire trucks can get water from with their pumps.
                                        We have two wells on the same line and could also let the horses go there to drink if their already big tanks were to go dry if both wells would quit in the middle of a blizzard.

                                        Our current generator runs for 45 minutes at full charge once a week on it's own.

                                        Even if your generator is only needed once every so many years, that one time you and your animals will be glad you had it, I promise.