Winter is coming to Texas…
Okay, well that might have been a slight exaggeration.
But this is not. This was last year.
Yeah. Four days without power, I think?
One of the kids sent over a lovely prediction for this winter.
Thanks, Farmer’s Almanac.
So my mission today, on top of the regular workload, is to arrange for chimney cleaning and order some firewood and a new tarp for the said wood. I figure 3 cords would do us.
We are considering a generator because we do have an underground gas tank. This house has four fireplaces and we used the hell out of two of them last year. This year, if there is a snowpocalypse, everyone will hunker down here. Kid 2 will bring her reptiles and we will make due, but we need to be sure that we can run at least two fireplaces at the same time – one in the smaller room where we will put the lizards and one in the main room, so we can sleep in front of it if we have to.
I wish they made solar generators, but then how much solar power would you get in winter? Could you store it in a battery? All good questions.
The sun generates the same amount of power year round – it is merely a case of how effectively can you capture it. If you get a lot of sunny days in the winter in your area, it may be worth the initial investment to install solar panel. I am working on a number of commercial solar projects located just outside the Houston area. Storage is possible but limited in capacity – you can’t cost effectively get a system that will store enough power for an extended period when the grid is out but you can store power during the day for nighttime use so as long as you have reasonably sunny days, you can can provide for most of your electrical needs. If you have natural gas lines in the area, also consider getting a generator that runs off natural gas that will power all or a portion of your house. We went without power for a week in December 2006 – miserable. We got a generator that powers 10 critical systems in the house – cooking, heating primarily. It was well worth the investment. They system automatically turns over once a week to ensure it is operational when needed.
Texas had a big problem with natural gas during the last outage. I would stay away from it for emergency power.
I believe the problem with natural gas was with the generating plants and freezeup of those systems due not winterizing those systems, and not the transmission systems which is what would impact local users
Susan Hill says
Not exactly true – the sun in the winter has fewer hours of daylight. Its also at a lower angle, so its not as effective. Houston is closer to the equator so those impacts are lessened, but its still a consideration. https://www.nrel.gov/gis/solar-resource-maps.html
But I agree – you need more than just your roof top to bank electricity in a battery to get most households through the night unless you are in a super efficient home. Even then – its questionable.
I would also agree – a natural gas generator is the way to go.
And a warning on wood fireplaces – if you don’t have a good draw, they can actually cause more problems than not. Make sure your air in isn’t coming in through door seal problems and windows. Lots of older fireplaces don’t have a good air draw from outside – most pull air through the house and up the chimney, creating cold spots. Best designs are self contained with a glass front and an outside draw.
All true. An with well insulated houses, can pull air containing CO from things like water heaters or other burning units. The self contained units can include a fan to blow heat into the room BUT – you need electricity to run the fans.
Colleen Whitley says
Lee Valley tools sells a fan that sits on a wood burning stove to circulate air, powered by the heat of the stove. I am not sure if it could be used nestled near a fire as it uses the heat of the surface it is on to run.
The best thing is a wood stove, not a fireplace, not even one with a fireplace insert.
Metal stoves draw better than soapstone, but I’ve never heard of any wood stove causing the types of problems you’re listing for fireplaces. And there are LOTS of wood stoves in my area – New England.
We’ve lost power for as long as 2 weeks. The wood stove made things so much better.
Get a wood stove & make sure it’s installed properly. Keep your firewood dry & make sure you have some kindling.
The sun generates different amounts of power at different times of the year, wildly so. Solar is also affected by shading, panel orientation and the type of solar system independant on the theoretically available sun for the time of year.
To give you an idea of what I’m talking about I was quoted a system in my area that was estimated to produce 13Kwh a day in the middle of winter and 60Kwh in the middle of summer. Usage also varies but usually it is in a different pattern to generation.
You are right storage isn’t always the right choice, yet. While batteries can save you money by bridging the generation/usage gap there are a number of issues. Battery cost is a big one but also the type of grid you are connected to (some grids force you to shut down your mains in the event of an outage to prevent leakage), feed in tarrifs (how much you get paid if your solar feeds back into the network) and the conditions (batteries don’t like cold).
Interestingly enough grid scale batteries can be hugely profitable being able to fill the nish of covering unexpected spikes and the time it takes other generation sources to spin up and down as well as buying cheap and selling high. But the above is in reference to residential systems.
And all of this info is terribly general because the nuances of the systems above are highly dependent on local factors.
FWIW – I had a whole house standby generator installed six years ago. During the great freeze last year it ran for three days until utility power was restored. During IDA it ran for two days. Given current home designs and construction we are all highly dependent upon electricity. I figured out what a whole house solar installation with battery back up / inverters, etc. would cost to run my home off grid and it was ~ $60K. The standby generator even going a more expensive unit with liquid cooled engine was slightly over 1/4 of that at the time I had it installed by a licensed electrician. The other thing is that solar panels, battery and inverter systems all have a working life so 10 years along you have a significant reduction in solar panel efficiency. I am by NO means an expert on this and I am sure costs have changed during the intervening six years. My experience FWIW to you.
The solar power/battery idea is good, though once the battery is dry and no sun to recharge – well um, so. We love having a generator as backup and if you have a nice guaranteed supply of gas, that seems a logical way to go.
Here is hoping you don’t have Snowpocolypse II
Search for “Jackery solar generator”. It’s not actually a generator, it’s a battery, and you can buy solar panels to use to charge it. I’ve recently purchased one and have not had to use it yet, but it definitely runs my fridge and I’m expecting it would also run some fans and charge my electronics. I live in the desert, and a very rural area as well, so it’s the summer that I get concerned about.
While I like the idea of solar powered units in some applications, when you have the conditions like were common in TX last year, you need more than a refrigerator – heating systems are the critical element and you need a large system for that. And then there is the electrical storage issue.
I’d like to suggest looking into fireplace inserts. It would reduce the amount of smoke in the house and protect the pets. A good one is energy efficient, uses less wood than a regular fireplace, and radiates heat for a while. We’ve got a huge fireplace and have dropped a significant chunk of change on a strong insert. The only fear is will it get here. The didn’t have one in stock and said it could be here in 3 weeks or 3 months. So, will it get here by the end of November? Worried nail biting is ensuing.
As a Texan, we are also researchign generators too; our additional problem is we have a well which means neading at least 60 amps. Further, we don’t have natural gas nor do we have propane. Huge sigh. Small diesel generators would run one or two things at a time. My husband has been researching welders that serve as powersources. Like you, we’re seeing the prices are all over the place. We have room for solar but the batteries are where the significant costs are.
I wish you luck. Thank you for embracing the idea is now is the time to prepare. Let’s hope all of preparation is unnecessary.
I bought a solar well pump from RPS years ago. I have 8 panels and 4 batteries. It worked throughout the Texas snowpocalypse. This month i had a wood burning stove installed. If we ever have another February like we just had, i will at least be well hydrated and warm. 🙂
I bought a LiPO3 battery – the newer lithium technology to take camping and a portable solar panel. It is capable of powering all your devices multiple times – so that might offload that task for your generator. I was able to run my CPAP with a DC-DC converter plugged into the portable battery. The higher wattage ones can power those camping refrigerator/freezer coolers. Definitely a good emergency kit item!
I also purchased a small lithium iron phosphate battery (LiFePO 4) backup battery for West Coast life. Mine gets me through a shorter work day and I can charge it via usb-c or power adapter once I get power back or charge it up at a relative’s house/emergency center. I’ll probably get a solar panel or two for it and stash it in the garage since this isn’t a camp item. Need to pick up a butane stove & canisters for emergency related caffeine needs.
Kid 2 might benefit from a “solar generator” backup battery to tide her over a few hours if it isn’t safe to go out. Would a USB powered heating mat work for the lizards if she puts a blanket/insulation around parts to help trap heat? Some solar generators can handle chest freezers.
Bill from nj says
The jackery has very limited ability, it can charge devices, might be able to run relatively small appliances, and won’t last all that long even if it is recharging. It can’t run a full house,no way.
It all depends on what you need it for. I have one – it’s for devices, and maybe a few smaller LED lights. I live in a passive solar house, so for most power outages I can get by – and I have a propane heater that rated for indoor use in a pinch. (Though I have some reservations.)
We have a generator for the pump house, which I can use to recharge my portable power station in a pinch, though I also have a folding solar array. And oil lamps in every room, and both indoor and outdoor options for cooking. Oh, and a generator for the chest freezer. So yeah, it won’t run the whole house – but I don’t need it to. But I’m set up to be pretty comfortable here, and it helps keep me connected and able to work.
There are a few brands of these solar generators and they also hook up to your car for charging as well as charging when you do have power so they’re ready. We got a couple and our in laws got one solely to run CPAP/BiPAPs and charge cell phones with during planned power outages to prevent wildfires.
It’s not a bad addition to preparedness plans because you can get them out in short term power outages and save hooking up the gas generator for lengthier periods and more robust appliances. It looks like the high end of solar is 2000-3000wh. I got a 250 and I think my in laws bought a 500w unit. (Rockpals) For CPAPs you can get a DC converter cord and lengthen the hours you can use it.
I’ve seen solar generators on Home Depot’s website. I don’t know the array of sizes, but I know at least one of them is large enough to run a refrigerator. Not a chance of enough sun here in NE Ohio, aka the Land O’ The Gray, but you’d probably have more luck in Texas.
+1 I have been looking at those for a while now. The smallest will run something like a CPAP, which is good to know for those of us who depend on them. You can also get one from the same company with a wind attachment, which may be of more use at certain times of year, or in certain places. It’s going to take a power outage of at least a couple of days to convince the spouse, so I’m biding my time.
The solar ones are said to be quieter and safer, at least until the batteries start leaking (which I assume will happen eventually).
We love our gas generator. After Florence in NC, and then learning our power will always be off the power the hospital first in emergencies, its our precious.
Hubby is looking into solar once he retires, but we havent searched any solid details yet.
I’ll be watching this blog to see what others have done.
There are solar generators, i seriously considered getting one, but my husband overruled and got the gas guzzling one.
Bill from nj says
Solar generators don’t have the power to run a house. Even w critical circuits only you are talking 30 amps draw for heat and fridge and the like, a solar generator might be able to run that off battery for like 10 hours. The solar capacity of those generators is limited, they are really designed to work in a limited fashion,for things like radios, charging devices,very limited things.
My brother who moved to Austin just a year before that freeze had a whole-house generator installed when his house was built. Was he able to use the freeze last year? No, because it ran on natural gas and either the pipes feeding the gas to his neighborhood froze or something to that effect happened, so he was completely without power. Last I heard they were looking into converting the generator into one that could run off natural gas or propane, so they’d need a propane tank in case the natural gas failed again.
*able to use the generator
I went to a dozen dermatologist when my hair started thinning. No one told me it is common in menopause. Well, it is.
Solar + battery can run a house for days if properly sized and then reduce electric bill the rest of the year. Generators are sunk cost only for bad times, but cost less. So depending on what you want (spend more but add value to the house, or spend less but add no value), you could go either way. Several of the YouTubers I follow have done videos on running on their batteries.
Bill from nj says
Those are really expensive, it can be done but would be 50 to 60k minimum. It is true it would be working all the time and cut down electric bills but would take a long time to really pay off.
Amy H says
I wonder if the lawn orphans do firewood?
They’re gonna have to make a couple calls first.
Solar cookers work great even in winter as long as you’ve got sun. Solar chargers for cell phones. A charged battery (lithum) pack can store enough charge to run your cell phone and charge it for a week at least. Tacklife… I love them 🙂 You can also run small 120 volt item off the pack for a while. Not sure how long that charge in the battery would last tho. Its great jump starting the trucks and cars comes with a compass and a light feature 🙂 A back generator and gas to run it is probably the best bet tho. Pick up a few tanks of propane too. JIC. I’ve got a fire place, and they are very nice in winter. Not sure how much eat it generates, but I can say that it definitely can be slept in front of when the house is freezing otherwise. My electric bill goes WAAAY up in winter. The heat pump doesn’t cut it on this old house. Probably needs a ton of insulation added to the walls…
All I have to offer is aww the sweet lizards.. and best wishes to your preparations!
No knowledge of solar generators…????????
Leigh Ann Parente says
Hello from San Francisco!
We installed solar a few years ago, and have been considering some sort of emergency back-up system.
Gas sounds cool (we have gas lines) but if we had an earthquake, gas lines seem to get shut down first.
Around here – our solar sends power to the grid, and the house draws power from the grid. So, if the grid gets shit down (and it does!) our house wouldn’t have power, even on a sunny day, even if our panels were working fine.
So! Because that SUCKS, we’d like to get a solar powered battery, so that we could use the power our panels would continue to generate thru the outage.
Obvs, winter isn’t our concern. But fire season is real, and the power company will shut down the entire grid to prevent fires.
This thread is fascinating!
Bill from nj says
That sounds like one of those solar options you lease, which preclude you from using it as backup power ( basically it is not durectly wired to your house circuits, it sends power to the grid backwards through the meter and offsets the power you use.
Leigh Ann Parente says
We own our solar system, and (here, at least) we are required to be hooked up to the grid.
I’m sure different states have different regulations.
We’ve had solar for over a decade which went to the grid, loved it so well we added more roof panels & a battery about 5 yrs ago. Haven’t paid for electricity since the 1st panels went in. And the battery does the whole house every night.
The battery also allows us to prioritize which appliances we use when the grid goes down (bushfires, storms etc) so we keep the fridge & lights on and can charge anything. Cooking on BBQ & microwave. We do have a diesel/petrol generator, which we’ve never used, for backup. No gas here, though we do have a wood stove for heat in the winter. And we do have AC but rarely use it.
We paid about $20,000 for the panels, battery & inverter. So I’m imagining it would be cheaper now. We’re in Sydney, Aust, and we’re generally dearer here for everything compared to USA.
I read old-school chimney cleaners sometimes ran a rope down the flu, tied on a holly bush, and pulled until the bush popped out the top. You could use what’s left of the holly as kindling. Which has a nice symmetry. Good you’re getting them cleaned. Chimney fires can be real bad news.
Lisa Lamey says
A Generac backup generator run off of propane. They automatically run when there is a power outage, no need to connect cables or refill gas tanks. Install two 120 gallon propane tanks you could use for the generator and convert one or both of the fireplaces to propane also a propane stove is excellent to cook from.
Many, many years ago, when my grandparents in Georgetown (Texas) lived on the ranch, they had no natural gas feed to the house.* They had a large propane tank that powered the stove, hot water heater, and some space heaters and was refilled as needed.
They also had a fireplace, thank goodness.
Central Texas had the equivalent of the Snowpocalypse and the propane froze, at least by the valve that fed fuel to the house.
Luckily the tank was in full sun and the unfroze in the next day or so, but they always had a good supply of fire wood…
*At the time, it was too far from the lines to be affordable – the gas company charged by the foot and it was several of miles.
The telephone company did the same thing, so there was no phone either. The ranch was the farthest from the junction and the 6 families closer declined to help pay to run the telephone line. The neighbors planned to attach to the line once my grandparents had paid and it wouldn’t cost them anything. Pop Ray decided he could live without a phone for a while longer.
I’ve always thought Mom Ray organized the wives into insisting on shared costs…
These days, the edge of Sun City, Georgetown sits about where the barnyard ended, and infrastructure is *no* problem.
Yes– that is what we (and everybody else who lives up there) use at our cottage. The power goes out a lot, because of thunder or snow storms with lots of wind. Trees get knocked down and take the power lines with them. The Generac kicks in automatically and the propane tanks are filled regularly, so it all works very well.
We reduce power with a heat pump
And have 40 solar panels
They work great in sunny cold weather
Usually you send the extra power to the utility and get a heaping reduction in electrical cost, we sure do in WA
You can setup independent systems with solar but we do not have that.
Just had a back up propane fueled generator installed. Big enough to run the whole house electric wise- running 2 fridges, a freezer, lights, multiple TVs, washer&dryer, and satellite for a week at a time until it needs to be refilled. We heat the house with a wood stove and propane fireplace.
PEACE OF MIND- well worth the $10000!!
Got land enough for a windmill?
Wind power is actually another good option. It does not have to be the size of an industrial windmill. Any kind of power source that takes a partial load off your other sources helps.
I use a small wind generator the size of a weather vein and it can charge small things and run a hot plate. Enough to cook when there is no power.
Brand Name please? That sounds like something I want to look into.
My nana lives in the middle of the woods in New England, so there is always the possibility of a long outage. She has a propane tank with a built in generator that most would consider undersized for the house, with the logic that it’ll run for a couple of weeks on the fuel she has. It only does the bare minimum (fridge, a few outlets, the well, maybe a couple other things?) But it’s nice to not worry about her running out of propane quickly
Carolyn W says
Have you considered solar panels?
I live on the Oregon Coast, so we don’t have Winters with the snow and ice to the extent you do. Really a good plan that you are preparing the way you are. You have a lovely backyard, which I bet you enjoy during at least three seasons, and your animals enjoy all year round. Blessings to House Andrews from one of your BDH.
I live in upstate NY, and we have solar panels on the house, and are infact about to have additional solar panels installed, enough so that we should (if we’ve all done our math right) no longer have an electrical bill.
Standard solar panels and install has come down in price greatly over the last few years, especially considering the grants you can get for them these days. I imagine that you’d not need nearly as many panels to run teh house as we do considering how much more southern you are.
HOWEVER! The standard solar setup is grid-tie, which means that it auto-stops producing power when the grid goes down! This is a safety feature that prevents electricity being fed into downed lines and electrocuting someone.
The addition of batteries to the system ups the cost considerably. Its something we’d LOVE to eventually add on, but the cost of batteries, enough batteries to actually run a portion of the house for more than a few hours, is VERY expensive. Plus requires not a small amount of space to house the batteries, plus battery maintenance.
I was bored one Friday night, years ago, and I collected all of the Old Farmers Almanac long-term weather forecasts for the previous 5 years (the seasonal ones, not the daily/weekly predictions) and compared them against the historic weather service data, and discovered that they were wrong in their forecast more than 60% of the time. But I figured that made sense because for the longest time every edition would include an article on how climate change wasn’t real, actually it was the moon, or trying to say we were in a modern version of the Medieval Warm Period.
Bill from nj says
I read the old farmer’s almanac ( the one published by Yankee publishing) every year and I never saw an article on climate change saying it wasn’t real. There are competitors calling themselves farmer’s almanac, but the Old Farmer’s Almanac has acknowledged climate change for a good number of years.
I did a quick check of their online articles tagged “climate” and am encouraged to see that they now acknowledge climate change, but I did read articles in the early 2000’s that, while they might not have a declarative statement denying human-caused climate change, they would minimize its effect and claim that Actually It’s Normal Sunspots. For instance if you google the article: “Is Global Warming on the Wane?” From the 2009 Old Farmer’s Almanac By Joseph D’Aleo September 14, 2009
or other articles from the same author during the 2000’s, you will find more of the same – and these were published in the print version, because I certainly wasn’t reading these online.
Their long-range forecasts have less ‘woo’ than the Farmer’s Almanac, but they still aren’t as reliable as actual meteorological forecasts.
It might be worth looking into a geothermal heating & cooling system. In Texas it would probably pay for itself in saved energy costs in under 5 years, especially with the changing climate.
If you were planning on staying in the house that long anyway, and I would think it would be a great selling point in the current market. I have a friend who has one for her 200+ year old stone house, which is huge. She wasn’t thrilled with the company that installed it, but she loves her geothermal system.
Debbie B says
I’ve read of using a bank of car batteries to be storage for power generated by solar. Didn’t really see any one mention this.
Bill from nj says
There is a reason for that,car batteries are inefficient as hell. To build a bank able to run a house for any length of time would take up a lot of space ,I mean huge. On top of that, lead acid batteries are slow charging, solar panels likely couldn’t charge them enough to last overnight. You also can’t have them indoors, they can generate hydrogen gas when charging.
It is why they use lithium batteries in electric cars and in the solar walls.
# # # Car batteries suck for storage
They are closer to dynamite than candles
For constant use, you want a Deep Cycle lead acid battery ( same power, but designed to release it for hours instead of seconds )
Please do not use vehicle electrical power during a power outage unless the vehicle electrical system is designed for it
For non engine, electrical systems like lights and fridges, High end RV use sealed, AGM ( invented by military – Absorbent Glass Mat ) Deep Cycle ( lower amps for longer ) lead acid batteries hooked up 24/7/365 to a maintenance charger ( prevents sulfur buildup on the plates )
I have a sealed, AGM Deep Cycle lead acid battery hooked up to a maintenance charger for my APAP, charging our smart devices and charging our hoard of Eneloop AAA / AA batteries ( Low Self Discharge NiMH batteries ) during a power outage
Gel lead acid batteries are cheaper than AGM but have severe drawbacks when charging
Flooded lead acid batteries are cheapest but most likely to harm user if not properly maintained
# # # Power outage
Tip, white ceiling are excellent for reflecting LED flashlights/ smartphones to illuminate a whole room. After 20 minutes your eyes reach very close to maximum low light adaption
Tip, during a power outage use a 15 minute AAA / AA battery charger but only charge dead AAA / AA batteries for 7- 10 minutes since the last 25% of a full charge damages the batteries when using a super fast charger ( recharge cycles generally reduced 90% if AAA / AA battery fully charged )
# # # Battery niches
Rechargeable Lithium batteries are best used for non swappable battery devices ( for battery nerds see discharge curves and battery aging )
Lead acid batteries are best when cost is important
LSD NiMH batteries are best for applications when dead batteries need immediate swapping. In my case, headlamps, flashlights, lanterns and emergency radios.
Unfortunately I had to give up my emergency, D-cell powered, Black & White TV when USA went digital since all the portable digital TVs I have found have sucky reception
Kimberly au Telemanus says
My water broke on day 1 of Snowapacalypse in TX this year-February 15th. Getting to the hospital was fun. All the nurses were stuck there and had no clean clothes, etc.
I was 42 weeks pregnant by the time he came along, though, so I was so ready.
Solar is very possible in winter, and yes you store it in batteries. If we can do it in Canada at -40 C I’m sure you can too!
We have solar panels on our house in northern Minnesota, an area not known for warm weather, and the average electric bill in our house is around $10 a month (this is for a 5,600 sq. ft house with 3 adults, 4 kids and a daily nurse for my grandson). Right now we have a $50 credit.
We also have 3 wood-burning fireplaces which help but it’s mostly the solar power.
Jenalee Muse says
A generator is well worth the money spent. I have one that can run everything in my 3600 sq. ft. house, run off of my natural gas with the lines underground. However, last year, if I remember correctly, natural gas lines froze in Texas during your horrible storm.I live in South Carolina.
Susan Tuckett says
Tesla Powerwall is a battery which will store power generated by the grid, solar cells and wind turbines
OMG, a FB friend posted a picture of his new Tesla power wall and it is the sexiest piece of equipment. Our next house is going to be one-storey with a solar cell and battery storage system that also feeds into the grid, if that is possible (from this thread it sounds as if it’s one or the other?). Maybe by then it will be possible. Anyway, the Tesla box on the guy’s garage wall is the bomb. Want One!
It’s like a giant UPS computer battery. Lol
Which having a few of, might be useful to keep the lizards warm, charge phones etc.
The fireplace insert comment above was a good one. We have one in our house, no fan, just vents and heat rising through the conduits. The entire house heats quickly with it.
Kristan Paige Hall says
You might be surprised at how much sun there is in the winter. *is a long-time Texan*
And ta-da! Solar generators: https://www.lowes.com/pl/Portable-solar-generators-Generators-Electrical/4294641573
Karen the Griffmom says
Whole house generator hooked to propane pig here; propane fuels our stove as well. We also have solar panels hooked to grid that power 1900 sq ft house w/air conditioning, 3 car garage, barn, well, and pole barn. We have chickens and part time cattle needing water. We run a negative balance from April through October and paid less than $50 A month in electric last winter. Hark, I hear the generator’s weekly test run starting now!
Rorie Lynne Solberg says
A former student of mine is working for a company that is designing batteries for solar power. Hopefully, they will be ready for prime time soon.
Thomas Coakley says
Likely I am going to be one of many many fans who tell you that they do make solar generators. I like the Goal Zero brand personally, but there are many available. https://www.goalzero.com/shop/portable-power/goal-zero-yeti-500x-portable-power-station/yeti-500x-power-station/ They also have 200w suitcases which allow you to keep them in the sun.
We are considering getting a generator too. Tennessee is in store for real winter this year according to the Farmer’s Almanac, and where we live is entirely surrounded by steep hilly curvy swervy roads, so ice will mean no leaving the house at all until everything is completely thawed. Never needed a generator in Tennessee before and feeling a little overwhelmed trying to figure what all is needed outside of the generator itself, and how much/ how long tanks of gas [both propane and gasoline] can be stored in advance.
How do you figure out how much of both you need to run a 15,000 watt [ whole home] hybrid generator for a day or up to a week?
Yes, Ilona, you can store enough if you are fugal with it during consecutive cloudy days. My husband, Dog and I live in a 3200sf. 3 story home (Built 2011) in the California, Santa Cruz Mountains, and we are completely off grid. We have a 5K generac generator, a 500 gal propane tank and a shed with storage batteries. The house is very energy effecient. Yes, there are sacrifices, but there is good and bad in whichever way you go. What we’ve learned the last 10 years it that it is completely doable. Currently in the SC Mtns power is being turned off several times a week by the Utility company for fear of fires, etc. We never are without power and use our fireplace at night for heat in the winter.
Kelly M says
Honestly, that is the stuff of dreams for me. Some of my best memories as a child were days when school was canceled because everything was blanketed in a foot or more of snow, and our family would hunker around the wood fireplace cooking hotdogs on straightened-out coat hangers (yes, the adult in me wonders about the possible presence of toxic metals in coat hangers) and flushing the toilets with water from the bathtubs, which of course we had filled the night before in preparation for a possible power outage.
It’s just funny to see different perspectives. As an adult, I feel that same surge of eager anticipation at the thought of an oncoming snow storm. It absolutely is a factor (in terms of me being able to think about it with anticipation rather than dread) that we are 100% prepared for inclement weather – we live in the mountains and have a gas fireplace, gas stove, candles, blankets, AWD cars with winter tires, and a great neighborhood support system. Our current house even has a generator hooked to a battery system, but we haven’t verified that it actually works or had it checked or serviced since we moved in a couple of years ago (I feel like your post is a reminder that we need to do that, ha).
I’m fully aware that if I didn’t have happy memories around being snowed in, and if I didn’t know we could face a repeat with equanimity, I would definitely have a different perspective about winter weather! I enjoy hearing other people’s views because it reminds me that all of our circumstances and frames of reference are different and no less valid for being so. 🙂
Kelly M says
(As an aside – a previous owner of our house installed a 1,000 gallon propane tank in addition to the 350 gallon one that was already there, so there is a LOT of peace of mind in the knowledge that it’s almost impossible for us to run out of heat or cooking fuel!)
In 1995, while performing surgery in an airliner at 35,000 feet (11,000 m), orthopedic surgeon Angus Wallace and his fellow doctor Tom Wong used an unfolded coathanger, sterilised with brandy, as a trocar to stiffen a catheter for use as a chest tube to relieve a passenger’s pneumothorax.
(I think you’re probably safe…)
We have a whole house generator that runs on propane and used it during Hurricane Sally. It was wonderful. We were just careful to unplug the small stuff we didn’t use.
So my husband and I talked about what we would do if this scenario to us. We bought a house, 8000+ft above sea level, that has electricity, a water well with electric pump, a 1000 gallon propane tank, and a septic system. Living through a winter storm like that is a lot like dry camping. A generator is great but you are limited to a max power output. What it is great at doing is continuously trickle charging a battery system that can handle periodic large draws. Using energy efficient appliances for the essential needs like food storage and cooking also keeps your power draw down. RVs that use a large lithium battery system are an example of efficiency. You have heat covered with the fireplaces, you will also want to be able have hot water, or at least warm. Remember that frozen pipes also caused a lot of problems. Water for drinking and cooking cooking is a necessity. It all comes down to making sure you have robust systems (water,heat, power, shelter) to survive without city systems. These hardcore storms are survivable with prep and planning. I am not saying it will be like glamping, but it can fun. PS, merino wool undergarments and socks make living in a chilly house very comfortable as I found out living in Sweden.????
What about wind power in combination with solar power?
yes, solar generators exist and there are solar batteries, i discovered when we got our solar panels installed. however, the batteries to run like a generator are preposterously expensive. a gas generator is much more financially reasonable.
We live in rural far north Texas and looked into a generator. 8-10 month delivery time, ugh. We have a small generator that ran our heat during the rolling (hah, what a joke) blackouts.
Patricia Schlorke says
I live in an apartment complex with a fireplace. I lost my electricity for about 3 days. I’m not sure the last time the fireplace was cleaned, so I didn’t use it.
To compensate for the lost work time, I bought a Halo charger that will charge phones, has 2 electric outlets, a DC port. I bought another one for the upstairs. I have multiple outlet surge protectors, so I can have multiple units charging using one outlet on the charger.
I also bought a Yeti cooler so I don’t have to throw a lot of groceries away.
Makes me glad I lived in northern states before moving to Texas. I kept all my winter coats, boots, sweaters, and other winter paraphernalia. ????
We got our generator 5 years ago after no power for a week due to an ice storm. We lose power often since we live in rural Vermont. We got a Kohler, mostly whole house, generator. It’s wired right in with a transfer switch and runs on an outside propane tank. You might know we broke down and bought it so our horses and donkeys could have water. Totally get providing heat for the family pets. I love that generator. I give it a pat anytime I’m in the backyard!
Donna A says
Definite change in the weather here (London, UK), it’s been raining and miserable all day. Hopefully clearing up by the weekend as I’m going on a long planned fossil hunt with my sister-in-law and a storm is great just beforehand but not during!
Pollyanna Hopson says
yes they make solar generators and it’s always recommenfed that you store the energy in a battery.
In Texas, if you have the batteries to store it and can disconnect from the grid when it goes down so it won’t pull all your power out, you could manage with solar or wind power. The solar panels or windmills are not expensive. The batteries are outrageous. I checked into it one day to see if SE Ohio was good for solar power. The price calculator told me that if I bought it all, it would take over 100 years to pay for itself. I think wind would work better here, but no windmills came up in my short search.
When winter hits, I charge all the rechargeable batteries in the house. I put out the lights that charge all day and shine all night to get charged, take them in to light up the house when it gets dark. I have kerosene lamps, a kerosene heater, and a few propane stoves for camping from the Boy Scout days long gone. I actually have a wind-up generator that can charge my phone or my Kindle. The road we live on is one road, you go past us to get in, you go past us to get out, no other roads exist. The electric company forgets that we are all-electric homes here and ignores us because the lines only serve us and don’t go through to anywhere else. When our power goes out, it’s out for a while, if the storm is big.
Clean chimneys and wood on hand are a good idea at any time of any year. I used to adore my wood burning stove. I kept it filled, it kept the house as warm as toast. But I’m old, wood is heavy, and it’s a really dirty thing when it’s your only heat all winter. I used to haul ashes out and put them in the driveway, which helped melt the ice a little, for a minute. Big mess, and the house got chilled while I let it burn out enough to deal with ashes.
I am seeing a harsh winter forming here. My father always said that if your garden and plants bloomed and produced bounty, it meant you were in for a hard winter. Well, if he was right, we’re due here. I’m hoping both ways. I love snow, but I have a lot of medical appointments to get to. Whichever way it goes, one side of me will be happy to see summer end and winter begin. I wish you luck.
Bill from nj says
When you say underground gas tank, do you mean propane or gasoline ( be surprised if it was gas).
In theory a solar panel setup with a battery wall ( Tesla’s name for it) would work, it would depend on there being enough sunlight to keep the batteries charged ( for night) and running your critical systems ( heat,refrigerator) . If your stove is electric that will be a huge draw.
f you got that route you would likely need multiple solar battery walls along with serious solar panels to have enough power. Not an expert, just based on what I have seen.
You have several options;
1) gasoline powered generator with a manual transfer switch ( wired by an electrician). Relatively cheap compared to other options ( a 10 kw generator would do it) . If power goes you throw the transfer switch and plug the generator 30 amp cable into the box. Usually they wire only critical circuits.
Downside is these drink gasoline, you would need to have gas on hand, 5 gallon tank may last only 12 hours, and you may not be able to easily get more.
2) manual generator as above but a tri fuel, that can run off natural gas or propane. In addition to the transfer switch, would need to get a natural gas line hooked up to use w generator.
Propane is a possibility but unless you have a big propane tank, it has same drawbacks as gasoline.
3)automatic backup generator running on natural gas,propane or diesel. These are wired into your power, they have an automatic transfer switch to disconnect from pole power and they auto start ,all after detecting loss of power, you don’t have to do anything.
Best option is natural gas if you have it. Texas natural gas delivery systems did have problems during the cold snap, they weren’t winterized properly either and could have problems. That said that is not a likely occurrence but it could happen again given the fact that unlikely have upgraded the has distrib network.
Propane can work but would mean having a big tank on property to run it
Advantage is works like natural gas but disadvantage is you may need a refill if it runs more than 2,3 days ,( depends on size of tank), and propane delivery might be difficult,especially if a lot of people use propane for hearing.
Diesel is another option but would require a tank and they tend to be pretty loud. Same prob w diesel fuel delivery too.
Solar is going to be expensive if you want to use it for backup,w batteries, and the number of panels and may not work if I light is limited due to clouds and precipitation. Texas is better than the northeast, it gets more solar radiation in the winter, bit still may not be enough. On the other hand with that setup you can decrease your electric bills since you would have the solar generating power all the time, any excess goes back to the grid and you get paid for it. You also have to be careful, some places I don’t know why, they don’t allow it to be used as backup. You are likely talking 50 to 60 grand I would guess.
For me the automatic standby generator running natural gas is the best bet. I know,some will say Solar is green, it can pay for itself, will cut down use of fossil fuels, but it has drawbacks ( winter sunlight ,cloud cover and yes,snow) and it is very expensive.
We have solar panels, a woodstove, and a whole house generator.
The solar panels are connected to the grid, meaning during peak times we feed power back onto the grid. (We did not do batteries for the cost/storage/maintenance/depreciation reasons mentioned above.) Our power bill will never go down to 0, service and maintenance charges make up the majority of our bill – being hooked to the grid is a service itself. We produce the most power in VA in May, mostly because our solar panels get less efficient as temps rise (8+ yrs old). Early to mid spring has the best combo of long days, cool temperatures, and mostly sunny days – our power usage is usually net negative. Winter can be rather sparse because of the fewer hours of sunlight and cloudy weather.
So, then, the woodstove. We love our Hearthstone Equinox, a very large woodburning model. We’ve had it close to 15 years and use it every winter to heat the whole house, 3 floors, with a 3 floor chimney draw, which makes lighting it so easy. It runs pretty much constantly from mid-December to mid-January, and intermittently on either side. During that time, we go through anywhere from 5-7 cords of wood + kindling, depending on the weather and the hardness of the wood. (If chopped wood is difficult for your household, maybe consider a pellet stove?) It’s very efficient; we get only a handful of soot in our annual chimney cleaning. I sleep in front of it even when the power is not out – it’s a great spot when you’re sick. It also adds humidity to the house through a steamer of water on top. I’ve baked bread in the ash pan when the kitchen oven broke and fried eggs on top. We’ve had to replace a few minor parts over the years, but we love our woodstove.
The backup generator (Generac) was a necessary business expense, runs off pre-existing propane. It starts up once a week and automatically when the power fails – but we turn it off for for planned/extended outages when backup becomes too expensive. It needs maintenance only occasionally in the years (6?) we’ve had it, recently blew a fuse in a lightning storm (the irony). We enjoy the benefits but would not have it were it not for the business.
Best wishes for the coming winter!
Chimney sweeps – the new up-and-coming sector for lawn orphans… 😉
I love having a battery to store then solar in.
We have 28 solar panels and 2 Tesla powerwalls. Whole system cost $55K and we got 26% back in federal tax breaks. We contribute to the grid on sunny days, but Duke Energy pays us back so little for the electricity it doesn’t help much with the cost. Our monthly electric bill is about $100/month in the summer because my husband keeps the house at arctic levels even on 100 degree + days. I try to maximize the solar panel benefit by running the dishwasher and laundry during sunny days. During the winter our electric bills are only around $30/month. We removed all gas appliances and replaced them with energy star electric because propane is so expensive. It’s a long term bet which we feel will work out for us because Duke Energy has lots of coal ash pits to clean up and has approval to pass the cost on to the consumers to the tune of $4 billion.
Our area in NC has a lot of power outages so for us it was as much for power continuity as savings. Our neighbor went for the whole house generator instead. The neighbor only spent about $5K plus fuel for the same power security. The noise the generator makes irritates the whole neighborhood though.
We do get enough sun during the winter to power the whole house (4000 sq ft) as long as we don’t turn on the pool heater. Even a cloudy day can produce 1 -2 kw. A sunny day produces 10kw.
Hope this helps!
Yep, it’s time to fill up the ol’ propane tank. Had to get a new furnace last year. Here’s hoping I don’t hv problems with it.
Hope the Texans remember the year of Snowpocalypse around election time.
Our house is in the country in Atlantic Canada and when we bought it a few years ago, we made sure to save money to buy a gas generator before winter. It was Priority Number 1 for use because the year before an ice storm left people in the area without power from Dec 23 to about Dec 28 (some longer).
The cost was somewhere between $2,500-$3,500 but it has proven itself to be worth every cent. When the power goes down, we can run everything we need upstairs including the appliances and pumps/heaters for our large aquariums. It also powers the in-law suite below us where my mother-in-law lives and our well pump. It has literally and figuratively saved our (faux) bacon year-round. We’re saving to eventually transition to one that automatically kicks in when the power goes out and turns off when it comes back on. In part, because it is convenient but mostly for our pets in case we aren’t home when it goes out.
If I were to live in the South again, I would buy one for the heat in winter and for the protection of AC for ourselves and our pets in the summer.
Eep! Though Solar Panels/Solar power still work in winter, as long as it doesn’t get covered in snow, which could be frustrating to brush off.
30 book a month reader says
A gas generator is the way to go. Please take it from someone who worked in the utility industry for over 35 years.
Off topic – while running out of things to read, I reread the Hidden Legacy series. When Nevada took her house tests, why didn’t the grandmother and mother declare their magic too? Puzzled.
Moderator R says
The requirements for qualifying as a House are having at least 2 Prime calibre magic users in three generations.
Neither Penelope nor Grandma Frida are Primes, so them declaring their magic would help with nothing during the tests.
Magic users tend to keep things secret and life as a new House is very cut throat- why would House Baylor reveal information they don’t need to about what sort of talents they rely on? ???? They are not in the business of making things easy for their enemies hehe.
30 book a month reader says
Thanks for your take on this. I wondered because Bern declared and he was just a Significant.
Moderator R says
Bern wanted to get retested ????
We have solar panels in the UK, we’re in the south east but we get rubbish weather in the autumn and winter. They’ve saved about a 1/3 off our heating and electricity bills and we dump the excess that we’re not using into our immersion heater so have more hot water and we’ve got a electric car charging point that can use the solar power. We’ve recouped the cost of our panels ages ago it has been a really good system so far and would recommend getting them, just make sure you have a south facing roof space for maximum effect!
Heather Havel says
We got our first frost in town this morning… … 🙂
Los Angeles metro – so too little heat is rarely a problem. In the process of switching to (mostly) solar.
Added solar panels and batteries; the batteries will run the house, except for air conditioning (which is a big deal) and anything with a big power drain on start up (i.e. washer, dryer, dishwasher). Portable fans and heaters can run off the battery, but I doubt the heat output would be enough for a Texas winter.
Because of how the CA power grid is set up, we will sell excess power to the grid. When the grid is down, we flip over to battery operation. Since the utility providers will shut down sections of the grid when winds are high, we can be on battery for 4-5 days at a time.
Battery can also be used to charge electric vehicles. We estimate payback over the 10-20 year life will be about break-even, but we will stop losing groceries and be able to WFH during grid shut downs (instead of being forced to “take” vacation).
Full cords or face cords?
Back to the wood, why are you buying it?
Surely as authors you know all wood supply is to be provided by the tragic young person you are raising in place of their deceased/estranged/kidnapped family while teaching them ethics, fighting skills,politics and other necessary stuff in order to become The One.
Better hurry, the plot says you gotta do it before you pass in a needless fight involving the Overlord’s henchmen. And winter is coming. 😛
On the really cold days there are no clouds in the sky and lots and lots of sun. Here in Virginia the back of my house faces south. I get so much sun on the back of the house that I have eaten breakfast with the sliding doors open when there was 2 feet of snow outside, and I was in my pajamas. You can nap all day long in the heat coming through the windows, the cats love it.
Amy in Austin says
My neighbor has a solar generator, but I’m pretty sure he works for the company. It’s a 6×12 trailer that sits in their driveway, and was still loud as a the gas generators when it was running during Snowvid, so I’m guessing we’re still aways out from a widely practical version.
Sharon Fletcher says
Get some tents, maybe, too. You can sleep in them, indoors, to conserve more heat.
Make sure you are stocked up on canned soups, which are easy to reheat and add hydration.
And have board games on hand!
Solar panels and tesla power wall. Best investment ever. If you drain the battery, as long as the sun shines, it’ll recharge
Move to MN. We tend to be prepared for winter…. Just colder here!
What we need is a home-size wind mill. I have heard that these generate enough power that you can end up getting a credit on electric bill. Cities have regulations on the size.
This goes with various solar panels on the site and it looks like you can essentially daisy-chain them up.
Also these folks, one of the oldest companies in non-industrial solar.
My opinion (non scientific one). I would look at a generator system Bill from nj., did a nice write up. The reason I say generators is that you are looking to move. We put solar on our house but didn’t want to spend the money for backup as we figure on moving in the next few years.
Good Luck figuring out which way to go.
Forgot to add don’t forget hidden costs when looking at options, we put solar on and also a new roof as ours was at least 20 if not older.
Lynn Thompson says
Thank you, Ilona Andrews for the post.
Yes there are solar generators. But those require sunlight. But after getting your underground tank checked for leaks, I suggest investing in a propane or gas powered one. Your electrician can set it up so when power goes off, generator kicks in. That way day or night doesn’t matter. It’s automatic.
I know whole house generators can be installed by Home Depot or Lowe’s independent contractors.
I have my well on generator specific for it because livestock can not be with out water. I have gas heat so it works without power.
My computers are all on battery backups so when power goes out they start to chirp.
Hmm. Time to check chimneys. And flashlight batteries. And Hot Hands for winter coat pockets. Thanks Ilona Andrews for the reminder to winterize.
Maria Schneider says
Person with generator experience here. Get a propane generator if you can. They are easier to deal with than trying to get gas during storms. You buy a couple of propane tanks and they are portable, easy to hook up and generally easier to buy in the case of a prolonged storm. The solar ones are too expensive and while the idea is nice, the tech isn’t quite there or has never been when we’ve researched. As you said, what if there isn’t enough sun? We have a gas generator and fuel can be an issue. Pouring it is messy and you’re generally attempting to do this in rain, snow, cold or a lightning storm. My parents have a whole house generator that hooks directly into their system and is run off their house propane. If you get any kind of installed generator such as this, do not put it close to the house if you can avoid it. They are NOISY and they smell. They need their own shed/protection even though they come fairly well packaged. They generate a LARGE amount of heat when running, they run about 10 minutes a week to keep everything working properly. There are various versions of “house” generators; some can be started manually when needed, some are automatic transfers, etc. It was well worth researching and buying a generator for us, although our weather is different than yours so they are necessary at different times. 🙂
Yep, NOAA is predicting another La Niña during the DJF months. (This past winter with the snowpocalypse was also La Niña.)
There are multiple factors that go into the Farmer’s Almanac algorithm for prediction. I don’t know the exact formula but the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is a major player in US seasonal forecasting. La Niña is a negative phase of ENSO. This page does a good job of explaining what can be expected of a La Niña winter and why:
The thing to remember is that it’s just a general guide of what to expect. This page explains how the much reality can deviate from what’s expected:
It will be interesting to see if the Farmer’s Almanac’s forecast validates!
Check out the Jankery solar generators. Wont power the whole house, but I know someone who boondocks with his wife and child and they all worked/schooled remotely with power to spare
Jackery. Stupid autocorrect
We had a whole house generator installed in our previous home that ran on propane. It was around $10k. Since we lost electricity frequently and often for days at a time, it was well worth it since we had a well and when we lost power we also lost water. Don’t know much about solar since our previous house was on a heavily wooded lot so we couldn’t support solar but I never regretted the generator purchase. It saved our bacon (literally) more times than I can count.
I have been looking into this cause I’m in Hutto and we had 7 days no electricity. The solar generators don’t store enough power to last for long periods of time. They may last a day but not much more than that. The generators that attach to gas lines will keep the electricity running the whole time. They are backed up, so if want you may need to get now.
Bill G says
Best of luck.
In Texas, depending upon your tree cover and orientation of your house, you will still get a great deal of sun. And in the summer, enough to offset your air conditioning use to lower your bills. Most solar installers will also sell, or have dealers who install batteries – they’re usually marine batteries, if memory serves. There’s also Tesla’s Powerwall battery system. I did serious research about this in Wisconsin, where we get far less sun than you in the winter.
David Sperry says
Solar power is for real, and there are any number of fascinating videos on YouTube of people setting up solar (and hydroelectric, and even wind) systems with racks of batteries to store the generated energy. You would probably still need the fireplaces for heat, but even in the winter a good solar and battery setup could definitely keep the computers going (and at least some of the lights).
Bliss Crimson the Mooncatx says
I think the sun still shines in Winter. What you’d need to worry about is the collectors getting covered in snow or ice. It probably wouldn’t be a bad idea if you have some acreage, to try out sun or wind if you have the room. Every little bit helps.
Deborah Roill says
I live in Western NY, Pendleton to be exact. We have 2 generators.A gas one and a solar charged one that only needs charging once a year. We wish we could upgrade to a whole house one. We go without electricity at least 3 times a year for days at a time. Never will I be without one it runs the sump pump. We have a basement and without a working pump we would have a foot of water in the basement. It was supposed to run the furnace also but the electrician was incompetent and didn’t hook it up so we burn wood in our fireplace. We have lights our fridge works but I’d rather have the furnace working. After all it’s freezing outside our garage works as a fridge -freezer.If my lowly fan opinion counts get one that will turn off your house electric and on with the generator. You can be comfy in your beds no one or thing will freeze and no worries. I see this weather only getting worse. If you choose to get one do it before everyone else is trying to.When out electric is out they fly off the shelves.
If I remember, solar panels installation of 3kW cost ~8-10k€. They can be 95%recycled, and last for at least 40 years, even if there is a slight decrease in production over the time. I read somewhere that installing a battery is really expensive, way more than the solar panels, and takes a lot of place (you’ll have to verify this info).
What can be interesting is a solar water-heater (I don’t know if it is the right English term), but even then, I think you need electricity for the pump or something. For small appliances, there are small solar panels that can be installed on the wall by yourself. They cost 700€, for a max production of 300W
Becky Coates says
Get the generator. You could get solar with battery back up but they don’t really last that long (for during the night). Automatic start gennies are the way to go, since you already have gas. Electrician from New England
Solar power in winter is possible but only when the sun is shining:) On a more serious note, while it would be nice to think a reprise of the rare winter weather would not occur stacking the deck in your favor by having the necessary supplies to hand is the smart way to bet. Just make sure to put those supplies somewhere out of the public eye – it will easier for folks not to help themselves if they don’t know you have what they are looking for!
Yes, winter is a good time to make solar energy because the panels stay cooler (go figure) and they even collect through a layer of snow, though they do better if you remove the snow. The drawback is the shorter days.
Deborah Roill says
Let us know what you decide to do. I’ve read all the comments and found them interesting. Solar panels were installed at the University of Buffalo Amherst campus NY. Turns out they will pay themselves off in 50 years. Batteries won’t last that long bad investment for our area.
Good for you for getting prepared just in case. Forewarned is forearmed.
Alysyn Henninger says
Yes you can store solar power in a battery. I grew up without electricity on a farm way back in the hills and we had a few solar panels on our barn roof to power our electric fence. The battery we had was about the size of a car battery, and our fence was always on. (We had sheep in the middle of a forest full of coyotes, abandoned dogs the summer folks left, and other hungry things.). If we could make it work 30 years ago I’m sure you can find something that will work for you now. Good luck!
What about getting solar panels on your roof for you electricity? You must get so much sun. You would store a lot of energy, I thinks.
Deneese Fultz says
They do make solar generators. Tesla makes a very nice one, and so does generac. We have a ten day one that works great! Our panels produce just as much power in the winter, even more if we have a lot of snow, the reflection off all that white is very helpful. If you have a flat roof it wouldn’t help, the panels would be covered, but the snow slips right off them, and they just collect, collect, collect if your roof is sloped. The installation was super fast and smooth too, and you can watch your power collection on an app. We have switched our entire house to electric, no more gas appliances; put in geothermal heat and cooling; we are getting an electric car this year. Why pay for gas? I just collect my fuel from the roof. I would put in a windmill, but when we drilled for our geothermal heat pump they whined so much, I’m sure we’d never get permission from the township. My only complaint is that Michigan has no buyback program, so when I overproduce I just help the power company. I wish they would allow us to at least donate the power to someone who needs it. I feel like it should go into a fund and be distributed to low income families.
Elizabeth lee says
We have solar. 24 panels on roof in SW PA. We dont have a battery but we make enough power (even with a/c running, that we dont pay much of anything to power company in winter. Maybe $30 a month. (we act as a power generator for electric with our excess. They credit us towrds heating months).
Batteries are really expensive but there are initiatives & credits popping up all over. Just dont go with tesla. Good product, blacker than the blackest hole in hell to get customer service.
Id rather have my fingernails pullecd out and shoved under my eyelids than try to find the sErvice phone number and then try to get a person to talk to. Last time it took 2months and 3 billing cycles to get an email from them!
We have solar farms here in Australia that generate to (TESLA) battery if it’s excess. Although that may be a bit pricey…
cheryl z says
I use to live in the Lake Tahoe Basin where long power outages were routine. We had a large propane tank; we bought a generator that automatically powered on when the electricity was off – it was awesome!!! It powered the whole house and the garage, and was money really well spent. My longest power outages were up to 2 weeks, so a generator was heaven.
Susan B says
I highly recommend a propane whole-house generator. We installed one in January 2020 and it’s saved us several times since then when the power went out for a few hours. Like you, I make a living using a computer and the internet, and the whole house generator powers everything. We are also on a well so with no power we don’t have water either which is kind of inconvenient.
We bought a Kohler 20 KW model and have been totally satisfied with it. 30 seconds after the power dies the generator auto starts and there is power again.
Regarding hair loss–I lose hair when I take statins. It’s a known side effect. I also have severe muscle pain so at this point I can’t take them every day. So my doctor and I arrived at an agreement for me to take them intermittently and even that has made my hair start falling out again. I’m lucky I started with very thick hair. It’s alarming to see how much is coming out when I brush or wash my hair.
Looking it up just now, there are multiple classes of medications that can cause hair loss. I’ve never heard a doctor mention this up front so we’re all just left to figure it out or ask after losing a bunch of hair. Mine got quite thin at the height of my statin use and I finally realized something was wrong and asked about it. It grew back when I stopped taking statins entirely for awhile.
I see the hair loss mention was from the other post; I read them back to back.
George Bailey says
If the natural gas in Texas was reliable, I would suggest a gas fireplace – it is shocking how much of any type of fuel is needed for even a few days without power. The type I would get would be the enclosed type that convects heat from the firebox to the room without electric fans. Considering the Texas utility lack of vision, however … wood might be your best choice (assuming you have access to lots of it). A wood stove (the type you can cook on besides heating the room would be the best solution. As far as electricity, a generator would take a LOT of gasoline. It would be better to not count on refrigeration for any long outage. I stockpile a month of can and packaged food, as well as water. As for solar power, unless you are doing your whole roof with panels and have a bank of LiFePO4 batteries you won’t have a complete solution. Then there is the lower angle of sun and cloud factor…. Here in Iowa, my emergency heat is a combination of fireplace (don’t have room for a wood stove, alas), a propane Big Buddy heater (that can use grill type propane tanks as well as smaller ones) and a kerosene heater. I have oil lamps for light (and extra heat – my Aladdin really cranks out both! ). To charge my electronics (iPhone, Kindle, rechargeable batteries for flashlights, radios, etc.) and to also run my ham radio station, I have two 50 AHr Bioeno LIFePO4 batteries and also two Jackery 23 AHr units. I can recharge these in turn using two 100 W solar panels. Just my 2 cents … good luck with your choices!
George Bailey says
PS Susan’s propane whole-house generator sounds interesting. But expensive. I wonder how much propane would be needed for a week of power outage?
George Bailey says
PPS For example: For my Big Buddy propane heater, three grill tanks plus + 14 small tanks (total about 70 lbs of propane) will only cover about 10 days of heat for one room!
Also note that my Jackery 300 W units will NOT run a regular refrigerator – you would need 1000-2000 watts (the problem is the start up of the compressor needs a hefty amount of watts). You could run a small truckers or RV style frig off a 50 AHr battery for one or two days.
Forgot to say that the enclosed fireplace (also called direct vent) does not take air from the room, so you don’t loose room heat up the chimney. A big advantage!
Mary Cruickshank Peed says
So I have friends in your neck of the woods (well, Louisiana). They are basically fully running their house on solar plus a whole house battery. I’m thinking of adding a battery to my house even without the solar as a UPS because my new furnace is hardwired to the power and I can’t put a ups between the electronic ignition and the power like I did in the old one. If we lose power, we lose all heat.. I could put a wood stove in, like so many people do, but I’d have to reline the chimney, possible rebuild it, and it would cost the same as one of the Tesla whole house batteries.
Friends down on the Detroit area put solar in last fall and ran about 3/4 of their house on it last winter. The only issue they had was they had to go out and clean the snow off the solar panels after a big storm. They added another battery this summer because the panels are generating more power than the battery can store.
I can give you some names if you’d like, or you can check around… Many people even just putting in solar to run pumps or to act like a ups for computer or ham arays.
George Bailey says
Mary, you would need electric power to run the blower fans as well as ignition, so you might need more power (a full generator) than a simple UPS could provide.
I don’t think this has been mentioned, but for those of us in cold weather areas where we might lose power but probably not natural gas:
1). If you have a gas furnace and it is new, it likely won’t run without power, but
2). You only need a small generator to generate just enough power to keep the furnace running. And provide energy for recharging electronics.
This is no good for those of you in normally warm weather states where you may get bizarre outages, but I was surprised at how little power it takes to keep our gas fireplaces and furnaces working – none of which will work without electricity. It is a cheap option.
Have a few hot water bottles for the reptiles. You can heat water in the fireplaces if needed.
I found an insulated tent on line:
The YouTube shows how to add a wood stove:
Tesla power wall. If you want to be duper prepared and off grid, they have solar roof options.
My parents have solar panels in Massachusetts, and they do make a fair amount of electricity in winter, as long as they’re not covered in snow. In the summer they make far more electricity than they use (fed into the grid). I would think that in Texas, if you’re sited well, you could do better than my parents.
I know that it’s possible to store solar power in a battery instead of being connected to the grid, but I don’t know what the safety issues are like these days.
Teresa Reimer says
Look into Jackery generators. They are solar or electrical charging. They come in various sizes to suit your needs and they have portable solar panels for on the go needs as well. I own the smallest and love it.
I remember being gob-smacked when you posted those photos of your yard last winter. They just didn’t tie up with my image of Texas. But even our weather patterns are becoming more extreme at both ends of the spectrum, and we’re an archipelago who are accustomed to the sea being a moderating influence on most weather extremes (we used not to be on the path of hurricanes, but even that may change.) The Farmers Almanac is clearly very wise. 🙂
We have the Tesla backup batteries that are run by our solar panels. We have a large home so they don’t cover everything, but in moderate homes they would. Ours would power the house for a couple days if we were conservative, and one would hope that the sun would be back out by then. My husband is passionate about tesla and clean energy, so while a whole house gas generator would have been cheaper, it wasn’t an option for us. The nice thing about the Tesla batteries is that you can stack them so in the future we could buy more to cover more of the house. Here’s to hoping there’s no Snowpocalypse this year!! https://www.tesla.com/powerwall
Kathryn K says
GenerLink Transfer switch is the easiest way to get a generator hook up to your house. You still need a portable generator but it’s faster and cheaper than a whole house generator.
We installed one because we couldn’t do a whole house direct hook-up.
Polina Makeeva says
We had only one Tesla battery and solar panels. It was hooked to heater/AC, fridge and several plugs. This was a good compromise of money vs comfort.
We had frequent power outages and I would cook on the grill outside, but we always had warmth and a working fridge.
The battery was also used during pick hours to save us money. There is an automatic mode where it would charge only if there is a storm warning in place.
Polina Makeeva says
Oh, only bedroom heater/AC was hooked to it (and same for couple of plugs). We sacrificed the living/family room and kitchen (except the fridge plug) during the outages.
Long-term, you might consider replacing one of your fireplaces with a masonry heater. That’s like a wood fireplace, except with a very twisty chimney. The exhaust heats up the surrounding brick. The warm brick then heats your house long after the fire has gone out, for about 24 hours. The heater draws air in from the outdoors, so you aren’t throwing your indoor air up the chimney. It makes efficient use of wood and no electricity required.
I had to laugh about Winter is coming because I have been saying it up here since I started to watch the leaves change. (I live in Northern Michigan) Some friend and I were trying to figure out if it’s going to be a harsh winter or like the last two winters mild so thank you for the farmers almanac! Lol now I just need to find some wooly bear caterpillars to make sure.
Solar batteries are a great additional thing. Buy a nat gas or diesel/propane generator first though. There are ones which will run off propane tanks they are wonderful. 3 cords should be good, but you will have wanted to be drying the wood by now. Take care and stay warm.
nice pics! I hopefully! doubt that we will have another snowpocalypse (all fingers crossed)….it was pretty horrible, to say the least. Have never thought “the good old days” (before central heat and toilet paper heh) were particularly good, myself. Last year just confirmed I have zero desire to live off the grid.
SunRunner of VA used to sell complete residential solar generator systems, but If they’re still in business, they’re not online.
Three cords??? I live in New England & that’s how much I use during a COLD winter! Never mind fireplace inserts, go with a real wood stove, less wood & you’ll be able to cook, too!
Cece Donovan says
There are solar generators that you can plug portable solar panels into. It would be tough to run more than a few small appliances and lights and charge your devices from it, though. We do keep ours charged up for storms. The new Ford Lightning EV says it can power your house for up to three days, though!????
A while ago i read about solar to hydrogen energy storage system. If the solar panels generate more energy than what is needed the system produces hydrogen via electrolysis, so a water source is needed, and stores the gas in a sort of tank. When more power is needed than the panels could deliver the system generates electricity from the hydrogen via a fuelcell.
Dont know if thats avaialable in the US.
Link from the technical magazine to the vendor:
Snow or ice on the panels will be a big problem though.
Jaime B says
Australian here, so admittedly we don’t get snow, but we run our entire house year round off our solar panels. We shut off our central heating this winter and just used the reverse cycle heating. It cut our winter power bills in half.
I have a medium solar generator that I can use portable solar panels to recharge. I can run a variety of cooking appliances of it. I can also plug in standard lamps, recharge y iPad and phone. It’s very portable and easy to use. I keep it behind my sofa where it’s handy. It’s 1000 w Bluetti EB250. I also have a large Bluetti AC200 which is 2000w and will power the fridge. I am currently lusting after the newest one which is even more powerful and can be recharged in a couple of hours with solar panels. The newest model AC20 MAX has external batteries that can be stacked and you can use multiple portable solar panels. You can check it out on YouTube (Hobo tech).
You might want to check into Rayburn Stoves. They come in a variety of sizes, have duel fuel options (including wood) and can heat hot water with some options heating the house also. I’ve even seen a few used on eBay for cheaper price.
This might be a day late and a dollar short. But in addition to wood and other items for power outages. Also think about getting some food stocked up. Covid issues is slowing down food delivery, and then if bad weather hits you don’t want to run out of food.
Will Prowse of YouTube has some good videos on solar powered systems. DIY Solar Power with Will Prowse.
I think your mission today should be to move…. to Australia. Welcome. Reptiles do well here ;).
They do make solar generators , look under the author Ron Foster who writers prepper fiction ( Ron foster southern prepper fiction author ) was around 5000 to 10000 watts I believe ,was 10 years ago so probably build better now but he will be a good source if you fear power outer stretches for extended periods ( plus they are silent , no engine noise )
Ruth Flescher says
I installed solar two years ago. In my limited experience in Wisconsin, I produce about half the power in winter as summer. Summer days are longer, the angle of the sun is better and there are fewer cloudy days. Also, no snow on the panels.
Yes, your power can be stored in a battery IF you set it up that way. We did not, because the batteries would have added over $10 K to the system cost and we would have to limit our use to what we produced, requiring constant monitoring.
Because we are grid-tied, if the power goes out in our area, our solar system shuts off so we don’t inadvertently fry some poor lineman who’s working to fix the problem.
Having no fireplaces, if we get a winter ice storm, we need a generator to run the electronic controls on the gas furnace, the well pump (so we have water and tiolets), plus whatever other devices we deem essential. A generator will likely cost $5-7 K. So far we’ve gambled we won’t need it, but weather issues are likely to get worse. Decisions, decisions.
Angela L says
Solar panels and generator. Duracell(?).
✔out Alaskan Prepper. He reviewed a solar gennie, with rotatable car batteries, multiple inputs, outputs, etc. Really versatile.
And if worried about snowing, build framework that has panels @45°. Use the framework as roofing for firewood .
They do make solar generators called solar power stations that you can also power with wind or a gas generator. The best ones can deliver a lot of continuous power and can be charged 3 or 4 different ways (solar, wind, gas generator, grid power). They are expensive but last forever and are super efficient. Basically a portable lithium ion battery bank. Also even in the winter the newer solar panels will charge quickly and efficiently. We offgrid camp for months at a time and can power everything with power to spare. (TV, laptops, hairdryer, coffee maker, etc etc) Check out Bluetti solar power stations. They are amazing tech. I do not work for them. Lots of other brands but theirs are the most versatile and well engineered. Also love all the books. This got weird but they are super cool devices. The newest bluetti will run 2000wh of continuous power and can recharge completely in about 2 hrs with 700w of solar panels. We are in the Pacific Northwest where there is almost no sun in the winter and still works great. Plus the alternate wind power charging capability means it is super versatile.
I know I’m so totally late in seeing this thread and I’m sure someone already posted this but one of the guys at work had to wait six months to get a generator large enough to power the home [he lives in the mountains].
You’ll hear that nobody can get parts due to the pandemic and the struggle is actually real. Even if it’s American made they still have to source some of the materials from around the globe and then it has to be quarantined when it arrives. Just FYI.
Peggy jentoft says
They make solar generators/ panels, you still get sun power in the winter , and they do have batteries for storage. It is better to buy the panels and batteries than to lease them.
Generators are TOTALLY worth it. We have a natural gas powered 22kw total house generator from Generac. We live in Florida and went a week without after Irma. Changed our idea of necessity. It is worth it.
Janet Warkentin says
We have hot water solar panels on our roof because the pump which circulates the heat exchange fluid is run off of a photovoltaic cell we have hot water even when there is a power outage. Might be a good option for you