The good news is that our power outage plan worked. We were able to keep ourselves in comparatively comfortable state for the duration. (which in our case was only 56 hours.) We have had time now to sit down and assess everything and we are altering our homestead plan.
As I have mentioned before, the five year plan is to cut the power company umbilical cord. We plan to use solar, wind and micro-hydro to do this. The plan was to add these elements in the fourth year. We planned to add everything at once, meaning we would only have to mess with the internal electrics one time. The new plan is to start adding these elements gradually starting with a couple of solar panels this fall. This will give us more flexibility in charging the battery bank and we can run part of the house on the solar setup.
The summer kitchen which was planned for next year, will also be built late this summer - early fall. This kitchen will house the wood cookstove, and will be used mostly during the summer and fall to do all the canning / preserving and baking. This building is also integral to hosting workshops and I have great plans to have everyone here for a thanksgiving dinner prepared on the wood stove.
We did discover that we need a larger inverter. Between Matt and I we have a small 75 watt inverter, a 200 watt inverter and a 410 watt inverter. The 75 watt lives in my car. I have had that for 5 years now and it is amazing. It plugs into a car power port, it has a plug socket for an electric cord and a 1000 miliamp usb port that will fully charge a smart phone in twenty minutes. We use it when we go camping, to the drive-in and during long road trips.
Matt's 200 watt inverter came in very handy this week. He and Sheena have a large aquarium and we had to run the air bubbler every 2 hours. The 200 watt inverter ran the bubbler, coffee maker and our internet modem and router all day Saturday. Well until the power at eastlink's rural broadband tower went off. It also powered my smaller TV and the satellite receiver for 3 hours on Sunday evening.
My 410 watt inverter was less versatile. We used it to power the lights in Gary's sprouting system for a while as the 200 watt would not have been enough, but the amount of energy the inverter requires makes it very inefficient. It is no where near big enough to cycle the fridge or any of the freezers. We are now planning to purchase a bigger inverter that will handle the fridge and freezers if need be.
We have four deep freezers in the basement right now, three are ours and one belongs to Matt and Sheena. As soon as we were getting messages from NS Power that this was going to be a prolonged outage we removed anything we would need for the next few days and wrapped all the freezers in blankets. The freezers are in our dirt floor basement which stays cool so we lost only a few bags of vegetables from the freezers, maybe eight pounds.
However if the outage had lasted any longer we would have had much greater losses. So we need a bigger inverter to run off the truck battery. We will be able to run the fridge for an hour a day off the truck battery with the truck at idle, and if the outage is prolonged we can run each freezer for an hour a day also.
So, as I said all things considered we were very lucky to escape major damage, and our self sufficient planning paid off and we were able to come through the outage fairly comfortably. I was able to use my large kerosene lamp that I had been dying to use since I found it a Frenchy's a couple of years ago. I can read by it! Gary pointed out that one of regular lamps only took 12 watts to run.. but what fun is that?
I will admit, I enjoyed the power outage to a certain extent. Not having a TV blasting for 18 hours a day was magical to me. And yes, there are days when that blessed box is on for 18+ hours. We actually sat around and talked! I know! Talked, laughed told stories. If all my brood had been here it would have been perfect. We would of had to sleep in shifts.... but it would have been fun! We missed you Jason. Jason is our storey teller extraordinaire! I think it`s a genetic trait that skips a generation as my Dad is also a brilliant storey teller. We also missed Graham`s mechanical abilities. Matt managed to become a conduit while hooking up the inverter the first time. Graham would have had us outfitted with an outdoor solar shower by Sunday morning! Poor Graham, just his luck that the biggest storm in years hits 48 hours after he flies to Edmonton! Graham loves storms like I do, he would have stood out in the storm with me. And Bethany, we missed you too. You always have the great ideas!
Unfortunately you guys were not here, and almost a year after moving away from my kids I think that was the biggest lesson I will take from Arthur... we are better and stronger together.
Hoping everyone is ok. Talk tomorrow.