Posts Tagged ‘power outage’

Set Phasors on Stun! Scottie, Warp Power Up to Full Capacity!

September 20, 2013


It was reported recently  that some bright folks have figured out that if you watch the current of the power grid with phasor measurement units (picture colorful layers of EKG displays),it will reveal potential disruptions in the power supply nationwide and help us catch a problem before it gets too big, like it did in the summer of 2003 when 50 million people lost power.

Knowing when trouble is coming is great but if we tax the grid with cooling and lighting, watching re runs of Star Trek, and running blenders for margaritas’ in the summer, what do we do about it?

Either generate more power (Que Scottish accent shouting “I dannae is she can’t take any more captain!”) or we change our behavior (put the blender away)  We may have escaped this summer unscathed, but reducing our electircal load year round is a great idea.

Here’s one more option:  Energy efficient appliances, lighting and homes!  When you replace appliances or lighting, make sure it EnergyStar rated or is a LED or CFL for lighting.  As for our homes, increasing your comfort can mean reducing your bills as well and using less from the grid at the same time.  Air sealing and insulation makes a big difference on the cooling bill.  Consider a home performance assessment, that way your shields will be up and ready for anything.



Power outages: preparing you and your home

September 12, 2011

The massive power outages last week provide us with a good example of the importance of being prepared.  Living in the Northeast it is always in the back of my mind to be ready for a storm as winter sets in (all to soon), I didn’t really think about the opposite corner of our nation in the same way until now.  

A place like San Diego doesn’t need to be concerned with two feet of snow, but they can lose power and during the hottest parts of the year keeping cool can be an issue.  Losing power anywhere can be a problem.  The summertime can be troublesome especially for those who are more susceptible to health problems.   It really brings home how much we rely on being able to cool our homes not only for comfort but also for our health.  

The latest power outage affected 6 million people on both side of the U.S. Mexican border.   Thankfully no one was hurt, but it did cause some to rethink their plans or lack of them.  This wasn’t the first time this sort of thing has happened.    

The country’s largest blackout of August 22, 2003, affected some 50 million people in Canada, and the U.S.  New York City Comptroller William Thompson estimated the economic impact of the blackout at $800 million to $1 billion in the city.

Some things worth keeping on hand no matter what time of year or where you are:

The American Red Cross recommends putting together a disaster preparedness kit some of it is below:

  • Water—one gallon per person, per day (3­day supply for evacuation, 2­week supply for home)
  • Food—non­perishable, easy ­to ­prepare items (3­day supply for evacuation, 2­week supply for home)
  • Flashlight
  • Battery ­powered or hand­ crank radio (NOAA Weather Radio, if possible)
  • Extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications (7­day supply) and medical items
  • Multi­purpose tool
  • Sanitation and personal hygiene items
  • Copies of personal documents (medication list and pertinent medical information, proof of address, deed/lease to home, passports, birth certificates, insurance policies)
  • Cell phone with chargers
  • Family and emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blanket

There is more to this that can be added depending on where you live.   Even with all the great technology we have, now and then it fails us.  Having your home it in tip top shape can help with more than just comfort.  When it is properly air sealed and insulated it stays warm or cool, depending on the season, on its own for longer when the power fails.  Be prepared with a kit, and with your home. 

 FEMA image from Wikimedia commons


Japanese Disasater Reminds of the Need to Be Prepared

March 13, 2011

Still awe stuck by images of the terrible earthquake/tsunami this week in Japan, I’m also amazed at how tens of thousands of people were likely saved from the initial onslaught be preparedness.  And staggered by the work still needed to avoid further calamity—people need water, food, shelter.

One thing is clear from the coverage of the devastation.  The Japanese were a lot more prepared than we would be for something of this magnitude. They have well-rehearsed emergency plans and supplies in place.  And despite the shaking, there were many modern building that stood because of stringent codes and practices.

It would be worth taking some time to think about how prepared you and your family are.  One place to start with be the Are You Ready? guide from FEMA.  []

I think one thing that the FEMA guide is weak on, though, and we’re weak on as a country, is the further complications due to weeks—or months—without power and water.  Do you have a way to get safe drinking water should you lose the public supply or power for your private well?  And how long wood you and your family and your home be OK without power?  In the middle of summer?  In the middle of winter? 

Energy-efficiency can play a big role in disaster preparedness.  Generally, the more efficient your home is, the more livable it remains if you are without power for extended periods.  Some homes can maintain temperatures in the 50s and 60s in subfreezing weather for months, even with no heat.  Others drop quickly—raising a variety of issues including freezing water pipes and difficult living conditions.  Some homes become unlivable in hot summer months without air-conditioning—while others can coast along well in the same heat.  If your utility bills are high, or your house is uncomfortable during normal circumstances, what happens when electricity or gas supplies get disrupted?  And what natural disasters can trigger blackouts or brownouts, a variety of other causes put us at risk.

This isn’t just speculation.  Many people have experienced severe winter weather without power for extended periods–it happens most years somewhere, and this year was no different.  In some parts of the country, cold temperatures and much higher than normal gas use caused some people’s homes to not have enough fuel to stay warm this winter.   Compound that with something like terrorism targeting our infrastructure, and things could get ugly fast.

I don’t think this stuff should rule our lives.  But we shouldn’t ignore, them either.  And doing things like making ourselves less dependent on energy supplies makes sense anyway, and we clearly ought to be doing better, don’t you think?


Strong Winds and Power Outages Rack the Northeast

March 14, 2010

Wild winds are ripping Central New York and much of the Northeast. Thousands without power.

This reminds me about the value of a solid, energy-efficient home in a disaster. Think if the power went out in the middle of winter. Would your home pipes freeze? Become too cold to live in? Would you have weeks, days, or only hours before you became concerned? An energy-efficient home maintains its desired temperature longer—it can “coast” without power much longer than an inefficient home. That pot of coffee in a glass carafe sitting on the counter gets cold fast. The same pot of coffee in a Thermos will stay hot for hours. That thermal efficiency builds an extra level of protection, and can buy you days. In fact, some well-built and detailed homes in the Northeast can go all winter long, with no heat, and never drop below 50 degrees. Now, 50 degrees isn’t a comfortable indoor temperature, but it’s nice to know a house won’t “crash”.

The same logic applies in hot climates in the summer. If a storm or blackout hits when it’s 100+ degrees, how long will your home stay safe and livable?

Some may retort, “My generator will take care of me.”  For how long?  And if you can’t get more gas/diesel?

Energy-efficiency can be an important part of disaster preparedness. Add in a renewable energy source on top of that, and you’ll have even more piece on mind.


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