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Living Car Free Do you live car free or car light? Do you prefer to use alternative transportation (bicycles, walking, other human-powered or public transportation) for everyday activities whenever possible? Discuss your lifestyle here.

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Old 02-25-07, 11:35 AM   #1
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Suddenly the lights went out...

Last night we lost electricity for 10 hours due to a sleet storm. This is not that rare of an event anywhere in the US and I'd figure that everyone should be prepared to lose electricity for lengthy periods of time.

What amazes me is that, despite my fantasy of being an energy conservative, I'm pretty much grid-tied:

* Went to get my Cateye bike light and realized I hadn't charged either of the 2 sets of batteries I use.
* Couldn't get in the garage to get my 20 watt halogen headline and battery because I have an electric door opener
* Had to dig around for 15 minutes this morning looking for an AM radio that ran off batteries.

Fortunately, my wife had stashed from candles and flashlights, so it wasn't that unpleasant.

Today, I got up and unhooked the garage door opener. Since the garage is used mainly for bikes, we never use the remote and, without the motor attached, the door slides easily. The device seems like an energy sucker... .

Anyone have ideas for emergencies like this?
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Old 02-25-07, 11:58 AM   #2
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Stock up on camping gear and get a gas grill and two bottles.

If (when) the power goes out here, I have light, heat, entertainment (well, AM/FM/shortwave anyway) and the wife has a couple of different options for cooking.

For entertaining the kids and keeping them occupied, I can set up a fee-standing tent in the livingroom.
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Old 02-25-07, 12:10 PM   #3
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The device seems like an energy sucker...
Depends what you're comparing it to. Garage door motors would seriously affect your electric bill if they were running constantly, but heating one room in February in Iowa, for one minute, probably uses more energy. Assuming normal temperatures
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Old 02-25-07, 12:16 PM   #4
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I have always been an outdoorsy camping type person so survival without electricity is nothing more than a minor inconvenience regardless of the time of year. Last ice storm that hit I just moved into my travel trailer that I use for work. The battery powered the LP furnace and lights, the stove and fridge are LP too. But the big advantage during the ice storm is to put the cold stuff outside on the porch . I do have a small generator that can be used to power up a furnace or charge up batteries. We had power go out last summer due to brush fires and system overload. No big deal, just opened up the windows and spent the evening outside under the shade trees. Back porch light became a kerosene lantern filled with citronella. Ran the generator for a bit to keep the fridge cold.

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Old 02-25-07, 01:08 PM   #5
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Well I'd definitely do something about the garage door. A $20 LED bike light will operate for 30 hours or more on 4 AA batteries. I've seen LED camping lanterns that offer more light for 30 hours on 2 D batteries. The one I saw cost $20. Don't rely on a cordless phone--they won't work in a blackout. Stock canned foods and disposable utensils. I don't know--just the usual stuff. At least most of us carfree people are good at planning ahead and also good at changing plans when we have to.

Oh yeah, be careful when you travel during a blackout. Traffic gets pretty snarly when traffic signals and street lights don't work. I rode home from work in the Great Eastern Blackout a couple years ago. Fun!
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Old 02-25-07, 01:10 PM   #6
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Does anybody know about cell phone systems in a long blackout? I know that land line phone companies have battery backup that's supposed to work for week or more.
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Old 02-25-07, 01:22 PM   #7
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Does anybody know about cell phone systems in a long blackout?
Likewise the transmission towers have backup generators. Don't know how much fuel they have provisioned though. But in the Great Blackout you mentioned the cellular networks were overwhelmed by the volume of calls. Maybe after a couple of days it would settle down. But how long would the batteries in your phone last?
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Old 02-25-07, 01:25 PM   #8
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Heh, whenever I hear about blackouts and power outages, I can't help but think of those Enron scumbags caught on tape (<--clicky) gleefully rejoicing about California brush fires causing intentional power-outs and massive mark-ups in energy prices. "Burn baby burn! That's a beautiful thing." Ugh.

And agreed to all the camp-inspired suggestions.
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Old 02-25-07, 01:30 PM   #9
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Does anybody know about cell phone systems in a long blackout? I know that land line phone companies have battery backup that's supposed to work for week or more.
Roody,
It is going to be hit or miss...I was in Mobile, AL during Katrina and had three different cell phones at my disposal. Power was out for about 4 days. Nextel went down and stayed down for all four days, Sprint stayed up the whole time but circuits were typically overloaded. Verizon was hit or miss the entire time sometimes the towers were up and other times it was "no service"...and I hadn't moved at all. Once power was back up they all worked but the systems were overloaded almost constantly. In some cases I could not receive outside calls on one phone but could on another. In a true emergency I would not count on any phone service but would expect marginally better service out of my landline because of the hardwired infastructure. But even it can cause problems...after Hurricane Fran in 97 tore up the town I was living in I was without phone service for 4 days until a repair truck was able to finally get into the neighborhood. Testing located the problem down line in a switching station and it was corrected shortly after. My parents who lived next door at the time were still having intermittent problems with their phone, another repair call and it was fixed...same switching station

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Old 02-25-07, 01:41 PM   #10
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Does anybody know about cell phone systems in a long blackout? I know that land line phone companies have battery backup that's supposed to work for week or more.
In a catastrophic blackout (hurricane) I'd probably use my cell to try to check-in with a few folks who are close to me, then turn it off, "to save the battery in case I really needed it."

I don't think the land-line I have works if there's no power to the base, but who cares? If the phone don't work, it's that many fewer people who can bother me.
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Old 02-25-07, 02:02 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by CommuterRun
In a catastrophic blackout (hurricane) I'd probably use my cell to try to check-in with a few folks who are close to me, then turn it off, "to save the battery in case I really needed it."

I don't think the land-line I have works if there's no power to the base, but who cares? If the phone don't work, it's that many fewer people who can bother me
.
What if the people bothering you were loved ones concerned about your welfare? I tried to call a friend in San Fransisco after the (1990??) earthquake. It took a day to find out she was OK. I think it's worthwhile to have an 8$ corded phone in a closet just in case.

Of course I have only a cell phone now, so I'm not following my own advice.
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Old 02-25-07, 02:30 PM   #12
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In a catastrophic blackout (hurricane) I'd probably use my cell to try to check-in with a few folks who are close to me, then turn it off, "to save the battery in case I really needed it."

I don't think the land-line I have works if there's no power to the base, but who cares? If the phone don't work, it's that many fewer people who can bother me.
If you use a non powered phone (ie corded) it should work during a power outage. FWIW we have a cordless phone that you can charge a spare battery pack on the base and in the case of a power outage it will provide power to the base and answering machine...ain't technology great I do have an old black wall phone on the wall in my shop that will work if the phone companies lines are still powered up.

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Old 02-25-07, 02:42 PM   #13
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What if the people bothering you were loved ones concerned about your welfare?
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Originally Posted by CommuterRun
In a catastrophic blackout (hurricane) I'd probably use my cell to try to check-in with a few folks who are close to me........
If that fails, I'll ignite a truck tire and send smoke signals.
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Old 02-25-07, 04:48 PM   #14
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Does anybody know about cell phone systems in a long blackout? I know that land line phone companies have battery backup that's supposed to work for week or more.
In this recent blackout, my T-mobile cell service worked a lot longer than my Internet telephone. The Internet went down early in the evening, before the lights went out. One thing I would recommend is to remember that we are nowadays very dependent on the Internet. For example, quite a few people use yellowpages.com instead of a phone book. I had to dig around for my phone book last night. Luckily, I hadn't composted it yet
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Old 02-25-07, 04:52 PM   #15
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Depends what you're comparing it to. Garage door motors would seriously affect your electric bill if they were running constantly, but heating one room in February in Iowa, for one minute, probably uses more energy. Assuming normal temperatures
I see your point, but my point is why run an electric device that you don't need? I read recently that the electric companies call those little 1-4 watt power supplies "watt suckers". You know the ones... they power all your electronic gadgets and mostly stay warmish when you aren't using the device. They don't use much energy, but... it all adds up.
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Old 02-25-07, 05:00 PM   #16
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For entertaining the kids and keeping them occupied, I can set up a fee-standing tent in the livingroom.
I was in an extended family situation recently when the power went out. At the time it went out, I'm not making this up, they had two big screen TVs going and computer games in the same room. They were clueless about what to do. I suggested people take turns telling stories with themes. To get everyone interested I suggested to one of the adult women that she describe her worst date. It went on to other topics like animal stories. Of course when the electricity came back on the TVs began....

Within a month though several of the family members mentioned to me what a wonderful time they had sharing stories during the blackout.
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Old 02-25-07, 05:02 PM   #17
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In this recent blackout, my T-mobile cell service worked a lot longer than my Internet telephone.
As far as I know, cell phone services have back-up power sources that can keep their service working during a power outage. I was under the impression that the cell phone towers use regular telephone wires to connect calls, though, so if land line telephone service goes out cell phones might be useless too.
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Old 02-25-07, 10:42 PM   #18
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I lived off grid for several years. I don't trust standard camping crud. Go here:

http://www.lehmans.com/

The Deitz oil lanterns they sell are fantastic.
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Old 02-26-07, 03:37 AM   #19
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I lived off grid for several years. I don't trust standard camping crud. Go here:

http://www.lehmans.com/

The Deitz oil lanterns they sell are fantastic.
+1 My main supplier!

Most of my camping "crud" is old made in the USA Coleman stuff that still works fine after 30+ years of use

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Old 03-01-07, 08:21 AM   #20
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Last night we lost electricity for 10 hours due to a sleet storm. This is not that rare of an event anywhere in the US and I'd figure that everyone should be prepared to lose electricity for lengthy periods of time.
The electricity was out for 54 hours at my house during this past weekend's ice storm. Though my heat is natural gas, the heater blower runs on electricity. My main concern was that electricity would be out so long as to allow the house to freeze up and burst water pipes. When the power came back on it was still 47 in the house, though below freezing outside. The land line telephone service never went out. And we didn't lose any major branches from the trees in the yard; actually it turned into a good pruning; others weren't so lucky. I am going to have to get a portable kerosene heater for emergency heat.
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Old 03-01-07, 08:50 AM   #21
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But how long would the batteries in your phone last?
There are many ways to keep your cell phone charged during a blackout. A windup charger or a solar panel charger if you need to charge it repeatedly. If you just need a couple of charges, there are several battery-based chargers available. But then you need fresh batteries...

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Old 03-01-07, 12:52 PM   #22
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The electricity was out for 54 hours at my house during this past weekend's ice storm. Though my heat is natural gas, the heater blower runs on electricity. My main concern was that electricity would be out so long as to allow the house to freeze up and burst water pipes. When the power came back on it was still 47 in the house, though below freezing outside. The land line telephone service never went out. And we didn't lose any major branches from the trees in the yard; actually it turned into a good pruning; others weren't so lucky. I am going to have to get a portable kerosene heater for emergency heat.
It's good to have a backup plan. If the freezing rain had been followed by high winds and temperatures like we saw in early February, the damage would have been much more severe. It makes me think that we shouldn't just take the grid for granted. 54 hours in a house with no electricity with tempatures near 0F would certainly have frozen pipes. On the other hand, your freezer would have been OK.
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Old 03-01-07, 10:53 PM   #23
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* Had to dig around for 15 minutes this morning looking for an AM radio that ran off batteries. Anyone have ideas for emergencies like this?
Thanks for the reminder. I have candles and plenty of bike lights to show my way, but that's a good reminder about having a radio. Now that I'm in the tornado belt, having some info when the power is out is a wise idea.

When I was in earthquake country, they recommended having enough food and water for 3 days to a week. Always good to have a couple of gallons of water on board.
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Old 03-02-07, 11:31 AM   #24
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Windup flashlight. Windup radio. No need for batteries. The LED lamps. I've got one from Cabela's that is a headlamp. Used it while hunting in British Columbia. Saved a lot of stumbling around in the dark!

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Old 03-02-07, 12:06 PM   #25
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Thought on cellphones...even if you don't have a car get the car charger cord. In an emergency you could probably rely on someone's generosity to allow you to charge up your phone for a bit on their car. I know I have done it for people before

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