I bought a generator last year. I’d gotten fed up with power outtages and so I decided to get proactive about it. I’m getting ready to have the generator hooked up so that it comes on when the power fails, an automatic switchover. Living in Spokane, on two occasions I have been without electricity once for four days and the other for 12 days. I’ve had power drops of two to five hours about four to six times a year. Let me tell you, life changes pretty radically when you go over a week without power. At least I had water. Some of the people live on lines that require a pump to keep their pressure up. With the power gone, their water went with it. Being out of power in a city for over a week is a phenomenal experience. Many stores are closed, and those that are open are either hand writing bank card charges or accepting cash. Banks are closed –or at least seriously limited in function. When the money stops flowing, everything stops flowing.
These days, with my condition much more fragile than ever, I have medical support equipment that needs to work. I managed to get equipment that is able to function on battery power, the batteries consistently charged by the grid until that power stops. Then it shifts to battery only. This only works for a day or so when the battery depletes and there’s no way to recharge it.
As a result of storms, millions of Americans got to experience life in the stone age. Having to cook food on barbecues or some cobbled up stove, having to wash with cold water, unless you heated water on whatever you were cooking on. Simple hygeine suffers when the washing machne doesn’t run, never mind the electric clippers, shavers and other powered toilety devices. We tend to lose power every time nature raises her voice, shaking the wires from their roosts and plunging us into darkness. People in certain areas are so used to power interruptions from storms keep a suuply of flshlights and laterns along with cookstoves as a matter of course. The habit is beginning to spread throughout the nation, now that we have seen nature playing no favorites, hitting everywhere.
As it is we are already overloading the grid on hot days or cold day as we turn up the heat or air conditioning. This hasw come to the point that now power companies are promoting the use of “smart” power meters that allow them to decide how much power any given home can use at any given time. They could turn off your washer-dryer or dishwasher or even oven when the draw on the grid reaches a particular point. Day to day we’re seeing more brownouts or rolling blackouts in addition to catastrophic outtages. There’s no question that the system could and should be improved.
This happens because we’re too stupid to bury our cables. If you add up the repair and maintenance costs of dealing with our electrical infrastructure, it adds up to a lot more than it would have cost to bury those wires, safe away from the usual events that kill off our electricity.
As my home is being remodeled to better accommodate my handicaps, I am having the house rewired. I am putting in low voltage lines to operate LED based lighting throughout the house. That means that I can run those circuits from batteries. The batteries I can charge up either with the grid, the power coming to my home, or I can install solar cells and get the electricity that way. With the generator set up to operate my furnace, medical devices and our means of communicating, when this is all done I should be a lot more comfortable the next time the power goes out. And it will go out because the lines that carry my electricity will break as a result of ice weight, a wind storm, or an accident that collapses a pole.
After the last few years and the natural disasters we’ve experienced, more and more people are starting to think about alternative power. What was once considered only a mantra of the environmentalists, people are embracing the value in having a stand-by method of getting electricity. Considering that government budgets aren’t supportive of our infrastructure, our highways, water and sewers, and our electricity is in greater and growing jeopardy as time goes by. One of the anti-terrorism concerns is the interruption of the national power grid. A majr failure in the three national grids could turn back the technology clock by a century.
There seems to be very little interest in the government spending money on infrastructure improvement. But that’s what it would take. To fund and direct a public works product of that size would take a government agency, just as the highway and other systems. But current political rhetoric speaks to just about everything but the infrastructure so I don’t hold out a lot of hope for anything to improve any time soon. So, I’m making changes in my home to accommodate a more sporadic delivery of electricity.