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Technical Advice: How Much Power Do You Need?

J. G. Martinez D.
January 3rd, 2019
The Organic Prepper
Comments (14) Read by 2,672 people

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This article was originally published by J. G. Martinez D. at The Organic Prepper

I will use my own experience as a general guide so you can do your own version. After having struggled with all kinds of equipment my entire life, ranging from farming machinery, light industry power tools with a diverse degree of complexity, my best advice is:

Don’t. Lose. The. Operation. Manual.

It doesn’t matter if it is written in Chinglish. It could have important numbers, or perhaps even calculations, equations, wiring diagrams (extremely important) and using them may prevent a failure with potentially harmful consequences.

I am confident that most readers are moderately educated and careful people. However, I have acquired some useful habits like dedicating a special file just for user manuals and handbooks, something that I am sure many of you already have, as a prepper.

By reading seemingly small amounts of evident information, I learned that a simple venting fan for my bathroom could set itself on fire if a piece was wired incorrectly, for instance. So manuals are important for every kind of device, no matter how simple it may appear.

Each manufacturer is forced by law to inform the weaknesses of their products, and this is important. You don’t need an engineering degree; most of the time it is very simple to know if some equipment is going to be damaged or generate a potentially harmful situation.

That said, once I had most of my equipment to be used after a potential event, I prepared some coffee, and planted myself at the dining room table with all the manuals of the equipment that used electricity.

Grab a notebook – getting prepared ahead of time

In a notebook, I wrote all the standard and maximum loads for every machine. The manual usually shows this inside parenthesis or similar signs: ( )  We all know that all of our equipment is not going to work at max load at the same time, of course, but this is going to be needed. Perhaps we are working with, say, our bench drill in the workshop, with our fan on, and the refrigerator kicks in, while we are in the middle of the summer and the baby is peacefully sleeping in a room with A/C…and there is an overload that makes a mess of our day. See my point?

Ok, now that we have written all of the standard electricity consumption in a column in our notebook, we have to make sure that the measurements are all in the proper units. Perhaps this is extremely evident for some, but not so evident for many, and this article is intended for them.

Example:

A/C (main bedroom unit): 1650 WATTS

Fridge 1: 350 WATTS

Fridge 2: 300 WATTS

TV: 120 WATTS (including an old surround and DVD)

Fans: 60 WATTS.

Lights: Unknown.

Total 2430 WATTS.

A Watt is not the same thing a KiloWatt…

This can be confusing, and I know it. So let’s make sure that everything is listed in the same units, and that we can sum the values without any mistake. Once we have made this simple addition, we have our total consumption.

Of course, most of the time, our need for a battery rack is going to be large. Most of us have plenty of equipment, but we are not going to use it all at the same time. So the next step is, decide what equipment is going to be used most of the time. Use a highlighter. This is going to be your standard load.

Which devices should we include?

A/C, lights, fridge, fans, dehumidifiers, TV and game consoles, laptops and router, for example, are among my main devices.

I made a mistake (and a costly one), and I will tell you exactly what this is before continuing.

I got a 2500 WATT genset, believing that, given that we are (or were) an oil producing country with an abundance of byproducts that derivate of the industry, gasoline was going to be available, or even bottled gas. Neither of these products are available, and I tell you this with all the responsibilities that could arise. The mafia thugs that kidnapped my country, have decided on gasoline rationing (you can’t buy gasoline unless you are “registered” in their freaking control database and systems), and it is almost impossible to buy a gas bottle at the regulated, stupidly low price, because there is a huge mafia getting rich (illegally) behind the trafficking of the gas bottle production.

There are no private companies that bottle gas here any longer…

The entire production chain was seized by the thugs. The main reason was running the genset to keep the aircons working, but it is not so big and it would allow just running one of them, in our main bedroom, just one day on a full tank.

It is noisy as heck, and the stock exhaust fumes are going to be a problem, as it is a portable unit, supposed to be installed far from the camp or RV or whatever, and we don’t have a proper place at home. Rigging a proper control panel to switch off the grid and use the genset is not that easy, nor cheap, even with my lovely dad doing the job (believe it or not he was going to charge me for the labor, can you believe it??Trust me, once the SHTF arrives don’t trust in anyone LOL…JK, my dad is awesome and I love him to death).

Our A/C systems use 220v, and they need a separate connection to the street wiring, rather than the 110v wiring that is used for home appliances. Yeah, I know, I understand that face of yours. The stupid thing works just in 110v, or 220v, but not in both modes and that is perfectly understandable. It is not an advanced model, it is quite simple. A possible solution was to install a 110v A/C unit, but it would have to be a smaller unit, and the efficiency would be much less, meaning that lots of insulation and work (and I mean expensive technical labor) should be necessary to be able to use the genset as a backup for grid power, in a safe manner.

In some cases, a genset might not be the way to go

Because of this, I won’t recommend ANYONE get a genset unless they can produce their own fuel, and perhaps some long term treatment for their engines so they can improve their reliability and duration a lot (and I do can go as technical over this as much as you like, because I know the topic, having worked with that previously). Something that is perfectly possible, the fuel producing, and perhaps I will cover it in some article in the future, but I would prefer to write about things that I have practical experience with, instead.

If I could make a purchase again, I would have bought a couple of batteries, and a PV panel, as big and powerful as I could afford, with all the needed accessories. Back in the day when I bought some appliances, I preferred to buy two small fridges, instead of a large, heavy, fancy fridge for our kitchen. One was installed in our pantry, where it would be seldom used, just in case we needed the space, and the other one in our kitchen of course.

This setup was enough, under normal circumstances, to keep staples, fruits and vegetables fresh after our weekly shopping for the four of us. Usually people here use a jug of cold water from the fridge; but as I have been informed  about very cold water being harmful for the stomach, and blood pressure, we decided to keep a jug in our bedroom where it is cooler because the A/C runs all day long. It saves space, and for having a sip of water we did not need to leave our bedroom and go to the kitchen. My wife was not exactly comfortable having a jug of water in our walk-in closet, but after some time she could appreciate the advantage of this. It is not as cold, but is not at 33-34 C like our regular day is in Venezuela. Not being so cold means you can drink more without feeling falsely hydrated.

Back on topic. One of the things I have to mention, is that some high consumption devices such as blenders, electric heaters, showers, among others, are going to place a huge increase in your power needs. Some of these appliances can be found in 12v and draw a lot less power, indeed, but these investment choices are going to require a good amount of research. Investing wisely has saved us a lot of money in the long run for our family.

After you assess your technical power needs

Going back on topic:

Once your needs have been assessed with a proper estimation (you may want go 20% over for some comfort), and depending on what kind of batteries you choose, nickel-iron, lead/acid, or some other, the calculations are going to be different. There are plenty of websites that go much deeper on technical stuff, but having covered some of the basics ideas here should be enough for a previous visualization on what needs to be done. It is not difficult, nor complicated if we take some time to understand how electricity and power works.

Perhaps you’re not going to get a degree in electrical engineering, but the understanding of the basics will help you to solve the 60% or 70% of common failures in a simple system. I am lucky enough because of some specialized training in failure assessment in my former position at work; therefore I have been able to detect (with the proper documentation at hand of course!) problems with my (now) busted SUV and correct them in some more or less complex systems…when there was money and spare parts were available.

But I would like to write about how important mobility is, and how screwed we would be without it.

Thanks for your comments, for letting us know you are there for us, and very especially for your much-needed assistance, fellows.

God bless us all!.

About Jose

Jose is an upper middle class professional. He is a former worker of the oil state company with a Bachelor’s degree from one of the best national Universities. He has a small 4 members family, plus two cats and a dog. An old but in good shape SUV, a good 150 square meters house in a nice neighborhood, in a small but (formerly) prosperous city with two middle size malls. Jose is a prepper and shares his eyewitness accounts and survival stories from the collapse of his beloved Venezuela. Thanks to your help Jose has gotten his family out of Venezuela. They are currently setting up a new life in another country. paypal.me/JoseM151

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Please feel free to share any information from this article in part or in full, giving credit to the author and including a link to The Organic Prepper and the following bio.

Daisy is a coffee-swigging, gun-toting, homeschooling blogger who writes about current events, preparedness, frugality, and the pursuit of liberty on her websites, The Organic Prepper and DaisyLuther.com She is the author of 4 books and the co-founder of Preppers University, where she teaches intensive preparedness courses in a live online classroom setting. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter,.

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Author: J. G. Martinez D.
Views: Read by 2,672 people
Date: January 3rd, 2019
Website: https://www.theorganicprepper.com/

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14 Comments...

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  1. Big E says:

    Jose,

    How much power does the play station take?
    Remember… you have told us you play that thing. 🙁

  2. Anonymous says:

    There’s something basic about home electrical service this author fails to understand, particularly about the incoming and distributed voltage coming from the main power line to his house.

    I’d suggest he avoid anything involving electricity other than plugging and unplugging appliances and turning switches on and off.

    FWIW, among a number of other things, the wattage rating of an appliance determines (and is determined by) the amperage draw of the appliance at its designated voltage of operation.

  3. Don’t guess what your appliances use. Buy yourself a Kill A Watt monitor. Set it for whatever measurement you want…watts, amps, volts, or kilowatt hours. Plug it into the outlet and plug your appliance into the monitor. Let it plugged in for 24 hours to get some accuracy on totals since certain appliances cycle off and on. Add up all your totals and you have a good idea of basic kilowatt hour needs per day. Don’t worry too much about small appliances that are only occasionally used.

    You don’t need to guess by using a manual. I got a Kill A Watt for around 15 bucks.

  4. Traitor Hator says:

    Seems you need double the size generator so it can run at 50% ,air cooled motors run at 350 degrees not 190 like a car and need air cooled motorcycle oil. Drain oil hot and flush with thin cheap oil hot, premium fuel is a no brainer ? Running a car down the highway for 20 hours is 1400 miles that’s with a oil filter, running a generator for 3 days is 5000 miles with no oil filter? Freezers can be run until the compressor stops every hour or so? Freezers need 15 amps at start up? Seems if you run your generator for say 5 minutes every hour that should keep everything frozen.? Tape a piece of white styrofoam to the door and a thick strip on the bottom on a front loader. The best freezers have non movable shelves because they are the cooling radiators , the others have a fan in the bottom that goes bad. Heat comes out the sides. You can make a plywood box or teepee over a noisy generator , as long as cool air can run through? Get a can of starting fluid, premium gas makes starting easier. Start your generator every 3 months and plug in a electric heater for 5 minutes. If the heater gets hot you know your generator is still putting out full power.

  5. Doc333 says:

    Thanks for this – exactly what I needed.

  6. Anon says:

    I don’t mention it too often but slow turning heavy flywheel water cooled diesel generators are available that burn 1-2 quarts of diesel per hour. Diesel lasts for years and you can make bio fuel or burn waste motor oil. You need to be a little handy but? Check out Lister CS and Changfa. I use them and they work. 650 rpm for the lister and 1800 rpm for the changfa when it is direct coupled to generator head. Just sayin. I don’t like to be without electricity.

    • angryinadk says:

      Just got a 3600w Lister/Kohler powerplant, single cylinder diesel,early air cooled model. Made in 1964 Lots of spares came with it. The engine has unknown high hours on it and it is still in very good shape, low turning rpm= longevity with these units. The thing is so under rated power wise that the camshaft can be used as a half speed pto at the same time as the power plant is being used. I drive a modern high output 12v alternator off the cam. The power plant end is underrated/overbuilt also, easily making rated power. The thing weighs more than 3 modern pieces of junk at 540 pounds and is electric start, using the 12v generating circuit as a starter motor. I don’t use the 12v output as the modern alternator is more efficient.

  7. Anon says:

    Mr. Martinez— Are you not in Venezuela? Is line voltage not all 220 V power there? I was intrigued by that when down in your area and it seems to work fine.

  8. Juanmotime says:

    Residential power is usually 120/240 not 110/220 but…….whatever.

  9. Very interesting to see per-capita electricity usage for different countries.

    Roughly 12 Mega Watt Hours in the US.

    6 Mega Watt Hours in Russia.

    Maybe they just don’t have as many indoor Cannabis grows ?

    Wonder what it is in China.

  10. The acid test is to throw the main circuit breaker and try to live with your alternate power backup for a couple of days. It is a real eyeopener about how dependent we are on the grid.

  11. the Lone Ranger says:

    A solar set up with more batteries than Energizer makes a day should do the trick!

    🙂

  12. Beaumont says:

    Paraphrased —

    ‘Lights: (knowable)’

    ‘It is not difficult, nor complicated if we take some time to understand how (algebra) works’.

    “How Much Power Do You Need?”

    I think, it would be nice to have all the heirloom-quality appliances, which ordinary people have come to expect, since WW2-ish.

    But, you don’t technically need any more than is required to keep code inspectors happy.

    I am grateful for these things, when I am sick, tired, or in a hurry.

    When I am not sick, tired, or in a hurry, I am not grateful for these things.

    Freedom requires that we not be needy beggars of tyrants, but in the tradition of Gandhi making illegal sea salt and American colonials’ DIY’ing. Anything which requires oversight is the soapbox of tyrants. Molasses, tea, common kitchen seasonings, paper stationary and mirrors have been excuses for nanny statists — Garner having been killed for loose cigarettes. Seeds for those cost $2.

    Can you make electricity, free and clear. That would be really American.