We just had an interesting week. Sandy came through and devastated NJ and NY. We were impacted but clearly no where near as badly as some people in Staten Island and the other flooded areas. Regardless, this is what happened to us and what we did.
The big impact on us in Tenafly was loss of electrical power and cable and then lack of access to gasoline. I have a generator, a Honda EU2000i. This is a 2kw portable generator. It generates pretty clear power that I normally use at the racetrack for charging power tools, running A/C and laptops. I paid about a thousand bucks for it 3 years ago. This unit is what powered the essentials in my house during the loss of power which lasted from Monday evening around 6pm until late Saturday.
I ran the Honda outside my house and chained it to a flat bed trailer parked beside my house. I ran a long extension cord from the Honda in to my house through my mail box opening. I ran just my fridge (a Subzero Pro48, a big fridge) through a 4 way power box. We used a 18W Dewalt light for lighting around the kitchen and I also hooked up my furnace (gas powered) to this also. This provided more than enough power and ran about 11-12 hours on a gallon of gasoline. We charged iPhones and so on from this also. We ran the Honda on eco throttle the whole time except when running the microwave. Eco throttling allows the Honda to automatically adjust its throttle based on load and this is the most economical way to run it.
The furnace takes very little power. It’s mainly city gas operated and required power just for spinning the fan. I reckon it draws maybe 300 watts when it’s heating and it’s only hearing for a few minutes an hour. It increased my gasoline consumption from 13 hours a gallon to maybe 11/12. Not bad at all.
I changed the oil of the Honda after the first day. I used motor oil from Autozone and this is pretty easy to do. I ran the Honda continuously except for when refilling it with gasoline during the time.
Running large household appliances requires a lot of power. My advice is don’t use them. Go small, you can buy a large generator but it’ll require a lot of fuel to run it or it needs to be hooked to town natural gas which may not work.
We precooked a lot of spaghetti and minced meat before hand and kept it in the fridge. We then microwaved it to heat it back up to eat it. We couldn’t use our normal microwave (1200w), it drew too much current and caused the Honda to shutdown. We instead used a smaller 1000w microwave and this worked fine. I just ran the Honda with eco throttle off when we used the microwave. We also used a Kuerig single cup coffee machine and didn’t need to switch eco throttle off for the kuerig.
Lighting wise in the house, the best thing we had were BlackDiamond head lamps. These are LED lights that use a strap to go on your head. The batteries are AAA and last at least 40-50 hours on max brightness. D cell flash lights are a fail, you can’t get D cell batteries during one of these things, they sell out instantly. We also had flashlights from Dewalt powered by rechargeable 18V dewalt batteries which we kept charged. I destroyed a nano battery because it discharged with the light on and we didn’t turn the light off straightaway so I think it went below threshold and the charger refused to charge it afterwards. I bought two more NiMH (DC9096) batteries as a result.
Our fridge/freezer is pretty big and a couple of families around us used our unit to keep food fresh during the time. The big subzero worked very well and has about 30 cubic feet of space.
Gasoline was a big issue during this event. Most of the garages either ran out of gasoline or with no power couldn’t pump it. There were 3 hour queues around where we live. People with larger generators had problems keeping them running as they couldn’t get gasoline. The Honda is brilliant in this regard. We used maybe 2 gallons a day even with the furnace on. I had filled my two cars up before the storm hit thinking I could siphon gas from them during the event. You can’t siphon gas from a modern car. They have anti-theft mechanisms in the gas filler tube. So, basically you either need to have stored gas in tanks or queue for 3 hours to get more if you can get any at all.
I unpacked an old Sony FM radio and this provided most of our news during the event. ATT 4G was a total fail on my iPhone 4S and my Verizon iPad LTE worked better and provided a Wifi hotspot for us and our friends. I have a motorola police scanner to listen to what was going on in NYC during the event, the police and FD were very busy obviously.
We had hot running water the whole time. Our water heater is city gas powered and does not require electricity. We also filled up sinks and water buckets so we could flush toilets. Our bath tubs would not hold water by the way so some large multi gallon water containers for flushing toilets would be a good idea.
Now, that it’s over for us and power is restored, what would we do differently. The Honda unit is absolutely recommended. It’s all most families need. The city natural gas supply kept running during this event and a gas powered generator would be very cool but costs about 10k for a house sized unit. The Honda is a 1000 bucks and will let you run the essentials and it’s quiet. The neighbors 6-10kw portable construction generators are super loud and will upset people quickly. The major issue we had was access to gasoline. You cannot buy gas tanks, siphons, invertors, generators, flashlights, D-cell batteries once the event is underway so make sure you have these up front. I will be purchasing 6 x 5 gallon tanks to store 30 gallons of gasoline in my house from July onwards moving forward. With some stabilizer added, it’ll be good for 3 months and then I’ll use it in my cars and refill. Having access to gasoline would alleviate the biggest stress factor we had during the event given we were not flooded and so on.
I might buy another Honda unit and put a transfer box in the house that will power the kitchen and furnace next time this happens. This makes it easy to hook up the generator. A second Honda would let me drive the electric stove and give me a backup generator in case one fails. I’d only turn it on though when using the electric stove. A good buy would also be a LPG camping stove to cook food on or a grill with a couple of stove tops. It’s easy to store 4 x 20lb propane tanks in the garage. I’ve thought about getting a LPG conversion kit for my Honda but I think having the 30 gallons of gasoline would get me 2 weeks of power without needing more gasoline, it’s probably enough.
Flashlights around the house are a mistake. Dump them, they are too inefficient. Get yourself LED lighting whether it’s headlamps or LED flashlights. They last much longer and the bulbs don’t blow.
- Honda EU2000i 2kw generator (2 gallons of gas per day on essential loads)
- Chain the generator to something solid, there are thieves around!
- Keep the generator at least 10 feet from the house.
- Have battery Carbon monoxide detectors in the house.
- Extension cords for the above that reach your kitchen/furnace.
- Buy and store 30 gallons of 91 gasoline with stabilizer and recycle it every 3 months. This is basically 2 weeks of power for the generator.
- Buy LED flashlights and batteries
- Buy rechargeable CFC lights for use around the house, Dewalt ones work very well.
- Precook food and keep in fridge to reheat.
- Buy a grill with a stove top and keep 4 propane tanks on hand for cooking.
- Large water containers for flushing toilets.