Prepping? . . . . not really, just a small slice of peace of mind

The location where I happen to reside is not fraught with multiple varieties of cataclysmic revenge events from Mother Gaia. The lower peninsula of Michigan hasn’t seen a hurricane that I know of (in my lifetime anyway). Not being a geologist or paleontologist, I cannot say with 100% confidence that there may not have been a hurricane sometime in the planet’s early childhood when this area may have been covered by a hell  of a lot more water than it is currently.

Earthquakes also rank rather low on the TEOTWAWKI and all-is-lost list for these parts. Maybe the New Madrid crack will experience a huge anaphylactic shock some day, but I have no idea to what extent Michigan would feel the movement of that earth bowel.

A volcanic event seems remote, though, again I don’t know whether a supervolcanic blow of the Yellowstone Caldera would drop a shitpile of ash in my neighborhood or not. (though sunglasses may not be necessary for a while).

I don’t have any problem getting to sleep when I start thinking about avalanches, as the amount of snow that would suddenly crack off a precipice and start rolling down the slope from 960 ft. above sea level to 920 ft. would likely make for a neat snow fort and besides that, we have no precipices in the neighborhood other than the eaves of the neighborhood’s houses.

Flooding can be a problem in Michigan for those who reside in flood plains along the state’s various rivers. My semi-rural sub-division in the country is not in that category. There is low land and a small lake behind me, but it is kept wet purely by drainage, not fed by a stream or a spring. A hell of a lot of water would have to dump out of the skies before anything would get close to my property. Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids would be underwater before I would.

Tsunamis aren’t a big deal on the Great Lakes. Actually, they’re no deal at all. That does make one wonder .  .  .  .  might some kind of quirky offshoot of the New Madrid possibly make a burp under Lake Michigan and cause a surge and a killer wave all of 5 ft. high and take out mini golf courses and go-cart tracks in Saugatuck and Waukegan?

I guess a drought might be possible, though we do have a hell of of lot of fresh water around here and it would take something of biblical proportions to see Lake Superior low enough to actually walk out to the remains of the Edmund Fitgerald. No, I don’t see lack of water being a significant issue in the foreseeable future for these parts either.

Now, the one thing .  .  .  .  the one thing that does happen around here is the natural happenstance that introduced Dorothy to Scarecrow and friends. We do experience tornadoes from time to time. THE BIG T!  They are the one thing that can smack us but good and take our dwellings and recycle them into match sticks and small pieces of brick. I don’t know why they seem to aim for mobile homes the way they do but I’m not going to complain as anything that keeps them away from my neighborhood is fine with me (that sounds rather cold-hearted. I don’t wish destructive killer winds on anybody.)

Short of having a direct hit smash the house to smithereens or picking it up and moving it to Kansas, the highest probability of life-altering consequence of a severe storm or the big T is the electrical power going out for some undeterminable amount of time. Our neighborhood utilities are underground, but they are supplied by a network grid of older wires and transformers that are above the ground, attached to wooden sticks that in turn are surrounded by trees which have branches of wooden sticks that break off in high winds, hitting and over-stressing said wires and transformers. (this doesn’t just happen during baseball season. We get football and basketball seasons as well, since the proper temperature of freezing rain/ice can collect on the wooden sticks and make them heavy and brittle and  .  .  . wait for it .  .  . break off and take out the wires and transformers!

Like many folks do, when a power outage occurred a few years back, I ran out to the big box home improvement corporation outlet and bought a portable gasoline powered generator. Running a long heavy duty extension cable from said generator to the kitchen, I was able to supply the refrigerator/freezer and a table lamp on a counter with power and the food was saved.  I also wanted to supply the circuit for my water well with power so we could drink, take showers and use the toilets. Alas I hadn’t taken a close look at my water pump circuit in some time and had forgotten that it is encased in metal spiral conduit from where it enters the house through the concrete basement wall and runs up to an on-off switch box, and on to the main circuit breaker box. There is no plug to disconnect and substitute a cable from the generator.  I’m certain that that is all according to the electrical code in force at the time the house was built. Now, having done some house wiring during remodeling projects over the years and having some background as an electronic technician in a previous life, I’m confident that I could dismantle the existing water pump supply circuit and modify it to allow for a disconnect from the house circuit and allow for a plug-in feed from a generator, but I didn’t take that route. With a portable generator of limited current supply capability, I would still have to pick which few electrical items to hook up on a temporary basis.  The frig and some lights are givens, but what about the clothes washer and dryer? Plus I now have a chest freezer down the basement. It was clear that the portable was not the best solution for anything more than a few hours of outage.

What I did pursue was the installation (not by me, but by a professional, since their work comes with a warranty) of a natural gas-powered whole house generator.

Now when the power takes a powder, we simply wait for about thirty seconds for the automated transfer switch to do its thing, the generator’s natural gas engine has already fired up and is running and voila! the house is back on and I don’t have to pick and choose what circuits to supply from the portable generator’s limited capability.

 

The engine fires up once a week and exercises itself for several minutes as a self test to make sure everything is up to par.

One item did have to be upgraded as part of the project. The standard capacity natural gas meter on the house was right at the margin of being able to handle the full electrical load of the house with the central air conditioner being the big electron hog. I decided to not risk having a setup that might puke under the heavy load if it had to fire up when the air conditioner was running and went ahead and upgraded to a larger flow capacity meter from the friendly utility company. It’s not the prettiest thing to have hanging on the side of your house. It rather looks like my house belongs in a light industrial park.

I could have chanced it and stuck with the standard flow meter and it may have worked fine, but I don’t like to have service folks come out a second time to fix something that could have been done properly at first just because I thought I might save some money. It would have cost more in the end to have a re-do.

At the time of this posting, I’ve had the power go out all of twice since the installation. Let’s see  .  .  .  on a pure cost vs. time lost or inconvenience scale, I probably need the power to go out about 2500 more times to have the project amortized to a reasonable per incident basis.

So, is this a bonafide prepper project? I don’t really consider it as such. I tend to think of it more as an annoyance avoidance project. The natural gas is all underground and not likely to encounter any issues short of the utility flaming out in some disaster. As long as the house is standing and the generator remains connected and the gas is flowing through the underground pipes, I have peace of mind that I will have electricity inside the house and will remain warm, with plenty of water and yes, sleep at night.

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7 Responses to Prepping? . . . . not really, just a small slice of peace of mind

  1. If you were a true prepper you’d have a LP tank hooked up with a transfer valve so when the NG stops flowing you switch to LP.

    I know most of these gen sets will run off both however I’m not sure how much configuration is required to switch from one to the other.

  2. Sulaco says:

    I too have the Natural Gas pipes inhouse and have two NG fire places that we used last week when the power pooped out under an ice storm and heavy winds. This seems to happen around Seattle about once a year. What may I ask was the ball park cost for the NG generator and instalation of same? Still getting over my kerosene head ach from last week and would consider a generator if the cost was less than the value of the house…

  3. Drang says:

    Dave
    As an ex-pat Wolverine, lifelong history geek, and prepper I can assure you that, if I mean WHEN the New Madrid fault cuts loose again, Michigan will almost certainly be affected. The last time it was active, in 1811 and 1812, it rang church bells in New York and Boston, and was the signal to the Shawnee and other Great Lakes tribes that Tecumseh and his brother Tenkswatawah were right, and it was time to rise up against the Long Knives.

    Also, confined bodies of water such as the Great Lakes are, indeed, subject to tsunamis due to seismic events or landslides. (That bit of knowledge comes from being a CERT-trained prepper & ham radio operator in the Pacific Northwest.)

    Finally, having grown up in Detroit, I would have to classify “total socio-economic collapse and/or massive civil disorder” as events to plan/prep for as well. Just sayin’…

  4. Dave RNS Photographer says:

    Drang,

    Thanks for the education. I thought that the natural disaster stuff in my post would be taken in the manner in which it was written, that being that I’m no expert and was just trying to be a bit smart alecky leading up to my main point: that of the various types of natural disasters, tornadoes and severe storms are at the top of the list and the subsequent loss of power was something I wanted to address. I stated in the post title and in the closing paragraph that this didn’t seem like a true ‘Prepper’ project.

    I am always eager to learn new stuff and wonder if there was a substantial New Madrid event, would there have to be some sort of epicenter directly under Lake Michigan to cause a large tsunami or would the extended rumbling of the lake bed from a Missouri epicenter be enough to cause havoc along the shores? Was there any damage along the Great Lakes shoreline due to the 1811-12 event?
    As for socio/economic collapse, I’m would not get an A grade for preparation, as I don’t have a retreat in the Great American Redoubt, fully stocked with provisions and like-minded friends.

    Sulaco:

    I went to Generac’s website and found they have a series of generators of various load capacities, so you should be able to find one that fits your electrical load demand. They also had (at the time I was looking) authorized dealer/installer links. Heck I even saw a Generac display unit near the entrance of one of the home improvement big box stores one time when I walked in. (think it was HD, but I always hedge my answers as my old memory is less than eidetic). As for cost, my electric service and main circuit panel is located at the opposite end of the house from where the generator was installed, so there was a lengthy amount of cable involved (the transfer switch panel gets installed next to the main circuit panel). That’s just one of the many variables involved, so I cannot give you a price. In addition to the generator and transfer switch box, the main contractor will likely be an electrician and you may have to hire a gas contractor to run the gas line and hook that part of the system together (unless the contractor does both trades). I was able to utilize a gas contractor that the electrical guy used frequently.

    Dave

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  6. Firehand says:

    A ‘not expert, just read a bit’ opinion: Unless there’s underwater cliff-type areas where a landslide could be triggered, I doubt you’d have to worry about a tsunami event: from what I recall they require either a vertical plate shift or landslide to trigger them.

    Unless the asteroid lands in the lake, of course…

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