Even though I am now surrounded by 20” or so of snow, I am thinking of spring when I do the checks on my prepping gear. One item on the list is to bring out my generator for its check run. Like the average Ann and Andy, we couldn’t afford some massive house running generator system. Even the moderate sized ones on trailers were a bit too steep for our budget.
So I decided to go with the option of a small, economical, portable generator for under $200. The idea is that the generator can run an estimated 4 hours on ½ gallon of the standard oil/gas mix 1:40 ratio. That gives me 10 “runs” on a five gallon can of gasoline.
No, it won’t run a houseful of electronics, lights, and a massive freezer, or even a refrigerator. What it will do is recharge the three old car batteries I have which one in turn will run through an inverter to power one lamp for a week (6 hours per night for 7 nights) and one will power a 12v cooler for a few hours, long enough to cool down the ice packs inside which will maintain the coolness for a few hours longer, especially if the 12v cooler is inside the refrigerator (more insulation/less cooling loss). The third will be in reserve to be used with an inverter to run my coffee maker for example. This means I’d run my generator perhaps two times a week. In theory that means I could run the generator for 5 weeks on a five gallon can of gasoline.
So today I am running the generator until the fuel runs out to see if it does go four hours and also how long it takes to recharge batteries and cool down the coolers. The generator has a DC hook-up that clips on the batteries and an AC hook-up that I have plugged in an electric clock to tell when it stops, and a converter to power the 12v DC coolers. I could have easily plugged in instead a recharger for power tools, or for cell phones, etc.
So while we await the results, let’s go over the main points.
Light: With rechargeable batteries and a mini solar powered recharger along with regular batteries (which would be used first), I can power a number of small lights around the house, such as the five LED strip lights I have. These are in addition to other crank and solar flashlights and lanterns, along with using outside solar “pathway” lights inside for places like stairs. See my article on testing dollar store batteries to see that they even last for days. This car battery/inverter system allows a standard “pigtail” 60watt bulb to light up one main room nicely.
Refrigeration: By having frozen water in the freezer in storage bags your foods will stay good longer. Depending on the outside temperature, they could last for two or three days. (They will also supply more drinking water when they thaw.) Perishables in the refrigerator, like cold meats and cheeses, can be put in a small Styrofoam cooler with ice packs from the freezer and put back in the refrigerator. If the power remains out when these resources start to deplete, then the 12v coolers, car batteries, and ice packs come into play. Also, while the batteries are recharging a cooler can also run off the generator, chilling a number of ice packs, increasing the time food can be kept from going bad. Realistically, if you don’t have a separate freezer or a huge and totally packed one on the refrigerator, you’ll probably use up your perishable items before your ability to keep them to the good runs out.
You can pick up a number of the items, such as inverters, or even coolers, at discount stores, or even yard sales. I got a great 12v cooler for $5 that way.
So the results are in. On a half of a gallon of the oil/gasoline mix, the generator ran 3 hours and 56 minutes. In that time it recharged 3 car batteries and took the 2 coolers from 60 degrees F down to 34 degrees +/- (The testing equipment is not lab standard. LOL! )
After Sandy, and times of flooding in the valley below us, some good people were lulled into a false sense of security with the idea that they had a generator. Oh sure, they worked, they gave them light and even refrigeration, until the fuel ran out. Then it was a scramble to drive somewhere outside the affected area and get in lines to get more gasoline. At an average use by the generators of three gallons a day, it didn’t take long for some to see some drawbacks.
For those who like this idea, but are concerned about storing gasoline there is a simple alternative. By keeping your car tank at least at half you would have up to 8 gallons you could keep safely stored but get out to run a generator like this 16 times. You’ll only need to keep a supply of the oil additive, which can be gotten very economically.
So as you see, prepping can be as easy as 1, 2, 3.