Letter Re: 2021 Winter Storm Lessons Learned

Dear Editor:
Regarding the 2021 Winter Storm Lessons Learned article, I have a few recommendations:

I keep a 1800W variable speed inverter generator around to charge phones, run the internet and routers, power a computer, run a television and keep the refrigerator or freezer going.  It is quiet, doesn’t disturb the neighbors, and sips gasoline, especially with the variable speed.  It is small and light enough I can bring it into the house to keep it warmer for easier starting.

For the car and the generator I keep a can of ether in the shed.  Most cars today do a great job atomizing fuel in the cold but I can remember shooting ether into my cars with carburetors when the temperatures dipped below zero back in the 80’s.  I still periodically use it to start generators with fuel issues.  It has some risks and some OEMs don’t want owners to use ether, but if I need it I’ll accept the risk.

For longer-term outages, say a solar flare or attack on the electric grid, I keep solar panels and a charge controller in the basement.  This can charge the battery from my pop-up camper and the batteries in my car jump starters.  I keep a couple pure sine wave inverters in my EMP trash can.

For the toilet I have a 5 gallon bucket with a toilet seat mounted to it, store-bought.  I could try to use it as a composting toilet with my sawdust, but I also keep a box of wastebasket liners, 10 gallon size, 500 for around $15 at a warehouse club.  The bags are thin, not sure how large the leak risk is, but the bags can be used to control the smell.  It would create quite a bit of waste but seems viable for at least a week.

I wish I had a solution for the heat.  My mom had natural gas and I’ve thought about how to keep her warm if the power and gas failed in a storm.  She’s not tech savvy and I never found an easy to implement solution.  Blankets and sleeping bags was it.  My main heat is a ground based heat pump that needs large quantities of power.  For backup I have a propane furnace under the heat pump coils.  The furnace probably needs more surge power than the 1800W would produce but I have larger generators too.  I also have a pellet stove in the basement that could be powered off the 1800W generator that will add enough heat to the house to keep it in the 50s.  I’ve had to do this when my furnace failed.  A garage wall has enough pellets to last for 60 days.  I’ve done quality checks on the pellets and haven’t seen deterioration in 5 years of no rotation.   If OPSEC is important I plan to build a fort either above my bed or in a carpeted room.  I save old blankets and sleeping bags in the attic to act as the insulation for the fort.  Humans give off around 100W of heat per day which would have a warming effect on a small space, though not like a furnace. – Greg