What I learned from a power outage

Thursday, June 19, 2008

We recently had  sever power outage in our area.  In trying to turn a negative into a positive, I have tried to figure out what good came out of it.

We were out of power for 4 days.  The first evening was not that bad as the outside temperature was in the 70's.  I went out to Target and bought a battery operated fan to match our battery operated camping lantern.  We read books and hung out in the backyard.  It was rather nice.  The second day was much different.  The temperature rose into the high 80's and low 90's.  The battery operated fan was not cutting it.  Also, by this time we had lost all the food in our fridge.  Luckily this amounted to half a bag of chicken, and a bag of fish in the freezer since it was time to go grocery shopping anyway.

We still did not have an estimated time for power, so I headed back out to Target to get a cooler, and some new food.  While I was at Target, I saw a 400W power inverter for $40.  This wonderful device would allow us to use our car as a small generator, so I bought a cheap $15 electric fan, and 2 extension cords since the power inverter needed to be used in the car, and we were in the house.

One of the rooms in our house is always much cooler than the others, so we decided to move our living room setup into this room and hook up the fan so that it would blow in the air from the outside.  Even though it was hot outside, the heat building up in our house was even worse.  Way to go, bay window.  But to use this room, we decided to finally get a cheap bed in a bag so that the bed in there would be usable.  We have been living in this house for over 9 months and had yet to buy a twin bedset.  With the power inverter we were able to run the small TV (13 inch), the fan, and a lamp, without draining the car too much.  

By the third evening we finally started to get estimates for when power was going to be restored, but it was still 3 days out.  So we settled in for the long haul, and even found out we could hook the dvd player up.  I think we had a fairly good setup, but the wife was frustrated with the power company saying we would be without power for almost a week.  We were planning on taking a vacation, and if the power did not come on earlier than expected, it would take a day off of a 4 day trip.  Not good.

But, by the 4th day, the power was back on, and we were good to go, but what did we learn?

I learned we can get by on a lot less electricity then we had been.  400W is not a lot.  If I we ran the full 400W for 16 hours a day it would be 6.4kWh a day, or about a quarter of what our last electric bill said we used on average a day for the last month.

A $16 fan positioned correctly in the house to bring in cool air can really do wonders to cool our house.  We have since continued this, and I don't think our air conditioner has been been on in the last 4 days, and i haven't changed the programmable thermostat settings.  The house is jsut staying cooler.

I need to clean out the fridge more often.  Our fridge was filled with empty old leftover plates and a bunch of other crap we hadn't touched in quite some time.  Don't get me wrong, we eat leftovers, but sometimes we just don't get to them in time.  Our fridge is barely stocked and immaculate right now.

I really need to get a Kill-A-Watt to find out what the power sinks are in our house and minimize them.  Being happy by using a quarter of the power, really made me take stock.  I also need to put every major electronics station on easily accessible power strips to so that I can turn them off when not in use.

Also, while my power was out, I was mentioned on Carnival of Personal Finance. Check it out!