Tuesday, April 09, 2019

beep, beep, beep

Since my retirement, I've to some extent allowed myself to return to my body's preferred schedule-night owl. I've been one since I was a teenager, only being an "early to bed, early to rise" type because the need to eat forced me into it.

But this morning I hit the bed early, around 1 AM. 20 minutes later, I've just slipped away and...

beep, beep, beep

When you've worked in IT for an entire career, you recognize the sound of a UPS alarming when it goes on battery like you recognize your face in the mirror. I have a lot of UPSes in the house. Computers, our "big TV", on the house network gear, and my hand-held radio chargers all have a UPS. You do this when you have power that is...questionable at times. Every brand has a similar but distinct alarm, and there are 3 different brands in my house. If the power goes out, they all start vying for attention. So it's more like

beep, meep, squeak

I gave it a minute. We're on an EMC (Electric Member Cooperative) and "power flips" are nothing new. So are outages of less than 60 seconds. But if it isn't back on in a minute or two, these things can go for hours.

I start hearing the *click* sound a UPS makes when switching from line to battery or vice versa. It goes back and forth several times. Somewhere out in the dark, reclosers are trying to bring the power back on. So now it's...

*click* *click* beep, meep, squeak, beep, meep, squeak, beep, meep, squeak

My mind supplies the sounds of the rest of them, located in the basement and beyond hearing.

*click* *click* *click* *click* *click* beep, beep, beep, beep, meep, squeak, beep, beep, beep, beep, meep, squeak, beep, beep, beep, beep, meep, squeak.

It gets noisy here at The Freehold when the power goes out. What's worse, these things are like The Terminator. They won't shut up until shut down or the power returns.



So I grumble, get up and walk around the house turning off UPSes. This also kills the house's network (Of course I have a full network in my house. Every IT geek does.) and Internet access. So the Amazon Wiretaps start complaining.

"I can't connect to the Internet," x 3. Slightly out of sync, so it's like an echo of Echoes.

So I shut them off as well. Yee flippin' Gods. Remind me to rejoin the 80s. The 1880s.

Then I call the EMC's automated outage reporting line. As I expected, they have nothing for me this early on, but at least I'm on record about the outage.

Now I *know* that the refrigerator and freezer will keep cold for 4 hours without power. Normally, unless the outage is related to bad weather, like an ice storm, the power is back on before that. I know that Mrs. Freeholder's alarm goes off at 5 AM, and by now it's nearly 2. I turn on the bedroom light so it will wake me when the power comes back on and go back to bed for some sleep.

I wake up at 4:30 and there's still no power. Grumbling some more, I get up, pull on some clothes and start the process of getting the generator out and going so I can plug up refrigerator and freezer. All goes well until the generator won't start. It won't even hit a lick. I take the gas cap off and shake, and am rewarded with the sound of sloshing gas. I check the choke and pull, pull, pull the starter rope. Still nothing. I check the choke for the 10th time and pull, pull, pull. I pull the plug and check it. It's good. Pull, pull, pull, over and over and nothing.

Eventually, having ruled out everything else, I have to reconsider the gas. I trudge to the outbuilding and come back with a can from storage. I pour it into the tank, pull, pull, pull and am rewarded with...

Vroom! Yeah, there was enough gas to slosh but not enough to run. Now I start rigging extension cords. The freezer comes on and notes on it's display that it's up to 16o. That's not so great. The refrigerator is also warmer than I would have expected. Not too happy with either of those.
So everything is running and I'm checking to see how they're doing. Freezer has dropped 3oand the refrigerator has dropped...

Into displaying error codes. Oh, crap. I've had some minor issues with it doing something weird that I can't quite recall in detail, but I do have plenty of information on it on my laptop. Fire up the laptop and find the manufacturer's troubleshooting document. "Press this button and that button." Nothing. "Press these other buttons." Success! It seems the refrigerator starts in "demo mode", which means lights but no cooling, if it's been off for some indeterminate amount of time.

So, class, what did we learn?
  • Assumptions will kill you. I assumed that, because I could hear it slosh, I had enough gas. Nope. Fill the generator up.
  • My super-duper Energy Star appliances may run on next to no electricity, but they don't hold cold for squat. That 4 hours I though I had to get things on the generator is probably more like 60-90 minutes. Not good-what if we're out of town?
  • The refrigerator troubleshooting guide is going to get printed out and put on the back. I probably need to do something similar with a lot of things. Food for thought there.
  • Battery-powered, auto on emergency lights are the stuff. No fumbling for a flashlight. You have enough light to find your flashlight or just grab one of these and go.
Even though it would be costly, the refrigerator's "Let's start up in demo mode!" thing is going to force me to consider some sort of work around. Maybe a "whole house" generator, maybe a battery bank that is charged by mains power. Yes, solar would be nice, but Mrs. Freeholder isn't too interested in my covering the roof with solar panels, even if we could afford it. I stand a better chance with the generator or battery bank, and I can always add panels in the future.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need a shower and maybe a nap.

Edit: For those of you who may have tuned in while I was trying to unscrew Blogger's HTML code, sorry the post as sort of disjointed and partially invisible.