Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Strange days indeed

I consider myself very lucky to be able to write today. My area had it’s power restored late last night, and after one false start, it has stayed on since midnight. Many tens (hundreds?) of thousands of my fellow Californians are still without electricity, and it is estimated that it may take up to a week to completely restore power to everyone. As you may know, more than a million of us lost power. We are currently having lightning and heavy rain, and I hope to get this posted before another outage.

I tip my hat to the men and women of the power company whose job it is to go out into the storm and repair the downed lines, and replace the blown transformers, and remove the blown-over trees, and get that vital magic juice flowing back into our cold and dark homes as quickly as possible. In spite of darkness, rain, and howling wind (perhaps lightning, too) you get the job done. Thank you.

Regular readers (Loyal Friends and True) will remember that I experienced, not so long ago, a power surge and outage that had a quite negative effect on two of my machines. And I wrote an article about how that experience affected me, and how it was an impetus for me to replace my old (and unrated) power-strips, and finally put UPS devices on my network. (To read that article, click here.) I am pleased to report that due to these actions, and these new devices, I suffered absolutely no damage to my computers and had no data loss at all.
I urge you consider the quality of the surge protectors/power-strips you have your computer plugged into, and upgrading it if necessary: computers ain’t cheap to replace. [Note: no power-strip/surge protector can protect your electronics from a lightning strike on the powerline, but some provide (monetary) insurance that will replace your devices. The only sure protection is to unplug them from the wall outlet during electric storms.]

As a Geek, I found my day without computers and the Internet most… vexing. I could not run my online computer repair business. And while my UPS’s (Uninterruptible Power Supplies) allowed me to finish up what I was doing, Save my work, and shutdown properly, (or they did so for me, automatically) my day without power reminded me that what I’d really like to do is be power-grid independent. I would like to be never without electricity. And, I would like world peace, and a cure for cancer, and… (to read my article on UPS devices, click here.)

To turn this “want” into a reality, I have to stop thinking in terms of batteries, and battery backup, and start thinking in terms of generators. Electrical generators — sometimes called “emergency generators” — are typically motors that run on gasoline or diesel fuel and converts the turning motion into electricity. Unlike a battery, a generator will continue to provide current for as long as there’s fuel to keep it running.
Sadly, to purchase a generator BIG enough to power all the electrical devices in a home, and having an electrician wire it in, is an expensive proposition.

But what if I bought a little putt-putt generator? And just wanted to hook up, say one PC and monitor, and my router and modem…and maybe a small television. That way I could keep my business running (and I wouldn’t miss The Price is Right, or NCIS). How much money would that cost to set up?
Wow. Quite close-by lightning now. I’m going to hurry and post this.

The first thing I’d have to look at is: how much elecricity does my computer, monitor, modem, and router use? This, of course will vary from machine to machine, and the best source for this Wattage number will be the device manufacturer. “Dr. Electricity” has a pretty good description of calculating your computer’s power consumption, along with tips for conserving power. To see his webpage, click here. It is Today’s free link.

I would then total-up the consumption ratings of the devices I would like to keep running (the best method would be to attach a Watt meter, and get specific readings) — lets say, 400W for the PC, 40W for the monitor, and 10W for the modem and router. A total of 450W. (I was joking about the TV.)
Armed with this knowledge, I would then seek out a “portable” generator rated at .5 KWs, or better. (Of course, I’m going to have to figure out a method for getting the electricity from the generator to the devices too…)

So I go onto Shopzilla and type in “portable generators” and I see a range of prices and capabilities– from $109 to a couple of thousand.
I would like to hear from folks who have actually rigged this type of a set up, and learn what your experiences have been. For those of you so inclined, please use the Comment feature (link below) to pass on to us your ‘tips’ and “do’s-and-don’ts”.
I haven’t decided if I’ll ever actually follow though on this; but if I do, I’ll be sure to keep you all informed of what I learn along the way.

I am going to quit here, as fragmentary as these thoughts are, and post… while the posting’s good.

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved.

January 5, 2008 Posted by | advice, Backups, computers, hardware, how to, PC, tech | | Leave a comment