Monday, June 06, 2011

The best laid schemes of mice and men

A few weeks ago I wrote about my installation of a back up generator for our house. I thought I would give you an update on the project as it shows that things don’t always go as smoothly as we would like with all things technical.

If you didn’t read the earlier column, here is a summary. With all the wet weather this spring I was getting increasingly concerned that we may have an extended power failure and electrical power for my two sump pumps would be interrupted. Since they were running almost constantly this spring, such a failure would certainly result in a few inches of water in our basement. I decided to install a small generator to handle the sump pumps, some lights and the fridge. All went well. I got it installed, wired and tested. You will remember that I joked about it being “cheap insurance” since we would now never need it since we had it available.

I should have been tipped off that all would not go as planned on a day in early May when I went to work. It was bright and sunny. That alone should have been a cause of concern as this was certainly not the normal for our spring. While at work in downtown Cincinnati we lost all power to the building and the emergency generator there kicked on as designed but because of a problem in one of the circuits we still were without power to some of the critical equipment. That was an omen of things to come that evening.

In the early evening we were pummeled with a big storm and the winds downed some power lines in our neighborhood. Here was my big chance. I was ready. We started the generator, plugged in a few lights, lap top and a small TV. We were set. We were back on the grid. Mother Nature didn’t get the best of us.

My smugness was short lived as the generator sputtered and stopped. All was dark, no Steve Raleigh providing blow by blow storm reports (pardon the pun) on the TV, no computer and no lights. Only wet darkness. Well, that evening ended up being anything but ordinary as I had to restart the generator several times. Wet and muddy from going in and out of the house I finally gave up and, since the sumps were not filling rapidly, we went to bed waiting for morning light and hoping for Duke’s reconnection.

The next morning still “Dukeless,” the sumps were filled. I started the generator again just to pump out the water. Later that day power was restored. Subsequently I found I had a vapor lock on the fuel system that has now been fixed. I’ll find out for sure the next time. My pride may preclude any further discussion of this project.

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