View Full Version : Power Out Contingency Plans

11/21/2007, 08:13 PM
I'm wondering what power-loss contingency plans you all have. I think we may have discussed this topic earlier but I'm not certain if it was here or not. Either way, with the winter and holiday vacation season upon us, it's a good time to refresh it.

So when you think about it you have how much time and money invested in to your tank(s)???? And what would happen if all of a sudden on a cold, windy, and stormy night your area lost electricity. What would you do?

Right now it is a hypothetical situation. But the fires in SoCal shows us one thing - that anything can happen at any time. So I've taken from that to be better aware and prepared of what I'm going to do under certain situations of distress.

My cheapo plan currently ready to go is battery powered air bubblers. I have two and a stock of D batteries to go. Probably time to refresh the D's as I've had them for four years now.

My next step is to acquire or at least buy when needed a 1000W inverter with two 50' power cords with three plug adapters (see Harbor Freight Tools). That way I can hook the inverter to my vehicle in the driveway and run the power cords to my tank and plug in the priority items like sump return and heater. Maybe a PH or two. As far as I understand water circulation to maintain dissolved oxygen levels is the most important thing. I like this method because its more compact to store when not in use, does not require fuel to be stored and is quiet other than the vehicle running to charge it.

My ultimate step if fiscal concerns weren't included would be to set my home up to be grid-tied with solar PV with a dedicated loads off of back-up battery bank to power dedicated and isloated loads such as the fridge, some lights, and of course the reef priority items.

Depending on the cost of fuel, electricity, and the way things look in the future and I would consider a generator to suppliment the lack of PV generation during dark and cloudy winter days during extended electrical outages.

I know of some people in colder climates even going so far as to prepare foam insulation sheets pre-cut to mount to each side of the tank to heat loss from the tank to the house incase of power outage. I can see that in a colder climate the house temp may drop to the 40-50's easily if the heater goes out. But for our area I don't feel that's necessary.

So what are your contingecy plans? I know you wouldn't invest $100's if not several $1,000's in hardware and livestock only to have a day or two without our taken for granted power source gone and all that precious life lost and a, believe me on this one, terrible smell to clean up, without a plan, right? :D

11/21/2007, 08:27 PM
Chris have you seen these: http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?c=3578+3669+8120&pcatid=8120

Basically it's a pump with a built in rechargeable battery. It runs on electricity until the power goes out, and at that time it switches to battery operation, and can run for 10 to 20 hours on batteries. Very cool, and probably a good idea to set up when it's really storming out (that's what I'm using). As far as long term, I'm thinking a generator for my house; temperature wise, I think it's probably a good idea. We don't use our house heater a lot, and my house is constantly in the 40's to 50's (last night), so if we lose electricity, it's game over. Yikes!

11/21/2007, 08:47 PM
Yes, I have. Honestly, I hate having bubblers in my main tank unless needed because I hate salt creep. So for that cost I could buy a low-end (500W) inverter.

One thing about that solution is it kicks on without any input by you. I think it was not too long ago when LA had some power outages one of the main RC guys here lost nearly everything since he was away at work and was told repeatedly that power would be restored shortly. He had a generator and a contingency plan to use it but wasn't home and relyied on the utility to restore power when they said but didn't. He lost a lot. Note: he also had a heavy fish load - that can be a critical make/break point to pass through a lack of water circulation.

That being said lets say it's 5pm on Sunday and you're out. Your spouse calls to say the tank is making a wierd noise. You come home around 6pm and find that your return pump has lost it and was just about to smoke your entire tank. Whew, that was a close one. But now you've got no system circulation. Are your heaters located in the sump? what else will effectively be lost if you don't have a replacement? Skimming, fuge, supplimentation? Plus, when you start getting up there in return pump sizes, does you LFS stock what you need and can go get? Or is it too late. Oh yeah Monday is a holiday so nobody's open. Either way, what I'm getting at is what critical piece of equipment might give way and you'd be S.O.L. How much more is it to keep an extra pump on hand to easily swap out and be back in business?

Ryan, yes last night was cold. My heater ran 3x longer this morning than it has so far this year.

11/21/2007, 10:24 PM
i plan to rely heavily on panic and warm beer. i do have a couple of battery air pumps. one did me ok when paradise lost power for 2 days last winter. it was cold (65-70) but luckily no losses.

11/21/2007, 10:59 PM
I'll start my generator and turn on the gas fire place.

11/23/2007, 02:36 PM
Chris,That RCer was at home in time and had a Generator but put his trust in the Power co. ( leason learned for me to never trust anyone!).

I have a 200g tank at home and the money spent on it is far more then the $500 I paid for the 5000w generator. Now to just have it hard wired to the house ;)

11/26/2007, 06:18 PM
Wow... Rob - apparently, I didn't pay enought attention and I read about it via the 3rd party thread Yes, Never trust anyone. And it sounds like you got a good deal on the generator.

To wire it to you house would require several steps:
1) do you want it to start upon E loss and then switch over to the gen once running automatically?
2) do you want to wire it to your breaker panel and switch it on manually when you need?

Option 1) would cost quite a bit more than the generator cost.
Option 2) isn't legal from what I understand.

Basically, the utility wants to ensure when the line is dead - it is dead and no one is back-feeding the grid by plugging their generator into their electric drier outlet (without shutting off (opening) their Main disconnect breaker) . Hard wired generators require an isolation switch from the utility such that either you are on the utility only or you are on the generator only.

If I were you I'd consider simply the standby approach until you are ubber-rich, have employees running your business, and you're off to Tahiti, Java, or the Red Sea more than you are home. :D

11/26/2007, 07:09 PM
I lost power the other day for a few hours. I quickly broke out my battery operated pump to find that the batteries were dead. Twenty minutes later I had new batteries and was up and running.
Lesson learned; It's a good time to check your batteries.

11/26/2007, 10:18 PM
<a href=showthread.php?s=&postid=11259192#post11259192 target=_blank>Originally posted</a> by boviac

If I were you I'd consider simply the standby approach until you are ubber-rich, have employees running your business, and you're off to Tahiti, Java, or the Red Sea more than you are home. :D

That's my plan ;)

Costco Has the 500w coleman Generators for about $550-600

11/27/2007, 10:56 AM
Ok that's more like it... I think you said above that you got a 5,000W gen for $500. That would be a steal. :D :D :D ;)

11/27/2007, 12:00 PM
Also, you can wrap your tank in a heavy blanket if it is really cold and the power is going to be out for awhile.

11/27/2007, 02:04 PM
you can get a 5500k generator at HF for 600$

or a 6800k at kragen for 600$

i dont know what costco has. but, for the amount of time i would actually use it, cheapo is bueno.

11/27/2007, 04:04 PM
typo's all over the place 5500k. I will have to check again now since I haven't used it in over a year.

11/27/2007, 04:36 PM
ah crap. my mind is on my fuge light. just think of the k's as w's

11/29/2007, 01:30 PM
Josh, keep the big picture in mind with those cheaper generators. 1) they may be noisier, 2) they may not meet CARB requirements, 3) and most important) what is their run time? Are you going to be getting up every 4 hours to go refill the tank?

Plus, like much of the tools/equipment I'm seeing from the cheapo places, yes they are good for the few uses I'm going to be using these tools for. But something as critical as a backup plan for my aquarium, I think I would go with a generator that I can trust more. I'm not saying those cheap ones are bad - just not tested for reliability.

Sure electricity doesn't go down often enough for more than a couple of uses of the generator - but I would want mine to work each time and everytime.

If you've got the space and willingness to store the generator and fuel on standby, I think that's the way to go.
But I've already got fuel and a motor in my car in my driveway/garage. So why not use that intermittantly to maintain the car battery and add an easy to store inverter? YMMV :D

01/10/2008, 01:32 PM
I was actually following my own recomendation and reading the thread link.

I want you all to know back in November I did NOT see THIS coming. However, reading it again now, you can say I may have been predicting the future. :eek2: I think I'll go ahead and change my name to Nastradamus ;) Kidding.

At least it sounds for the most part, nobody lost too much. I know Kane had a few casulties and Dan lost his favorite fish. But those that were without power seemed to either have a generator or spent some sweat and cold, sleepless nights trying to save their livestock.

01/12/2008, 02:11 AM
3 weeks ago, I cried myself sick. I went to bed, knowing we had storms and didn't have a contingency plan. My house blew a circuit when the rain infiltrated our Christmas lighting and blew out that entire side of the house. One of my tanks, my biggest and most cherrished, stopped during the night. I could not restart the pump to the sump, so I turned on the powerheads and got the heater on soon the next morning, but it was too late and I lost all my tangs (5 precious tame tangs), my blennies, everyone but a few damsels, a lunar wrasse and some blue chromis lived. I had to fish out the tangs I've raised and loved so dearly and I have to tell you, it sure broke my heart. I've been thinking a lot about what we can do to ensure this doesn't happen again. I am suprised my corals lived. All seem fine, with the exception of 2 blue xenias, who came back to life a few days later.


Renee & Steven

01/12/2008, 03:48 AM
So sorry for your loss. Yes, lack of water circulation is deadly pretty fast with a high fish load (bio-load). And the sad thing is once one fish goes so does the water quality further beyond dissolved oxygen depletion. So the cheapest contigency I had is battery-powered, air bubblers.

The next critical thing is temperature. Again sorry for your loss and hope everything else continues to recover and thrive again.

Sounds like you may have been lucky the leak didn't cause a spark or a fire. There's a wicked video online I think from UL of a christmas tree catching fire and how quickly the fire engulfed the entire room. Thankfully, that didn't happen but still I know of some people who buy an extra pump and keep on hand for instances like that.

Renee, are you located up more near the Redding area as I've seen more of your posts on the RARE forum?