With a pandemic and attempted government overthrow, why not throw a massive ice and snow storm on top! All in all we made out alright, mostly due to luck of the local grid. We experienced 20 hours without power when the first sleet hit the Friday morning before the real party started. Nevertheless, we were losing a degree Fahrenheit every 2.7 hours when the power went out giving us about three days before the indoors hit freezing. Fortunately, the power came back on, and we didn't lose it during what was a challenging week for many Texans, including folks in the neighborhood.
Some things we learned during the event:
- Yes, we have a gas water heater, but, being tankless, it also relies on electricity. In truth, we knew this before, but stating it here for anyone thinking about tankless. I'm also not saying we'd do things differently--we wouldn't, but the risk is there.
- I wish we had a gas oven instead of an electric one. To be honest, I'm not sure why we don't have one; there wasn't a discussion about it. My best guess is that we picked out our oven-microwave combo, and it happened to be electric, so electric it was! If we had a gas stove, we could have used it as a heater, although many say that this is a bad idea. I get not using a gas burner for heat (you'd have to turn on the vent to not carbon monoxide yourself, which defeats the purpose since you'd be sucking heat out of your house and cold make-up air in), but I don't get not using the oven since it is vented. The article linked above makes the point about losing gas supply and then gassing yourself. Point taken, but, if watched (and not left on while sleeping), it seems like it would help in an emergency. Another good point is that an oven was not designed for heat, but it seems if run at a lower temp, it wouldn't hurt it.
- I'm glad we had a gas stove. I was able to "shower" Friday morning oldskool-style by heating up water and going about my bidness. We were also able to cook meals and hot tea, which was nice. Need a hand-operated coffee bean grinder, though...
- I am really glad we put in a central, indoor shut-off valve for all the outdoor hose bibs. Not only does it prevent the neighbor from using our water to wash his car, but it provided piece of mind that our outdoor faucets and pipes weren't froze and broke.
- I wish we had a gas fireplace. I get occasional pangs here and there about this, but the storm really drove its usefulness home. We could still get one, but the destruction required to make it happen is formidable (one of the drags of not having an attic). If you get one, be sure to get one that you can start without power (generally a battery back-up). Most, if not all, use power to ignite the gas.
- The bride has been after me for a few years to get a generator since the power here is hetchy as compared to our old neighborhood where we were never without power, in large part because we were near a hospital district. I think I'm there now on getting a generator. Some of the charms of this neighborhood are the many trees and that the power lines are not on the street. However, those two charms together create a mess of broken limbs during storm events that challenge back-yard infrastructure (and the ability to fix it quickly). Tesla Powerwalls are a possibility, but an affordable system requires operating solar panels, which are iffy during inclement weather (and don't work too well with four inches of snow on them). So we're going to take a serious look at a natural gas-powered Generac. We checked into a hotel the night of our power outage, so we had to leave the cats behind. That would have been disturbing if indoor temps had gotten down to freezing and below inside the house (outdoor temps bottomed out at 9 degrees). Another argument for a generator.
- We must have angels. A sizable chunk of the neighbor's tree came down in our back yard and somehow missed (1) the house, (2) the green house, (3) the garage, (4) the rainwater tank, (5) the hot tub, (6) the picnic table, and (7) the power lines.
Although we had power, we were team players in minimizing electric use to help keep the grid up and perhaps help expand power delivery in the city. Thankfully, none of our pipes froze. We were worried about the tankless heater since it is outside, but a slight drip of the hot water faucet seemed to have kept it operational.
I'd say we learned some things for the cabin, including confirming a decision to get a back-up generator. The cabin needs a poop pump, which would disallow the use of the toilets during a power outage. That. Cannot. Happen.
Until the next storm...