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Power Outages & damaged electrical appliances & computers.

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butchCondor
(@butchCondor)
Advanced Member

I’ve read about the power outages on USVI from difference sources, ads on Craigslist for apartments list a back-up generators as a big plus. I’m going to assume power outages are frequent on the USVI. I’d like to know a little more about them. Just how often do they occur? Are power outages a daily event? Or, is it something that happens weekly, or a couple of times a month? Or, can you count the number of times there is an outage every year on one hand?

Because there are a lot of power outages how many of you have had problems with your electrical appliances, especially computers, smartphones?

In another life I was an electrical engineer so I know a little bit about electricity. With a power outage there are electrical surges, spikes, noise and dirty electricity that plays havoc on appliances, especially sensitive electronic devices like computers or smartphones. A single power outage may or, may not destroy or blow up your computer, but it does have an eroding effect that shortens the life of your expensive computer.

Frequent power outages can be a real problem, a power strip from K-Mart is useless for protection. If I had an idea of how often power outages occur, I’d have a better idea of what I need to do to protect myself.

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Topic starter Posted : February 7, 2016 6:35 pm
singlefin
(@singlefin)
Trusted Member

East End STX, I would count on at least 3 times a month. I have a whole house surge protector, but have had several WAPA issues with my mini-split A/C unit. Toasted main electrical board and condenser fan motor on outside unit in the last 18 months. The A/C has an additional surge protector as well. All other appliances have held up well.
After powering down computers, their unplugged.
Keep it simple, the more complicated and intricate, the more issues you'll have.

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Posted : February 7, 2016 6:58 pm
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

I've lived in many different areas of STT and outages are way less frequent than they were in the past. I would say now where I live, North side STT, that there's an outage maybe once every 6-8 weeks but unless there's a rare major problem they last anywhere from a couple of minutes to an hour at most. No generator but I have a battery back-up for my computer and 'phone and a heavy-duty protector for the 'fridge. Have never had anything "fry" although have heard of it happening!

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Posted : February 7, 2016 7:19 pm
Scubadoo
(@Scubadoo)
Trusted Member

I'm an EE in current life. Outages depending on part of island. Closer to the plant in C'sted is less outages in general for STX. Often times outages are less than an hour. Last one occurred one morning while I was putting in light bulbs in a fixture I just installed. Put one in and test, it worked. Put the next in and test, no work. Check the first one, no work. Power went out in the middle. Whole house surge protector in main panel is a must. Use additional local protectors on computers, TVs, etc. UPSs will also help with protection. You can get surge protectors with built in USB charger ports as well.

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Posted : February 7, 2016 7:21 pm
STTsailor
(@STTsailor)
Trusted Member

At my location (North side stt) outages are once a month lasting from minutes to under an hour. I have a generator but don't use it. I may need it and use it during hurricane season tho.

Most outages are during the day and hardly affect me. At night we just light up a candle and cook on propane stove or BBQ. Power outage has never been perceived as a problem. Minor inconvenience at the most. Next year I will probably get Tesla battery to charge from my solar panels and cut off WAPA all together. This would be for showing off us going green. We all use laptops so they charge through transformers getting added protection. I have not noticed any damages to TV or fridge due to power surges ( if they really exist).

The islands have more pressing problems. WAPA is not one of them.

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Posted : February 7, 2016 9:16 pm
jj00802
(@jj00802)
Advanced Member

Although power outages are a minor inconvenience, I can typically make a minor change in what I am doing until the outage is over (no generator).
---If daytime, can go outside and work in the yard, go to the beach, go for a walk, etc.
---If nighttime, a candle atmosphere for family conversation OR laptop battery allows some off-line work or computer games.

Yes, the outages affect electronics. Thus, most electronics will not last as long.

As mentioned in a prior post, I keep electronics as simple as possible and disconnect from power when not in use.

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Posted : February 7, 2016 10:45 pm
East Ender
(@east-ender)
Expert

We have a generator that comes on automatically with a (?) 5 second delay. If I'm not home, the only way I can tell if there has been a brown out/black out is by the blinking clock on the stove. I believe this occurs at least weekly. All electronics (TV, cable stuff, router, computer, printer) are on backup UPS/surge protectors.

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Posted : February 8, 2016 10:20 am
butchCondor
(@butchCondor)
Advanced Member

What are the odds of having an outage in the middle of changing and testing 2 light bulbs? You should have played the lottery after that happened. After reading what you and others had to say about the frequency of power outages on the USVI, I’ve decided I have to do something. Whole house protection is the way to go if I was buying a house instead of renting a place. But, since I’m renting until I’m sure I’m going to live there forever, I bought a 10amp Power Conditioner.

After doing some research, I’ve decided to get a 10 amp Powervar Power Conditioner, its light enough to pack and bring with me. I think it has 8 outlets, but what really like about the Powervar is it has a low-impedance isolation transformer, and a power line noise filter along with a surge diverter. It should provide me with pure sine-wave for trouble free operation and give me good protection for all my sensitive electronic equipment as well. If I end up renting a place that has a UPS, back-up generator this will work great alongside any system. I think most likely, I’ll end up getting a mobile back-up generator, I’m thinking a Kohler 3KVA or 5KVA, instead of running it on gasoline, I’ll get a conversion kit and use LP gas, a little safer than storing gasoline.

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Topic starter Posted : February 8, 2016 11:40 pm
Scubadoo
(@Scubadoo)
Trusted Member

It was a 6 light fixture so I supposed that helped with the odds a bit, although it did occur in between the first two bulbs. That outage was less than half hour I think. LP gas certainly has it's advantages but I think you'll need a pretty good size tank even for a small generator for a short period. A 20lb tank is probably not going to cut it. That likely means you'll need to have a service come fill it. And you'll want to keep it close to full. Have no idea what LP delivery charges are. May be a trip charge plus fuel.

I put a Nat gas kit with appliance grade quick connect on my 15KW portable genny in the states and it still has the carb if I wanted to put gas in the tank (never have). Diesel is another option but expensive and not sure how small you can get. The Diesel is safer to store than gasoline and runs longer.

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Posted : February 9, 2016 12:26 am
speee1dy
(@speee1dy)
Expert

also, depending on which feeder you are on depends on how fast your electric is back on after a major outage.

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Posted : February 9, 2016 10:39 am
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

I think it's overkill!

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Posted : February 9, 2016 10:45 am
butchCondor
(@butchCondor)
Advanced Member

LP gas for a 3KVA to 5KVA back-up generator is the best option I can think of for me. When I was a Forest Ranger living in a 1 room cabin w/o electricity, I had old gas stove (1926 Clark Jewel) and a Servile gas refrigerator (Damn good refrigerator) I had a set of 100 lbs. LP gas tanks, when one tank ran out, there was a selector switch I could switch to the other tank while I wait for the gas man to delivery me another full tank. Back then a tank would last me 3 or 4 months. With a back-up generator, I’d be happy if a tank lasted a month, if it doesn’t I’d have to re-think my idea or get one of those gas tanks that looks like a small submarine.

The power outages for USVI isn’t too bad, when I lived in Granada, Nicaragua, there was an electrical outage every day for at least an hour, most of the time it was a longer wait. A back-up system there was a no brainer. I installed several Generac 10KVA systems for my friends. I could buy a system, pay the shipping and customs while installing the system myself for a lot less than the local dealer was charging. I think Generac is still selling a 10 or 11KVA system (gas or LP) with an automatic transfer switch for under $3000

OT battery bank is the way to go, especially with a solar photovoltaic panel charging up the batteries. With renting a place, I need something that is a little more mobile. I read something about a gas company on USVI that has 47kg LP cylinder gas tank and they offer a discount for seniors, I don’t know how dated the information was, but it was quoting around $95 a bottle.

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Topic starter Posted : February 9, 2016 3:31 pm
OldTart
(@the-oldtart)
Expert

Yes, seniors get a discount on propane from both island suppliers and the price right now is under $90 - I think my last tank a couple of months ago was $85. You need to register with Human Services for a senior identity card and whichever company you use keeps the number on file. With all due respect, I just think you're overreacting to the power outage situation here. 😀

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Posted : February 9, 2016 3:42 pm
East Ender
(@east-ender)
Expert

I think you should find out where you are going to live before you go buying stuff like generators, etc. You might rent a place with full back-up power.

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Posted : February 9, 2016 8:03 pm
butchCondor
(@butchCondor)
Advanced Member

east ender

I think you are about testing the water first before jumping in and spending a lot of money before I even know what time of day it is. I did buy a surge protector, not K-Mart $9.99 special that is totally useless, but one that isolates whatever you plug in for protection. The power surges, spikes and anything that comes with a power outage doesn't get a chance to touch what I have plug in. Also, it's small and light, I can pack it and take it with me anywhere I travel.

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Topic starter Posted : February 10, 2016 2:58 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

(tu)

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Posted : February 10, 2016 6:08 pm
East Ender
(@east-ender)
Expert

Yes, testing the water is a good idea! There are a lot of people who find out quickly that life here isn't for them. Bringing small things is okay, I was talking about planning for whole house generators and stuff. 😉

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Posted : February 10, 2016 8:40 pm
islandnewbie
(@islandnewbie)
Advanced Member

It's not just the outages that cause the major problems, it's the irregular power flow. Turn on a fan and listen to it over the course of a day. Mine will fluctuate at least two or three times a day...every day, even though we have a whole house surge protector and a box-style heavy duty surge protector on the line. We've noticed it on our microwave as well. That kind of variability, especially when combined with salt air and high humidity, can take a heavy toll on electronics, especially computers and tvs. A line conditioner will certainly help, but I'm not sure how much. Good luck.

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Posted : February 10, 2016 10:26 pm
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

I unplug things that I can when not in use .
Obviously can't be done for refrigerators and freezers but I unplug toaster, microwave, toaster oven, coffee maker, small appliances, etc. TV's, computers are on surge protectors and sometimes I unplug them. Some things I have on power strips just to turn off when not in use to cut amount of electricity used, not as protection against spikes or surges. I often unplug them. I have the propane stove which has an electronic ballast that's on a power strip. I hate the blinking light and resetting the time on the clock so I only turn it on to light and use the oven. The stove top can be lit with matches or a bbq lighter. I do have a whole house surge protector (or whatever it's called) that I believe is interfaced between the generator and WAPA power. The generator has an auto switch with a 5 second delay and doesn't turn off unless/until power stabilised.

I experience a lot of outages in my location so I'm happy to have back-up power.
I also keep candles, flashlights, fluorescent lights, a couple gallon containers of water, etc., just in case. However, if truly in need of water, just lift cistern cover and a bucket on a line will suffice. That's if you have access to cistern. Sometimes in a rental, you might not.

I can say that I haven't lost any appliances or electronics over the years/decades I've been here. That's not to say it doesn't or can't happen.

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Posted : February 10, 2016 10:55 pm
BeachcomberStt
(@BeachcomberStt)
Trusted Member

I unplug things that I can when not in use .
Obviously can't be done for refrigerators and freezers but I unplug toaster, microwave, toaster oven, coffee maker, small appliances, etc. TV's, computers are on surge protectors and sometimes I unplug them. Some things I have on power strips just to turn off when not in use to cut amount of electricity used, not as protection against spikes or surges. I often unplug them.

(tu)
I do the same.

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Posted : February 10, 2016 11:18 pm
butchCondor
(@butchCondor)
Advanced Member

That is the kind of information I was looking for.

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Topic starter Posted : February 10, 2016 11:36 pm
butchCondor
(@butchCondor)
Advanced Member

I had the same concerns, I wanted to get something that would really protect my computer and other sensitive electronic appliances as well. I suspected the electrical conditions on St. Thomas were as you described. You asked a damn good intelligent question that was based on observation. The power conditioner I bought not only has a voltage regulator, but a frequency regulator as well, to make sure that not only the voltage remains constant, but the frequency regulator ensures that the power line frequency stays at a constant 60Hz. The unit has a low impedance isolation transformer, this provides an inductive cushion for whatever you have hooked up to it and helps surge diverters and noise filters by re-establishing a good neutral to ground and shunts any disturbances to ground as well. Most computer don’t need tightly regulated voltage supply, they use switch mode power supply which doesn’t require a tightly regulated voltage. However, the voltage regulator will keep voltages operating within the upper and lower limits needed to keep fans and other appliances from fluctuating.

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Topic starter Posted : February 10, 2016 11:40 pm
Scubadoo
(@Scubadoo)
Trusted Member

It's not just the outages that cause the major problems, it's the irregular power flow. Turn on a fan and listen to it over the course of a day. Mine will fluctuate at least two or three times a day...every day, even though we have a whole house surge protector and a box-style heavy duty surge protector on the line. We've noticed it on our microwave as well. That kind of variability, especially when combined with salt air and high humidity, can take a heavy toll on electronics, especially computers and tvs. A line conditioner will certainly help, but I'm not sure how much. Good luck.

Surge protectors protect against surges, very short, very high voltage spikes on the line. These can occur most easily when the power feed drops in and out whatever reason. Main feeder off or somebody hits a pole. You won't notice these on a fan.

Surge protector will not have any affect on low-voltage dips or brown-outs or less likely frequency variation that could cause fan speed variation.

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Posted : February 11, 2016 12:35 am
Alana33
(@alana33)
Expert

The WAPA meters are also subject to a level of corrosion that can effect power on certain breakers in home.

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Posted : February 11, 2016 1:14 am
BeachcomberStt
(@BeachcomberStt)
Trusted Member

I did buy a surge protector, not K-Mart $9.99 special that is totally useless, but one that isolates whatever you plug in for protection. The power surges, spikes and anything that comes with a power outage doesn't get a chance to touch what I have plug in. Also, it's small and light, I can pack it and take it with me anywhere I travel.

May I ask what surge protector you are referring about? Thank you!

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Posted : February 11, 2016 1:22 am
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