What do YOU do when...
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What do YOU do when the power goes out?

Posts: 13
Active Member
Topic starter

First, I would like to tell you all how incredibly well-informed you've made me, in just the last week, about our possible move to STX in...a few years, probably. (I like to plan ahead :-)). I can't imagine how anyone relocates to the USVI without this forum.

I've found answers to every question I had and tips for every possible problem we might encounter except one, and that may be because I'm not using the right search terms, but I'm seriously looking for the answers to these questions from some long-timers:

(1) Assuming it's not the result of any storm, how often, on average, does the power go out, and for how long?

(2) Storm (not hurricane*) related: how often do you see storms that result in a power outage? How long, on average, will the power be out after a storm that results in an outage? (*I do know that the power will be shut down before a hurricane and could be off for months afterward.)

(3) What things do you do/have to mitigate the effect on your home life? Is everything on a battery backup? Or are you just resigned to the fact that every time it happens you're going to lose everything in your fridge and freezer?

(4) It's surprising to me, with the problems/expenses with WAPA and the fact that sunshine is so ever-present, that more people in the VI aren't relying on solar power instead. I guess it's just too expensive to install? And then lose your solar panels with every hurricane?

I remember reading in the last week someone talking about having both a wind turbine AND solar cells, and that surprisingly the wind turbine produced more electricity.

I love the idea of making our own juice and not relying on WAPA, but we're likely to end up owning a condo (NO MORE EXTERIOR HOME MAINTENANCE EVER!) so those unfortunately don't sound feasible.

I did find a pricey Solar Generator which we could buy before we move to bring with us, while we still have some cash, and I figure I could put it on a balcony or something... plug the fridge into it when the power goes out...

So, what magnificently imaginative tips and tricks do you all have for this problem?

And does anybody have one of these solar generator thingies? Do you know/have you heard how well they work?

Posted : May 25, 2013 2:32 am
Posts: 2473
Noble Member

The power goes out regularly. Storm or not. You can count on it going out for a hurricane because they usually shut it off as a precaution.
I have lost power 3 times this week. First time for 30 minutes, second time for 2 hours. Third time, still off just over an hour now. I am on my generator now.
Everyone I know has at least a small backup generator.

Posted : May 25, 2013 2:42 am
Posts: 72
Trusted Member

I live on STT, but only until the end of June so I probably don't count. But for me, when the power goes out, I tend to clean the house. 😛 I can't tell you how often it goes out b/c I haven't been tracking, but just guessing... I think once every three days and (east end) an average of 45 minutes. Just enough time to sweep, mop, and do the dishes.

Hope you have a great move, and hope you can find a way to be off the grid. It does seem like the most logical thing for a home/business owner to do here, but I am not informed on all the specifics.

Posted : May 25, 2013 4:24 am
Posts: 2138
Noble Member

As stated by others, WAPA can go out any time, storm or not. I'd guess the average outage is once a week for 30 minutes, but that varies a lot.

I gave up on UPS backups when I discovered that they last about 1 year. My laptop has a built-in UPS (the laptop battery), and the house is on a generator with ATS (Automatic transfer Switch) so that works for me. Some people use portable generators, and they only fire it up if the power doesn’t come back after an hour or two. With portables, you can plug appliances into it, or wire it directly into the breaker panel.

Condos may have restrictions on generator use, so ask ahead. With a solar generator, you’d need a condo unit with good sun exposure, and again there may be restrictions on where you can put the solar panel. The solar generator that you linked to is not big enough to handle a fridge, an air conditioner, or (probably) a water pump. With portable generators, theft can be a risk.

With any generator, during a long-term outage (more than a few days), you will probably run it intermittently to save fuel/battery. We lost much of our fridge/freezer contents after hurricane Omar to save fuel, so now when hurricane season approaches, we keep the fridge fairly empty, and stock up more on canned and dry goods.

Posted : May 25, 2013 11:02 am
Posts: 14
Active Member

What do YOU do when the power goes out?
DAYTIME -----there are a lot of things to do such as yard work outside, re-pot plants, go to the beach for a quick swim, go for a walk, basic housework (sweep/mop/dust), read a book, etc.

NIGHT (dark) ---I call friends to talk on phone (stateside friends or island friends who are also in the dark).

If you have children or family, it can be a good time for quality time to play an old fashion board game or just talk to each other. It may also be a good time to visit with neighbors who are also without power (socialize).

how often, on average,
--------- We may have a few weeks or month without a power outage, but then we will have a bunch of outages in the same day or within the same week. The outages can last a few minutes or a few hours. On rare occasions, the power will be out for a day or two. The worst that I have had is 4 days, which was due to a hurricane.

Is everything on a battery backup?
------ I do not have generator or battery backup (except for laptop computer and cell phone). If more than 24 hours, then I will go into town and find a place to recharge laptop and cell phone.

Or are you just resigned to lose everything in your fridge and freezer?
-------the refrigerator food will be fine for 24-48 hrs (depending on how many times the door is opened). After 24hrs, I take my most important frozen food to another location where I have access to a freezer. Then use an ice chest for a few items (just like people do when they go camping for a weekend).

A power outage might be a good time to grill the food outdoors and invite friends over for dinner.

Solar? expensive to install? ?
---- yes, it is a major expense to purchase and install. The benefits are good initially, but there is doubt about the business who installed to be around long enough to take care of future repairs/maintenance.

Power outages are going to happen and interrupt your planned activity.
Just another day in paradise 😎

Posted : May 25, 2013 11:47 am
Posts: 13
Active Member
Topic starter

We lost much of our fridge/freezer contents after hurricane Omar to save fuel, so now when hurricane season approaches, we keep the fridge fairly empty, and stock up more on canned and dry goods.

Yeah, I was wondering if that was one of the possibilities.

FWIW, the generator I linked to will handle a fridge for app. 23 hours (with the light bulb unscrewed) before it has to be charged up again. I would never try to use any generator to run an A/C.

Wondering if the UPS you had that only lasted a year did so because the power supply from WAPA is so uneven? Mine here lasted five years before dying. Had our router plugged into it. (A computer's just no good w/o internet access these days.)

I'm surprised to be hearing that the power goes out so incredibly often, even if only for a relatively short time. Frankly, it sounds like the power supply of a third world country...

Maybe owning a little home, instead of the condo we wanted, is the ONLY way to go, just so we can be able to make our own power supply.

Have been curious about something else. How many condo complexes, specifically on STX, have a generator of their own? I know that some do, or perhaps only some on STT.

Posted : May 25, 2013 11:47 am
Posts: 12366
Illustrious Member

You do need power to provide water to mop and do dishes as Iguanabanana stated.
You can't run your water during times power is out as you'll empty the water lines, create a vacuum in them and then your water pump will have to be bled unless you are on generator power. Bleeding a pump to me involves calling the plumber so no flushing or using water when WAPA is off, unless you have an alternate source of power and are using it.

Power goes off frequently with or without storms so it is nice to have a generator with a transfer switch.
I tend to keep mine switched off when I am not home as don't want to waste fuel if power goes out during that time since diesel is so expensive, nowadays.

Power does go out before and after storms. WAPA has a 3 strike rule.
They'll attempt 3 times to restore power and after that you're on your own until any storm related damage can be assessed and repaired.
After Hugo in 89, I had no WAPA power from Sept. 18th until a couple days before Thanksgiving.
After Marilyn in 95 I had no WAPA power from Sept. 15th until a couple days before Christmas. I used a small generator to power house connected directly to the meter and only had water pump, water heater, the refrigerator, a couple lights, a ceiling fan and TV for watching videos as no cable or TV stations were up and running.

If washing clothes I'd have to run only the washing machine and the water pump and unplug everything else.
My small generator did not allow use of the dryer. It was only a 5000KW, I believe but at least it provided the basics.
It's nice to have a propane stove, refrigerator and W/D and they are cost effective with WAPA rates steadily climbing.
A propane stove at min. is a necessity as one can at least cook if power is out.

After Omar, I was without power for only 4 days and hated every minute of it even with a big diesel generator that runs the entire property upstairs and the apt. As STXBOB mentioned, I still won't run it 24/7 as it's expensive to do so. It is extremely stressful to not have power, tho grateful to have a generator to depend on. Storms can affect your life in so many different ways. They are not fun and for me and many others I know, extremely anxiety producing no mater how many we have been thru. I just pray we do not see another storm like Hugo or Marilyn or even Omar for that matter. As I get older, I do not take things in stride as I once used to.

STXBob is also right about smaller portable generators being subject to theft. We were having drinks at a local bar one evening (before curfew) when their generator went offline. Everyone groaned and figured it was time to refuel. However, when the bartender went to the back of the building to refuel it, it was gone. Someone drove up in a pick up, loaded the generator in the back and drove off with it, while it was still running. Talk about bold! They chained its replacement in place after that.

Before buying a condo, check on their policies for use of a generator in the event of prolonged outages. In STT, 2 yrs ago, someone hit a WAPA pole and took out both islands (STT/STJ) for 2 days before power was restored so beware and good luck! We can lose power at anytime, day or night, storm or not.

Posted : May 25, 2013 12:19 pm
Posts: 1057
Noble Member

Power has been out at least three times this week. First outage was long enough that I started my generator and ran it for two hours.

After hurricane Omar, I ran the generator for eighteen hours a day for ten days. I have an hour meter on my generator and in seven years I have put 320 hours on the generator. In my experience you can expect at least a couple long outages a year most of which have nothing to do with the weather. Late night drunks speeding home from the casino seem to be the most common cause of power outages.

Most electronics in my home are connected to one of a couple UPS which will keep the electronics going for 30 - 60 minutes. My BBVI radio/modem and routers run much better when not exposed to WAPA power. It is also convenient to have my DISH satellite receiver backed up with a UPS. If the power goes out while I am watching something just press the pause button on my remote, go start my generator, turn the TV back on (TV's use to much power for a small UPS ) and then resume watching. If the receiver isn't on a UPS it will take five or more minutes to reacquire signal and then reboot.

The original batteries in my UPS lasted approximately three years. I just purchased two new UPS batteries at less than half the cost of a new UPS. Changing the battery, at least in my APC brand UPS units was as quick and as easy as changing a lantern battery. No tools needed.

Posted : May 25, 2013 12:49 pm
Posts: 8871
Illustrious Member

if you have city water, you can still wash and flush. if you have a tank you can not.

i read when the power is out. or we play games.

if a hurricane is coming, i charge the phone, kindle,personal dvd player and ipod. not ipad yet. that way we can watch a movie or make calls if needed.

when we lost power for omar, ours was back on the next day-we live in town and happen to be on an important feeder. i remember not long after i moved here the power was out island wide for almost the whole day not storm related. we went to the beach but it sure was chilly that day.

Posted : May 25, 2013 1:07 pm
Posts: 12366
Illustrious Member

Hey Jim Dandy, Not to change the subject but where did you get replacement batteries for the UPS/APC brand.
I need to replace the battery in mine but did not have any luck at Office Max/STT since they want you to buy a brand new UPS instead of just replacing the battery so they don't sell them. Are you in STT or STX?

If power is out, I normally will read or repot plants, tackle the odd chores that don't require power to do or visit a friend.
Daytime trip to the beach is nice as well.

Posted : May 25, 2013 1:19 pm
Posts: 5404
Illustrious Member

P.S. If you are going to live in a condo, ask about their generator back-up capability. Many condo associations have complete generator back-up, almost no lag.We still have UPS for our fragile electronics- TV, cable, computers, etc. but no problem otherwise. 😉

Posted : May 25, 2013 1:32 pm
Posts: 6523
Illustrious Member

Not that it's any consolation but the power outages now are way less than those a few decades ago and their duration much shorter. My initial reaction is to let fly with a virtual barrage of vulgarity (years of practice has the words effortlessly rolling off the tongue). When I had my restaurant the first thing I would do is call the line department at WAPA to find out the reason for the outage and its expected duration. Don't bother with that now. Yes there were prolonged outages after both Hugo and Marilyn (for me 1 month and 6 months respectively) but that WAS 24 and 18 years ago respectively. We can only hope that if a storm of such severity hits us again, the outages will be less prolonged.

The main problem I have these days is remembering exactly where that "safe and easily found place" where I carefully stashed the flashlight is. Hate it when that happens.

Posted : May 25, 2013 1:34 pm
Posts: 3919
Famed Member

We had a generator, but didn't bother running it for "typical" outages. We either read or went to the beach. After Omar we did use it during the day, but turned it off at night for 6-8 hours to save fuel. The fridge was ok, we just didn't open it during the hours the generator was off.

Posted : May 25, 2013 1:44 pm
Posts: 862
Prominent Member

My power has been out for the last 13 hours. Numerous calls to wapa have suggested to me that my area is not a priority since they have crews in other areas. I called them at 9pm last night to report the outage. Really frustrating when you have a lot of work to do that involves power. And no, I don't have a generator.

Posted : May 25, 2013 1:46 pm
Posts: 1057
Noble Member

I purchased the batteries for $33.99 each from Newegg. They had free shipping so I had the batteries sent to VI Cargo along with several other items.

In total I paid VI Cargo $16.39 to bring my shipment to STX.

Posted : May 25, 2013 2:12 pm
Posts: 703
Honorable Member

Well, during last night's outage, I took advantage of my auto generator and actually used my dryer. Have company coming next week and having to dodge these recent downpours to get something dry online. Ran my dishwasher, too. Fewer things to go through the meter!

Posted : May 25, 2013 2:21 pm
Posts: 447
Reputable Member

I guess we've been on island too long..we've gotten used to not having power. Annoying and inconvenient for sure, but a fact of life. not like we can't live without it. We do have a portable generator, which we tend to use for protracted (Generally 2 weeks +- after storms like lenny or omar) outages, but don't pull it out of the garage othewise. Was in the states and lost power after Sandy and did intermitttently use a generator there, but the heat was the reason...got a bit chilly even before it began snowing.
Not having cable in stx till January after Omar was more of an annoyance actually..missed the news more than anything. Used to go to the Divi pizza place several times a week just to watch the evening news at the bar!
It sure would be nice to have a reliable dependable power utility in the VI though..can't begin to total up the number of electrical appliances/motors/gadgets of all sorts that we've lost over the years, even with surge protectors, and I'm sure many other have had their lifespans significantly reduced. Add that to the price we're paying now and it really gets expensive.

Posted : May 25, 2013 2:38 pm
Posts: 428
Reputable Member

We are close to Rotorhead and our power has been out 7 times this week. Twice on Tuesday, 3 times on Friday and twice today.

Usually, WAPA is fairly responsive, that is, if you can get in touch with them. We have their number in memory on our cell phone but yesterday and today...no answer. Guess it is because of the holiday!

I would not live on this island without a full house generator. We lose our power nearly everytime we have a little wind and rain and it gets very frustrating after a few years of dealing with it. Not to mention they have blown out a microwave, computer power supply and a couple of other electronic devices due to surges. We now have whole house surge protector.....more expense. If you lived nearly anywhere else in the world you would not even consider the installation of a whole house generator, surge protectors, etc.

Posted : May 25, 2013 7:22 pm
Posts: 13
Active Member
Topic starter

Thank you to everyone! Many good ideas.

You can't run your water during times power is out as you'll empty the water lines, create a vacuum in them and then your water pump will have to be bled unless you are on generator power....

After Omar, I was without power for only 4 days and hated every minute of it even with a big diesel generator that runs the entire property upstairs and the apt.... It is extremely stressful to not have power, tho grateful to have a generator to depend on. Storms can affect your life in so many different ways. They are not fun and for me and many others I know, extremely anxiety producing no mater how many we have been thru..

Alana, this reminded me of when we lived in the Santa Cruz mountains (Calif, above Santa Cruz). Probably good practice for living on STX, but I've lived in rural areas most of my adult life, so while I don't know what it's like to lose power every week, I do know what it's like to need a propane stove, live on a well, and have a septic tank.

I have (not fond) memories of being without power in December for four days, having heat from our woodstove, being able to cook with our propane stove but not having access to ANY water. Our 10,000 gal tank was useless without the water pump. The DH was on a business trip so I was alone.

I nearly went insane; not from the lack of electricity, per se, but from the not knowing when the power would ever come back on. We, too, were on a trunk line with only a few households, so we were dead last on the priority list. If someone had told me when it happened that the power would be out for four days, I would have sighed and made plans accordingly. So I understand from experience just what this anxiety is all about.

Unlike you guys, I not only live rurally, but remotely. There's usually no one for a couple miles with whom to commiserate. One of the reasons STX is so attractive to me.

Posted : May 25, 2013 8:41 pm
Posts: 1057
Noble Member

You also might want to try an isolation transformer. A surge protector doesn't cut in until 300 V. An isolation transformer helps to smooth out both peaks and valleys.

While we are complaining about WAPA might as well throw in that they can't maintain power at a consistent 60 Hz. That is why you need to adjust your clock every five to ten days if you care about accuracy.

On the subject of alarm clocks in the VI the first rule should be to buy one with battery backup since we get so many power outages both long and short.

Posted : May 25, 2013 9:00 pm
Posts: 483
Reputable Member

I have been on st Croix for almost two years. I am mid island and do not seem to have the same power issues as others. Power rearly goes off, maybe twice this year for less then an hour.

Posted : May 25, 2013 9:10 pm
Posts: 12366
Illustrious Member

Battery operated clocks are the way to go.
Why waste electricity on a clock?

I also have battery operated AM/FM radio, fans, a few flashlights and flouresent lights for those times the generator is turned off.
I also always keep extra water on hand and plenty of filled water containers (used juice bottles are good for this and you can put in freezer if you know there will be an outage or fill those ziplock freezer bags with water before a storm) and at least two 2.5 gallon filled containers on hand, just in case the very reliable generator fails to work for some reason. I can get in the cistern with a line and bucket if need be but
what a pain!

The start of Hurricane season is almost here (June1) so it's good to get supplies in, keep your gas tank in vehicle filled and do all your prep now than wait in line to shop and get supplies at the last minute as a storm approaches. I simply have to much to do to secure the house, etc. in the event of a storm to have to go out to wait in a long line for canned goods or to refuel the truck.

Posted : May 25, 2013 9:18 pm
Posts: 2473
Noble Member

Power rearly goes off, maybe twice this year for less then an hour.

😛 Yes, we all get it from WAPA "rearly"!

Posted : May 25, 2013 9:30 pm
Posts: 13
Active Member
Topic starter

You also might want to try an isolation transformer. A surge protector doesn't cut in until 300 V. An isolation transformer helps to smooth out both peaks and valleys.

Is that the same thing as (if I remember it right) a "line conditioner"?

I have been on st Croix for almost two years. I am mid island and do not seem to have the same power issues as others. Power rearly goes off, maybe twice this year for less then an hour.

Oooo, Sheiba, what constitutes "mid-island", for electricity's sake?

Battery operated clocks are the way to go.

I also have battery operated AM/FM radio, fans....

All great ideas. Thanks! I've always had a battery alarm clock anyway; the electrical ones always have a light behind the dial that annoys the hell out of me.

I've heard the mention of battery powered fans here before. Are we talking the little hand-held ones, or are there actually larger fans that are battery powered?

Posted : May 26, 2013 7:14 am
Posts: 12366
Illustrious Member

There are larger battery operated fans available than the small hand held ones.
I bought a couple of 02 Cool portable fans that are battery operated. They are small box fans with a 10 inch blade that push air quite nicely.
I have used them during hot summer night power outages and been very grateful to have them when WAPA goes off in the middle of the night and I don't want to use the generator. They come in handy when you have to close up the house for a storm and do not want to run the generator 24 hrs. a day. At least you have some air moving. They also come with an A/C adapter so you can use them when power is on.

Just Google "battery operated fans" and you can find quite a few options to suit your needs. I ordered mine online a couple yrs. ago and then found them being sold at K-Mart/STT the following yr. so I got one more to add to my collection as a back up. I put one on either side
of the bed on the night stands and am good to go, plus they are relatively quiet which is nice. The batteries last longer on the lower speed which is fine.

Heres an interesting link I just found: http://www.batterysavers.com

Check around on the various sites for battery operated fans as many have different prices for the same thing.

Posted : May 26, 2013 12:16 pm
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