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Message from the Manager May 2018


Here is a sensible approach for most people. The more serious you are about backup power,
the farther you’ll make it down this list:

• Conserve energy — Replace older appliances and lighting with new, energy-efficient
models. Install insulated windows and doors. Upgrade your wall and ceiling insulation,
and caulk air leaks. Besides lowering your power bill you’ll need less backup capacity
during a blackout. We will help with a low cost Energy Audit and recommended
investments in weather stripping and insulation. Learn more at

• Install a backup transfer switch — Actually, have an electrician install it. This automatic
device lets you use any portable generator to safely power everything in your home,
right through your normal circuits, during an emergency. Don’t even consider a trip to the
hardware store to build a double-male extension cord to plug your generator output into
a wall outlet—that’s illegal because it could electrocute a lineman trying to restore your
power, and you’ll be liable.

• Install a reliable propane generator — Propane keeps for decades in pressurized tanks,
and most propane generators can be used with utility natural gas service too. Many can
be fitted with auto-start circuits that detect blackouts. Gasoline generators are the most
common and least expensive, but gasoline is problematic in cold weather and spoils
quickly in storage, even with stabilizer additives. Liquid gasoline is also quite dangerous
to store in your garage, at least in quantities large enough to power your house for days
or weeks.

• Have an electrician install a “critical loads” sub-panel for you – This secondary breaker
box isolates all your most critical loads, like the refrigerator, freezer, water pressure
pump, a few lights, and a few outlets (for a portable TV to keep up on emergency news,
etc.) When the grid goes out, shut off everything but the critical panel if you need to
conserve generator fuel. And, you’ll be paving the way for a future battery backup
system powered by Barry Electric’s decreasing off-peak kWh rate.

Before the lights go out – be prepared. But don’t jump into any backup generator without a lot of
research, especially if you need to power critical equipment such as medical devices or freezer.
Be sure that whatever power backup solution you choose can run everything you need all at
one time — that’s power, measured in watts — and can keep it up for however long you need —
that’s energy, measured in kilowatt-hours.

A solar array or wind turbine with no battery backup will not power anything in
your house if the grid goes down. Only a battery bank or engine generator can
do that. Consult with a professional if you have any doubts about what you are
doing, and remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.