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we live in rental home in Menlo Park, CA and we have experienced 3 power outages (lasting 36 - ~60hrs each) las winter. Normally, I wouldn't care too much since we can "deal with it" but we are expecting our first new born in December and with the shift to El Nino, I'm anticipating the rain storms in California to be just as bad as they were this past winter. We want to ensure our house has heat, fridge can run, and we have some lights. I have the Emporia Vue system installed and my peak watts being pulled (with heater on) is ~3,500 watts since we have a heat pump for heating a cooling. In a cold day in winter, we use ~10-15kwh.

I've been looking through battery back up solutions like Ecoflow or gas generators to use but wanted to see what the best route for me would be since we're in a rental home. We did get clearance from the landlord to get a power switch installed but we can't get something like Generac put in. Whats the best way for us to ensure that we have adequate power when our power goes out?

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  • A generator will run as long as you have fuel for it. Batteries will only run so long till they need recharging, by the power company or a generator/solar. What is your areas longest black out? Our longest was 11 days in winter(Canadian).
    – crip659
    Jul 23, 2023 at 19:48
  • we've only been here ~8 months now and the longest I've seen on the power restoration maps was ~2.5 days. Jul 23, 2023 at 19:52

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Consider using a dual fuel alternator, you can keep propane forever it does not go bad and is readily available. If for some reason you cannot get propane when the need arises you can get gasoline. You can then cable it to the power switch which I assume disconnects the home from Edison and transfers the load entirely to your backup alternator. This cable can be a rubber cord with the appropriate ratings. Or you can get some heavy extension cords and run them to wherever power is needed. Sizing of the generator is depending on what you actually want to run. If you do not run the the HVAC your load will be considerably less. You will need to make some choices. I have assumed you do not have natural gas.

I have a whole house natural gas alternator, and if that fails I have a 4500 watt propane/gasolene powered unit as a spare.

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  • I like your answer and mostly agree, but just a couple of comments: With a dual fuel generator the OP could keep several 5 gallon tanks "in stock" bc as you said, propane doesn't go bad. regarding connections: the HVAC is probably hard wired so running extension cords to it is not practical. If there is room in the main panel to install a MTS(manual transfer switch) with the code require (IMPORTANT) lockouts ....usually a sliding plate the prevents both the generator and mains being on at the same time. ....continued Jul 23, 2023 at 21:13
  • This is all good advice. I’d emphasize that Menlo doesn’t have a reputation for having an unstable power grid, so scaling up to include heat and a transfer switch might not be necessary. We have a 2000 watt Honda that runs the fridge and some battery lanterns. Jul 23, 2023 at 21:18
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    I sounds like you are stuck with a portable generator, While they come in many wattage levels, getting a portable that could run the HP would mean a pretty large generator for a portable. If portable, you'll also need a power inlet to connected the generator. If you go with a MTS, you can always turn off circuits that aren't needed. I think it will be hard to find a portable large enough to run your HP. Jul 23, 2023 at 21:19
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Some cars have "generators" onboard

I have to say on a rental unit, none of your options are particularly pretty. But 3600W was the power output rating of the 2004-06 Silverado hybrid pickup truck, just to point out it's not a particularly demanding load for a hybrid or an EV, and 18 years later even the Ford F150 hybrid can do it :) as well as the Hyundai/Kia electric car platforms and several others, I'm sure. That platform looks really good, though their 12 minute DC fast charge isn't gonna happen on a Tesla charger because of Tesla's 500V limit.

The 3600W number is popular because that is the power rating of the TT30 socket used on small travel trailers that are fit for towing behind a car. See how nicely that works? It's also the capacity of a European household socket.

A typical EV has a 50-100 kWH battery pack, so every 2-4 days you'll have to come down off the hill and hit a DC fast charger. A hybrid will start its gas engine periodically to recharge the hybrid battery pack.

A lot of "Menlo Park" is up in the hills near or above I-280, so I presume if you're having outages for days, you're up there.

You need 240V, probably

One gotcha with a heat pump is it's probably a 240V load. That will limit your choice somewhat, because some cars provide 120V/240V (with neutral) and others provide only 120V or 240V without neutral. However, this problem could be solved by adding a 5 kVA transformer To the generator circuit to synthesize 120/240V from whatever the car can give you.

A "portable power station" won't cut it

And the reason is your energy appetite. You wouldn't be telling us your normal usage if you had any intention of scrimping on energy use during the outage, and the heat pump is your 'killer app' you need for heat. So a fairly costly PPS aka "solar generator" has 2 kWH of power, that'll run your house for 3-4 hours.

If you were able to retreat to a gas furnace, particularly an Empire or Williams style no-electricity-needed type, that would be a game changer.

For instance, a refrigerator has an appetite of about 1 kWH per day and that is viable with one of those PPS's.

You can crunch the numbers, 15 kWH/day usage means 60 kWH for 4 days and that's an EV battery right there.

Unless you want to own an EV, your best bet is a generator.

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