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View Full Version : Best emergency solution for extended power outages


rogeragrimes
09/18/2017, 08:36 AM
I live in Key Largo, FL, have 150 gal. aquarium and just went through hurricane Irma. Because of multiple days of power outages, I lost every fish but one and some of my corals. I had a friend start a gas generator to power the pumps and fans in my tank, but for unknown reasons my plan did not work...either he arrived too late after the power shutoff or something like that. A nearby friend put a large bubbler in his tank powered by a car battery. We aren't sure how long it lasted because the battery was dead by the time he came back home, but his tank survived 100%.

Looks like hurricane Maria is headed on the same track as Irma. I want to give my remaining tank inhabitants the best chance of survival. Based on my friend's solution, I'm thinking of buying the biggest UPS I can buy at the local OfficeDepot, and then plugging one or two large bubblers into it.

Any better solutions?

Ted_C
09/18/2017, 09:05 AM
First let me say - I'm so sorry for your loss. Glad you've made it through. I know the below statement can be grating on anyone who had loses and I apologize in advance. I know when I would hear about people having power or never losing it, it made me want to punch them square in the face. I can only imagine those with loses feel the same way.

I saved both my tanks (not all my corals) up here in Clearwater after 125 hours of power outage. 300 gallon and 150 gallon. No generator.

1: quit feeding two days before the storm (if you can). I didn't. I had fed sunday morning.

2: during the storm: quit feeding. I didn't feed the rest of the day Sunday or Monday. Tuesday I started a small pinch of Daichini in the morning and one block of thawed (but still cold) mysis at sunset.

3: Air bubblers. I had two air bubblers on hand. I bought three more Cool Bubblers from Walmart that run on D Batteries (I had to buy three whole damn minnow bucket packages just to get the bubblers. Attach airline tubing and airstones. Fresh new batteries last 72 hours. 3 in the 300, 2 in the 150. The coolbubblers are surprisingly silent.

4: ecotech pumps and battery backups: lasted 36 hours (way beyond my expectations). 300 ran two batteries and two MP60's. 150 ran one battery and one MP40.

5: open any windows you can during the storm and the days after. My house dropped into the low 70's during the storm. The tanks warmed slowly since all the windows were opened all day and all night. Temps here were in the 80's at night and 90's during the day. The final tank temperature on Friday at 8:30 PM was 83-85 degrees.

6: biological filtration. You need a well matured established system with plenty of living rock to handle the poo from the fishes. I usually keep my biopure blocks in the sump. Moved them up into the display to try to control ammonia buildup.

All of that should get you through the first day or two until you can get back and get the generator running (hopefully).

mcgyvr
09/18/2017, 09:09 AM
So.. How much money did you lose in the food in your fridge?
How are you going to keep the tank cool?

IMO a generator with enough capacity to run your fridge and powerheads/return pump/lighting is the smarter decision here..

jda
09/18/2017, 09:41 AM
If you have to evacuate, then leaving a generator running is not a good idea. If you are around, then a generator is a great idea - just have plenty of gas.

If you think that you need to evacuate for a week or more, go to a battery supply place and buy a huge battery for like a Caterpillar or other piece of large equipment - make sure it is 12v instead of 6V or 24V. Those will last significantly longer than a UPS or the like - most are over 200 amp hours at 12v. This is the biggest battery that I can think of. Even the battery from your car is usually better than a UPS battery. Don't use an inverter and a AC pump, just hardwire a DC battery-based pump - you might need a resistor to drop them to 3v, but hardwire them to this instead of the the pair of D batteries. This should last weeks.

None of this might be possible until after all of this is over. Sorry.

rogeragrimes
09/18/2017, 10:07 AM
Thanks for responding. The feeding idea is great. I had actually overfed the fish the last two days to "prepare them" for being without food for a long time. Probably makes more sense not to feed so they don't produce waste, although I wonder how long they can go without food before dying or weakening because of starvation and making them more susceptible to dying when the water goes bad? Where is the cross-over of starving versus feeding to prepare them? I'm guessing your idea of not feeding them is the far better idea, as fish can probably go a week or so easy without food (I'm guessing again).

The regular D-battery solutions probably won't work. We got mandatory evac'd 3 days before the storm and the power was out for 3 days after the storm and we were not allowed back in. The D-battery solutions would probably die before the power was even really cut, or have been very little use by the time the power was cut. My friend powered his bubblers with a full-sized car battery, and we're aren't sure how long they lasted, but they lasted long enough to save his entire tank. But afterward, we talked about how his emergency bubblers probably ran 3 days before the storm and were not needed then. I'm thinking of using a bigger UPS so that the bubbler only kicks in when the power is actually cut.

Probably won't open the windows, because the outside temps were in the 90's and my house, with the windows closed, was cooler inside, although not by much.

Thanks again for the suggestions.

First let me say - I'm so sorry for your loss. Glad you've made it through. I know the below statement can be grating on anyone who had loses and I apologize in advance. I know when I would hear about people having power or never losing it, it made me want to punch them square in the face. I can only imagine those with loses feel the same way.

I saved both my tanks (not all my corals) up here in Clearwater after 125 hours of power outage. 300 gallon and 150 gallon. No generator.

1: quit feeding two days before the storm (if you can). I didn't. I had fed sunday morning.

2: during the storm: quit feeding. I didn't feed the rest of the day Sunday or Monday. Tuesday I started a small pinch of Daichini in the morning and one block of thawed (but still cold) mysis at sunset.

3: Air bubblers. I had two air bubblers on hand. I bought three more Cool Bubblers from Walmart that run on D Batteries (I had to buy three whole damn minnow bucket packages just to get the bubblers. Attach airline tubing and airstones. Fresh new batteries last 72 hours. 3 in the 300, 2 in the 150. The coolbubblers are surprisingly silent.

4: ecotech pumps and battery backups: lasted 36 hours (way beyond my expectations). 300 ran two batteries and two MP60's. 150 ran one battery and one MP40.

5: open any windows you can during the storm and the days after. My house dropped into the low 70's during the storm. The tanks warmed slowly since all the windows were opened all day and all night. Temps here were in the 80's at night and 90's during the day. The final tank temperature on Friday at 8:30 PM was 83-85 degrees.

6: biological filtration. You need a well matured established system with plenty of living rock to handle the poo from the fishes. I usually keep my biopure blocks in the sump. Moved them up into the display to try to control ammonia buildup.

All of that should get you through the first day or two until you can get back and get the generator running (hopefully).

d2mini
09/18/2017, 10:12 AM
So.. How much money did you lose in the food in your fridge?
How are you going to keep the tank cool?

IMO a generator with enough capacity to run your fridge and powerheads/return pump/lighting is the smarter decision here..

This.
Gas generator for the win if you can stay.
Stock up on gas several days before the storm hits.

If you can't stay, get a whole home, natural gas generator.

ca1ore
09/18/2017, 10:21 AM
Evacuation is the problem. My power-loss plan works well if I'm home; works not at all if I am not.

Ted_C
09/18/2017, 10:25 AM
If you can't stay, get a whole home, natural gas generator.

Not everyone has natural gas down here in Florida. It's quite rare in fact .

In that case - he's going to need a big propane tank (60 lbs plus) + gas generator and an automatic failover switch. Your talking about a huge outlay of cash to set something like that up.

rogeragrimes
09/18/2017, 10:26 AM
I'm thinking of a full house generator solution (e.g. Genvac, etc.), but besides being very expensive, I've heard nothing but failures from these devices from people who either recently bought them or had them serviced right before the storm. Apparently, you can't really rely on these home generators.

I did have a 3000Amp gasoline generator along with 30 gallons of fuel, that was to power my fish tank. Unfortunately, someone had to be there to turn it on and we had a mandatory evacuation, and 1/4th of the homes in the Keys were destroyed. So far the official death count of the Keys is 9, but we all expect it to be in the dozens in the next few days. Staying in the house to turn on the gasoline generator or re-fill it with gas really isn't an option it turns out. I had a local friend who stayed and did make it to my house...but it took him a day and a half to make it to my house because of the flooding and down trees.

Not sure how I'm going to keep the tank cool. I wonder what killed the fish first...the dirty water (it was so murky that you couldn't see anything in the tank) or the hot temps? I'm guessing the water primarily from all the dead stuff, and the high temps didn't help.

That's why I'm looking for a better method that doesn't rely on external generators or people.

We lost everything in both refrigerators plus one of the refrigerators entirely. The Key's looks like a massive scratch and dent appliance sale. The streets are littered with refrigerators and freezers.

So.. How much money did you lose in the food in your fridge?
How are you going to keep the tank cool?

IMO a generator with enough capacity to run your fridge and powerheads/return pump/lighting is the smarter decision here..

Ted_C
09/18/2017, 10:35 AM
one other thing like JDA was saying above.

Sump Pump:
https://www.amazon.com/2000GPH-Marine-Submersible-Bilge-Caravan/dp/B06ZZ24TFJ/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1505748621&sr=8-9&keywords=12v+sump+pumps

and a 200 Amp Hour battery. That doesn't really fit your needs either through. Sump pumps with this amount of capacity usually use something like 8-10 Amps. That means you'll probably blow through the battery in 10 hours.

Those batteries JDA mentions are really really heavy too. Something like 110 pounds.

The plan would be to put the sump pump in the sump and keep flow going that way.

rogeragrimes
09/18/2017, 10:41 AM
Yes, this is sort of what I was thinking about. Thanks. If I can't get a Caterpillar battery, maybe a few car batteries hooked in parallel?

If you have to evacuate, then leaving a generator running is not a good idea. If you are around, then a generator is a great idea - just have plenty of gas.

If you think that you need to evacuate for a week or more, go to a battery supply place and buy a huge battery for like a Caterpillar or other piece of large equipment - make sure it is 12v instead of 6V or 24V. Those will last significantly longer than a UPS or the like - most are over 200 amp hours at 12v. This is the biggest battery that I can think of. Even the battery from your car is usually better than a UPS battery. Don't use an inverter and a AC pump, just hardwire a DC battery-based pump - you might need a resistor to drop them to 3v, but hardwire them to this instead of the the pair of D batteries. This should last weeks.

None of this might be possible until after all of this is over. Sorry.

rogeragrimes
09/18/2017, 10:45 AM
Thanks for the idea. I hear now that Maria is tracking away from the Keys (yeaaa!) so I've got more time to plan for next time. I've got some of these type of pumps (that I use for my boat)...I can connect one to the UPS or battery and see how many hours I get out of it.

one other thing like JDA was saying above.

Sump Pump:
https://www.amazon.com/2000GPH-Marine-Submersible-Bilge-Caravan/dp/B06ZZ24TFJ/ref=sr_1_9?ie=UTF8&qid=1505748621&sr=8-9&keywords=12v+sump+pumps

and a 200 Amp Hour battery. That doesn't really fit your needs either through. Sump pumps with this amount of capacity usually use something like 8-10 Amps. That means you'll probably blow through the battery in 10 hours.

Those batteries JDA mentions are really really heavy too. Something like 110 pounds.

The plan would be to put the sump pump in the sump and keep flow going that way.

jda
09/18/2017, 10:48 AM
Anything like that would work... just keep them 12v so that you can recharge them with your car or Auto Battery Charger. Golf Cart Batteries would probably be pretty good since they are made to deep cycle and do come in 12V and usually around 80-90 amp hours and you could do them in parallel.

Did you get my point about using a DC pump and skipping the inverter? The inverter would take up some percentage of the precious power. ...and if a battery pump can run for 3 days on 2 D cell batteries, then a handful of them on a bank of Golf Cart batteries might last for a really long time. If you can wire and solder, then you are home free, but I I would hustle to get resistors to drop the voltage for the pumps. Just secure it really well when you leave and cross your fingers.

rogeragrimes
09/18/2017, 10:48 AM
If I do go with a battery, I want to put some sort of electrical mechanism in the circuit so it doesn't kick on until the main power fails. My engineering friend said I need a "fail closed contact". A battery may last longer than a UPS, but the UPS has this built in. Since I have time to prepare I'm going to try both solutions (UPS and battery with in-circuit contact). Will the AC-bubbler powered by a big UPS be better than a DC-bubbler powered by big DC battery?

If you have to evacuate, then leaving a generator running is not a good idea. If you are around, then a generator is a great idea - just have plenty of gas.

If you think that you need to evacuate for a week or more, go to a battery supply place and buy a huge battery for like a Caterpillar or other piece of large equipment - make sure it is 12v instead of 6V or 24V. Those will last significantly longer than a UPS or the like - most are over 200 amp hours at 12v. This is the biggest battery that I can think of. Even the battery from your car is usually better than a UPS battery. Don't use an inverter and a AC pump, just hardwire a DC battery-based pump - you might need a resistor to drop them to 3v, but hardwire them to this instead of the the pair of D batteries. This should last weeks.

None of this might be possible until after all of this is over. Sorry.

chris_88
09/18/2017, 10:52 AM
Solar panels and a car battery? https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/s/ref=is_s_ss_i_0_8/134-6932232-0482835?k=solar+panel&sprefix=solar+pa

Sent from my Moto Z (2) using Tapatalk

Sharpimage
09/18/2017, 12:11 PM
bubblers on a car battery with a trickle charger on the battery. The battery should be fully charges when the power goes out and you have 3 days of bubbler. Also you can get ore than one battery linked together to give longer power.

d0ughb0y
09/18/2017, 12:53 PM
you already answered your own question with what you said about what your nearby friend did.
I think if car battery gets completely drained, it may not charge again. maybe not too bad an expense, costs maybe $100 or so. You can always do a test run to see how long it runs. If you buy a costco car battery, you can bring it back for pro-rated credit based on the warranty period, no questions asked, no receipt required.

ktownhero
09/18/2017, 03:26 PM
Install a Tesla Power Wall :)

callsign4223
09/18/2017, 04:02 PM
Maybe use something like this in conjunction with the battery powered bubbler idea. This would keep the bubblers off until power went out, then the relay could flip and start the bubblers. Bonus is that if the power if flipping on and off this will come on and off too, saving even more precious amp hours in the event of an extended power outage.

(I am not saying the link is exactly what you need, but a good place to start looking for one)

https://www.amazon.com/Aprilaire-51-Current-Sensing-Relay/dp/B000XM4BB4

rogeragrimes
09/18/2017, 05:51 PM
Perfect. This is exactly what I needed to complete the battery solution.

Maybe use something like this in conjunction with the battery powered bubbler idea. This would keep the bubblers off until power went out, then the relay could flip and start the bubblers. Bonus is that if the power if flipping on and off this will come on and off too, saving even more precious amp hours in the event of an extended power outage.

(I am not saying the link is exactly what you need, but a good place to start looking for one)

https://www.amazon.com/Aprilaire-51-Current-Sensing-Relay/dp/B000XM4BB4

jda
09/18/2017, 05:54 PM
I like the idea of a 100-150W 12V solar panel to put some juice back in there if the sun comes out and it was not destroyed or covered up by the storm.

d0ughb0y
09/18/2017, 06:02 PM
Another option that sort of combines some of the other options is to get a solar charger controller. They are quite inexpensive on eBay or Amazon. It functions as an automatic switch to charge a battery from solar panels if battery charge is low, and powers the load from the battery is solar source is low. The nice feature is it will shut down using the battery if voltage gets too low so it does not get discharged beyond the point of no return so as not to damage the battery. So the whole time the load will be powered and the only time there is no power is if both sources are out. And note that the solar power source does not have to come from a solar panel. It can be a D.C. Power supply. So if power goes out, it automatically switches on to battery power. It also manages charging the battery so it stops charging the battery when it is fully charged.

rogeragrimes
09/18/2017, 06:23 PM
Here's the 12V air bubbler I'm considering. I figure I'll run 3 for my 120-150 gal tank.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000EYWNVQ/

rogeragrimes
09/18/2017, 06:26 PM
I've not used a resistor before. Can you send me a link to an example resistor that would be good to wire inline? I'm not 100% which resistor to order for my application (i.e. from 12V battery to DC air bubblers which take very low current +/- .46 amps).

If you have to evacuate, then leaving a generator running is not a good idea. If you are around, then a generator is a great idea - just have plenty of gas.

If you think that you need to evacuate for a week or more, go to a battery supply place and buy a huge battery for like a Caterpillar or other piece of large equipment - make sure it is 12v instead of 6V or 24V. Those will last significantly longer than a UPS or the like - most are over 200 amp hours at 12v. This is the biggest battery that I can think of. Even the battery from your car is usually better than a UPS battery. Don't use an inverter and a AC pump, just hardwire a DC battery-based pump - you might need a resistor to drop them to 3v, but hardwire them to this instead of the the pair of D batteries. This should last weeks.

None of this might be possible until after all of this is over. Sorry.

rogeragrimes
09/18/2017, 06:28 PM
Cool idea.

Another option that sort of combines some of the other options is to get a solar charger controller. They are quite inexpensive on eBay or Amazon. It functions as an automatic switch to charge a battery from solar panels if battery charge is low, and powers the load from the battery is solar source is low. The nice feature is it will shut down using the battery if voltage gets too low so it does not get discharged beyond the point of no return so as not to damage the battery. So the whole time the load will be powered and the only time there is no power is if both sources are out. And note that the solar power source does not have to come from a solar panel. It can be a D.C. Power supply. So if power goes out, it automatically switches on to battery power. It also manages charging the battery so it stops charging the battery when it is fully charged.

rogeragrimes
09/19/2017, 06:35 AM
Great idea. I have one of these already for my boat.

bubblers on a car battery with a trickle charger on the battery. The battery should be fully charges when the power goes out and you have 3 days of bubbler. Also you can get ore than one battery linked together to give longer power.

rogeragrimes
10/05/2017, 11:47 AM
Test Results: I bought a Marine Deep Cycle battery from Advance Auto Parts that had 1141 amps when measured at the register. I bought three DC 12V 1.5A bubblers (https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000EYWNVQ). And then I tested to see how long the battery would power all three bubblers? Answer, 5 days. A day 4 all three were going strong. At Day 5, they are barely putting out bubbles. I only put one wetstone on each bubbler even though they allow for two separate lines for two wetstones.

I plan to add a battery trickle charger to it so that the battery stays charged until the power goes out, instead of just running for 5 days whether the electrical power is good or not.