Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The Frugal Power Failure

Sorry for the delay in posting but I was one of the many affected by the power failures in northern NY. Although we had power back yesterday, we spent much of the day fixing problems that resulted from 3 days with no heat or power. So much for a relaxing 3 day weekend in the mountains!

I learned a few interesting frugal things from our experiences. I guess I'd title the first lesson, technology is great, when it works. Our very high tech thermostat fried, we think as a result of the power surge when the power came back on. This thermostat is linked to our phone line and calls us to let us know about power failures and heating system failtures in the cabin.

When the power came back on it began calling us every 15 minutes or so with conflicting messages. We'd get a call with high temperature warning saying it was 90 degrees followed by a call saying there was a low temperature warning and that the temp was 40 degrees.

Here's the kick, Jim solved the problem by hooking up the old dial thermostat and bypassing the new one. For the cost of two wirenuts (15 cents each at the local hardware store) we had heat again.

The second frugal lesson we learned was pay attention to the wisdom of your elderly neighbors. When it became clear that power was not coming back any time soon and we were in danger of frozen pipes we went to our 85 year old neighbor to ask for advice. Thanks to his wisdom and a $5.74 bottle of RV antifreeze, we made it through without any plumbing problems.

The third frugal lesson was you can cook in a fireplace in a pinch but it really helps to have quick cooking foods on hand. In the only pot I have with no plastic handles, I heated some water by placing the pot in the fireplace just in front of the fire. Then I combined whole wheat pasta, TVP, and two jars of pasta sauce and placed the pot back in the fireplace just in front of the fire. The result was a hot, tasty although texturally challenged meal. The pasta gets soggy, there's no way to avoid it.

My final thought on the whole experience involves our local Stewarts. On Friday evening, it was the only gas station around with power for miles. The lines for gas wrapped around the corner but were very orderly. Inside there were two long but orderly lines that wrapped around the store. The atmosphere was friendly despite the fact that supplies were beginning to run low. Maybe this is why we love our little Adirondack oasis so much.


Michelle said...

Hi Katie....it is frightening to think about how dependent we are on technology and how vulnerable we are without it in so many ways...sounds like you weathered it well though.

You mentioned Warrensburg in one of your previous posts. I was raised in Chestertown. Is your cabin on one of the lakes in Chestertown?

James said...

I have one question:
How do you use the RV antifreeze to keep your pipes from freezing?



Katie said...

Hi Michelle,

I'd rather not give an exact location for the cabin but its not in Chestertown. We're a bit south of Warrensburg.

Hi James,

I had that same question. How was this bottle of orange goo going to save me from frozen pipes? Here's the short, non technical answer that was given to us by our neighbor.

First, turn off the house water. Next open up all the taps including the bathtub and let all the water in the lines drain out. The toilet needs to be flushed until the tank is empty and then the tank is dried out with a towel.

Jim opened up a drain on both the hot and cold water in the crawlspace as well to get any last remnants of water out however he shut these two valves right after draining. Everything else was left open.

The final thing is to pour a small amount of the rv antifreeze down into all the sink drains and the toilet. Our neighbor told us to do 100 percent of the antifreeze but a local plumber said 50 percent antifreeze and 50 percent water would work also.

We didn't have to worry about our hot water heater because that runs on propane so it kept going throughout the power failure. I assume there would be another step for the hot water heater if that wasn't the case.

I hope that's clear. If its not feel free to ask and I'll get Jim to answer any technical questions.