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FYI - Managing Power during an Outage

bob_p

Active Member
Apr 5, 2012
3,664
2,790
During this week's Texas power outage, we were fortunate to lose power only for 2.5 hours.

Though when the power went out, because it might be days before power was restored, and we may not have much sun for the next 36 hours, we immediately turned off everything we could in the house to reduce power consumption.

And we were able to get the power down to only 400W... We left our two large refrigerators running (with food in the freezers) along with our internet and network gear. I used the breaker panels to turn off the circuits that we weren't going to be using - and it was surprising how much power those circuits were using for devices that were plugged in but not being used.

Our pool pumps are the major power consumer at the house. The main pump is variable speed and usually uses around 800W. But the second pump that powers a decorative waterfall is fixed speed - and uses 2500W. And because the freeze protection is activated when temperatures are below 40 degrees (which has been the case for the past 4 days), we were getting a constant 3300W draw from just the pool equipment.

If the power outage had lasted longer, we would manually turn on the main pump only during overnight freezing temperatures.

For the waterfall pump, I turned off the power and drained it and covered it - and will be turning it on since the Texas grid appears to be working again.

We had planned for our system to handle extended outages after a hurricane - when it would be warm and we'd likely have sun (skies typically clear after a hurricane passes). What we didn't plan for was an extended outage in the winter - when heat would be needed - and the pool pumps need to run. And with the increased energy usage, without taking additional steps, our PowerWalls may not have had enough power to get us through an extended outage (due to cold temperatures and little solar power until skies cleared).

Lessons learned:
  • We'll replace the fixed speed pool pump with a variable speed pump that should be able to reduce power consumption by at least 2/3 - not only helping during an outage - but also when the pump is running normally.
  • In preparation for an extended outage, I'll mark the circuits in the breaker boxes that should be left on for essential systems - so it'll be easier to turn off the circuits with non-essential devices.
It also helped that we have an RV with it's own power generation (solar panels, lithium batteries, diesel generator) - which we could use in an emergency and evacuate from the house to the RV on the driveway, allowing us to drastically reduce power consumption inside the house.
 

gpez

Member
Apr 25, 2019
653
530
USA
During this week's Texas power outage, we were fortunate to lose power only for 2.5 hours.

Though when the power went out, because it might be days before power was restored, and we may not have much sun for the next 36 hours, we immediately turned off everything we could in the house to reduce power consumption.

And we were able to get the power down to only 400W... We left our two large refrigerators running (with food in the freezers) along with our internet and network gear. I used the breaker panels to turn off the circuits that we weren't going to be using - and it was surprising how much power those circuits were using for devices that were plugged in but not being used.

Our pool pumps are the major power consumer at the house. The main pump is variable speed and usually uses around 800W. But the second pump that powers a decorative waterfall is fixed speed - and uses 2500W. And because the freeze protection is activated when temperatures are below 40 degrees (which has been the case for the past 4 days), we were getting a constant 3300W draw from just the pool equipment.

If the power outage had lasted longer, we would manually turn on the main pump only during overnight freezing temperatures.

For the waterfall pump, I turned off the power and drained it and covered it - and will be turning it on since the Texas grid appears to be working again.

We had planned for our system to handle extended outages after a hurricane - when it would be warm and we'd likely have sun (skies typically clear after a hurricane passes). What we didn't plan for was an extended outage in the winter - when heat would be needed - and the pool pumps need to run. And with the increased energy usage, without taking additional steps, our PowerWalls may not have had enough power to get us through an extended outage (due to cold temperatures and little solar power until skies cleared).

Lessons learned:
  • We'll replace the fixed speed pool pump with a variable speed pump that should be able to reduce power consumption by at least 2/3 - not only helping during an outage - but also when the pump is running normally.
  • In preparation for an extended outage, I'll mark the circuits in the breaker boxes that should be left on for essential systems - so it'll be easier to turn off the circuits with non-essential devices.
It also helped that we have an RV with it's own power generation (solar panels, lithium batteries, diesel generator) - which we could use in an emergency and evacuate from the house to the RV on the driveway, allowing us to drastically reduce power consumption inside the house.

Curious @bob_p how much PV and how many Powerwalls do you have? The 3.3kW pool draw would drain multiple Powerwalls pretty quickly. Using a more efficient pump would help but even a steady 1kW draw is still pretty heavy unless you have 4+ Powerwalls and/or consistent solar...
 

jjrandorin

Moderator, Model 3, Tesla Energy Forums
Nov 28, 2018
8,167
9,020
Riverside Co. CA
Curious @bob_p how much PV and how many Powerwalls do you have? The 3.3kW pool draw would drain multiple Powerwalls pretty quickly. Using a more efficient pump would help but even a steady 1kW draw is still pretty heavy unless you have 4+ Powerwalls and/or consistent solar...

I am not @bob_p but he has posted before that he has 4PWs and 44 Panels of PV. I forget the size of PV exactly but am fairly sure on the number of powerwalls.

For our 44 panel/4 PW system late last year in the Houston area, we used Hays Energy Services, who is a Tesla-approved installer.

They are a solar subsidiary of a commercial electrical contractor, which worked well for us, because they had to do a lot of electrical wiring/box work to add the new solar/PW system to our existing electrical installation.

We were very satisfied with the work they did - the system has operated without any installation-related problems (we had a software issue with our solar panel monitor, which has been corrected by the manufacturer).

They should be able to install a PW2 if you already have one - and, if you don't, they should be able to order one and then install it.
 
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Need

Active Member
Nov 22, 2017
2,896
2,206
SoCal
OP, your pool pump might already have freeze protect built in. A few weeks ago, one night I was woke up by the pump starting around 3am. I know that my pump was scheduled to start at 8am. In the morning, I looked at the pump status and it told me that it started because of the freeze protection. I looked at my temperature history and sure enough it dropped to 35 degree overnight.
 
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Silicon Desert

Active Member
Oct 1, 2018
3,266
2,969
Sparks Nevada / GF 1
OP, your pool pump might already have freeze protect built in. A few weeks ago, one night I was woke up by the pump starting around 3am. I know that my pump was scheduled to start at 8am. In the morning, I looked at the pump status and it told me that it started because of the freeze protection. I looked at my temperature history and sure enough it dropped to 35 degree overnight.
yes, good point. And some of the newer pumps on the market have an ability to set at what temperature they come on during cold weather and what speed they use. Of course, those tend to be the more expensive pumps.
 

Randy Spencer

Active Member
Mar 31, 2016
3,271
3,155
Alameda, CA
It also helped that we have an RV with it's own power generation
I haven't driven our RV really since we got the Tesla 3 years ago next month. We used to do trips that have turned into hotel trips with a MUCH smaller fuel footprint. I didn't even use it to pick up the wife's new 12 foot long living room rug, just popped the trunk and put it in the Tesla...

But I am not thinking about selling it as having an extra fridge & microwave, furnace & water heater, bedroom & bath and just another vehicle in case of emergencies is incredibly nice. We live in earthquake country and it's been a LONG time since we got a good shake.
 

BGbreeder

Member
Jun 19, 2020
175
98
Bay Area
Here are some insights i did not know about the Texas energy market.
Five things to know about Texas's strained electric grid
They do not belong to any national interconnect. Only El Paso belongs to the Western Interconnect and they had less issues in El Paso because the got supplemental power from other states.

Yes, I think that the disaster has a strong shooting yourself in the foot component. Many of the items that would have prevented or reduced freezing pipes in Texas would have improved the energy efficiency and stability day in and day out for the same homeowners. I think that this is a concrete example of "you pays your money and you make your choice", or "you make your bed and you have to lie in it".

In 2011, after the last freeze event, FERC made a number of recommendations to ERCOT about winterizing the power and natural gas system. Needless to say they were ignored.

Sigh. This misery was so preventable.

All the best,

BG
 

Merle

Member
Apr 5, 2019
155
125
Tahoe
There is a world of difference in pumps out there. Make sure that you’re using the right kind for your application.

If you’re driving a pool with sand filtration, you need a pool pump.

If you’re making a decorative waterfall, you need a pond pump.

The energy should be proportional to your usage and demands. Just because you can drive 150 GPM through a sand bed, doesn’t mean you need one to lift water 3’ into a pond bed.

BTW, check out which is cheaper in the short run, a pool pump (eg Hayward) or a good pond pump?
 

bob_p

Active Member
Apr 5, 2012
3,664
2,790
We have 4 PowerWalls (probably around 45 KWh of usable power) with 15.4 KW of solar panels. Our RV has 480W of solar with 3 KWh of lithium batteries - plus a 3.2KW diesel generator (uses about 1/3 gallon per hour).

Our main pool pump is an IntelliFloXF variable speed pump. Running the pump at 2500 RPM (enough to keep the water flow at a usable level) uses about 800W of power. While the fixed speed 2HP pump runs at a constant 3450 RPM consuming 2.5KW of power - just to run two decorative waterfalls.

The pool system is controlled by a Pentair EasyTouch panel that has built-in freeze protection - which runs both pumps continuously, cycling the main pump between the pool and spa every 15 minutes, while temperatures are below 40 degrees.

We're going to replace the fixed speed pump with a second IntellifloXF next week, and I'll then make adjustments to find the lowest pump speed that sends water through the waterfalls - which should reduce the power consumption well below 2.5KW.

We sized our system to provide about 50% of our annual power, and large enough to allow us to operate for days off grid after a hurricane, assuming we shut down non-essential systems (limit pool pump time, no EV charging, limit HVAC, ...) and that we'd get sun (skies usually clear after a hurricane passes).

What we didn't plan for was an extended outage with freezing temperatures, when we would need to run the pool pumps to prevent them from freezing.

When we purchased the RV, we didn't think about using it during crises - hurricanes or the recent cold weather. The solar panels and PowerWalls are our primary option for getting through crises - and if it looks like we can't recharge the PowerWalls enough to live in the house - we'll have the RV as a fallback, putting the house into minimum power mode - and then living out of the RV for a while - which can generate it's own power.

Though we're pretty confident that we can make it through extended power outages (except for freezing temperatures) with the PowerWalls and solar panels...

As for what happened and what changes will be made - there will likely be a mandate that all power generation must be winterized and ERCOT will be restructured or replaced to ensure this doesn't happen again. And because of this, we'll likely see at least a small increase in electric costs, at least in the near term [which makes our solar panels and PowerWalls even more valuable!].
 

petecrayton

Supporting Member
Apr 26, 2019
86
85
jacksonville, florida USA
During this week's Texas power outage, we were fortunate to lose power only for 2.5 hours.

Though when the power went out, because it might be days before power was restored, and we may not have much sun for the next 36 hours, we immediately turned off everything we could in the house to reduce power consumption.

And we were able to get the power down to only 400W... We left our two large refrigerators running (with food in the freezers) along with our internet and network gear. I used the breaker panels to turn off the circuits that we weren't going to be using - and it was surprising how much power those circuits were using for devices that were plugged in but not being used.

Our pool pumps are the major power consumer at the house. The main pump is variable speed and usually uses around 800W. But the second pump that powers a decorative waterfall is fixed speed - and uses 2500W. And because the freeze protection is activated when temperatures are below 40 degrees (which has been the case for the past 4 days), we were getting a constant 3300W draw from just the pool equipment.

If the power outage had lasted longer, we would manually turn on the main pump only during overnight freezing temperatures.

For the waterfall pump, I turned off the power and drained it and covered it - and will be turning it on since the Texas grid appears to be working again.

We had planned for our system to handle extended outages after a hurricane - when it would be warm and we'd likely have sun (skies typically clear after a hurricane passes). What we didn't plan for was an extended outage in the winter - when heat would be needed - and the pool pumps need to run. And with the increased energy usage, without taking additional steps, our PowerWalls may not have had enough power to get us through an extended outage (due to cold temperatures and little solar power until skies cleared).

Lessons learned:
  • We'll replace the fixed speed pool pump with a variable speed pump that should be able to reduce power consumption by at least 2/3 - not only helping during an outage - but also when the pump is running normally.
  • In preparation for an extended outage, I'll mark the circuits in the breaker boxes that should be left on for essential systems - so it'll be easier to turn off the circuits with non-essential devices.
It also helped that we have an RV with it's own power generation (solar panels, lithium batteries, diesel generator) - which we could use in an emergency and evacuate from the house to the RV on the driveway, allowing us to drastically reduce power consumption inside the house.
You could have saved some power by putting your freezer food outside.
 

bob_p

Active Member
Apr 5, 2012
3,664
2,790
True...

We were fortunate to have power except for 2.5 hours. Though if we had lost power for an extended period - and were close to running out of PowerWall power, that's something we could have considered.

Others in the region lost power after midnight on Monday morning and didn't get it back until Wednesday night. During that time temperatures were below freezing from Sunday night through Tuesday noon. Tuesday and Wednesday during the day temperatures got up into the 40s. So keeping food outside would not have been an option.

We were also fortunate not to lose water - or be under the "boil water" advisory - so all told, we were pretty lucky, though a large part of that is in planning - having an energy efficient house with better insulation, solar panels/PowerWalls for power, and taking reasonable precautions to protect outside plumbing.

One positive - we'll be better prepared to handle the next hurricane...
 

Silicon Desert

Active Member
Oct 1, 2018
3,266
2,969
Sparks Nevada / GF 1
Our main pool pump is an IntelliFloXF variable speed pump. Running the pump at 2500 RPM (enough to keep the water flow at a usable level) uses about 800W of power. While the fixed speed 2HP pump runs at a constant 3450 RPM consuming 2.5KW of power - just to run two decorative waterfalls.

The pool system is controlled by a Pentair EasyTouch panel that has built-in freeze protection - which runs both pumps continuously, cycling the main pump between the pool and spa every 15 minutes, while temperatures are below 40 degrees.

Reminds me that I had a similar system on a California home. Those IntelliFlo pumps are really nice and easily variable as you know. I replaced a fixed speed pool pump and waterfall pump with two of those variable speed ones and it sure did make a big difference in energy cost, especially on the pool pump to run it at a lower speed. Many people don't understand that pump speed and power draw is far from being linear, yet sounds like you know it well.
 

ZBB

Emperor
Feb 27, 2013
1,549
270
Scottsdale
True...

We were fortunate to have power except for 2.5 hours. Though if we had lost power for an extended period - and were close to running out of PowerWall power, that's something we could have considered.

Others in the region lost power after midnight on Monday morning and didn't get it back until Wednesday night. During that time temperatures were below freezing from Sunday night through Tuesday noon. Tuesday and Wednesday during the day temperatures got up into the 40s. So keeping food outside would not have been an option.

We were also fortunate not to lose water - or be under the "boil water" advisory - so all told, we were pretty lucky, though a large part of that is in planning - having an energy efficient house with better insulation, solar panels/PowerWalls for power, and taking reasonable precautions to protect outside plumbing.

One positive - we'll be better prepared to handle the next hurricane...

We moved to the Houston area last summer and had not yet looked into solar/powerwalls... Needless to say, I initiated the process yesterday -- so appreciate reading your experience. We don't have a pool (although we are considering putting one in).

We were also pretty fortunate, although we had multiple outages -- 13 hours on Monday, then 6 outages from Tues night through Wed evening ranging from 20 min to 4 hours each. We had power out for a total of approx 24 hours. We did put frozen food outside on both Mon and again on Wed -- although in a cooler, not just set outside, and we had a few smaller blue-ice style packs in the freezer. It did OK -- the blue-ice packs were still solid, and so was any frozen meat...

We also didn't lose water -- although our MUD was very slow to put up a clarification, so we boiled a couple pots of water just to be safe. Our MUD eventually put up a clarification saying they were not under a boil water order...
 

h2ofun

Active Member
Aug 11, 2020
2,119
329
auburn, ca
We moved to the Houston area last summer and had not yet looked into solar/powerwalls... Needless to say, I initiated the process yesterday -- so appreciate reading your experience. We don't have a pool (although we are considering putting one in).

We were also pretty fortunate, although we had multiple outages -- 13 hours on Monday, then 6 outages from Tues night through Wed evening ranging from 20 min to 4 hours each. We had power out for a total of approx 24 hours. We did put frozen food outside on both Mon and again on Wed -- although in a cooler, not just set outside, and we had a few smaller blue-ice style packs in the freezer. It did OK -- the blue-ice packs were still solid, and so was any frozen meat...

We also didn't lose water -- although our MUD was very slow to put up a clarification, so we boiled a couple pots of water just to be safe. Our MUD eventually put up a clarification saying they were not under a boil water order...
And if we thought Tesla batteries were hard to get in the past, well, they just jumped the shark
 
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