What Does Economic / Political Collapse Look Like?

An oddly interesting write up. It is from the perspective of someone who lived through the collapse of the Former Soviet Union, and purports to offer advice to Americans on our coming collapse. It is an interesting perspective, though on many points I find it a bit daft.

First, a few of my complaints.

It dwells at some length in the lead-in on Peak Oil. Clearly written prior to fracking causing a gas and oil glut. The basic thesis of resource shortage is flawed. Frequent readers here will know that I fully reject any notion of there ever being a “running out” of resources. Not energy, nor material, nor food and water. We can ALWAYS make more resources as needed. It is fundamental to what is a resource, and what people do when they invent and create goods.

OK, his thesis is that with the end of oil, and Peak Oil happening now, the USA as major oil guzzler is doomed, and will soon collapse. That, I don’t buy. The second set of comparisons is much more apt. The US Debt being beyond hope. The export of our industrial base. And more. But I wonder if that is sufficient for a collapse like the FSU experienced. More likely just some Very Hard Times. I’m also of the opinion that the EU will go first into that dark night, being more financially shaky.

He also clearly works from stereotypes about the USA that were influenced by a Russian perspective. In particular, he bangs on a bit about racism and how implied race wars will make the entire South through Texas to California unsuited for survival. The implication being that roving bands of various races will be having running gun battles so, oh, a 100 acre ranch in the back woods of Georgia will somehow be made untenable. Right….

Then there is the match set of assertions that the high level of gun ownership will result in instability and death, while at the same time saying the failure of the normal government delivered security will result in plagues of theft, muggings, etc. Um, no room for “an armed society is a polite society”? After a major (Andrew, I think) hurricane hit parts of the south, many neighborhoods were without services for many days. There are recorded instances of the neighborhoods organizing their own security with folks standing watch with their own guns and keeping the peace just fine, thank you very much. That is the more likely outcome of our “gun culture”.

There are a few other complaints, but I’ll let them be for now. (Things like expecting banks to evict the majority of folks from their homes causing homelessness to be rampant, when now, even post ‘housing crisis’ by several years, I know a couple of families still in their homes despite not paying the mortgage for a few years. In large financial collapses, the banks can’t evict folks that fast, and don’t want to do so as it collapses the value of their equity even faster. A detail not clear to folks who have lived too long in central planned economies…)

The Interesting Bits:

I find much of interest in this story. The perspective on what Russia was like during the fall. Some insight on what really does happen when folks are in dire circumstances. Ideas on what did work (like home kitchen gardens and ‘honey buckets’) and what makes good money alternatives (home made vodka or moonshine; so put parts for a nice sized still in your kit ;-) He also clearly has insight into life in cold frozen places that I’m not so skilled at, being from California where “cold” means not wearing shorts ;-)

Here’s the link, than a quote for flavor:

Post-Soviet Lessons for a Post-American Century
by Dmitry Orlov
26 pages long


Reached via links from the author’s home site here: http://cluborlov.com/

h/t to Larry Ledwick for pointing me at that site here.

Since Google docs doesn’t want to let me take selected small quotes, I’ve had to resort to screen prints of larger chunks. Oh well…

Quote from Dmitry Orlov number 1

Quote from Dmitry Orlov number 1

click on it for a larger readable version…

It’s the second and third paragraphs that I like. One calls the US Progressives “reactionary”, cute that. The next paragraph notes that the FSU had a monolithic power structure that was unresponsive to the people while the USA has two teams that compete as though they were different, making up one monolithic unresponsive power structure… nice that ;-)

I think it gives you the flavor of the thing. Just don’t let the “Running Out!!!” scare part get to you. There is no shortage of resources and we never “run out” of resources.


But if you really do want to prepare for an emergency, I think it is a reasonable thing to do. Just expect that you are more likely to use your preparations for a bit of bad weather, or loss of a job, than for a full on collapse.




Or you might use them, like me, when living “on the road” for a while. ( I travel with a ‘travel kitchen’ portable stove and such, along with my minimal power and light kit, and some of the preparedness packs ).

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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33 Responses to What Does Economic / Political Collapse Look Like?

  1. adrianvance says:

    Every oil field was a seabed in antiquity. Is every seabed an oil field? Paleogeologists say our atmosphere was 12% CO2 3.5 billion years ago when life began with green algae that took all this CO2 converted it to algae cells, lived and died, fell to the sea floor and became petroleum. If you do the math we have about 10,000 years of oil in the sea sediments from where it can be extracted with robot drillers, put into bladders and towed to shore. We will never run out of this, or any form of energy if we can ever get rid of corrupt politicians like what we have now.

    Google “Two Minute Conservative” for bullets.

  2. omanuel says:

    The 1945 decision to hide the source of energy that destroyed Hiroshima destroyed the ability of humanity to understand the origin of the Earth and the amount of carbon incorporated.

  3. omanuel says:

    @ adrianvance

    You are right. Corrupt politicians and dishonest scientists threaten the very survival of humanity.

  4. Larry Ledwick says:

    Like you EM his stuff is a mixed bag, I found some of the same insights very interesting, for example how one of the things that saved the average Soviet citizen during the collapse is that they had a very well developed black market economy that could supply most essentials. The interesting implication of that is that folks who have experience in black market supply and demand (say organized crime, your friendly neighborhood “herb” grower, the local moon shiner, the habitual flea market and garage sale denizen) would be the natural fall back economy for essential resources if the on the books cash and credit economy was broken.

    We already have seen this post 2008 crash, when lots of folks were doing off the books odd jobs to enhance unemployment and hobby businesses like handy men, and lawn care etc. which lend themselves to off the books income. His comments about how his family survived on purchased rice, squash from their home garden and fish purchased by barter from a neighbor when there was no commercial source or means to buy food. He also pointed out how small groups of emergent allies spontaneously form in communities as they realize that without help from others and sharing skills and resources none of them could make it on their own.

    For folks like me who do not have a wide social circle of close friends who live near by or family that is an issue of concern.

    On the other hand I have also recently read some other books which have changed my thinking a bit about our world situation and the likelihood of economic collapse.

    Like you I also suspect that Europe and or Japan will implode first and we might get by simply due to being the last man standing, not due to any inherent strength in America other than in a field of crippled and lame runners we are not limping as badly as others and become the “strongest horse” in the race. That due to no lack of effort on the part of our political leadership to screw things up at every opportunity.

    The two books are:
    Secret Weapon by Kevin Freeman (narrative of how economic warfare was a significant actor in the 2008 crash — ie someone pushed us over the cliff intentionally.)

    Disinformation by Ronald Rychlak and Lt. Gen. Ion Mihai Pacepa
    (an inside look at how world news and events are manipulated by intentional planting of false information — primarily from the old Soviet perspective)

    It is interesting to note that the Soviets “invented” Catastrophic Nuclear Winter as a political ploy to get U.S. Patriot Missile batteries out of Europe. It is interesting to note that the modern Catastrophic Global Warming Meme was spawned directly out of that seed, and the commonly accepted view of the “water melons” (green on the outside red on the inside) may have more truth to it than is widely believed. Lots of silly crap done in the name of global warming makes lots of sense if you view it as a disinformation campaign to cover a economic attack on our entire economy by gutting our power infrastructure and making it incredibly vulnerable to both financial and electronic attack (web connected grid and control systems etc.)

    I have difficulty really believing the pro global warming folks are really that stupid, it makes much more sense in an Occam’s razor sort of way to think they are being intentionally stupid to serve an agenda that is not all that healthy for our economic health. Whether they are being manipulated by outside provocateurs or they themselves are the provocateurs is the only real question in my mind at this point. It (AGW) just smells too bad to be accidental.

  5. M Simon says:

    Well. We have institutionalized a race war.

    “Look, we understood we couldn’t make it illegal to be young or poor or black in the United States, but we could criminalize their common pleasure. We understood that drugs were not the health problem we were making them out to be, but it was such a perfect issue…that we couldn’t resist it.” – John Ehrlichman, White House counsel to President Nixon on the rationale for the War on Drugs.

    “[Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks” Haldeman, his Chief of Staff wrote, “The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”

  6. Graeme No.3 says:

    Larry Ledwick:
    “I have difficulty really believing the pro global warming folks are really that stupid” – I don’t.
    I think that basically people fit into 2 categories, those who think ahead and those who don’t. To me the most interesting line was “We could get this done, if only we wanted to” which is a common belief among the greenies and those on the Left so dedicated to spending other peoples’ money. No thought of the future, only what they want at the moment. These people vote for those who promise the most, without a thought to where the money will come from. A line I like to quote (not mine, unfortunately) is “their economics are based on the faeries leaving big bags of money at the bottom of the garden”.

    Will the USA collapse, I don’t know but I suspect not. A high level of public debt is not a disaster, the UK twice recovered (after the World Wars) from a debt level at 250% of GDP, but it requires restraining expenditure and many years of prolonged growth coupled with inflation wiping out a good deal of the value of that debt. There are signs of growth and the shale gas boom will fuel (sorry!) growth for some years.

    Europe (and the UK) is far more likely to collapse. They have higher debt levels, are heading into deflation, and with the neo-keynesians and greenies now in charge won’t have any restraint nor growth. Their rejection of frakking is only one of the decisions to hinder growth. Expensive “renewable energy” driving production overseas is another. Debt default and economic collapse are only a few years away. Ironically the 2 countries likely to be best placed are Ireland and Spain which have applied the harsh measures prescribed for all, but not implemented by the other PIGGS.

    The old chinese curse “May you live in interesting times” seems appropriate – the second part “and may you come to the attention of the authorities” also has some bite.

  7. Larry Ledwick says:

    I agree the average bozo in the street who supports AGW is that stupid, I was referring to the well educated scholars who are running the show, perhaps excluding a couple like MM.

    My point is you really have to work hard at it to screw so many things up and all in the same direction, it seems that would defy chance a bit too much to be just due to stupidity.

    I just noticed another typo in my comment above, the nuclear winter scare was to create public pressure to get the MGM-31 Pershing nuclear theater missiles out of Europe not the Patriot. (Hey they both started with the letter P).

    I agree with your point about Europe, they also have much more exposure to their banking system as unlike the U.S. I understand that they have not really de-leveraged (or ungeared as I guess you say in Europe) all their outstanding debt to any significant degree. That leaves the large banks really out on a very thin limb.
    As you say very interesting times!
    All you can do is try to get your house in order to tolerate the problems you think are most likely for your situation. (also helps to be nimble and ready to change plans quickly)

  8. It’s interesting that there’s a big worry about deflation in Europe. Since there’s been a halving of the cost of oil, that translates into transport being cheaper and food production being cheaper. It stands to sense that food costs are going to go down since they are often transported an excessive distance from their place of production. With most things we buy heavily dependent on the cost of the energy that makes them, things will be cheaper. Why is this a problem?

    As regards the UK imploding through excessive debt, I don’t see this as likely unless there’s a major swing in voting next election and the socialists get to control the purse-strings again. To me it looks likely that the leadership (Ed Miliband) isn’t doing a good job of convincing anyone that their budgets hang together and they will likely lose a lot of the Scottish MPs seats to SNP and have even less of a voice than before. The interest-rate on government bonds is a pretty good indicator of what the people with money expect to happen, and at the moment at least the UK doesn’t need to pay high interest rates so they are seen as a safer home for money than other places. These things are all dependent on peoples’ perceptions of the chances of either a default/haircut and of getting the interest paid on time, so uncertainty is going to be the main driver of higher interest rates and the debt becoming unserviceable. Things may become dodgy with the proposed referendum as to whether to leave the EU, simply because of the uncertainty.

    Funny thing – when people really need to borrow the interest rate will go up, and if they don’t need to borrow then loans can be had very cheaply. The main thing the politicians need to do therefore is maintain the illusion that they don’t need to borrow money and do it as a favour to the investors.The current government has done a good job at this, giving the impression that they are cutting the size of government whilst borrowing more money.

    It will be interesting to see the result of the Greeks shouting “We’ve had enough and we won’t take any more!”

    One big problem with the Euro is that it has encouraged poor countries to live beyond their means, by using the collective Eurozone credit card. They can’t however cut their exchange rates to reduce the real value of that debt. The ideals are that everyone in the EU should enjoy the same standard of living – nice in theory but if you can’t earn the money to pay for that it leads to excessive debt and thus a change in the interest-rate can suddenly make those debts very expensive. Debt has positive-feedback built in to it – exceed a limit (where the interest to be paid exceeds what you have left after living costs) and it starts increasing at an exponential rate. That makes things a bit tricky to control.

  9. omanuel says:

    Economic collapse of the West may have been part of the original design, but . . .

    As with our own warped sense of humor in discussing the attempt by fools to rule the world, . . .

    there is a TRAGIC-COMEDY unfolding at the very limits of our comprehension:

    There is little doubt world leaders tried to save themselves and the world from nuclear annihilation in 1945 by:

    1. Forming the UN to take totalitarian control of society, and

    2. Changing solar and nuclear physics to hide neutron repulsion in cores of atoms, planets, stars and galaxies heavier than 150 atomic mass units (where nuclear structure changes to neutrons in the core and neutron-proton pairs at the surface).

    At the limits of our comprehension, at the intersection of spiritual and scientific knowledge, is the certainty of an “intelligent and creative Mind” (Max Planck) guiding force fields from the Sun’s pulsar core in creating and sustaining every atom, life and world in the Solar System . . .

    a volume of space greater than the combined volumes of ten billion, billion Earth’s !

    I.e., world leaders are trying to hide a force of creation, incomprehensibly more powerful than anything they could have imagined.

    Whether or not we succeed, world leaders will fail to control God’s force of creation.

  10. E.M.Smith says:

    @Larry Ledwick:

    Having been in a couple of big “oopsies” I can tell you that folks become friends rather quickly.

    In particular, we had some power outages in California. Some for a couple of days duration. I set up my generator, that was louder than I liked. My neighbor (who I’d barely met, and had just moved in a few months or maybe one year before) had every reason to be bothered by the noise. Instead, I offered a long cable to his fridge to save the food in it… Suddenly we were friends…

    Similarly, post quake, on the way home it was 20 miles of “mess”. No power, traffic lights out, and in Los Gatos ( I’d made the mistake of going ‘the back way’ and found out that Los Gatos was near the epicenter… ooops…) houses shifted off foundations. Well, heading out from Apple through Cupertino, there were “just folks” directing traffic at various intersections. One was a lady in a business suit / skirt that looked like she was in marketing… Another was a guy in yellow / blue spandex, his bike leaning on the defunct light pole. I suspect that they had always wanted to direct traffic and just saw it as an opportunity ;-)

    Yes, they might have been police reserves or ex-something. Then again, I directed traffic as an Eagle Scout (Law Enforcement Post) so could just as easily have decided to do it ( had I known my family was fine at the time… but the phones were dead…).

    The point is simple: Don’t worry about not knowing your neighbors. You’ll meet, and it will most likely be fine.

    After the various power out / weather events, I decided to make sure I had a good BBQ and fuel and that during The Big One, when it comes, I’d just open Smith’s Kitchen and set up to cook whatever folks brought (from their non-working fridge…) and start a block party in the front yard.

    Oh, and during that 7ish Loma Prieta Quake, we had power while folks for dozens of miles away from us to the north and west didn’t. We had a ‘cheese and wine party’ and had friends from the power deprived areas over for the day. Having an early satellite system at the time, we had the news on from several places out of the area ( local TV was shut down due to no power) and some folks were passing on that news to others… Since then, plans have included the “Quake Party” and I’ve tried to assure I have some secure wine in storage ;-)

    “Disaster” is just a point of view. Call it a party or an opportunity to direct traffic or be an ersatz taxi service or have Smith’s Kitchen and it can be a block party instead…

    Per “black markets”: they arise spontaneously, and work well. All those ‘yard sale’ denizens are just practicing for The Big One ;-)

    Per “watermellons”: Yes, IMHO there is clear evidence of “disaster by design” coming from a central few, then being believed by a many times larger “useful idiot” class. The problem is to figure out who the core group contains. At least The Club Of Rome, Maurice Strong, AlGore, and related. Perhaps also the British Crown ( the Prince seems both a true believer and an idiot, so hard to place ;-) and potentially the Chinese as cheer leaders as long as they get a pass and payments. It’s just so hard to separate the Evil Bastards from the Useful Idiots…


    Deflation is more feared than inflation, and for good reasons. In a strong deflation, you end up with a small debt becoming an ever larger debt in real terms. Constantly harder to repay, and with your home / car / whatever being worth ever less in nominal terms if sold. Banks end up with houses they can not sell, even at lower prices, as folks can’t pay the debt (as their pay is dropping in nominal terms, not going up, as wages drop).

    Essentially, inflation gets more people out of real debt over time, so it’s ‘easy’; while deflation causes debts to be an ever increasing burden in real terms, and pushes more folks toward default and eventual collapse.

    Further, governments gain spending money by minor inflation. Prices rise, so taxes with them, while they spend money they don’t have (and the stealth inflation tax effect covers that). During deflation, revenues drop as wage taxes and property taxes decline. Attempts to fix this via printing and spending often leads to “stagflation” instead of a fix. As the government has income shortfalls, even with some money printing, it is in the bind that it ought to spend a lot more (to “stimulate” growth / inflation) right when it has ever less to spend… It is inherently a contractionary force to the deflation cycle, and when modestly strong, governments must run very very hard just to stay in one place – economies even more so.

    Just recently, some of the price inflation of recent years ran headlong into the ‘no money in the pocket’ problem. I’ve seen several more “price rollbacks” in various stores as rises get quashed. Now play that forward. Less revenue, less profit, less wages payable from revenue, lower prices to providers, lower employment with them, less tax take to government… all contractionary. Once it ends up as feedback into the common wage level, that closes the cycle and a decent will continue until a counter force ends it.

    It was deflation that was rampant during The Great Depression…

    So while I’m glad to see lower priced gasoline, and even some foods taking a step back in price, I’m a bit wary of it IF it picks up speed… (once prices drop too much, makers stop making, layoffs increase, government has too little money and has to stop spending so much, more unemployment so less demand, prices drop more, more folks go bankrupt, etc.) But a little bit is OK and ‘good for me’… if only I had a job…

    Basically, an overheated inflating economy has money become worth less year over year, but everyone feels pretty good and employment tends to be high, as debts fade. A deflating economy has folks unemployed in ever larger numbers and businesses contracting toward failure as debt becomes crushing.

    (Sidebar: There is a monetarist argument that having a static money value makes all this go away. That if you try to ‘fix’ it with Keynesian money fiddling you just induce more oscillations and cause wider swings in the future. I’m not going to do into that. Do realize, though, that there is a pretty good case for just having a fixed money stock and leaving things alone. Letting the ‘business cycle’ cycle and be done with it. And avoiding any significant level of government debt helps.)


    It’s becoming a bit tedious to have your Hobby Horse of neutron repulsion and conspiracy showing up on every thread, sometimes several times. Please try to stay “on topic” or I will need to add that to the “moderation” filters.

    I understand your tendency to compulsion and sense of urgency, but the simple fact is that shouting it at every opportunity on every thread just drives folks away from your message. (And, if I let it go on too much, away from my messages too…)

    You’ve been heard by every one here, dozens and dozens of times. “We got it” a long time ago.

  11. EM – a longer-term deflation would cause all the problems you’ve stated, but in this case the cause is obviously the drop in energy costs which will therefore mean that everyone is better off in real terms except the oil producers.

    Otherwise, the 2% inflation target is set as the best number that makes people feel better off when they get a wage-rise that brings them back to the real buying-power they had last time the wages rose, and allows savings to gently become worth less money and debts to become worth less at a rate that is too small to get upset about. A bit like the idea of if you put a frog in hot water it will hop out immediately, but if you gently heat it the frog will stay there until it boils. The 2% inflation is a stealth tax that only works on money and not goods or property.

    Again in this case, the manufacturers have lower input costs so they can sell the result at a lower price while making the same profit. They won’t hurt at all. Farms use a lot of oil these days. Their costs have gone down too. Although they don’t need to reduce their sale price, they might do this to gain a competitive edge and still keep their profit-margin.

    What the oil-price drop really shows is that when the cost of energy drops, it gets cheaper for everyone to do whatever they want to do. The rise in oil certainly hurt producers, as they tried to absorb the costs and not put prices up. The drop ought to be the converse and be good. I wouldn’t look a windfall in the mouth….

    In a little while the cost of oil will again rise once the purpose of the fall has been achieved. We’ll get extra inflation then and people telling us it’s bad and there’s something needs fixing in the economy. Oh well.

  12. p.g.sharrow says:

    @OManuel; World leaders are of the 9% that are fixated on manipulating others. They gather wealth and power for their own aggrandizement. These GEBs , Greedy Evil Bastards, Believe they are like gods and therefore have the right and responsibility to rule. To accept that GOD might trump them is not acceptable. pg

  13. omanuel says:

    Our greatest difficulty will be to avoid fear as we watch a great TRAGIC-COMEDY unfold, knowing that:

    Elitists tried to save themselves and the world from nuclear annihilation in 1945 by:

    1. Forming the UN to take totalitarian control of society, and

    2. Changing solar and nuclear physics to hide neutron repulsion in cores of atoms, planets, stars and galaxies heavier than 150 atomic mass units (where nuclear structure changes [1] to neutrons in the core and neutron-proton pairs at the surface).

    Accepting that at the limits of our comprehension, at the intersection of spiritual and scientific knowledge, is an “intelligent and creative Mind” (Max Planck) guiding force fields from the Sun’s pulsar core in creating and sustaining every atom, life and world in the Solar System . . .

    a volume of space greater than that of 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 Earth’s !

    I.e., world leaders are trying to hide a force of creation, incomprehensibly more powerful than anything they could have imagined.

    Whether or not we succeed, world leaders will definitely fail to control God’s force of creation.

    1. See page 3, “Solar energy,” Adv. Astronomy (submitted for on-line review, 6 JAN 2015): https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/10640850/Solar_Energy_For_Review.pdf

  14. p.g.sharrow says:

    On an American Farm, the cost of energy is often the most expensive input. The cost of energy to transport of farm products to the store shelves is often larger the the farms’ share.
    Any reduction in energy cost is beneficial to the amount of money out on the street in the general populations’ pockets. For those involved in the energy production business things are not so good. And those involved in commodity price speculations can lose their shirt. At least energy production within the U.S. is of greater benefit to all the country then cheaper energy from foreign providers. pg

  15. Larry Ledwick says:

    In particular, we had some power outages in California. Some for a couple of days duration. I set up my generator, that was louder than I liked. My neighbor (who I’d barely met, and had just moved in a few months or maybe one year before) had every reason to be bothered by the noise. Instead, I offered a long cable to his fridge to save the food in it… Suddenly we were friends…

    Interesting that our thinking is very similar in that context. I am currently shopping for generation, I already have 2 45W solar panel kits in storage, and had thought along the same lines, setting them up and making power available for others in the apartment complex to keep their low power devices working. I am a HAM radio operator (not active though but still have the equipment) and have 2 deep cycle batteries (EverStart Maxx Group Size 29 Marine Battery) here in the computer room wired in parallel that are always floated on a trickle charger, so have 250 Ah at one amp discharge rate available from them.

    Much like your link on emergency power, I have a 175 watt plug in inverter on order for this battery pack, and a 100 watt plug in inverter in the car that I have used for years. In the gear I take on vacation I also have a 1000W inverter setup for direct connect to the car battery. It has enough oomph to run a freezer if need be.

    I am currently shopping for a high efficiency very quiet low power generator like the Honda EU1000i which will run for 8.3 hours on 0.6 gal of gas, and a larger high power generator for brief periods of heavier loads.

    I did a power survey of key electrical devices in my apartment and came up with these values several years ago using a P3 “Kill A Watt” meter measuring the actual in line power draw of the devices I used most often.
    My newer stuff like dvd player would probably have even a lower demand.

    Power Usage Survey
    Device							Power watts	kwh/hour	    cost/hour 
    											@ 9 cents/KWH
    Television  (idle off)					 1 watt		0.001		0.009  Cents/hour
    Television (average)					120 Watts	0.12		1.08    Cents/hour
    VCR 							7 watts		0.007		0.063 Cents/hour
    Tivo	(not recording)				18 watts	0.018		0.162 Cents/hour
    Tivo (while recording 2 programs)			19 watts	0.019		0.171 Cents/hour
    Tivo Peak power on power up			21 watts	0.021		0.189 Cents/hour
    Tivo long term average 13 hours			------		0.0192		0.173 Cents/hour
    Tivo long term average 36 hours			18.005		0.01806	0.1625 Cents/hour		
    Natural light fluorescent 17 w nominal		15.4 watts	0.0154		0.1386 Cents/hour
    computer monitor ( idle )				4.8 watts	0.0048		0.0432 Cents/hour
    computer monitor ( on  average )			67 watts	0.0667		0.6003 Cents/hour
    computer monitor ( peak white screen )		73 watts	0.0730		0.6570 Cents/hour
    Desktop computer (typical)				84 watts	0.085		0.765  Cents/hour
    Desktop computer (peak boot up heavy disk read)	95 watts	0.095		0.855  Cents/hour
    Mini Fridge under desk  (peak)			56 watts	0.056		0.504  Cents/hour
    average 16 hours (0.45 kWh)				28.125 watts	0.028125	0.2531 Cents/hour
    average 37 hours (1.0 kWh)  				27.02 watts	0.02702           0.2432 Cents/hour    

    Based on a bit of on line research came up with the following values for other appliances (too lazy to pull the fridge out of its hole in the wall just to read the name plate)

      Moderate power demand appliances
    plasma TV 		350 watts
    chest freezer		275 watts
    LCD TV		220 watts
    Refrigerator 		200 watts
    small TV		150 watts
    computer monitor	150 watts
    computer 		120 watts
    portable fan		100 watts
    electric blanket	100 watts
        Low power demand appliances
    AC lights 		10-60 watts
    Stereo radio		60 watts
    lap top			50 watts
    computer printer	45 watts
    DVD player 		17 watts
    satellite dish 		15 watts
    VCR			11 watts
    clock radio 		10 watts
    wireless router	 7 watts
    portable radio		 7 watts
    cell phone charger 	 4 watts
    cordless phone	 3 watts
    led night light  with auto turn on light sensor          300 milliwatts
    neon night light         250 milliwatts 

    Most people do not realize that they already have a generator set in their car, with the alternator able to supply 30-70 amps at 12v DC or 350- 850 watts at a fast idle. Not as fuel efficient as a purpose built generator, but useable as long as fuel lasts.

    The little under desk fridge I have will hold foods at 40 deg F even in high temps pulling only 56 watts, but it helps to add some insulation to it. Also looking for a small apartment size chest freezer for a low power draw freezer to hold food at freezing temps using expedient power until you can use it up.

    I also have several large bags of charcoal in the garage (fuel that stores for ever without going bad) and the necessary grill equipment to do cooking over it, plus a small propane camping stove and some of the small propane bottles and an adapter hose to use a large propane bottle on camping gear designed for the small screw in propane bottles.

    If you are reasonably well prepared with dual use stuff that you can use both in an emergency and for every day activities, Major power outages/emergencies become more of an interesting adventure than an emergency.

    I also really like the new generation of small LED lanterns. Walmart sells a little one for only $6.00 that will run for 14 days continuous on 4 AA batteries. It does dim over that time span but still provides minimal walking around light even after 2 weeks of continuous on using the lowest 3 LED setting (also has a 6 LED setting and a flashing single red LED option).

    I also have a handful of those solar powered yard lights in storage I could put out in the sun during the day and they would provide light at night when the sun goes down with no extra batteries needed.

  16. Larry Ledwick says:

    Drat looks like I forgot to close the “pre” tag on the above post.

    [Fixed it for ya… -EMS]

  17. E.M.Smith says:


    You asked “why is it a problem” so I listed the “why” as seen in classical Keynesian Economics. If you would like me to go into “when” and “after how long” and “under what conditions” and things like ‘demand pull’ vs ‘cost push’ and related things, I can…

    As to “does oil ALONE matter”: Not much, but a little. In the context of an extant large deflation in housing and a near collapse of the banking system that still isn’t fully recovered, along with massive debt burden and monetary policy at “near zero” trying to get some inflation to cover that housing deflation collapse, any minor “add” to deflation will be seen by central bankers as an issue as it is counter to the desired outcome (mild inflation).

    Now, from a non-Keynesian more Austrian POV, cutting a dead weight cost leaves more money in the economy and ought to lead to more buying of other goods, thus more demand pull inflation pressure, and more growth pressure, thus ‘good’. (In a fully non-Keynesian POV all of it is kind of meaningless as it is just a bit of frosting on top of a business cycle with a fixed money base keeping things level long term.)

    So, IMHO, your interpretation is likely closer to the reality (non-Keynesian) while the global central bankers (Keynesians all) will see it as counter to desired policy results of inflating away their debt and housing mortgages underwater being lifted via inflation. So pick your POV and that’s your answer. And no, I’m not going to argue for / defend one of them over the other. Thousands of economists do that daily already…

    I’ll just point out that gasoline has ranged from about $1 gallon to $4.50 / gallon and back to $1.93 / gallon in the last few years and not much at all changed on overall national performance level during that time. At least for the USA we have high flexibility and seem to have accommodated variable fuel costs.

    For example, when it was $1 / gallon [really about $1.20 IIRC) I drove the Banana Boat (yellow Mercedes Wagon) to and from Florida twice on one contract. When it was $4, I flew home, and left it with a friend here for inter-contract times, eventually driving it back after a few years and a couple of times out and back by air. Son had it, and it went to Chicago, then came back here. Now I’m prepping to leave for California again and the “drive or fly” is arguing marginally for ‘leave the car here’. At $1.50 I’d drive… at $250 air fair it’s a toss up now, but at $3 / gallon I’d park it for sure. I think that kind of flex is all over the place, here. 2800 miles, 20 mpg so 140 gallons. $280 at $2/gal. $140 at $1/gal. So it goes.


    On the Talking Heads CNBC they had an oil ‘expert’ saying that there would need to be over 200,000 job loss in the oil industry as development shut down and new production shut-in before oil price would rise (that they saw as the desired result) and OPEC would let prices rise.

    That 200,000 unemployed in one of the few “growing high paying industries” would be catastrophic to a lot of the USA (think Dakotas and Texas and…) and is clearly part of the problem of deflation in the oil patch, from an economists point of view.

    Yeah, GEBs it is…


    I’ve tried a lot of generators of many sizes (including industrial sized trailers running data centers) and for home use, the Honda is just about ideal. I have the 1000i (older version) and would likely get the 2000i instead if doing it over. The 1000 size is nice, quiet, and the wife can start it with the pull cord despite a weak shoulder… but that 2000 would be enough to run just a few more things.

    I’d also settled on what to do for the larger appliances. I’d used a 5 kW Briggs motor one for a couple of days during one long power out (thanks to Gov. Gray-out Davis… and the Dimocrats fiddling with California electrical power markets…) and it ran the washer / dryer well, but would sag on the wall A/C start. So much as to damage the compressor after a couple of days. It just could not ‘hit the gas’ fast enough to ramp up from 1 kW to 4 kW in time.

    My conclusion, after a lot of measuring, was that a 1 kW average was ‘just enough’, a 2 kW average had some head room (and neighborly add on room…) and the ideal would be a 2 kW Honda with a battery bank / inverter for large surge appliances. I’d bought a 2 kW inverter to test the idea, and a battery case, and was just about to assemble the rig when Gray was out and power became stable again. It’s all still in the garage awaiting the next round of Stupid Rules…

    The idea being that low loads go direct to generator, which feeds a large charger to the battery box as well. Things that have a high surge need go via inverter to the battery ( not yet settled on ‘one inverter each’ or ‘giant inverter’…) where battery size could be adjusted to match surge sag prevention. Generator runs more efficiently (small size run fairly full) and surge lag is 1/2 cycle or less from the inverter.

    I sold the 5 kW job to a friend, and never missed it. Mostly as power outages ended and some due to what did happen being short, and not needing A/C nor clothes washer during the outage.

    At least a 1/2 dozen times that little 1 kW honda kept the entertainment center, lights, and kitchen fridge going. Once you have TV, food, and light, not much more needed, really.

    Oh, and notice that in California we don’t need much heat to stay alive ( i.e. none) and a small fire in the fireplace was sufficient on even very cold days. So a bit of wood is about it. I also would likely use a Coleman Lantern as a heat source if needed (light from LED bulbs, so the Coleman is just a heater with free light ;-) and if windows can be left part open… (not for use if there isn’t air flow due to CO poisoning). Worked well on the patio with the kerosene stove cooking dinner on a cold evening or two.

    Don’t waste the time on other brands. The Honda is the best, quietest, and very reliable in long run operation. (Just look at street vendors and such at fairs and farmers markets. Honda behind all of them keeping the lights on. On travel programs to strange places, look in the shadows of places with marginal power… yup, Honda.) While I have my bias on that, I’m open to direct experience from others, but until that happens, it’s a Honda.

    Mine is now about 20 years old. Still runs like a champ. Gets a little sputtery at low throttle now due to too many years sitting with old gas and the local rep advised a carb tune up / rebuild for something like $150, but I think running carb cleaner in the gas will likely be enough. As it is, it stabilizes over about 300 W load even with variable loading. I’m a happy owner. Oh, and it has had zero service in that time… maybe I’ll tune it up when I get back to it ;-)

  18. Larry Ledwick says:

    Thank you kind sir.
    By the way I would like to chat with you on email if you are willing to send me contact info.

  19. E.M.Smith says:


    Despite the “outage” of email caused by vendor Stupid Rules & Actions, I still have the same email address as always. Found in the About box, and in words not easily picked up by spam bots. So it’s at AOL with a .com after it, and a pub4all in front of the @ sign…

  20. R. de Haan says:

    Mmmm. Let’s see. The bond market 100 trillion USD in Government debt use by the banks to secure a 555 trillion Derivatives Market? The financial world is interlocked.
    One domino falls, they all go.

    In this perspective the USA isn;t an isolated entity. We have stakes and obligations all over the place.

    The line up for collapse IMO has been planned perfectly.

    If one goes, they all go.

    We just saw Switzerland, the complete opposite of Greece turn into a liablity due to the currency war.

    The ass holes behind the scheme want to destroy the Western consumer society.

    That of course includes the USA, the inventor of the consumer society.

  21. EM – thanks for the extra explanations. Through reading here I think I’ve got a better idea of economics, but seems I might have become a non-Keynesian in the process. I can now see why the bankers would see it as a problem, which didn’t make sense before.

  22. R. de Haan says:

    As for energy, I dare to say that energy won’t be any problem at all the moment it is no longer the focus of environmental activists, political pundits, do gooders and saviors of planet earth.
    I am very optimistic about new technology that will solve all the “problems” and wipe out the entire bunch of parasites.

    I also think all our current institutions including our financial system are outdated and unaware of the revolution that is taking place as we speak.

    We have people like Reggie Middleton duplicating the entire financial system on a decentralized basis using the Bitcoin technology wiping out all the middleman and the freeloaders in the current system. No longer do we have to depend on bankers, lawyers, attorney’s or any other rent seeking, government appointed entity.

    Other developments, direct democracy, an internet based concept to manage your local environment without the control freaks of local government, their obsessive focus for control, their excessive spending on new city halls, their obsolete infra structure housing the empty workplaces of the future which is now.

    As for a black market, I think we already have a black market.
    Not that of the collapsed nations and third world countries but those of the new times.

    It’s the virtual market on the web.

    Hell, I already order my beef and fresh pepperoni’s directly from Argentina and italy, wine from South Africa, France or California or my favorite coffee from Panama for that matter.

    I don’t pay via the bank but make use of the bitcoin infratructure.

    Not only food but also clothing, spare parts for the car or books, in short everything you want.

    People tell me we are leaving the old economy behind and we have to embrace the new economy which of course is no longer based on the consumer.

    I say the old economy is the new economy. We’re only changing the scenery.

    Thanks to the internet we buy directly. No middleman , no price central distribution, just service on demand wit one party willing to serve the other. And that on a voluntary basis.

    Isn’t it a great brave new old world?

    Of course we’re totally screwed when we loose internet but as EM stated we will alway’s find a way because people always do.

    We get around things and don’t take no for an answer.

  23. E.M.Smith says:

    @R. de Haan:

    I’m not nearly as worried about the size of the derivatives market as most seem to be. Why?

    It is often made of offsetting positions. So to say there’s $100 Million risk in some derivative since there are $100 Million of positions ignores that it is most often about $51 Million Long vs $49 Million Short on the same contract on the same thing so net is really a $1 Million exposure to “someone”. (In fact, many markets are more nearly exactly balanced…)

    So if, for example, you were to ‘unwind’ the corn derivatives market, at the end of the day it would mostly consist of moving money between right pockets and left pockets of the same set of big money banks, investment companies, and rich players. Net net not a big deal.

    In fact, this ‘unwind’ happens on a massive rolling basis all the time as various derivatives contracts mature and expire. Quarterly for most stocks. $Billions of derivatives go up in smoke at “witching” and a lot more at “triple witching” expirations. Longs crossed against shorts and only the net-net changing hands.

    I’m also not so worried about collapse of any given currency or country. We’ve had boat loads of currency failures and country collapses over the generations. Some Latin countries have had a half dozen currencies… It’s not much of a problem, really, as folks just shift to other currencies or make one up out of goods ( like cigarettes in prison… In fact, I could see Cigs as the quarters and Joints as the $10s of the black market with a baggy as the $100 (or maybe $400 ?) pretty quickly developing.

    But it does make for interesting times and has “issues” for the rich and those on fat government pensions…

    I’ve not tried buying anything from other countries via the web. Maybe someday. But yes, the old physical markets are being rapidly restructured. Add in the move to 3D printing (not as big a world changer as some want to think, but still a big deal) meaning that ‘small stuff’ is going to exit the market system… well, it’s going to be interesting.

    We’ve also got YouTube taking a chunk out of the viewing market of “professional” media… Frankly, some nights we’ve had better stuff on YouTube from “amateurs” than on broadcast TV. So add “media” to the place where taxed and controlled industries are losing out to “DIY We Don’t Need Them” attitudes. ( h/t PG for the catch phrase ;-)

    So it’s a bit of a race condition between Central Authority trying to find more ways to tax, regulate, control, and bleed… and Just Folks finding it ever easier to exit the System… Interesting times.


    No worries. While I’m trained as a Keynesian, and tend to parrot that answer as the “simple and quick” since it is also the mainstream and what folks find on nightly news Econ talking heads… I’ve been self teaching Austrian for a while. I think it is the most right, really. So some of my occasional non-Keynesian preaching is having an effect ;-)

    “Through reading here I think I’ve got a better idea of economics, but seems I might have become a non-Keynesian in the process.”

    Ah, the sweet sound of success! ;-)

    The trouble with Keynes is not Keynes. It is how folks have used it since. He, in fact, said it was at most a short term patch kind of thing and would not work for long times, or outside of a specific set of circumstances (that included tight money when things got good to retire the debt from loose money in bad times, netting to zero).

    In general, modern usage forgets the “government excess spending is bad in good times” and the “short duration only” and the net zero debt goal from monetary interventions long term… so we end up with exponentially and constantly growing debt, government growth to excess, and a failure of ‘loose money’ policy in subsequent bad times as the drug has lost punch from over use… leaving us in stagflation… Just because folks forgot the Keynes Caveats on his thesis.

  24. Graeme No.3 says:

    Rats! Gazumped. I wrote an article just before Christmas talking of neo-keynesians, but it hasn’t been posted yet. Titled Bad Times are just around the corner.

  25. Jason Calley says:

    Regarding generators, I have a cabin that is off grid, and while our power system is small, I am speaking from experience. I run a 12V system and have at present four deep cycle batteries — but hope someday to get an old electric fork lift battery and rewire it to 12V. Four 75 watt solar panels set up on two controllers; one panel on a small controller, the other three on a separate controller. The single panel is in a not easily accessible location and serves to keep the batteries topped off while I am gone. The three panels are in a location where they might, uh, “walk away” while I am gone, so they come inside when I am not around. I have two good sized generators, a 5K and a 3K. Either of them can run the well pump (120V pump) to fill a storage tank next to the cabin once every day or two. They also charge the batteries while they are running. The storage tank provides water pressure with an inexpensive 12V pump which can run off the batteries without an inverter, off 12V from the generators, directly off the solar panels, or in a absolute pinch with jumper cables to the car. AC power can be switched to either run directly off a 1500 watt inverter, or off the generators. Usually I just run off the inverter and if the generators happen to be running (say for big power tools) I let the generators charge the batteries. It is a small loss in efficiency over running cabin power directly from the generators but it is convenient not to switch things around. At night, the 1500 watt inverter is shut down and a small 100 watt inverter drives basic lighting in strategic places (porch, bathroom, stairway) while the 12V water pump still lets me flush the toilet.

    So which generator do I use most often? Neither. If I need a little extra power I run a cheap Harbor Freight 800 watt generator that you can get on sale for $90 new. Seriously, the thing is really useful. It uses an oil gas mixture, but it starts every time and runs relatively quietly and reliably. My impression is that it is designed to sell primarily to third or second world nations. I bought it about 4 years ago and have had zero problems with it. I do not live off grid, just go there for vacations maybe three weeks out of the year. Between there and here at home my guess would be that it probably has 300 or 400 hours on it.

    If you can afford it, get a good Honda like E.M. recommends — but if you are just looking to get a basic system that will keep you going a week or two, consider a small, cheap Harbor Freight generator, maybe a 1000 watt inverter (also cheap at Harbor Freight), a battery charger and a deep cycle battery or two. If you REALLY need to save money, just get an inverter to run off your car battery and some solar lawn lights. The main point, however, is that even a small bit of AC power — 100 or 200 watts — makes all the difference between camping and civilization. Imagine…electric lights at night. A radio. The ability to charge your phone or laptop. A fan! (There is a reason why the first practical use of an electric motor was to run a fan. Trust me!) Maybe even a small icemaker… Luxury!

    Oh, E.M.! The whole Keynesian economics thing — like you, I have been going more and more Austrian economics in the last ten years. It makes sense; it actually makes sense! I never thought that economics made sense until I got exposed to the Austrian school.

    I wish I could find the interview now, but some years back I saw a video of F.A. Hayek being asked about his friend Keynes. Hayek claimed that Lord Keynes once told him the reason why he (Keynes) developed his economic thought along the lines that he did. It was because the Powers That Be in Great Britain were trying to find a way to bring inflated wages back to the pre-World War I levels. The combination of wartime labor shortage and leaving the gold standard had driven up wages. They knew that the average worker would not stand for a simple cut in wages. Keynes developed a theory of economics that justified dumping more money into circulation, thus driving up elastic prices while making the relatively inelastic wages fall behind. (Something like what the middle class here in the US has seen over the last thirty or forty years.)

    Needless to say, any theory of economics which gives the rich and powerful a plausible reason to become more rich and powerful will be quickly endorsed and promulgated by both government and academia. Reminds me of a certain CAGW theory about the radiative effects of CO2. Plausible on the surface…

  26. philjourdan says:

    And here I thought this would be about the woes in Venezuela. ;-) Now that is a case study in a collapsing economy that is resource rich and people stupid (leaders).

    On the subject of instant friends, I had the same situation with Gastone. A little nothing storm that unfortunately flooded the city (record rainfall in a short period of time). I had procured a generator after Isabel, and when we lost power during Gaston, I hooked up my Sump Pump and then ran a cord to one neighbor and asked the other if he wanted to connect his. At first he said no, but shortly thereafter I saw him in my back yard with an extension cord looking for a place to plug it in! SO I assisted. Alas, I could not reach the neighbor 2 houses down, but at least the 3 of us had minimal power to last through the storm (the generator would run most of one house fine, but not 3 entire ones, so we just connected the important stuff).

  27. E.M.Smith says:

    @Graeme No. 3:

    Gazumped? (searches…) Gee, a new word for me! Thanks!

    What I have is at best a minor comment, not an article, so I’d say “go ahead and post” and put a link to it here. One thing about Econ is that the more POV variation you have, and the more explanations, the more folks will ‘get it’.

    As there are also a few dozen ‘schools’ of Econ, having a bit more variety usually pulls in some of those as well. While the dominant ones are Keynesian, Austrian, Communism, Socialism; there are also varieties within them and some outliers. So Austrian has as offspring the Chicago School and Socialism has recently discovered Markets, so is fracturing into things like Lang Type Socialism that is related to “3rd Way” that first showed up as Fascism (that is a kind of socialism)… and so it goes.

    Given all that, any article will have different echos of those influences and different insights.

    @Jason Calley:

    Make / Model on that Harbor Freight generator?

    While I love my Honda, it is a bit, er, expensive… The major feature it has for me is that 56 dB sound level. Even just outside a glass back door (with a crack open for the wire to come in…) it is an acceptable sound level and does not bother the neighbors. If the Harbor Freight one is even close to that ( 65 dB or less?) I’d likely get one just to use on camping trips and such (or dedicated to the Fridge during outages…) The price is certainly right.

    My worry is that several of the ‘small and cheap’ ones I’ve seen (especially the sub 1 kW ones often 2 stroke) are very noisy and a PITA after about an hour…

    Which is why I’ve largely gone to inverters in the car for anything under 1 kW. I have a 100 W that runs the chargers for phone, tablet and powers a CFL light (used several times ‘on the road’) and a 300 W that runs the same plus laptop (also used on the road a few times). Silent. Works for several hours off a charged car battery. Battery recharges in a short drive or an hour or two at idle. Easy and effective and dirt cheap. I also have a 1 kW inverter that clips to the battery, but have not used it simply because the Honda just starts with a pull and I’m done…

    Oh, and I ought to have mentioned that you can get “dual fuel” and sometimes “tri-fuel” generators or conversion kits. Gasoline, Natural Gas, Propane. In an ideal world, I’d have the Honda with a ‘3 way’ kit added, hooked into the natural gas line. Now I’ve got unlimited electricity as long as the gas stays live (which it tends to do long after electricity is out), and if that fails, I can use the 5 gallon propane tank from the BBQ without needing gasoline cans sitting around aging. Finally, in a prolonged ‘bad time’, I could siphon 16 gallons of gasoline out of the car… If THAT isn’t enough, well, the stereo / TV / fridge are the least of your worries…

    Your set-up is interesting and very similar to where I was headed. Had the battery box and inverter / charger all in hand. Generators at the ready. Was sizing and planning solar panels to avoid the nuisance charging (float charge when running off mains, charging after minor discharge for CFL lights, etc.) when Gov. Gray-out got thrown out and it all became unimportant. That was also when I used my power meter (old style from a house demolition a few decades back…) to measure some specific appliance consumption over time (name plate is peak, fridge cycles so average is much lower). Found out that about 1 kW average would run just about everything I needed, but as low as 100 W for long stretches of time was fine (like your night lights…)

    I’d also started a trivial effort at 12 VDC conversion. My “shop” in the garage has had hung over it some car headlights that had one of two elements burn out. Wired to the battery that was just sitting in the battery box with a clipped on charger (as a demo / test case). Worked well. Had planned to put some 12 VDC track lights in the living room wired out to the same place. Also figured I’d take some specific circuits ( light sockets ) with CFLs, so low demand, and wire out to their own inverter (rather like you did) for a low standby consumption always on the inverter lighting system. Kitchen, living room overhead, master bedroom overhead. With that, most lightly would be “always works” either direct from battery 12 VDC track lights or CFL on inverter. Then have some sets of sockets on their own 1500 to 2kW inverter (matches the breaker size) so some appliance areas “just worked”, but perhaps with a ‘flip the switch’ to move from mains to inverter supply (if inverter idle demand was significant).

    The whole idea being to move to where the AEK stove / oven, washer / drier, and heater / AC were about the only things on “direct to mains all the time”. Then in a power outage I would need to do nearly nothing. Cook on the BBQ or Kerosene stove / oven on the patio (that I like to do anyway), plug the washer / drier into a large inverter if needed after a week, heat with wood and AC almost never used anyway. The only ‘large appliances’ that need to be moved to inverter or generator being fridge ( about 700 W) and the entertainment center (that was about 240 W) and they could be on one inverter circuit anyway or plugged into the generator. ( I had the entertainment center on a 1 kW UPS from a building shutdown, so it kept running for about 20 minutes even if I did nothing during power outages. Similarly one floor lamp that was the most often used was on a 250 W UPS, that drove a 20 W or so CFL for a very long time ;-)

    We once had a power outage that was only noticed as I’d not disconnected the “cheeper” on one of the UPSs and the beep-beep-beep gave it away ;-)

    Ah, the days of Old King Gray-Out and his outages…

    Per Keynes:

    Yeah, when you read what Keynes actually said, or what was reported by folks who talked with him, it is far different from what is asserted on TV or even in Econ 1 class…


    The problem with using Venezuela as a case study is the truly massive oil supply they have to prop up bad ideas…

    Nice story on power sharing, BTW. FWIW, I think my noisy 5 kW would have handled the AC fine without surge issues if it had been loaded up to about 2 kW+ as base load. I was only sucking about 400 W out of it most of the time, surge to about 1 kW when the fridge kicked in, and going from under 10% (really nearly at idle) to about full throttle it was just too slow to pick up the power out and so the voltage sagged. Worked OK for about 2 days, then the window AC that was plugged in had the compressor give out. As it was relatively new, I’m pretty sure it was the power sags / surges that did it. At 2 kW the rotating mass and quicker added fuel would have absorbed the added demand with less voltage sag. Or I could have just plugged it into an inverter and battery buffer…

    Fridge didn’t have that problem, so was either a lower demand surge, or different motor type.

    One dark night, I walked around the neighborhood and listened. About one in 2 dozen homes had lights and the sound of a generator… Several had candles (my LAST resort for lighting).

    Oh, and decades back I’d put an old surplus UPS on the front driveway light…. One night the power went out. I was out in the front yard looking around… A power company truck was cruising the street. Came to a sudden stop in front of me. Guy staring at light… I explained it was on a UPS… He was a bit confused that maybe power was on here, or that I had a generator plugged into the lines… and was made happy by my answer ;-) It was often fun to see folks on their front sidewalks looking at my yard light in a very dark neighborhood ;-)

    I just thought of it as a beacon of hope on those dark nights…

    And yes, the “minimal needed” is about 300 W for a very pleasant time. A whole house solution is often nearer 3 kW to 5 kW depending on size of house and appliances. So up to 10 “minimals” can be run off of one “whole house” solution. “Emergency Only” is about 100 W (one CFL bulb, laptop and cellphone charging but not with laptop on) so you could do 30 houses at that level of emergency subsistence. (I’d also figured in a prolonged outage I’d set a drop box in the front yard with about 6 to 12 sockets for neighborhood cell phone charging ;-) Maybe set up a table and chairs with “will provide charging for wine” sign ;-)

  28. p.g.sharrow says:

    Honda generators are well worth the cost if you need dependable power or backup. They are well worth the extra cost in longevity, fuel economy and quiet operation. Mr Honda got his start building tiny generators for people in post war Japan, when electric power was a very iffy thing. One was a desk lamp! a tiny engine/ generator with a light bulb and shade attached on top. A gas tank of 100cc. $60 in 1966! Max
    cool! The engine/generator was barely larger then the light bulb. pg

  29. Jason Calley says:

    Hey E.M.! Looking at Harbor Freight, I do not see the exact model I bought, but I do see a recent version. This is listed as 900 watts peak, 700 watts running, but looks like essentially the same as my old blue one. I saw these on sale within the last couple months for $89.99.

    I don’t think that it will compete with a 56dB Honda, but one of the main reasons why I like it (as well as the fact that it really does produce enough power for most uses) is that it is much quieter than the 3K or 5K gensets. I usually have it sitting on a deck toward the back of the cabin and that muffles it a bit more. I sometimes just prop a piece of plywood leaning at a 45 degree angle against it and that also diverts more of the noise. I may eventually just build a small box to cover it, and divert the exhaust through some flexible metal electrical conduit downward a foot or two into a hole full of course gravel. That should make it really quiet. As I say, my experience has been good (read the customer reviews for a wider range of experiences) and if it breaks I can trash it and not feel too bad.

    One other low power trick that I am getting parts together for is low power fans. The small computer fans available use very little power — anything from a watt or two up to maybe 10 watts — and will run directly on 12VDC.
    Of course if you look around you can buy small fans that run on 12VDC
    Still, I think that computer fans might be a better solution and use less power. Some of these mounted in strategic locations should be a great plus on comfort. Next to chairs, wherever the cooks stand most in the kitchen, above that rocking chair on the porch… I am thinking of maybe putting a few in small boxes that will fit under the covers at the foot of the beds. Hot summer nights without air flow are miserable, but a few small fans would make it very comfortable.

  30. E.M.Smith says:


    I’ve wanted one of those lamps for a while… Undoubtedly collectors items only now, if any still exist.


    The spec sheet says 91 dB on that link. Loud for my uses. Though …

    A very easy sound block system is to stack some cinder blocks to make a baffle wall square (wall on one end has overlap section with gap for air flow), then lay a slab of stuff over the top. As small as that is, I’d expect one of those oversized pavers would do it ( 2 foot available IIRC so one would cover). All up about $3 if bought at the expensive place.

    I may yet try that just to see how effective a baffle can be made, especially with a bit of wall glass insulation glued to the blocks… Figure cinder blocks have 2 walls, plus a fibre inner surface… it ought to be down around 50 dB as a guess.

    Maybe someone who already owns a generator could try it… hint hint… ;-)

    Per exhaust: If it is a standard pipe thread, as some are, you can just put on a very large pipe with fiber glass in it…

    BTW, lots of 12 VDC stuff available at Truck Stops, including my portable oven the size of a lunch box and toaster oven like ‘pizza ovens’ for personal sized pizzas along with vacuums and more… including fans for the cab…

    Pick a nearby Love’s, Petro, Flying J, etc etc and fill up while checking out the goodies and maybe even buying some of the mediocre food ;-)

  31. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. 91dB?! Maybe I need to get my ears recalibrated — but that seems rather high to me. I just checked with a buddy who has a dB meter and I will try to borrow it this weekend. If I can get my hands on it, I will try some tests. I like the idea of the concrete block noise abatement.

    The power system at the cabin is sort of like Topsy; it “just grew” while other construction was taking place. I like the idea of a mixed 12VDC/120VAC system. The bare minimum goes 12VDC. That way, if inverters or batteries fail I can always run off the car alternator, or if it’s TEOTWAWKI (unlikely) I can even run some of the equipment straight off of solar panels. If the Sun goes out, then the 12VDC system will probably be downgraded to a smaller importance. :)

    These guys: http://www.robisonsolar.com/ actually make a nice deep well pump that can run directly off solar panels. I have one. It worked well until I, uh, well, was getting creative with a power supply and kinda spiked some voltage through… Well, let’s just say that I need to send it in for repair. It was the first day of a two week visit so I did a hasty purchase of a 120VAC well pump and have not changed back yet. I miss that pump. Sniff…

  32. Larry Ledwick says:

    I also really dislike noisy generators when you are out in quiet places.

    I have been pondering the sound issue for some time. One of the places I go to on vacation they have dozens of different folks with RV’s often running small generators. When the generators are off, it is a marvelously quiet location. One of those places you can hear an approaching car for a mile and a half, so it is quite a contrast when someone with a loud generator shows up.

    From my experience with car exhaust systems, I know that you can make a huge difference in sound level with no significant back pressure on the exhaust system by using more than one muffler in series. I have a high performance WRX that I wanted to have a very low back pressure exhaust system for but also a nice mellow sound and the final solution was to run the exhaust through 2 glass pack mufflers placed end to end after the catalytic converter and before the standard type muffler at the rear bumper. Essentially the entire tail pipe is glass pack muffler. The glass packs really lower the annoying high frequency part of the sound spectrum leaving only a mellow burble at idle and low load and a pleasant throaty note under high load.

    Same should work for a portable generator, muffler effectiveness is almost directly proportional to the glass pack length, so buy the longest glass pack mufflers available. You can also play with internal reflections by creating reflection points where the exhaust pipe changes size significantly this would force the sound waves to self cancel and run back and forth through the muffler more than once.

    Out at that RV location I have also noticed that any reflecting surface between you and the generator creates a quiet “shadow” behind it. My planned solution was to create a baffle wall box with walls that sloped back at 45 deg angle forming a cone that surrounded the generator pointing upward. It should direct most of the generators noise straight up into the sky and pretty much kill the sound level at ground level near the generator.

    Have not tried it yet but won’t have a generator and opportunity to try it out there until late this summer.

  33. R. de Haan says:

    E.M.Smith says:
    4 February 2015 at 9:13 pm
    “A very easy sound block system is to stack some cinder blocks to make a baffle wall square (wall on one end has overlap section with gap for air flow), then lay a slab of stuff over the top. As small as that is, I’d expect one of those oversized pavers would do it ( 2 foot available IIRC so one would cover). All up about $3 if bought at the expensive place.”

    I say burry it and make a box of used insulated metal sheets used for facades of industrial plants. You buy he stuff with heavy insulation new for 20 bucks a square meter.

    It’ s also great to insulate your home.

    I’m currently in the process of building an entire dental praxis into a shell building made of this stuff, including the roofing. It looks great and comes a a very low construction price per m2 (well under 400 USD) where a conventional concrete and stone build comes with 1200 to 1400 usd per squire meter. Because of the great insulation values of this stuff the heating bill will be kept low.

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