Here is part two of the lightning story: October 4, 2011 at 4:26pm
You might recall that I left the house with all breakers off and headed to Reno to the Tara and Trevor clinic. (A few people have asked for my notes on this which I will post if I ever write them. I have begun to fill out an outline with what I can remember, but if I don’t get to it, pretty soon I’m going to be thinking “now what did I do last weekend?”) As for the power, I was naively assuming at this point that I had “fixed” the problem by ordering new circuit boards for the inverter and that all would be well once they were installed.
Anyway, poor David returned from his camping trip on Sunday and when he got into cell phone range, he receive about 6 messages from me about what had happened. He called me and we came up with a plan. I was going to stop by his parents on the way home and pick the Honda generator up from him, then go home and he would walk me through switching the big back-up generator over to power the house without involving the inverter over the phone (he stayed in town that night). If that didn’t work, we would use the Honda generator to run the fridge. It was a good plan. We just didn’t count on Murphy.
All went according to plan in that I picked up the generator and drove home. After that? Not so good. Of course, the first priority was to put the horse away and give her about 50 cookies for being so good. Then I unhitched the trailer and drove up to the house and called David to get the show on the road. Once he explained where the generator bypass was, it was so obvious to me that I couldn’t believe I missed it in the first place. So now… how to start the generator? Normally, you would tell the “mate” to start it, but that requires a working inverter. So I try the manual switch and… nothing—dead.
And you have to understand that all this is happening to the tune of a running conversation with David on the cell phone:
“Are you sure you didn’t disconnect the switch when you hooked up the mate?”
“I don’t think so… I don’t remember! Ugh! Now what? Okay, take the side panel off the generator and try the red switch.”
“Where’s the side panel? Oh, now I see it. Okay, I see the switch.”
“You switch it to manual start.”
“I did that, nothing happened.”
“Why didn’t anything happen?”
“Why are you asking me?”
“There should be red lights.”
“There are no red lights.”
“There are no red lights?”
“There are no red lights.”
“Why aren’t there any red lights?”
“Why are you asking me?”
It went on like this—ad nauseum. We finally decided the generator battery was dead and to use the Honda generator to charge up the battery on the Kohler generator. This was about the point where I lost it. I remember yelling something to the effect that I could have stopped at David’s parents house and take a real shower, but noooooo…, I drove home assuming that we would have some kind of power and now I was going to have to take a shower out of a jug of water, again!
And David said “What are you talking about? Is the water pump broken?” To which I snarkily replied that the water pump requires power and we don’t have power and some other choice statements, I’m sure. To which he replied (and I can’t believe he wasn’t yelling back at this point, but I’m sure he was just savoring the moment) “It’s a DC pump. It goes straight to the battery.” He’s a genius really.
So I would hook up the Honda and go take a shower, then deal with dinner. (And it’s like 9 o’clock at this point). So I went to get the Honda out of the back of the truck. And it was gone…
The thing is, that I worry about somebody stealing the Honda out of the back of the truck. On a trip, we lock it in—we’re that paranoid. I had stopped at Raley’s on the way home, but I checked to see that it hadn’t been stolen, I guess on the theory that I would be able to spot the thief and chase them down in the parking lot? Anyway, it was in there, sitting up against the cab at that point. So it fell out. But when? And where?
I said “Holy (bad word)! It’s gone!” To David. This was followed up by some very bad words (well, mostly one very bad word repeated a lot,) as I looked around with my flashlight, hoping (I guess) that some evil pixies had stolen it out of the back of the truck and placed it just out of sight in the dark. Then I leaped in the truck, hung up on David and drove off like a maniac with my brights blazing looking for it. What is the shortest amount of time known to man? The time between when your Honda generator falls out of your truck and someone else comes along and says “Oh, look! A Honda generator!” and takes off with it. This was what was running through my mind as I careened down the dirt road.
I was also thinking about how–if it had fallen out–I would have run over it with the horse trailer and the windows were down and you think I would have heard it but maybe it fell out and rolled down the hill and OMG what if it fell out when I made the turn off the highway, there is no way it will still be there by now. But no, about three quarters of a mile down the drive—there it was—just sitting there, upright even, like a lost child at the mall waiting for its mommy to show up. Silly generator! I was so relieved, I just tossed it in the bed and drove back up to the house with it before even assessing the damage. As I drove back, I remembered hearing a strange crunching sound on the way up the driveway and looking back wondering what it was. Oh, that’s what it sounds like when you run over a generator—who knew?
Although I couldn’t have driven right over the top of it because the horse trailer would have made a huge whump (and I’m pretty sure I would have noticed that!), it does have some pretty good tire marks on it. The exhaust housing was crunched so I took it off and the side panel is a little bit skewed now. But, what the heck! It started on the second pull! I must write Honda a letter. So… plugged in the Kohler, searched three outbuildings with my teeny flashlight to find the really long extension cord. Ran that through the kitchen window. Pulled out the fridge and plugged that in.
Then I took a deep breath, braced myself and… opened the freezer. And everything was still frozen! There was a bag of peas in the door that felt a little soft, but I was amazed that all of the meat—even the ice cubes in the tray—was (were) still frozen. It had been over 48 hours! So I’ve written off most of the fridge stuff, but at least we didn’t lose anything in the freezer. At this point, I noticed that the light in the fridge came on. Well of course, it is hooked up to the generator. And the cogs in my mind sloooowly began to turn. And fiiiiinally it occurred to me. If I put the fridge on a power strip, I can also plug in an electric light! I felt very civilized as I ate my dinner by the light of a desk lamp at 10 pm after my shower (such a genius, that man.)
I ran the generator most of the night, and after feeding in the morning, went to start the big generator. And it was dead… The cogs turned a little faster this time. Well, duh! The Kohler is located about 15 linear feet from where the lightening hit the garage roof—it’s probably fried also. Note to self—next time locate your back-up power farther away from your main source of power. This time, there were red lights. Later I e-mailed the error code to David. He translated—control board is fried!
Did I mention you can see the spot on the garage roof where the lightening hit? It looks like someone got up there with a pick and took one good swing at the roof. You would think there would be a smoking hole, but there is just one tiny arc mark on the head of an exposed roofing nail and a bunch of rumpled shingles to mark where this huge, terrifying looking bolt of lightening struck it. Odd…
So we are living on power from a Honda generator (that was run over by a horse trailer) and an extension cord with a plug strip running through the kitchen window right now. David plans to try to wire the Honda into the main breaker panel for the house tonight. That way, we may even be able to do laundry and I can curl my hair in the bathroom instead of in the kitchen standing next to the fridge. The new boards for the Inverter should arrive tomorrow. The jury is still out on the control board for the Kohler. And it occurs to us that we may only have just begun to assess the damage. We won’t know what else is fried until we get the inverter back up, but David commented that one of the charge controllers seems to have “gone a bit wonky.” I really MUST remember to write a letter to Honda after this is over…