Yesterday we had a power failure. I was working on the computer and the desk light went off. The indicator light on the UPS was red instead of green, indicating that the computer was now operating on battery alone. I finished what I was doing and shut the computer down.
It was a cold morning. Just a few degrees above zero, with about a five knot wind out of the north east. There was hoar-frost on the trees and on the prairie grass but I doubted that ice and wind had shut me down. It was too relatively calm out there.
I keep an old fashioned, line-powered phone handy for occasions like this. But when I reached the emergency number for my REA power company I got the "heavy call volume" recording instead of the friendly voice that is the norm. Figuring the outage was wide-spread and well-known I gave up on that and turned to more immediate matters.
My house is very well insulated and even at zero holds its heat very well. A friend has joked that you could heat my place with a candle but that overstates the case by a good deal. I can, however, heat it with the fireplace. There was a fire ready to go and awaiting nought but a match, but I decided to wait a while before lighting it.
The generator is always ready in the shop building behind the house. The drill is… throw the main breaker in the house; throw the cut-off switch at the pole isolating my circuits from the line; start the generator and let it warm up; plug the genny into the main box in the shop and throw the genny breaker. Let there be light! And heat. And a whole bunch of other things.
It's usually quite a while before I go through the generator ritual. Most power failures here are quickly corrected and I never take those great line crews with their big four-wheel-drive repair trucks for granted. If it's been off for three or four hours I may fire up the genny and get a big dollop of heat into the house, do what I need to do with power to the house or shop, and then shut it down for a while. My generator burns about a gallon per hour, so I don't run it non-stop when there is a long outage. It can also be powered by propane but I haven't been sufficiently inspired to make the connection yet.
Sure enough, the power bounced back on after less than three hours. Despite the cold outside the house temp had only fallen to 66°.
But so ingrained is our reliance on The Mighty Spark that while it was off I found myself automatically reaching for the light switch in the pantry and being momentarily surprised when the light in the refrigerator didn't come on when I opened the door.
But then it did come on. And the light switches worked. And the furnace hummed back to life. And all was right with the world once more.