Sunday, October 5, 2008

9 days without power thanks to Ike

Hurricane Ike hit Louisville like a sledgehammer leaving 350,000 people without power. Our neighborhood suffered and inordinate amount of infrastructure damage. A large tree fell onto some power lines and snapped 5 poles. With such great damage and so few people affected, we were last to be restored.

It was fun, sort of like camping, but with porcelain. Our stove is electric and our gas hot water heater has an electric component to the thermostat or heater. We lost the contents of the freezer almost immediately. But why spend $700 or more on a generator to save $100 of food?

Most essentials (ie coffee maker) were handled by our little 1000 watt Honda generator. We bought a Coleman one-burner stove and cooked out. We burned a lot of candles. I wrote by oil lamp light in the evenings. The lovely and talented wife knitted outside by day and caught up on "House" episodes by night, thanks to the Honda.

It was rather peaceful. However, by day 7 it was getting old. The cold showers were brutal. And there weren't any computers or internet access.

While roughing it, I made a little alcohol burning stove. It puts out a remarkable amount of heat. I'd make a better design if I really wanted to cook on it however. There are plans on the web for better pepsi can stoves for not much more work. Be advised, these things are reasonably dangerous as they burn uncontained alcohol. Google 'pepsi can stove' to learn more.

The lesson to take away here is that you can do a lot with a little - if you're innovative. This little stove worked - it boiled water in about 5 minutes using about half an ounce of denatured alcohol. The stove is the bottom inch or so of two coke cans. You stretch one half using a (full) can of soda. Then you can insert the first bottom into the stretched bottom. You then seal the seam with thermal tape or heat-proof epoxy. I used a small nail to poke 8 burner holes (around the rim) and a few fill holes in the center. There's a piece of fiberglass insulation inside to help contain the alcohol in case of a spill. You pour alcohol in the center, warm the whole burner with a candle until the alcohol boils, then ignite the burner. Deluxe rabbit-fence is used as a pot holder. The coin you see is a nickel used to cover the fill holes once the stove was burning. Sorry, I don't have any pics of the stove in use.

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