Ebikes and preparing for disasters (like a VIRUS!)

April 14, 2020
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I grew up in earthquake country (Los Angeles), and now I live in tornado country. Well…it now seems like we are all living in VIRUS country, so let’s have a chat about preparations for the next big thing.

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Ebikes in Disasters

Since this is an ebike web-magazine, I’m going to mention ebikes first. Years ago, I ended up getting the best job that I could find, and then I bought the only house I could afford. The problem was that they were an hour’s drive apart. Don’t bother telling me how much of a bad idea that is…now I know. Ever since then, one of the things that is important to me, is to try to get my job and my home to be as close together as possible.

My personal ebike with a BBSHD mid-drive and a 52V Luna battery pack. This pic is from Kansas in the spring.

Now I live only 12 miles from work. I don’t waste a lot of time driving each day, I don’t waste a lot of money on gas, and my car will last many years longer due to putting fewer miles on it. And, one of the great things is that…if my car ever breaks down, I can ride a bicycle to work. Plus, ever since the year 2009, the bike in question has had an electric motor. I may not be able to afford a second car as a back-up, but anyone who truly wants an ebike badly enough, can save up to get an electric bike. In fact, I only have a one-car garage, but right now I have a car plus TWO electric bikes.

And don’t forget, if gas prices skyrocket, or there is a temporary disruption in the supply chain of gasoline…I can still get to work just fine on my ebike (you can buy solar panels if you want, but…you cannot buy a DIY gasoline refinery). Yes sir, living close to work is a MAJOR benefit.

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48V and 52V EBIKE batteries when the power goes out

This is something that is not talked about often enough. Whether it’s earthquakes, tornadoes, or a hurricane like Katrina/Maria…you can count on the power being out for days, if not weeks. Now, I’m not talking about running a central air-conditioning system (which is a well-known monster watt-hog), but…if all you need is to run your TV, your laptop, or charge your phone, an ebike battery can do that for a pretty long time, if it’s a 48V or 52V.

There are inverters that will convert the DC current from a 48V/52V ebike battery into 120V AC to run your household devices. Another type of Inverter can be found in a used UPS (Uninterrupted Power Supply). This is a device that is plugged in-between the wall socket and a device such as a computer. If the power from the grid goes out, the UPS has a battery inside plus an integrated inverter that will instantly switch over, so that your computer never goes off, which could cause a huge amount of havoc if its being used for a business.

The funny thing is that…the internal battery of a UPS is almost always a lead-acid, for liability reasons. So, after a few years, that lead-acid battery will need to be replaced. BUT…the company that provides the service contract will price the technician’s time and materials so high, that they company usually just gets a new UPS shipped to them (which is what the service company actually wants them to do). This way, their customers always have the newest model of UPS, and the service company doesn’t need to maintain a large workforce of mobile technicians. Of course, the client could easily and cheaply swap-in the new lead-acid batteries themselves (without telling anyone), but…doing that would void the warranty.

These UPS’s typically operate at either 12V, 24V, or 48V…and…the 48V versions will operate on an input voltage up to 60V. A 14S / 52V ebike pack is 58.8V when fully charged, so that’s really lucky for us. They are also produced in many sizes (based on the amount of amps they can provide).

The cheap Chinese inverters found on ebay are usually rated too high, and you can scan Youtube for comparisons to see what their true performance ratings are. I decided to buy two inverters…one for the refrigerator to keep food and medications from spoiling, and a second one for any other household electrical needs.

This is an awesome video comparing a huge 3000W UPS that can often be found as used because the lead-acid batteries are dead.

One of my inverters is rated for around 2500VA (a “VA” means Volt/Amp, and it is similar to a “watt”, but calculated differently. So, 2500VA is almost exactly 2500W).

A large refrigerator might draw a short peak of 2000W on start-up, but then it will likely draw less than 800W when the compressor is running, and be aware that the compressor only “comes on” once in a while if you don’t open the door very often during a temporary crisis. Plus, if you live where power outages happen frequently, I’d recommend buying a chest style of fridge, since cold air sinks. This means a top-opening chest fridge/freezer will keep the vital items colder for much longer than a common stand-up door-style of fridge.

The other inverter I bought is a Meanwell TS-1500-148A. Here is the part-number code: TS=true sine wave, 1500W, 1=120VAC output, 48=48V input-63V max, A=USA sockets

The cheaper inverters are usually a “square wave”, so the current that they put out is kind of “buzzy”, which can screw with sensitive electronics. I made sure to get a “sine wave” unit, so it can run anything without any problems.

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Hand Sanitizer, TP, and Clean water

Leading up to the first week of the national “two week” shut down (due to Covid-19 virus, March/April 2020), I went out the store to stock up, just like everyone else. I was immediately surprised at some of the items that were hoarded.

Hand Sanitizer was the hottest item initially. Even though you can wash your hands with soap and water at home, people still had to go to the ATM to get cash, or use the keypad at the store when you get groceries (or the gas station). All of those interfaces are filthy with germs, and my wife has always kept a small bottle of hand sanitizer in the car, for those occasions where we had to touch something dirty, and there was no way to wash our hands with soap and water. Thank goodness she is a hypochondriac germophobe…

As a side note, a disinfecting solution of 70% alcohol works with an “excellent” rating. Anything lower than 60%, and the solution would be too weak. Higher than 80%, and it actually works worse due to chemical reasons involving cell membranes. It’s important to note that methanol is a poor disinfectant, and the alcohols you want are either ethanol (the kind that is in booze) or propanol, which is found in isopropyl “rubbing” alcohol.

I immediately got on the internet to find out if there were any alternatives for hand-sanitizer, and…you can make it out of “everclear”, which is 95% ethanol (found at large liquor suppliers). Of course, the next time there is a viral outbreak and hand sanitizer is sold out, savvy people will then start looking for any supplies of everclear. Be aware you would need to add 1/4 the volume in vegetable-glycerin or aloe-vera gel in order to make the product thicker and less watery, while still resulting in a 70% “Alcohol By Volume” / ABV solution.

You might also use 91% isopropyl alcohol sold as “rubbing” alcohol at drug stores. Some brands of rubbing alcohol are sold as 70% ABV (or even 50% ABV). However, once you add a thickening agent, the ABV for that will be lower than the needed 70% in the final product, so…look for the 91% (which has 9% adulterants, so nobody will drink it). Be aware that ANY product that is 50% alcohol or more (100-proof) will be flammable, so be extremely cautious.

Toilet Paper / TP

TP doesn’t have an expiration date, so I’ve always kept a few rolls in storage so I didn’t have to unexpectedly run to the store if I discovered I was running low. However, this was the one item that was hit the hardest all over the country. It’s odd, because the companies that make TP are not going out of business, and as soon as the initial rush is over, most stores will start getting more shipments in (trust me, the factories are working overtime and raking-in the profits). That being said…

Something that is common in Europe is a device called a “Bidet” (bee-DAY). For lack of a better phrase, let’s just say that it’s a hose that washes off your anus. You might still “want” to use TP to dry your rear, but you’d likely use less, and when TP is sold out, being “all out of TP” would not be an emergency.

If you decide you want a bidet, but the store-bought bidet “kits” are also sold out (the kind that can be added to the toilet seat), There is a second option. The flushing tank above the toilet is normally filled by a common one-inch water pipe, and it has a small valve to allow you to turn off the water if you need to work on the toilet. You can shut that valve off, then remove the hose between the valve and the fill-tank, and then install a “Pipe-T” plus a second valve coming off of the T. That second valve can have a kitchen dish-washing hose and nozzle added, and those are likely to stay available just about everywhere.

One example of a DIY bidet

I feel I have to add one more thing. You can use paper towels or bits of cloth to wipe yourself, you just can’t flush it down the pipes, because that would cause a clog (since toilet paper is designed to dissolve, paper towels do not). This would certainly NOT be my first option, but it is certainly an option…as long as you dispose of them properly.

DRINKING WATER. I also noticed that bottled water was hoarded from stores the first week (though they were re-stocked fairly fast). I understand the concern if it is an incident just after an earthquake, tornado, or hurricane (which sometimes results in an underground water-pipe “break”), but…tap water is required to be safe to drink (they add chlorine to kill germs), and a viral outbreak by itself would not affect the municipal water plant’s ability to operate.

That being said, I live in a town where the water is “hard” (it has a lot of dissolved minerals in it). It is definitely safe, but it tastes bad. As a result, just about every coffee brewing machine at work has a charcoal-purifying water jug next to it, to improve the taste and smell.

The most common brands seems to be Brita and PUR, but…if they use activated charcoal, any brand will do, because they are all the same. The one great tip I’d like to share is that you can buy big bags of activated charcoal “sand” very cheaply from an aquarium supply. Charcoal is produced by heating up wood bits in a sealed container, so no oxygen can reach it, which would cause combustion, which would then result in a pile of ash… The heat of putting a fire under the steel container will drive off almost all of the elements in the cellulose, except the carbon.

When the resulting carbon chunks are crushed into grains (to increase the surface area), that form of carbon can purify water very well, by soaking the water in it overnight. However, you can also run a simple chemical process on charcoal to make it “activated” charcoal (google it, or search youtube). Activated charcoal is much more pure and has more surface area on a microscopic level. This means it will react more strongly, to purify water very fast.

Also, don’t forget the old standby of boiling tap-water for ten minutes, then letting it cool. Boiling tap-water and then passing it through charcoal is about as safe as anybody can make water during a disaster.

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N95 MASKS (plus R95’s and P100’s)

As of March 2020, there is a national shortage of the now-famous “N95” mask, which filters 95% of airborne particles down to 0.3 microns. The “N” means that it is NOT resistant to oil-vapors and mists. This is important because exposure to an oily mist can de-activate some of the electromagnetic “static” charge that is woven into the particular poly-propylene fiber-fabric that is used in it’s multi-layered filter media. This static charge plays a large role in this masks ability to trap the smallest particles that it is rated for. An “R” means that it is Resistant to Oil, and a “P” means Oil-Proof.

As an example, before this 2020 “Covid-19” crisis (COrona VIrus Disease-2019), an N95 mask sold for roughly $1 each, and a P100 mask sold for about $8. If you never expose your masks to an oily vapor, then the letter designation (N, P, R) really shouldn’t matter when using it for anti-disease protection.

If a supplier is out of N95 masks, just be aware that they might still have some R95 and P100 masks in stock, which are even better. A HEPA filter-cloth uses the same filtering material as a P100 mask (99.9% of all particles down to 0.3 microns).

The N95 mask is on the left, a P100 is on the right. The filter fabric on the P100 is the same as the N95, but thicker, and…the face-seal has an added foam layer for better sealing. This particular P100 mask also has wider elastic straps (which are more comfortable), along with an exhale check-valve. This exhale valve should make your breathing-out somewhat easier on a long shift, but…it is not required for the N95/P100 certification.

In the pic above, one of the major differences between an N95 and a P100 mask is that the P100 has a better face-seal. You could replicate this type of seal by cutting off the stretchy thin rubber cuff from the sleeve of a dishwashing glove, and then making one slice lengthwise to end up with a flat square sheet of very thin rubber. Cut a breathing hole in the middle, and then bond it to the edges of the mask. You could even attach a layer of weather-strip foam under the seal, if desired.

Before this current crisis, there was no shortage of any type of face mask. At that time, they were considered disposable. Doctors and nurses would use it when seeing a patient with a wet-cough, and then just throw it away when they went to the next patient. However, this current critical shortage means that the National Center for Disease Control (CDC) has issued guidelines for disinfecting used masks so they can be reused dozens of times (click here for that document). Some of these methods can be used by you in your own home, to make your mask supply last longer.

ULTRAVIOLET. UV-C radiation is often used to sterilize hospital rooms, but even if you can find a UV-C bulb, I do NOT recommend this. A tech will place several UV-C light-stands in a hospital room, then the tech will close the shades and leave the room. If you look at a UV-C bulb for only a few moments when it is on, it will give the insides of your eyes a “sunburn”. The least that will happen is a LOT of pain, and the worst is permanent blindness. The UV-A and UV-B bulbs do not kill germs, only a UV-C “Germicide” bulb.

MICROWAVE OVEN. This may actually work, except that these masks have an important bend-able metal strip that is vital to forcing the top edge of the mask to conform to the shape of your nose-bridge. I tried microwaving mine, and the metal strip got so hot that it melted the plastic covering in about 5 seconds. If I could somehow bond a semi-rigid plastic nose-bridge shape to the outside (one that was shape-able to each individual nose), this might be worth coming back around to, as an option.

OZONE. Nobody seems to be pursuing this, so I can only assume that the other methods listed are easier and more cost-effective.

Vaporous Hydrogen Peroxide / H2O2. This is a new recommendation by the CDC for hospitals. The verification test facility was a stainless steel cabinet that held a hundred of the N95 masks on racks, to allow the vapor to surround and penetrate the materials. The exposure was two hours of a 30% H2O2 vapor, and then four hours of ventilation to allow the smell to evaporate. Also, hospitals use a vapor (instead of liquid immersion) for the convenience and cost-savings when disinfecting large quantities. The hydrogen peroxide that is sold at drug stores in brown bottles is only 3% H2O2, and all the research on liquid immersion for disinfection used 6% H2O2. Those immersion results were good, IF…you can find 6% H2O2. I suspect that using common LIQUID 3% H2O2 would work fine if immersed for 5 minutes, but I haven’t found any test results.

AIR DRY for FIVE DAYS. Since a virus needs a warm moist environment to survive, simply setting the N95 mask in a cool/dry environment for a few days seems to be good enough. One test listed three days as adequate, but the CDC guidelines for hospitals is five days. They also specifically mentioned that a set group of masks should all be used by only one person. For instance, a nurse might only need five masks (using one a day), and that nurse should rotate through those five masks for up to a month or so, and never share them with any other nurse.

DRY HEAT. Most hospitals already have wet-steam disinfectors, so dry heat is its own category. The Covid-19 virus is fairly robust in cold temperatures, and seems to go into some kind of “hibernation” when frozen. However, HEAT will kill it. The latest information seems to indicate that if you heat any item to a minimum of 140F for 30 minutes, this will reliably kill this virus, and all other common viruses. Common steam-disinfection units often run at temps that are too high, because they might damage the N95 mask filtering cloth. Here is a link to the N95 materials breakdown (made from poly-propylene fibers).

The CDC now recommends heating to 160F / 70C for 30 minutes. Be aware that higher temps than that will kill any virus faster, but…the Poly-Propylene filter-cloth material inside the N95 masks will be damaged in a particular way that reduces it’s effectiveness if heated to over 212F / 100C. We are recommending that your heat target for disinfecting N95 masks be held to 160F (70C). Be aware that these temps might damage some other elements on the mask, such as the elastic headbands (depending on materials used). The CDC recommendations have specifically mentioned the option of using the common hospital pediatric blanket-heating cabinets that are adjustable and rated for 167F / 75C max, as a readily available system.

ALCOHOL AT 70%. Here is a link that shows you how to take 100-proof vodka (50% ethanol), and remove just the right amount of dissolved water to make it the ideal 70% ABV (Alcohol By Volume), by adding kosher salt overnight. Kosher salt is pure sodium chloride with no additives like iodine.

“Methanol” is NOT a good sterilizer, however the isopropyl “rubbing” alcohol found in drug stores will work for sterilization. Make sure it is the 70% ABV, and…if you can only find 91% ABV, dilute it with the appropriate amount of water. Some stores sell 50% ABV rubbing alcohol, but if the solution is 60% or less ABV, it will be too weak. However I was surprised to read that an ABV above 80% is also less effective at killing germs, so…shoot for 70%. Soak the mask for 30 minutes, and then set it in a well-ventilated place to dry. Be aware that during this process, the alcohol vapors will be flammable.

If I was sterilizing N95 masks for my own family to use (going to the grocery store?), I would primarily use a 70% alcohol liquid-immersion, or a dry 160F heat as an option. Also, for a reusable mask, I recommend a silicone-based elastomer for headbands due to their ability to resist heat, alcohol, and H2O2 during disinfection.

Plus, N95 masks “may or may not” come with a one-way exhale valve. Such a valve might be damaged by 160F dry heat sterilization, so test this before making a large volume purchase, or…get an N95 mask model with NO exhale check-valve, which is not needed for airborne virus protection.

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Making a Respirator

The one area where N95 masks are weak is in the edge-seal to the face. Also, since the entire N95 face-cup is also the filtering material, you normally throw away the whole mask when the filtering part is contaminated by use.

A “half face” respirator is a device that I am intimately familiar with. Every home should have one in reserve if you can fit it into your budget (plan on $60 each, or more). If given a choice, select one with a silicone face-cup and seal. Silicone is more comfortable compared to other types of rubber, plus it will seal better than an N95, and…they can withstand hundreds of disinfecting cycles with 160F heat, or chemicals like 70% alcohol, and even 6% hydrogen peroxide.

The SR-100 style of respirator from Sundstrom. The comfortable wide elastic straps don’t dig into your ears. It uses a silicone face-cup that seals well and is easily dis-infected so it can be reused over and over. PLUS, it has a large single round filter, which means that when the filters are out of stock, you can simply cover the filter housing with a sheet of HEPA cloth and secure it with a hose-clamp. The orange exhale check-valve is not required for airborne viral protection, if you are making a DIY design.

Once you have a half-face respirator, you will immediately realize that these head-straps are much more comfortable on your ears over a full day, compared to the N95. The tighter you make the ear-straps on an N95 (to improve the seal), the more your ears will hurt after only a short amount of time.

Be aware that even though the most common half-face respirators are designed to use two disposable filters, that amount of filtering media is designed to last the average hazmat worker for an entire 12-hour shift. The reason they have TWO small filters instead of ONE large filter is so that each filter can be flatter. This allows the worker to stick their head into tight spaces, when needed. I mention this so you will understand that a DIY respirator only needs ONE filter to allow you to safely manage going to the grocery store and gas station during a pandemic.

The sudden shortage of half-face respirators has led to a boom in youtubes made by people using 3D-printers to make them at home for local hospitals. There are sooo many designs, so which one is the best? Well, opinions are like anuses that haven’t been cleaned by a bidet during a TP shortage…”everybody has one, and they all stink”. That being said, here’s MY opinion. (edit: The so-called “Montana mask” seems to be widely accepted by most hospitals by donated 3D-printer activists. Click here for details)

Rather than spend money in an endless search for more and more disposable masks, why not spend just a little bit more and get a mask that can be disinfected at home, and then reused hundreds of times?

My local Home-Depot/Lowes/Menards were all sold out of face-masks and respirators after the first week, BUT…they STILL had plenty of HEPA air-conditioning/furnace filters. Even if you aren’t able to disinfect and re-use these filters, one large AC filter has enough HEPA filtration material to make at least a dozen disposable masks. The design of a respirator is of course an important consideration, but before we start, I feel the most important thing is to use materials that will work with the disinfecting methods that work for you. For instance, silicone works SO well in high heat, that we can actually buy bake-ware made of pure silicone (google “silicone bakeware”, go ahead, I’ll wait).

HEPA filter-cloth is cheap, and readily available around the entire world.

Now, I understand that very few people have a 3D printer, and some of the few who actually have one don’t always know how to use it. That being said, I still feel I need to address something. A good 3D printed respirator design has several distinct elements. The face-cup must be rigid or at least semi-rigid (the hard plastic part), so the straps have a form to pull against without distorting the edge. BUT, the edge must somehow mate to the shape of YOUR face.

This is an “E” shaped weatherstrip seal, available in auto-parts stores for a sunroof. This type of weatherstripping can also be easily found with a “D” or a “P” hollow cross-section, in the window-seal section of a hardware store.

The biggest design problem is that the shapes of our human faces have a lot of variation, so the face-cup edge NEEDS to be able to accept some type of thick foam seal, to help it conform to your particular face. A closed-cell type of foam is best (if you can find it), and it should be able to be disinfected with heat or chemicals (like silicone-based foam). My vote for a “best” plug-and-play respirator edge-foam is from the car industry and home weather-stripping for doors and windows (seen above).

There are many good 3D printed designs, and this is one that impressed me (link posted below)

Here is a link to the youtube video to the orange respirator shown above. The respirator part starts at the 3:00 minute mark. The edge flange looks as though it would easily allow attaching additional foam to improve the comfort and the quality of the seal. The strap attachment flanges in this design are shaped to accept a pin, and that allows wide straps to be used for comfort. The pic above shows metal paperclips being used as a V-shaped connector and rubber bands used as the head-straps.

Here is that same model of 3D printed mask, using the comfortable wide elastic straps that it was originally designed for. You can buy NEW underwear and cut the elastic waist-band off of them.

I like how the filter is a large single unit in the front, and it is circular (many current 3D designs have a small filter, or an odd shape). There is nothing wrong with using the stock filter housing as it is shown. However, a circular housing means you can use a simple hose-clamp to attach filter material over the opening. A square filter grid with a “snap-in” filter connection may wear out the snap-ridges over time. A circular housing shape has more long-lasting options.

Here is the Montana mask design where the red section is very soft and flexible TPU, and the yellow portion is semi-rigid PET-G.

edit: just found out that 3D-printed masks can be made from a filament called “TPU” (Thermo-plastic Poly-Urethane). It is much softer and more flexible than the common PLA or PET-G material often used in 3D prints. Of course, I wouldn’t even mention this if TPU couldn’t be sterilized and re-used by the wearer, and it certainly can be sterilized by alcohol, H2O2 and heat. (Click here for the details on the latest version of the Montana mask).

edit: Just below is a video of my new favorite design for an N95 3D-printed mask (found the third week of April)

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Vitamin C, D, Zinc, and hydrogen Peroxide

Every winter is “flu season”, and it’s been speculated that with the weather being cold, dark, and rainy, most people are cooped-up indoors and in close proximity to each other. That might explain why the flu spreads faster in winter, but even so…people honestly seem to be more resistant to the flu in the warmer months (why?). A normal healthy person’s immune system seems to do better at fighting off all kinds of ailments in the warm months, and my research indicates that you can help your immune system fight better if your winter regimen adds extra Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc at a level that is above the “daily minimum”.

It may just be a coincidence that in the winter months, we eat less citrus fruit and peppers (Vitamin C), and we also get less sun (Vitamin D). Vitamin-D is “fat soluble”, so it should be taken with food (some capsules are mixed with coconut-oil to ensure the vitamin-D can be absorbed fully, even if your stomach is empty). Your body associates vitamin-D with sunlight, so some people experience a disturbed sleep pattern when taking this as a supplement. You might consider taking the D in the first half of the day.

As far as ZINC is concerned, it is one of those essential vitamins that are found in foods and it is also a common element in daily multivitamin tablets. It has been found to restrict a germs ability to reproduce. However, I also want to mention zinc’s ability to dramatically reduce the life of a flu that has established a festering nest in the back of your throat, by using zinc as a contact-film medication.

If you breathe-in some air that somebody has recently coughed-out, the vapor droplets can land on the back of your throat where it takes a sharp 90-degree turn downwards. That is the perfect environment for germs and viruses to splat against, and then grow and multiply. There are several over-the-counter lozenges that contain zinc, and I have to admit that they all taste bad. However, whenever I have had some kind of a flu in the recent past, I have started taking a zinc lozenge after every meal, and I let it dissolve slowly in order to coat my mouth and upper throat with the active ingredients. They are cheap, and they really help.

The most popular three brands are Cold-Eze, Zicam, and Sucrets. The generic store brands are typically the same as these three (CVS, Walgreens, Walmart, etc), if you find that zinc is one of the ingredients. Also, it needs to be a melt-able “lozenge”, instead of a pill that is swallowed.

One more note, most people are not aware that the gum-line of your teeth is one of the places where a germ can travel from your filthy mouth directly into your bloodstream. If I have some kind of flu, I will go out of my way to brush my teeth, floss, and gargle with a very salty saltwater solution just before going to sleep (salt kills germs). Sometimes I even swish some 3% hydrogen peroxide around in my mouth, which tastes as bad as the zinc lozenges I mentioned earlier.

edit: just did some additional Vitamin-C research. Your intestines have a limited ability to absorb vitamin-C in a single dose, and that max dose is 500mg every 4 hours. There has been experimentation with mega-doses of Vitamin-C, and the doctors used MANY times that dose, by using an intravenous feed (IV).

Vitamin-C is water-soluble, so you cannot “overdose” on it. If you take more than 500mg at a time, any excess over 500mg will simply be excreted in your urine. Assuming you sleep for eight hours a night, you could take five of the 500mg/4-hr doses each day when sick, equaling 2500mg a day total.

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Generators in a Power Outage

Whether it’s an earthquake in California, a Tornado in Oklahoma, or a hurricane across the south coast…a power outage is a common problem. The local big-box hardware stores may stock a handful of generators, but they will all be sold-out immediately. Most power outages don’t actually last very long, and quite often a person who has never used a generator before, will put it away for storage with gasoline in the tank and carburetor. Over time, that old gasoline will gel, and clog everything up.

First of all, whenever you put away a generator, lawn-mower, or a car for a long-term storage, you should run it completely dry of gasoline. That being said, it is not too difficult to take a gummed-up generator and clean out the carburetor and gas tank. However, if you haven’t bought one yet, here are some tips…

If a generator is gummed-up with old gas, it still will still run fine on methane.

Pay a little more and get a quality generator, even if it means getting a smaller one than what you really want. A small generator that works every time is better than a big cheap generator that craps out right when you need it (thanks, China). The second tip I want everyone to at least know about is that, you should add a natural-gas adaptation kit, or possibly even a “tri-fuel” kit to the generator.

For the average home-owner, you are not going to spend the extra amount of money to get a VERY expensive DIESEL-generator. That leaves the common 3000W+ gasoline generators that are capable of running your refrigerator, TV, and lights. The generator should be put outside, due to the exhaust (or possibly in the garage to prevent theft). This style can be easily converted to running off of the natural gas (Methane) that is already piped into most homes for cooking and heating. The USA has deep reserves of methane, so it will not be running out any time soon. Here is a link to a youtube review of a $120 methane conversion.

When I mentioned “tri-fuel”, I meant that gasoline generators can also be converted to running off of propane, so you could use gasoline, or methane from your home, or…propane purchased in large bottles. Using propane as a gasoline alternative would be the most useful for someone who has to perform work in a remote location, like some construction contractors.

However, if you are like me and the only place you might use a generator as a power back-up, the fuels I recommend are gasoline and methane. One specific benefit of using methane is that they start very easily in cold weather, which is beneficial in the northern states during the winter. Be aware that methane does not have as much power as gasoline, so if a 3000W gasoline generator will normally supply all of your needs, then…if you want to only run on methane, you might be better served by a 4000W+ generator.

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FLASHLIGHTS. A few years ago I started seeing rechargeable flashlights that had the charger built into the housing. This meant that you didn’t have to remove the 18650 cell from the flashlight to stick it into a charger. After a while later, I started seeing designs that used a phone charger jack, instead of a proprietary jack. This means that where-ever I am, I can charge my flashlight up with my phone charger, which I already have in my car, my home, and at work.

A rechargeable 18650-cell flashlight. This model is charged by a phone charger, and then it can also be used to charge up a phone!

In the pic above, a fully charged flashlight is being used to charge my Samsung phone. The two things I most want immediately in a disaster is my phone, and a rechargeable flashlight. After this pic was taken, I have since found an even smaller version using a 14500 cell, from NEBO. Go onto ebay, and search for “flashlight LED 18650 USB”

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Regardless of the type of disaster you would most likely be affected by, don’t wait until it actually happens to make reasonable preparations. Always think of the worst-case scenario, and then make a few changes that will help the “future you” when you would need it most.

Lower your debt, and keep some cash stored on-hand. Live close to work. Have some canned food and jugs of water handy. Buy a small propane barbecue. Own an ebike with a 48V/52V battery pack, and possibly an inverter. Maybe buy a generator, and a chest-style of freezer. Store some antiseptic gel and bandages. Buy some rechargeable LED flashlights that recharge from a 5V USB phone charger.

The help your family might get from the county/state/federal government is a wonderful thing, but…don’t ever count on it.

Be safe, and think ahead, my friends…

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Written by Ron/spinningmagnets, April 2020

Grew up in Los Angeles California, US Navy submarine mechanic from 1977-81/SanDiego. Hydraulic mechanic in the 1980's/Los Angeles. Heavy equipment operator in the 1990's/traveled to various locations. Dump truck driver in the 2000's/SW Utah. Currently a water plant operator since 2010/NW Kansas


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