Pitch black darkness

Last night, the power went out everywhere. Completely. I happen to be staying in a village in the province of Dobrogea, Romania at the moment, and just as I stepped out of the house to walk to my car, all the lights blinked out of existence. It was, as they say, a dark and stormy night, with nary a star in the sky, not to speak of the moon, which had probably been stuffed in thick sackcloth and kidnapped.

Do you want to know what things look like when you’re in the middle of a wide open field and everything goes pitch black? It looks something like this.

Pitch Black Darkness

It’s an eerie feeling, one that throws you for a loop, even if only for a few moments. I looked around, but there was nothing to see. I reached about me, and wasn’t sure where to reach for a wall or something to hold on to. Everything was black. Even the dogs went quiet. Then, someone in a house nearby stumbled over something and mumbled some sort of swear, then called out for a light from his wife. Others, elsewhere, called out to each other. Things came back to life, but it was still pitch black outside.

I pulled out my little spotlight, the same one I reviewed recently, and found my way to the car. I unlocked it, and the interior lights came on. I climbed in, sat down and turned on the engine. The dashboard lights came on, reassuringly. Then I realized something which sounds obvious to someone who doesn’t have to deal with a power failure, but is a downright epiphany when you’re in pitch black darkness: cars have standalone electrical systems; they do not depend on the grid for power; they make their own power. When the grid goes down, your car can still run, thanks to its battery and to the fuel that makes its alternator turn and charge that same battery. It’s an amazing system when you think about it. I don’t know what we’d do without it.

Shouldn’t homes have similar standalone electrical systems, just in case grids go down? Sure, we’ve made inroads with solar panels and wind turbines, and some homes do have batteries that charge up from the sun or the wind, but the overwhelming majority of homes in this world don’t have any sort of backup power. If the electricity goes down, they’re down as well.

We should really invest more into making each of our homes more self-sufficient. Each home ought to be able to function, at least for a period of time — say 4-8 hours — without grid power, in and of itself, from power stored in batteries or capacitors or in some other container of energy, so that people can carry on with their lives and at least have enough time to prepare for a prolonged power outage once the grid power goes out.


6 thoughts on “Pitch black darkness”

  1. Amazing post, if you don’t mind me saying it out of nowhere :-) The story of a Romanian powercut brings home just how much we take for granted in Western Europe. You tell it perfectly. Thanks so much.

  2. No doubt, you could rig it up to kick on automatically. Iit would have to be tied to the main circuit breaker. When it lost power, it could auto flip another switch, turning on the generator. This would probably take some research on your part, and then some good money to a good electrician to install it.

    I doubt the flow of electricity would be constant, so you would still have all automatic household items be turned off, clocks off, etc.

    Personally, I’d want a back up system like this to be as flawless, and strong as possible. So, I’d choose NOT to have an auto switch. I’d prefer to switch the whole thing on myself. But, that’s just me.

  3. Trevor, that sounds great! I’ve really got to learn more about this, the effort should pay off handsomely. But would the generator kick in automatically during a power outage, or would I have to go out back and flip a switch?

  4. You Raoul, this isn’t that difficult of a proposition.

    There actually kits to help you install a power inlet box, probably near your circuit breaker. Then you could purchase a nice generator, for times like the one described above.

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