Beware of “Dirty” Power

Hurricane Sandy really did a number on the East Coast. I’ve been reading firsthand reports as I find them or as they are sent to me.

Bob Bly sent me one that I thought was especially interesting. He sent this update yesterday, November 5, 2012.

For background, Bob is a freelance copywriter like me. He lives in New Jersey. After Sandy hit, he was without electricity for a full week.

Here’s how he handled it, mistakes he made, and some advice for you if you ever find yourself in a similar situation.


My most important advice to you

This may be the most important tip I give you this year, and not
one person in a hundred is aware of it:

If you use a gasoline generator when your power goes out, do NOT
hook up your PC to it.

Gasoline generators produce “dirty” power, meaning it fluctuates
in voltage to a level unacceptable to a PC’s sensitive circuitry.

My PC guy said that after hurricane Sandy, he had 25 clients
with PC problems, all of whom connected their computers to a
gasoline generator – including me.

I was lucky: he got my computer back online in a few hours, and
the only damage was to my back-up drive.

Every other client had severe damage, from destruction of the PC
motherboard to complete loss of data on their hard drives.

The reason I wasn’t wiped out is that the sub-par current from
our gasoline generator did not allow my PC to operate steadily,
so I couldn’t even use it. Turns out this was lucky for me,
because I then disconnected the generator.

If you lose power during a storm or for any other reason, do not
under any circumstance connect your computer to your back-up
gasoline generator. You risk destruction of your PC and loss of
all your data.

Here in NJ, we got hit hard by hurricane Sandy. We lost power,
Internet, cable TV, heat, and hot water for nearly a week. The
power outage shut down my business for the week.

Our home phones didn’t work, but fortunately my office phone is
with another carrier and it did.

There are worse things than losing power for a week, but it
certainly ranks up there.

Our gas generator produces sufficient power to run appliances
other than computers, so we connected our refrigerator to it and
our food didn’t spoil.

Without TV and Internet, you feel alone in the dark, not knowing
the status of the storm. Fortunately we could plug in my little
boom box to the generator and keep up that way.

(Without a generator, we wouldn’t have even had the radio. There
had been a run on D batteries, and they were impossible to get.)

Many others in NJ were not so lucky: we saw a long line of
people at Lowe’s hoping there would be enough generators to go

Even with a gas generator, your power is not assured, because
what do you do when you can’t get gasoline? Most gas stations
had either run out of gas or had no power to pump the gas they

To conserve gasoline, we ran the generator intermittently. At
night, we could see by candle light, and we hung out in front of
a roaring fire.

We are now getting quotes for a full-house, natural-gas-fired
generator. I want to make sure my business is never affected by
a power outage ever again.

Some scientists predict these super storms will happen with
increased frequency. Our experience supports that. We used to
get one big storm here every 10 years. Now it seems to be an
annual occurrence.

I also learned something about me: if I can’t work and write
every day, I become restless and jumpy. I am only relaxed and
happy when I write every day.


Bob is fortunate he had a gas generator — and fortunate he didn’t totally kill his computer. I thought his story was worth passing along.

Another good option for backup power is a solar generator. Depending on the type you get, you should be able to plug straight in to the backup battery on your solar unit without risking any damage to your laptop or desktop computer.

If you’re interested, these solar backup units are worth a look.

Don’t be scared. Be prepared.
-Survival Joe