Geoffrey L. Gogan, Architect

"Well crafted, appropriate, budget conscious design"


Hurricane!  Blackout! Terrorist Attack!

 If we watch the news or read the blogs, we can't help but see the FEMA advice - EMP, Solar Flares, Conspiracies, Famine, Terrorism etc.  We all see the web sites, warnings to prepare - some extreme measures - buy seeds, guns, food, bugout plans...   Most of us cannot imagine needing these provisions, and are busy surviving day to day.   I remember preparing for the Y2K scare and felt silly afterwards using up my excess toilet paper.    Well if you look at recent history in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, Syria, Argentina, Cuba, Bosnia, Zimbabwe, New Orleans, and other troubled places, there were a lot of folks who wish they had prepared better for rough times.  In some parts of the country preparing is a normal part of life.  In the midwest for hurricanes, the east coast for hurricanes, west coast forest fires or earthquakes, etc.  I don't think it hurts to talk about what one could do with your home to know that you have alternative fuels for cooking and warmth, back up lighting and power, ways to gather and filter water, etc.  It can be reassuring to know you could get by in tough times.

I feel homes should be able to withstand heavy storms, blackouts, interruptions to water and fuel and possibly even food delivery for periods when you might be "Off the Grid".  Most of our recent jobs involved a natural gas generator. 
When a client is of like mind, we design into the home:  Low Volt Emergency lighting powered by a solar rechargable battery array.    With additional batteries, one could operate a few electrical circuits to power refrigeration, internet etc.    Alternative fuel storage such as wood, propane, oil,  rain barrrels, even backup water storage or filtration.   Not long ago, farmers canned for the winter, and stored food in root cellars.   In some areas, we consider the need for Safe Rooms, disguised Built in Safes, Higher impact glass, or security shutters.     

The image to the left is of a prototype in England. 
Sometimes, these measures don't really add much cost.   If one is planning to use a gas fireplace, why not put a propane tank in and know that there is a reserve in place?   While wiring  a house, why not identify the critical circuits, and tie them to a sub panel or the emergency portion of a combination panel making it much easier to back up?
When buying good windows, why not go for the extra few dollars for the high impact glass?



Instead of using a separate panel to isolate critical circuits, we can now get a single main panel with the switch and emergency breakers already placed together.   Take a look at   Espositos Electric in the Morristown area is one of many providing these along with backup generators, but they can also be added later.
Kvar Energy controllers are amazing. We hook them up to any panel at the top, and it automatically soaks up excess current then feeds it back in, reducing the amount you pay the utility. 


"Off the Grid - Self Sufficiency" While trying not to become a "Survivalist" or becoming obsessed with all of the potential catastrophes, a home should be able to provide protection and services during a severe storm, power outage, terrorist attack, fuel shortage, - whatever.  This requires a way to store, manage and distribute emergency or ongoing power. One product available is by Gridpoint.   We try to include a sub-panel next to the main service panel.  This panel would serve all critical low voltage emergency LED lighting in every room, stair and hall, Internet, Refrigeration, critical pumps, and it would be connected to a backup power source.  That might be a generator, but preferably a well designed battery system automatically charged with solar photovoltaics or wind.  Any excess power generated would be sold back to the utility at the prevailing rate.
There is some peace of mind in knowing that you could get by and maybe help some neighbors out.  I remember that image during the wild fires in California where many houses were burned to the ground, but a few were seemingly untouched.  This was intentionally planned by incorporating fireproof materials and landscaping properly.   Most of these systems are more "Home grown" using individual interconnected batteries, solar panels, etc.  Costco has a good deal this kit:  Costco Emergency Power kit.   One can also pick up a starter set of emergency food that only requires water and a heat source
Much more could be done - for example storing water on site using Brac systems tank with integral pump.

This is  one recommended inverter with battery all in one unit
It will store excess electricity generated by photovoltaic solar, wind and produce Low volt DC or AC power
for the emergency lighting and other circuits. 

The GridPoint Connect Series is the first appliance to easily integrate renewable energy sources, automatically increase energy efficiency and provide clean, instant, reliable backup power.

GridPoint’s “plug-and-play” appliances seamlessly combine power electronics, high-capacity battery storage and an advanced computer. Backed by a comprehensive warranty and in compliance with UL safety standards, the appliance actively communicates with GridPoint’s network operations center to ensure optimal performance.


Wind   There are wind mills, but the technology is just being scaled for smaller sites.  Some new small footprint turbine types are now becoming available, but there are problems with approval by the NJ DEP as well as potential local Zoning restrictions.  Bergey Wind Power has a good site and caters to smaller applications.  Wind can be a good compliment to photovoltaic systems because during stormy or evening times, wind may continue re-charging the batteries, run the pumps including the Geothermal heat pumps. 
This Skystream unit is more compact than some.

We should all have some back up food. One source is this one but there are others.   If Gardening isn't for you, these guys can teach you how to plant edible perennial plants that will remain through the winter.  We might see a lot of lawns being converted.

Water Filtration and treatment
Storage of Roof runoff for horticulture (Lowers Water and Sewer bills)
Special Security measures such as shutters, storm panels, alarm systems, supervision
Video surveillance,