Friday, September 7, 2012

A workout for the generator

We are still at relief headquarters for Tropical Storm Isaac in Orlando, Florida.  Most of the operation wrapped up early in the week, and the only ones left here are a handful of Logistics staff and the two of us.  So many semitrailers of relief supplies were moved into or around the state that the Logistics folks will be here through the weekend getting it all squared away and back to the warehouses for the next event.

Logistics is a heavy database user, so we can't back up and break down the servers until they are finished, nor can we pull down the satellite dish that provides dedicated, secure connectivity back to Red Cross headquarters.  That tear-down and load-out will require two people, so we opted to stay ourselves and I sent the rest of my team home or to other operations in Mississippi and Louisiana.

We're still living in the hotel parking lot, and with no power available in the Florida heat and humidity, the generator is getting a real workout.  We've averaged just 225 hours of generator run time per year since leaving Infinity Coach eight years ago (last month).  Since we arrived here in Orlando we've put over 60 hours on the unit, or over a quarter of what we use in a normal year.  We're on our 15th day, so we're averaging about four hours a day.

I have a spreadsheet that calculates my cost-per-hour for the generator based on the current price of diesel.  I also know about how much each kWh of power drawn from the batteries and later replaced costs, and between the two of them that's around five and a half bucks an hour to supply us with power, or around $22 per day.  That's way cheaper than what the hotel rooms cost for the rest of the staff, and half what it would cost us to stay in a campground, if there even was one nearby. 

We're spending about a dozen hours a day at home, getting back from dinner around 8pm and leaving for the office at 8am.  So the four hours per day represents a 33% duty cycle, or about what I have always used as an estimate.  This is our first real-world test of that over such a long term, and it's good to have confirmation that the numbers were correct.  It also gives me a good indication that our batteries and charger are healthy.

If we stay here much longer, we'll need to take a brief excursion off site to dump our tanks.  Two weeks is what we consider "normal" and we've gone as much as 18 days in a pinch (also on a Red Cross operation).  We might be able to make it to Monday if it looks like Logistics will wrap up then, otherwise we will probably find a dump station tomorrow.  This morning we ran out of fresh water (I had not filled the tank to the very top back in Cocoa Beach), but there is a spigot within reach of where we are parked and I put in another half tank at lunch time.

We're coming up on being due for another day off, and since we're spending most of our time in here doing busy-work -- there's only so many times you can re-inventory a box or re-wrap cables -- we'll probably alternate a few hours off each over the weekend, with one of us remaining in the office for customer support.  On our last day off, Sunday, we went out for relaxing massages, and I'm ready for another, and we each have some personal errands to run.

Assuming we are not redeployed elsewhere, whenever we finish here we will head back to Cocoa Beach for a bit more relaxation.  We'd like to get back down to Palm Beach to look at a boat, and if we are still here on the east coast in another week, we'll make plans to head to Baltimore at the end of the month for Trawler Fest.  We're trying not to get married to any specific plans, though, as we are in the heart of hurricane season, and we're on call for the rest of the month.

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