Protecting your family from outages

Protecting your family from outages

The Texas blackout is only a symptom of a nationwide problem: What you need to know about the fragile state of the electric grid and how to protect your family from outages.

In February 2021, a massive winter storm plunged the Texas region into a virtual snow globe. Not only was the state unprepared to remove the snow that blocked roads and access, but the grid supplying Texan’s with critical electricity couldn’t handle it either. 

In the days and weeks that followed, millions of people wanted to know who was to blame for the massive outages that have been attributed to 111 deaths

It turns out, the ‘who’ was the simple question. And the simple solution.

After stripping away the many layers of blame shifting, the ‘how’ behind the blackout is much more concerning: The grid was physically incapable of keeping up with the demand for power, even if the entire grid remained online. There just wasn’t enough power to satisfy the demand.

As the temperature dropped on February 14th, Texans began turning on their heat, which was mostly electric. With so many homes trying to stay warm, a record-shattering demand spike was seen to the tune of 74.5 gigawatts

In comparison, normal Texas grid operation is roughly 58 gigawatts, statewide. To prepare for temporary surges in demand, the Texas grid can increase their supply to a maximum of 67 gigawatts. 

In other words, the demand for electricity was almost 8 gigawatts over what could be supplied under any circumstances. Even in emergencies. 

The unavoidable truth is that even if Texas’ electric generation capacity stayed 100% online during the storm, there still would have been blackouts. The grid just couldn't keep up with the power demands placed on it by the population.  

By time the storm had passed, 14 U.S. States were forced to establish rolling blackouts to cover the electric shortage. Even outside of Texas, there just wasn't enough power to go around.
  
This is not a new phenomenon, either. 

In fact, electrical systems engineers and industry experts have been issuing reports for years that all say the same thing: without a staggering shift in upgrades and spending, outages will only increase in frequency and duration. Placing millions of people at risk every time the grid goes down.

And they unanimously agree that no section of the grid is “safe” from longer, and more frequent, outages. Nationwide. 

Why is the grid struggling? And what can we do to protect our homes and businesses from the inevitable threats that follow power outages? 

Our electric grid is like a house of cards

When operating under ideal conditions, the U.S. electric grid is a deeply complex interconnected system of power generation plants, transformers and some 6 million miles of wires. 

Using sensors, switching gear, and control centers, the grid can reroute power if small sections go black because of storms, accidents, or even repair work. Most of the time, people don’t even realize that something has rerouted their power because the transitions are near-seamless.

At least, that’s how the grid works under perfect conditions.

In August 2003, a transmission cable in Ohio heated from above-normal power demands, causing the cable to become flexible and sag. The sagging cable touched a tree, which caused a power failure. When that section went dark, nearby sections of the grid attempted to pick up the extra burden as designed to keep the lights on. 

Only those sections were already under a substantial load of their own from consumer demand and could not handle the increase. They, too, went down.

Over the next few hours, a cascading series of demand shifts continued to take down sections of the grid in a snowball effect, until over 50 million people across 8 U.S. states and parts of Canada were without power. 

The 2003 Northeast Blackout, as it was termed, took weeks to restore the entire grid to 100% functionality, contributed to 11 deaths and cost an estimated $6 billion in lost production and damages

Despite the grid operating exactly as designed, the power demand was simply too great to manage.

An aging grid over capacity… and the demand just keeps going up

In their 2017 Infrastructure Report, the American Society of Civil Engineers gave the US electric grid a D+. The shocking report stated: “much of the U.S. energy system predates the turn of the 20th century. Most electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and 1960s with a 50-year life expectancy...the lower 48 states’ power grid is at full capacity, with many lines operating well beyond their design.”  

In shorter terms, they designed much of the grid to only last 50 years before replacement. And it was installed 70 years ago when the average home and business used a fraction of the power they do now.

And the well-intentioned adoption of electric vehicles and home charging stations may dramatically balloon the demand for electricity past the point of sustainability.

According to new research from energy systems engineers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), just one or two electric vehicles on one block may overload nearby transformers past their operating capacity. Transformers that may have operated for 30-40 years will probably need to be replaced in less than 10, which exponentially increases the cost of just maintaining the grid. 

For comparison, the current king of home electric use, a central air conditioner, uses roughly 7kW of power to cool a large 3,500 square foot home during the height of summer. The charger necessary to keep a single electric car ready for everyday use, on the other hand, can demand a staggering 22kw while charging. Put another way, that single charger is the power equivalent of three large central air units cooling a combined 10,500 square feet of living space.    

So add the demands of new transformers to the projected $197 billion investment gap by 2029, and it gets a lot clearer why the DOE’s Grid Modernization Multi-Year Program plan, said that electric utilities will need to spend between $1.5 and $2 trillion from 2010 to 2030, just to maintain reliability of the existing grid.

All told, from 2008-2017, there was an average of 3,188 blackouts per year, plunging an average of 21.96 million people per year, into the dark. 

That is a whole lot of blackouts you may not have heard about until right now.

So if the grid is really this strained, and they forecast electricity demand to dramatically increase with electric vehicles, what can we do to protect our homes and families during an emergency?

Managing the inevitable outages with comfort and security 

Statistically, most of the documented outages when demand outstripped supply occurred during more extreme weather events. Realistically, when it is very hot or very cold, people will be calling on more electricity to maintain a comfortable, and safe, temperature.

Logically, that also means we should be doubly concerned about these types of outage events since losing power during severe weather also means losing the ability to keep our homes at safe temperatures, with running water and safe food storage. 

If the problem is the grid letting us down, then the clear preparation alternative is to generate your own electricity to keep your lights on. 

Let’s look at two ways to do that.

Solar Power

Solar power is a fantastic alternative to grid power, and also has the potential to generate electricity year round, not just during an outage. As long as the sun is up and shining, you will have electricity and a lower utility bill. 

Well, almost.

There is one critical aspect of a solar array that is absolutely necessary to run your solar during a grid outage: a battery bank. 

The reason is a federal mandate called “anti-islanding”, which was instituted to protect utility workers during power outages. Essentially, all solar systems installed in the U.S. are required to stop generating electricity in the event the grid goes down. The reason is simple: if the grid is down, then utility workers can safely fix the problem without being electrocuted. But if you have a grid-connected solar array, then your panels can still feed the grid and potentially electrocute utility workers anywhere in your vicinity. Anti-islanding prevents that risk.

The solution to this mandate is a hybrid grid-tie system that has a battery bank attached to it. During an outage, the solar array feeds power into the batteries, which are used to power loads in the home, all isolated from the grid by a transfer switch. 

The downside to this concept is that the battery banks are very large, expensive, and could need to be replaced in as little as five years.

Standby Whole House Generator 

Outside of solar arrays, the best bang for the buck option that can be installed in the shortest period is the standby whole house generator.

These generators are permanently installed next to your home and look just like a central air conditioning unit. When the power goes out, or even “browns-out”, the generator will automatically turn on and take over the power supply to your house. Even if no one is home. 

The obvious upside to this option is a total backup replacement of your power supply without sacrificing any comforts. Even on the hottest days or coldest nights, your generator will continue powering the critical items that keep your family safe and comfortable. To top it all off, natural gas-powered generators mean no refueling in the middle of the night, or needing to be home for the power to stay on. It just works.

And choosing a meticulously-designed generator, like the Cummins QuietConnect, also means no loud shrieking motors or failures at the moment of truth. Just smooth, confident electricity that is entirely inside your control.  

Keeping your lights on is a choice you can make

All of this may be very concerning, since electricity is one of those things that we just can’t imagine life without. And many of us have seen what happens when the power goes out for an extended period in severe weather: it doesn’t take long before things get ugly.

In time, the hope is that newer technology will be developed to cope with the ever-increasing demand placed on the grid. Or they will dramatically increase infrastructure spending to make up the shortfall of system-lifespan and eventual replacement. Regardless of how that solution presents itself, however, there is little doubt that the problem exists right now.

The good news is we don’t have to wait for someone else to fix our problems for us, and we certainly don’t have to wait for bad times to strike before we take steps to prevent it. 

Every family can start taking steps now to prepare for an outage later. Stocking up on warm clothes for winter outages, or bottled water for summer outages. Keeping a supply of non-perishable food on hand, or learning how to capture rainfall for the really long outages. 

Or, for the family that wants to ironclad their outage plan, consider finding your nearest Cummins dealer and scheduling a painless home assessment. In just a few minutes you can know exactly how little the ultimate peace of mind can cost and even explore financing options from Synchrony Bank. 

Then, the next time the grid lets you down, regardless of the weather or demand, your family will still be safe and comfortable.   

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Home Standby Generators are smart tech and a smart choice

illustration of home with generator

This article was authored by Chuck McClaugherty, Bear Electric, a Cummins Authorized Dealer.

Smart phones, smart TVs, virtual assistants, smart thermostats, smart locks and doorbells. Our homes are now filled with smart devices. Unfortunately, most of them become useless without power to run or recharge. This is why homeowners should consider installing one smart device above all other: a home standby generator. 

As a Cummins Authorized Dealer, I install a lot of Cummins QuietConnect™ home standby generators throughout Oregon. With increasingly severe weather, rolling blackouts, and aging power grids, I can tell you without a doubt a backup generator is a worthwhile investment. 

The best part of owning one of these smart devices? You don’t have to tell it when to turn on and off. It does it automatically. 

In a nutshell, here’s the process:

When we install a Cummins home standby generator, we also install a Cummins automatic transfer switch. This transfer switch constantly monitors the electric utility power coming into the home. If it detects a break in service, it will automatically disconnect the home from the electric utility line in a split second and turn on the Cummins generator to power the home instead. The generator is fed either by a natural gas line or by a propane tank.

While the Cummins generator is powering the home, the transfer switch will continue to monitor the electric utility line. Once it detects that power has been restored, it’ll automatically disconnect the generator from the home’s electrical system and reconnect the electric utility.

You don’t have to do anything. Nada. Zilch. The generator and the transfer switch do all the work. In some cases, you may not even realize there’s a power outage until you look out the window and see all your neighbor’s houses are dark.

Just as critical as having a Cummins Authorized Dealer professionally install your backup generator and transfer switch is making sure you choose the right size generator for your home. If it’s too small, the load won’t be able to power everything in the house. If it’s too big, you’ll consume extra natural gas or propane when you use it.

The easiest way to make sure you select the right size generator is to have your dealer do it for you. But if you want to get a feel for how much generator you’re going to need, Cummins has an excellent blog post on calculating the generator wattage you need or you can use the generator size calculator at Cummins.com.

We live in a world full of smart devices. Make sure you can keep yours up and running during power outages with a Cummins QuietConnect home standby generator. To find a dealer near you, use the Cummins dealer locator. Or, if you live in Oregon, just contact me at (503) 678-3417 or [email protected] 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

1-800 Cummins software update

Sales and Service truck parked by bridge

Cummins Inc. (NYSE: CMI) is pleased to announce that 1-800-CUMMINS will be offering software sales as an added feature. The suite of software supported by this new feature includes INSITE, QSOL, PowerSpec, INCAL, and Guidanz IA. Making this available through 1-800-CUMMINS will streamline customer handoffs, reduce downtime, and ensure our customers receive responsive and proactive software sales support, every time. 

What’s changing?

•    New Software Sales option on 1-800-CUMMINS™  
•    All calls to legacy numbers will be redirected to 1-800-CUMMINS™

What’s staying the same?

•    Customers can still call 1-800-CUMMINS™ for parts support, general product and service inquiries, and service provider technical assistance for engines, generators, and Cummins digital products. 

When did the change take place?

•    Monday, October 10, 2022

 “I am thrilled about this new offering we are providing our customers. Not only will this help them get the support they need faster, but it also helps reduce customer complexity,” added Greg Ehlinger, Executive Director, Centralized Solutions. “Our customers depend on us to power their business and having trusted solutions delivered easily and accessibly by experts who care is one way we are doing that.” 

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

Cummins Inc. and EDF Renewables enters into a distributed photovoltaic Power Purchase Agreement

contract signing ceremony

Covering seven manufacturing entities with a total installed capacity of 16.5 MWp, reducing carbon emissions in facilities and operations significantly.

Cummins China and EDF Renewables signed a distributed photovoltaic PowerPurchase Agreement in Beijing, aiming to cut down electricity consumption from traditional grids and reduce carbon emissions in Cummins facilities & operations. Cummins will provide the roof & ground space and will consume the generated solar power, EDF Renewables will be responsible for the investment, installation and operation of solar PV generation equipment. WANG Ning, Vice President of Cummins, and Erwann Debos, CEO of EDF Renewables China, completed the signing of the contract on behalf of both parties. 

EDF is a global leader in renewable energy, including wind and solar. EDF Renewables has profound technical capabilities and service experience in the field of photovoltaic power generation. The partnership will install distributed photovoltaic power generation system at 7 manufacturing entities in Beijing, Wuxi, Wuhan, Chongqing and Liuzhou . With a total installed capacity of 16.5 MW, the project can provide about 280 million kWh of power generation in 20 years, saving about 158,000 tons of carbon emissions. 

"We are pleased that Cummins and EDF are working together in the field of distributed photovoltaics to provide new opportunities for Cummins to expand green energy consumption and reduce emissions from plant operations. It will help Cummins achieve renewable electricity use accounting for more than 10% of total electricity consumption by 2023 in China region. This project will further enable our capability in green production and operation, and position us well for sustainable development,” said WANG Ning. 

At present, the use of building roof to install photovoltaic system is a very effective way for corporate customers to reduce their carbon emissions. Cummins and EDF signed a 20-year power purchase contract, which can achieve carbon emission reduction targets and electricity cost savings at the same time. 

Erwann Debos said at the signing ceremony, "We are honored to provide Cummins with distributed photovoltaic Renewables solutions to help Cummins achieve its PLANET 2050 strategic goals. EDF Renewables aims to work hand in hand with customers to provide the most advanced integrated energy management solutions around the low-carbon transformation of enterprises, and to empower the global energy transition."

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

5 businesses that can benefit from selling Cummins generators

Cummins dealer discussing home generator

Ninety percent of American business are small- and medium-size. They are the true engines of our economy, employing millions of workers. With many of them looking for new ways to expand their services, generate income and grow their businesses, Cummins home standby and portable generators could be a new source of revenue. 

A Silver Lining in Dark Clouds

According to the Associated Press, power outages from severe weather have doubled over the past two decades, straining our country’s aging power grid. This has increased the frequency and duration of power outages. These frequent outages create a need for reliable backup power for households and other businesses. And for enterprising small- and medium-size businesses, satisfying this need with Cummins generators is a huge opportunity.   

Which businesses could benefit the most from becoming Cummins authorized dealers? Here are our top five:

1. General Contractors — When natural disasters such as ice storms, hurricanes, high winds, forest fires or earthquakes hit, lost power isn’t the only challenge customers face. There is often physical damage to property that must be repaired. When they are helping customers to rebuild, general contractors have an opportunity to estimate home or business’s energy needs and suggest adding a Cummins QuietConnect™ Home Standby Generator. If the customer agrees, the general contractor not only profits from the sale of the generator, but also the labor to install it.

2. Electricians — A good electrician is a trusted source of information. Not only are they experts with the flow of electrons, they often know their customer’s specific electrical setups. After a prolonged power outage, many are often asked “Is there anything you can do to keep my electricity on the next time the power goes out?” Electricians who sell and install Cummins QuietConnect Home Standby Generators can say, “Yes, yes there is.” Installing home standby generators can be another valuable service that electricians provide.

3. Heating & Cooling Contractors — During a power outage, one of the most critical systems knocked offline for home and business owners is their central heating and cooling system. Going without heat or cool air for a long period of time is not only uncomfortable, it can be dangerous if the temperatures are extreme outside. So, naturally, once power is restored, finding a way to keep the HVAC system on during the next power outage becomes top-of-mind. Since heating and cooling contractors are experts at installing large systems in homes and businesses, adding Cummins QuietConnect standby generators to homes and businesses is a natural way to add another profit center to their businesses.

4. Online Retailers — Up until now, we’ve been discussing standby generators. For businesses that don’t specialize in installing generators permanently into place, Cummins portable generators can be a moneymaker.  While portable generators can be used during power outages, they are better suited to smaller tasks due to their portability. This makes them ideal for camping, tailgating, construction worksites and more. With Cummins’ rugged and reliable reputation, our portable generators are ideal for retailers focused on these market segments.

5. Solar Panel Installers — Most home solar panels are connected directly to the power grid. So, when the power goes out, the solar panels stop providing power. For a backup source of electricity, solar panel installers can either install a solar battery backup, which gets charged by the solar panels, or a home standby generator. Typically, solar battery backups can only power a home for a few hours, so if an area is prone to weather-related outages, a home standby generator such as the Cummins QuietConnect is the better choice.

The Time is Now

With more people than ever looking for backup power generation, now’s a great time to expand your company’s offerings by becoming a Cummins authorized dealer. To learn more visit, cummins.com/partners/dealers.

Cummins Office Building

Cummins Inc.

Cummins, a global power technology leader, is a corporation of complementary business segments that design, manufacture, distribute and service a broad portfolio of power solutions. The company’s products range from internal combustion, electric and hybrid integrated power solutions and components including filtration, aftertreatment, turbochargers, fuel systems, controls systems, air handling systems, automated transmissions, electric power generation systems, microgrid controls, batteries, electrolyzers and fuel cell products.

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