Alert for power outage

cutman1000

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 26, 2003
3,357
South Carolina/New Zealand
Good morning, SoSH tech geniuses. I need some help - we have had power outages at work that put thousands of dollars worth of medicine and vaccines at risk of spoiling. They must remain refrigerated. Is there some type of contraption out there that can alert me to when the power goes out? Ideally I would plug it into the same outlet that the medication refrigerator is plugged into, and if the power goes out I will get a notification on my phone. Does something like this exist? I've googled and Amazon'd and can't find what I'm looking for. Any ideas?
 

The Napkin

wise ass al kaprielian
Dope
SoSH Member
Jul 13, 2002
24,199
right here
would something like this work for you?

The other thought was some type of temp alarm in the fridge but I'm not sure how fast you could get there and if it would be too long to be of any use.
 

czar

fanboy
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
4,200
Ann Arbor
So it's a bit tricky, because many energy monitoring devices (i.e., smart plugs) talk to a hub, but a power outage nukes power to the hub and breaks the connection. Even if you have a hub with battery backup, you may have issues getting information "out" if the router goes out.

Practically, my workflow would be taking an energy monitoring Zigbee/ZWave plug and attaching that to a hub (e.g., Hubitat, Smartthings, Raspberry Pi running Home Assistant) which has a battery backup and having that hub send data via a cellular hotspot that has a battery (can be plugged in, so always on and then has ~8 hours of juice if power goes off).

It wouldn't shock me if people in the "smart home" community have already thought about this problem...
 

cutman1000

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 26, 2003
3,357
South Carolina/New Zealand
So it's a bit tricky, because many energy monitoring devices (i.e., smart plugs) talk to a hub, but a power outage nukes power to the hub and breaks the connection. Even if you have a hub with battery backup, you may have issues getting information "out" if the router goes out.

Practically, my workflow would be taking an energy monitoring Zigbee/ZWave plug and attaching that to a hub (e.g., Hubitat, Smartthings, Raspberry Pi running Home Assistant) which has a battery backup and having that hub send data via a cellular hotspot that has a battery (can be plugged in, so always on and then has ~8 hours of juice if power goes off).

It wouldn't shock me if people in the "smart home" community have already thought about this problem...
That was where my googling lead me. It was too complicated for a dummy like me to figure out, but thanks for the suggestion.
 

Comfortably Lomb

Koko the Monkey
SoSH Member
Feb 22, 2004
11,046
The Paris of the 80s
would something like this work for you?

The other thought was some type of temp alarm in the fridge but I'm not sure how fast you could get there and if it would be too long to be of any use.
We use temp alarms. The benefit is if you go out of range you know exactly when and some vaccines are fine if only for X time.

Our sites all have generators so outages aren't really the issue--more just the pharmacy fridges going out of range.
 

mwonow

Member
SoSH Member
Sep 4, 2005
5,945
I'm just adding something like this to our cottage solar grid - a circuit that auto-starts a generator if the power cuts out. Not sure if/how this would translate to your circumstance, but it's out there, and is triggered by the absence of power rather than a powered connection (which might be important...)

This is a big issue in data centres, which use UPSes to bridge outages or gaps between a utility going out and a generator coming on line. That might be worth a bit of research...
 

RIFan

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
2,449
Rhode Island
Square D's Wiser is a home automation solution, that will partially do what you are looking for. The nice thing about the Wiser is that it goes right on your panel. It's a smart device that "learns" which devices are pulling electricity so you can monitor everything from just this device. It is a very cool system that helps identify your big energy draws, especially ones that are drawing a lot while idle. The problem is as with any wifi enabled device a full power failure takes it off line too. I'll have to look into what a commercial equivalent is.

The monitoring aspect is nice, but if you have thousands of dollars at risk I would really be looking at having a standby generator. A multilayer protection and notification system is really your best bet.
 

RIFan

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 19, 2005
2,449
Rhode Island
I'm just adding something like this to our cottage solar grid - a circuit that auto-starts a generator if the power cuts out. Not sure if/how this would translate to your circumstance, but it's out there, and is triggered by the absence of power rather than a powered connection (which might be important...)
I believe you are referring to a transfer switch, which is required by code for all standby generators. FYI, the Wiser comes in a solar version. It will monitor your energy generation from the panels so you know how much you are using and how much is being backfed into the grid.
 

mwonow

Member
SoSH Member
Sep 4, 2005
5,945
I believe you are referring to a transfer switch, which is required by code for all standby generators. FYI, the Wiser comes in a solar version. It will monitor your energy generation from the panels so you know how much you are using and how much is being backfed into the grid.
Thanks! We're not grid connected. My switch comes from the inverter manufacturer (Magnum - a mere $500 for something they could have easily built in), and is triggered by battery level (not panels - else, it would fire up each night!)
 

moglia

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
309
Asheville, NC
Have you looked into a UPS? This would provide your monitoring and alert functions, as well as a backup power source. Something in this line might fit the bill (assuming the fridge is on 120V split-phase).
 

Gdiguy

Member
SoSH Member
Jul 15, 2005
4,282
San Diego, CA
Since you said 'medicines' and 'vaccines' - I mean the real way to do this is e.g. https://www.monnit.com , temperature sensor / power sensor monitors that either connect to WIFI or even have their own cell connection to send signals in case of power outage, that's what we use for like -80C freezers in lab
 

tmracht

Well-Known Member
Gold Supporter
SoSH Member
Aug 19, 2009
1,901
Since you said 'medicines' and 'vaccines' - I mean the real way to do this is e.g. https://www.monnit.com , temperature sensor / power sensor monitors that either connect to WIFI or even have their own cell connection to send signals in case of power outage, that's what we use for like -80C freezers in lab
Can confirm these are excellent. We used them in our factories where we would store temperature sensitive subcomponents.
 

cutman1000

Member
SoSH Member
Aug 26, 2003
3,357
South Carolina/New Zealand
These are great suggestions. Thank you all.
A little more detail on my situation:

My vet clinic has 3 phase power - A, B, and C. For whatever reason (power company has been notified), the B phase goes out some times. Our big fridge is not usually affected, but our vaccine fridge goes out if B phase goes out. I have a battery backup for that fridge that can run it for several hours.

My house is 0.8 miles from the clinic, so if I can get a notification of when the power goes out I’ll have plenty of time to get there to save the vaccines before the backup battery dies.
 

moglia

Well-Known Member
Silver Supporter
SoSH Member
Jul 16, 2005
309
Asheville, NC
Is B phase dropping a utility issue or an issue with your own service?

B is typically the hottest bus due to its location; if you have old electrical distribution gear it would be worth a call to a licensed electrical contractor to determine if you have loose connections or another issue going on. Could cost a little bit in the end but the reliability will be worth it.