Lessons From the Freeze No One Wanted to Learn

March 5, 2021

In the world of electricity and the decisions around it, you would think we collectively have learned about our need to invest in generators to protect against storms like the recent February freeze in Texas. Some might have called for superman, but I would have been happy with a generator!

For those of you privileged enough to have an electric toilet with auto flush and heated seats, you learned that without power you must return to the more traditional approach. So don’t laugh at preppers.

If you are an advocate of tankless water heaters that mount outside your home, you too learned another valuable lesson: Your equipment doesn’t stand a chance against Mother Nature and cold weather. Unfortunately, those same tankless water heaters have electronics that do not handle the power cycling on and off very well, and the parts can be back-ordered for months. Should you replace those cutting-edge water heaters with an old reliable one, very traditional rust may clog up every spigot in your house till you completely flush them. If you use your washing machines before those lines are fully flushed, you now probably have your own brand of camo clothes.

For those who were without power for several days and had a house heater, you quickly learned that those parts will also be on back order, regardless of how cold your home may have been. For you plant lovers, you learned that plastic tarps just don’t measure up to Mother Nature. The only plants that maybe survived were those in your garage and the ones that your neighborhood nursery will now attempt to sell you at a higher price. Someone always wins!

Perhaps you were fortunate enough to live next to a person with a generator, and they helped you keep your fridge on. Don’t forget to add them to your Christmas card list and don’t turn away when the mulch arrives and needs to be spread at your neighbor’s house this spring.

I look back at our February freeze and have to laugh at how ill-prepared I was. Of course, my mind goes to putting in a natural gas genset that I can count on during these types of situations, but I always find somewhere else to put my money, like heated toilet seats, an 80-inch plasma TV, or a new cell phone. However, every one of my neighbors experienced some version of the above, and they are thinking the same thing.

On a serious note, I am confident that the legislature, PUC, and suppliers will develop and deploy the right solutions to help our communities perform better during any future events. It is paramount that we collectively seek to improve reliability (grid power) and resilience (individual sites having the ability to recover and keep functioning if reliability fails).

If you have a fun story to share, I would love to hear it since we all could use some levity.

Please note: The freeze for many families and businesses was a very serious situation. This is not meant to minimize the financial, emotional, and physical impact this storm caused, and I pray it never happens again.

Texas Resident