People spend an inordinate amount of time talking about the weather. How good it is. How bad it is. What it will be this afternoon, tomorrow, over the weekend. I am pretty sure the advent of the Weather Channel and multiple weather-themed reality t.v. shows have helped turn a topic of general interest into a national obsession. After our area was decimated by Hurricane Sandy, how could weather help but become a local obsession as well? I know that I am paying attention to the weather reports now when before I never used to care what the weather forecast was.
Since the calendar has turned over again into hurricane season, it seems like a good idea to talk about generators. Last year during Sandy and the year before during Hurricane Irene we suffered a major power outage here on Long Island. So what did Bob do? When the power went out Bob enthusiastically reached for his box of camping gear. Out come the flashlights, lanterns and candles. Bob looks at a power outage as a way to forcibly separate our kids from their cell phones and computers and maybe get them to play a board game with him. I look at it as a huge inconvenience because if it goes on too long it means that all the food in my fridge and freezer is going to need to be cleaned out and who looks forward to that?
What is your next move after grabbing the candles? Naturally you look out your front door to see if your neighbors have power. When I opened my front door after the winds died down what did I notice? The sound of a generator humming. Not my generator, but one around the block. After all, who would expect a contractor to have a generator? The funny part is that I started whining about getting a generator right after Irene and I kept it up for a year and guess what? Going into Sandy, I still had no generator. Of course, after Sandy hit, we couldn't get our hands on a generator no matter how much we were willing to pay for it. Going into this fall I am prepared. I finally got Bob to buy a generator. However, I am willing to bet that even if we have a power outage this fall he won't want to hook it up. I will probably have to pay someone else to hook it up for me, lol. However, if you want to play is safe and go out and buy a generator here are a few things to keep in mind.
The purpose of a generator is to provide electricity to your home during a power failure. Generators can be fueled by gasoline, diesel fuel, propane or natural gas. The first thing you need to figure out is whether your particular situation requires a portable generator or a stationary/stand-by generator. Portable generators are smaller and cheaper and you can keep them in your garage to haul out when necessary. You can get a decent portable on that runs on gas for around $500.00. The downside to the portable is that you have to refill the tank frequently because it has a relatively short run time of about 12 hours. This can be a problem if the outage lasts a while and if the gas pumps are down due to lack of electricity. And really, it's not the best idea to store a large quantity of gasoline in your garage. Some of the portables can run on a tank of propane like you use for the bbq grill but run time is still a factor. Be mindful of how close the equipment is to your house because you don't want to risk carbon monoxide coming inside.
If you are concerned about being without power for a longer period of time, you want to run your central air, or someone in your family suffers from a medical condition and needs to run equipment to live, you probably need to consider a stand-by generator. This type of generator can also run on a variety of fuels. In our area, you can hook it up to the gas line in your house the same as some people do with their grill. This type of generator can also be equipped with an automatic switch that senses a power failure and turns on the generator. This is a great feature because you don't have to be home to turn it on, and it will turn off automatically when the power is restored. The downside here is that the sophistication of this equipment is reflected in its price. If you are interested in more detailed information about what size generator will fit your particular needs check out the Generating Size Calculator at http://www.generac.com/Residential/Sizer/ . Here's hoping none of us need to use 'em this fall.