Generator or No Generator

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lucky3
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Generator or No Generator

Post by lucky3 » Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:40 pm

Now that Hurricane Sandy is behind us, at least behind us for most of us Northeasterners....what's the Boglehead's views on house generators?

Most people I've spoken too, who have portable or whole house generators, had them working for a day then most gave out and stopped working....anyone have any good experiences with them when the lights go out? I was thinking of buying one but after hearing all the horror stories maybe I should get some extra batteries for my flashlight instead!:)

Lucky3

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FrugalInvestor
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by FrugalInvestor » Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:48 pm

lucky3 wrote:Now that Hurricane Sandy is behind us, at least behind us for most of us Northeasterners....what's the Boglehead's views on house generators?

Most people I've spoken too, who have portable or whole house generators, had them working for a day then most gave out and stopped working....anyone have any good experiences with them when the lights go out? I was thinking of buying one but after hearing all the horror stories maybe I should get some extra batteries for my flashlight instead!:)

Lucky3
In my opinion the value of a generator is based upon how frequently and for how long you typically lose power. If you seldom lose power or only lose it for brief periods of time then the cost of purchase and work to keep it maintained and operating properly is not worth it. If you lose power regularly and for extended periods then it very well may be.
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livesoft
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by livesoft » Mon Nov 12, 2012 3:51 pm

I am anti-generator. If power goes out for more than a day, I see it as a good excuse to leave town.
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Dan999
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by Dan999 » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:04 pm

I had a Honda 2000EU that I loaned out and it ran 8 hours at a time on a gallon or so of gas, for 5 days, no issues. I highly reccommend it.
Costs $1,000 runs 1,600 watts continuously and 2000 watt peak.
Good for a fridge or portable heater and some energy effienct lights, radio etc. You need to choose what you want to run.
They make a 3000 wat also, and I assume it would be reliable as well.

It is supposed to be ok with a1/3 hp sump pump, but not sure about a 1/2 hp pump.

Briggs and Stratton has a good website to show what you can run on a 2000 watt genny.

Dan

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by jebmke » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:18 pm

livesoft wrote:I am anti-generator. If power goes out for more than a day, I see it as a good excuse to leave town.
That is my plan. When a "predictable" storm like a hurricane is headed our way, I always top off my gas tank.
When you discover that you are riding a dead horse, the best strategy is to dismount.

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Rager1
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by Rager1 » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:19 pm

lucky3 wrote:Now that Hurricane Sandy is behind us, at least behind us for most of us Northeasterners....what's the Boglehead's views on house generators?

Most people I've spoken too, who have portable or whole house generators, had them working for a day then most gave out and stopped working....anyone have any good experiences with them when the lights go out? I was thinking of buying one but after hearing all the horror stories maybe I should get some extra batteries for my flashlight instead!:)

Lucky3
We had a 15kw natural gas powered generator installed several years ago by our utility company. When the power goes out, it takes about 45 seconds for the generator to begin providing power. We have it maintained twice a year and have not had any problems with its reliability. In our neighborhood, we have many trees and our power lines are above ground. Consequently, we lose power several times a year during storms. The longest stretch of time we've had to cover was 4 days and the generator worked flawlessly.

I highly recommend a whole house generator.

Ed

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by LadyGeek » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:21 pm

This thread is now in the Personal Consumer Issues forum (house). Consider posting in this thread: Is it time to install a whole-house generator?
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by yellowjacket » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:22 pm

The first decision on generators is whole-house or limited service. We put in a limited service portable installation in Florida and put in a transfer switch sized to the portable generator. Whole-house typically has an automatic transfer switch and provides heating and cooling, but this may be limited. Portable usually provides only fans and limited service outlets. Both should start out providing for refrigeration and minimal lighting.

Both require maintenance. I ran my portable for 15 minutes every month, checked oil regular, and had to be prepared with a substantial fuel (gasoline) supply (a hazard). Whole house may utilize a sizable storage tank or tie into the underground gas lines, either providing its own considerations. I replaced my portable at 5 years. Whole house generally self-exercises weekly and generally recommend an annual maintenance contract (highly recommended). And replacement of a whole-house unit? Your guess.

We saw one whole-house with a noise ordinance issue. Ventilation of exhaust gasses for both types is a very serious consideration. My portable limited service system cost about $1,200. Typical whole-house systems in Florida 2 years ago were starting at $14,000. Add for fuel, add for maintenance.
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linuxuser
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by linuxuser » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:48 pm

livesoft wrote:I am anti-generator. If power goes out for more than a day, I see it as a good excuse to leave town.
Easier said then done.
In which direction were you going to go?
The problem I experienced after Hurricane Sandy was not knowing who had power and who didn't given that my smartphone service with T-mobile that I was counting on stopped working on Tuesday. I didn't want to jeopardize my almost full tank of gas going in the wrong direction and ending up stranded *and* away from home. Of course, I had an idea anywhere near the shore was a bad idea. But was Maryland okay? yes apparently, but I don't get their local news, so I don't know how they actually did. Was Delaware okay? no. Was eastern PA okay? no.

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Watty
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by Watty » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:52 pm

I once looked into this and what I found was that if you had a real NEED for a generator then you really needed to get one that was professionally installed and maintained and it should run on natural gas so you don't need to deal with the fuel.

This would start at a couple of thousand dollars and most people can't really justify this expense.

If all you can justify is a portable hardware store generator that might only work 95% of the time after sitting in your garage for five years+ then you really don't need it and it is in the "possibly nice to have" category.

I don't have one. The only time my power was off for more than a day it was off for about five days and we ended up getting by just fine by basically camping out in our house and eating takeout food.

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by likegarden » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:00 pm

We never had an emergency generator. 25 years ago I installed a backup battery-driven sump pump, never had a flooded basement. Deep draw marine battery fails every 5 years, we have a backup battery.
We live in a development with all utility lines underground, as other developments in my town, therefore only feeder lines can get damaged by trees, are fixed rather quickly, We are without power about once every year for a few hours.

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by livesoft » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:03 pm

linuxuser wrote:
livesoft wrote:I am anti-generator. If power goes out for more than a day, I see it as a good excuse to leave town.
Easier said then done.
In which direction were you going to go?
The problem I experienced after Hurricane Sandy was not knowing who had power and who didn't given that my smartphone service with T-mobile that I was counting on stopped working on Tuesday. I didn't want to jeopardize my almost full tank of gas going in the wrong direction and ending up stranded *and* away from home. Of course, I had an idea anywhere near the shore was a bad idea. But was Maryland okay? yes apparently, but I don't get their local news, so I don't know how they actually did. Was Delaware okay? no. Was eastern PA okay? no.
Since I experienced the joys of Sandy while staying within a short walk of the shoreline of Long Island, I do share your concerns. It is absolutely true that one did not have enough local info the first 24 hours after landfall to make a decision. But after sheltering in place for a little while, we drove to Pittsburgh without any problems and flew home.

I live near the Gulf Coast. We knew exactly where to go after Rita and Ike after sheltering in place for a day, so we left town.

Part of being prepared is not only a full-tank of gas, but knowing how to use it.
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linuxuser
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by linuxuser » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:21 pm

How did you know Pittsburgh was fine?
Lucky guess?

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by linuxuser » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:23 pm

Watty wrote:The only time my power was off for more than a day it was off for about five days and we ended up getting by just fine by basically camping out in our house and eating takeout food.
Well, the local takeout places after Hurricane Sandy was also without power.
Your assumption is that you are the only household without power.
What if your entire county was without power?

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by swaption » Mon Nov 12, 2012 5:54 pm

Posted at the end of the other thread as well. Installed a 17kw Generac that runs on propane for about $8k all-in. We were without power for about 9 days after Sandy. Not surprising I would now say best decision we ever made. We lost power for 5+ days 3 times in the last 1.5 years. Does it retain it's value? Hard to say, but certainly a positive for the house. In areas where houses can be $1+ mm, even small impacts on marketability can have a meaningful impact.

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by livesoft » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:02 pm

linuxuser wrote:How did you know Pittsburgh was fine?
Lucky guess?
Text messaging to friends in Pittsburgh
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Watty
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by Watty » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:07 pm

linuxuser wrote:
Watty wrote:The only time my power was off for more than a day it was off for about five days and we ended up getting by just fine by basically camping out in our house and eating takeout food.
Well, the local takeout places after Hurricane Sandy was also without power.
Your assumption is that you are the only household without power.
What if your entire county was without power?
I'm not a survivalist or anything but with buying things in bulk and on sale I could go a couple of weeks without buying any food if I needed to although some of the selections would get a bit odd after a while. For cooking we have a propane BBQ with a side "hot plate" and two propane tanks that would likely last us a reasonably long time. We also have a Coleman camping stove and a few bottles of propane for that too.

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by livesoft » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:07 pm

linuxuser wrote:
Watty wrote:The only time my power was off for more than a day it was off for about five days and we ended up getting by just fine by basically camping out in our house and eating takeout food.
Well, the local takeout places after Hurricane Sandy was also without power.
Your assumption is that you are the only household without power.
What if your entire county was without power?
When I am camping, I am never near a take-out place.

Have we reached the point in the U.S. of A. where prepared folks cannot live without electricity and/or cooking for a few days? I was eating bagels that were not even toasted. Heaven forbid! My spouse told me of an acquaintance that stores 6 months of freeze-dried food and guns to protect it in their home.

I do see the point where a $1,000,000+ home should probably have its own generator. But I do not believe a $250,000 home needs one.
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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by TomatoTomahto » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:08 pm

Getting out of town is not an option for many parents and people with jobs.

Many of my neighbors still don't have power, but their children would be hurt by not attending school, which has been in session for more than a week. The schools are understanding, but in high school, missing classes can be a problem.

While some employers are more understanding than others, they are still running a business. To quote my wife's COO (not coincidentally comfortably living in London): "I know about the Frankenstorm and all that, but these budget submissions are nevertheless due tomorrow."

My only regret is caving last year when my wife thought that a generator wasn't necessary. She agrees now that we should get one. Permits were applied for today. 20kw.

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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by TomatoTomahto » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:13 pm

Further to livesoft's point, based on Zillow's estimate of my house value, the price of a generator is less than 1%.

Edited to fix capitalization of livesoft (from LiveSoft).

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by Grt2bOutdoors » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:24 pm

We lost power for 5 days, the local utility couldn't provide an estimate when it would come back on, the local town board was clueless as to what was happening (even admitting so in an "apology" letter to the township and when they did know what was happening, weren't able to distribute that information - the utilities at the municipal buildings were out. This loss of power has become much too frequent, at least once per year, and for more than 24 hours at a stretch.

My neighbors and I have come up with what we feel is middle of the road approach for those who don't need a whole house, whole bank account expenditure. Two Honda 2000 EU's run in tandem with OEM cables to hook up to, can run about 4000 kw, enough to run the furnace or a/c's, refrigerator, maybe the tv, computer or a couple of lights. Cost is about $3K. We don't need all lines to have "juice", just need the essentials to enjoy what we are paying substantial taxes on. The fuel supply - 2 5 gallon metal containers of gas, one kept filled, one to be filled in case of advance warning storms like Sandy was. The gas won't go to waste, if I don't use it for the generator, I'll be likely using it to run my lawn mower and/or snowblower or even to top off my automobile tank - a little Stabil goes a long way. Living in the Northeast, exposes us to Mother's Nature varying ways of trying one's patience.
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by investomajic » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:41 pm

I lost power for 2.5 weeks during the 2007 ice storms and if I lose power again my plan is to do exactly as I did then: take a last minute vacation to visit family and friends out of town (or an actual vacation if the budget fits).

I thought about a generator after being without power for that long but I haven't been without power for more than 1 hour (probably in aggregate) since those 2007 ice storms. I am glad I didn't purchase a generator, maintain it for 5+ years and hope it worked when I eventually did need it.
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by btenny » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:41 pm

Tomato and Livesoft, Are you guys saying that the schools and businesses in your area are open pretty quick but the power to many local homes and outlying homes are still out? Thus your kids and you have to go to work/school and then go home to cold homes?

If this is correct how come? Why are the power lines to schools and local businesses getting fixed (after outages due to down trees and so forth) so much faster than those to local homes?

I don't understand. Please tell me more info. Out here in Arizona we made a major push back starting in the 1970s to underground as many power lines as possible and forced all new construction power etc. to underground power. At that time (1970s) we lost power pretty regularly for 1-36 hours when ever we had big dust and thunder storms. This happened at least 2-4 times a year. The above ground lines blew down or touched each other and went down. The decision to underground was painful and had many opponents but eventually it was accepted. Well now 35 years later and our area of town looks dramaticlly different than other above ground power areas and things are much nicer. Almost NO overhead wires to block views... Plus we never have a power outage now. I mean litterly never. I now set my water timers and clocks and so forth and never put in backup batteries. They are not needed for years and you forget the batteries are run down. Likewise it is legal here to have smoke/fire detectors hooked to the main power now since it is so reliable.

Bill

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by johnny72 » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:50 pm

Wow, I'm sure that is great to be able to leave town when the power goes out. For me, I still have to go to work the next day.

I paid $250 for a 3,250 watt generator with a 4,000 peak wattage at Home Depot 5 years ago. I've used it a few times for real power outages as well as starting it up every few months to keep it juiced up.

With Sandy we were without power about 22 hours... worked fantastically to:

1. Keep sump pump running
2. Keep one refrigerator running
3. Keep Internet and landline going
4. Keep alarm system going
5. Keep notebook computer charged

In the 22 hours, I used 3 gallons of gasoline. Was very thankful to have it.

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by livesoft » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:53 pm

@btenny, I don't know about anybody else, but the schools in my area are in the neighborhoods of homes, thus the schools get power when homes get power. My home is close to my office, so while it is possible that one or the other will have power and the other won't, it would be unusual. If one does have power, that means there will be local restaurants and grocery stores with power. I can also take hot showers at work or at the Y if they are open.

The power lines are underground where I live. Sometimes a backhoe or construction will cut power to an area. When power goes out from a hurricane it has been because major transmission lines in the next county that feed us were destroyed. They don't rebuild these things in a day or so.

On Long Island my understanding is that some power distribution stations were flooded with salt water that destroyed much of the equipment, so underground power lines were not helpful.
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investomajic
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by investomajic » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:58 pm

johnny72 wrote:Wow, I'm sure that is great to be able to leave town when the power goes out. For me, I still have to go to work the next day.
In my situation and location, most corporate offices were closed in my area for 2 to 3 days after the initial storm (due to power issues as well). For the remaining days, I used a combination of vacation days and remote/off-site work. For me it worked great for 2 reasons: I tend to not use all of my vacation days in any given year so it was a great reason to actually start using them and secondly, I work in an industry in which it is relatively easy to work remotely.

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by exoilman » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:00 pm

reference

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by johnny72 » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:01 pm

btenny wrote:Are you guys saying that the schools and businesses in your area are open pretty quick but the power to many local homes and outlying homes are still out? Thus your kids and you have to go to work/school and then go home to cold homes? If this is correct how come? Why are the power lines to schools and local businesses getting fixed (after outages due to down trees and so forth) so much faster than those to local homes?
This is absolutely the case. It's because power companies prioritize who they restore power for. The bottom line is that a hospital in a major area is going to get fixed first, then maybe stores and gas stations and then eventually they'll fix a house like mine that sits on a cul-de-sac with 11 other houses. Did you think there was one tree that fell on one line keeping everything down? No, there were hundreds of faults that needed to be fixed and the power company has to prioritize.
btenny wrote:I don't understand. Please tell me more info. Out here in Arizona we made a major push back starting in the 1970s to underground as many power lines as possible and forced all new construction power etc. to underground power. At that time (1970s) we lost power pretty regularly for 1-36 hours when ever we had big dust and thunder storms. This happened at least 2-4 times a year. The
Hey, that's great. Hey did you know that your state was the 48th admitted to the union just 100 years ago? Some of us live in the original colonies that were settled over 300 years ago and have much more extensive, less planned infrastructure in place. Couple that with a penchant for hurricanes that causes 100s of faults in a single night and you see what we have.

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TomatoTomahto
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by TomatoTomahto » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:11 pm

btenny wrote:Tomato and Livesoft, Are you guys saying that the schools and businesses in your area are open pretty quick but the power to many local homes and outlying homes are still out? Thus your kids and you have to go to work/school and then go home to cold homes?

If this is correct how come? Why are the power lines to schools and local businesses getting fixed (after outages due to down trees and so forth) so much faster than those to local homes?

I don't understand. Please tell me more info. Out here in Arizona we made a major push back starting in the 1970s to underground as many power lines as possible and forced all new construction power etc. to underground power. At that time (1970s) we lost power pretty regularly for 1-36 hours when ever we had big dust and thunder storms. This happened at least 2-4 times a year. The above ground lines blew down or touched each other and went down. The decision to underground was painful and had many opponents but eventually it was accepted. Well now 35 years later and our area of town looks dramaticlly different than other above ground power areas and things are much nicer. Almost NO overhead wires to block views... Plus we never have a power outage now. I mean litterly never. I now set my water timers and clocks and so forth and never put in backup batteries. They are not needed for years and you forget the batteries are run down. Likewise it is legal here to have smoke/fire detectors hooked to the main power now since it is so reliable.

Bill
Btenny, the answer is in your second paragraph. We still have mostly above-ground wires. We also have many mature trees, hills, narrow roads, etc. The schools, hospitals, businesses, etc. for the most part have buried wires, although transformer fires or sub-station fires will still affect them.

In our case, the children attend a private school where 60% of the students are bused to school. So, even though the school didn't lose power, it remained closed for a week since many students and teachers could not safely get there (they did provide charging stations, wireless, showers and hot drinks for those who could get there). There are still students without power, but AFAIK they've all been taken in by classmates.

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by Sam I Am » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:16 pm

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NateW
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by NateW » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:33 pm

I was on the south side of Sandy's path, in Northern Virginia. I've been contemplating the same thing.

About a week ago I bit the bullet and bought a Honda 2KW inverter generator, new. I could have bought one of several Chinese knock-offs for about half of what I paid, but after reading the reviews, I opted for dependable peace of mind. This was my second generator.

About six months ago during what I thought was the first day without power due to a duratio, I bought an el cheapo 5.5 KW Chinese generator for about $550 at Home Depot. Although it worked well, ran two air conditioners and a refrigerator, a chest freezer, a TV and lights all at the same time, boy was it loud! It used about 8 gallons of gas in 12 hours. That was the extent of our power outage.

The Honda inverter generator is really nice. I just burned a tank of gas in it, breaking it in. Holds 1 gallon and it ran for six hours powering varying loads of 600 - 1600 watts. It is pretty quiet too. During the winter, 1600 watts is all we'll need. The food can stay in the chest freezer, rolled out on the deck and in coolers. I bought the Honda from Wise Sales, free shipping and did not pay state sales tax on it (I know, I'll report the use tax) it was $999.

During the very rare summer outages, I'll just use the noisy generator during the day and turn it off at night and break out the Honda.

I've decided against a whole house generator, mainly because it is rare we lose power and in the past 10 years in my house, collectively it’s been off about four days. That's it. We did not lose it during Sandy.

--Nate

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webslinger
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by webslinger » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:46 pm

I think a lot depends on personal circumstances.

For those that depend on sump pumps operating during a storm, medical equipment which is electrically powered, etc, I would say that some sort of generator for backup power is a priority.

For my personal situation, I can relatively comfortably deal with power loss for 24 hours. We typically store a dozen gallons or so of water for flushing toilets (Toto 1.6 gal per flush !!!!) and 6 gallons of water for drinking and cooking. We have propane for cooking, propane for a fireplace (providing some level of heat), and many of the new LED flashlights (which use readily available AA batteries rather than the D cell which sell out before storms!). And best of all, I found a place not too far away that sells big blocks of dry ice -- saved our garage freezer twice: Sandy and last year's Halloween snow storm. Our refrigerator freezer was a loss.

I know many neighbors and friends that were not able to start their gas power generators, ran out of gas, or wasted hours waiting on long gas lines.

Net: I will pass on a generator.

Webslinger

TRC
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by TRC » Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:24 pm

The same argument could be made for insurance. Stinks spending money on it, but you're glad you have it when you need it.

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by shipwreck » Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:26 pm

I consider it insurance. I do lose power often. I feel this is becoming more the norm
than the exception. I have a small generator enough to keep basic things going. I
just change the oil as recommended. Use gas stabilizer and rotate out the gas after
a few months.

Last year Halloween Storm, I fired up the generator and the coffee maker (plus other things).
It was the best cup (and most expensive) of coffee I could have.

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by whomever » Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:35 pm

I think a lot depends on personal circumstances.

Amen. For us it's worth it not for comfort - our idea of fun is a two week ski trip sleeping in snow caves in WY, so camping in the house is cushy even without power - but long johns and a 40 below sleeping bag don't keep the pipes from freezing. A small generator to run the gas furnace a few hours a day is a lot cheaper and more convenient than a wood stove around here (pollution regulations mean you need a pretty fussy wood stove).

I have a relative who has the wood stove but well water - no electricity, no water for toilets.

The little inverter generators are pretty low hassle - we keep a couple of 2.5 gallon gas cans around for the lawn tools anyway, and there is 5 gallon motorcycle gas tank that's easy to drain. That's a few weeks of running the generator enough to keep the house from freezing. I don't understand the maintenance issues - if you run it, carefully mothball it (drain all gas, run dry, oil cylinder, maybe change oil). But then it sits until I use it again.

If you live in a climate where pipes don' t freeze or have a wood stove and city water, you don't need a generator if you're a good camper. If you have a well or have $1000 of food in the freezer or have a home dialysis machine, maybe having one is a good idea.

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mike143
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by mike143 » Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:58 pm

I bought a $200 3000w gen at Home Depot with a Chonda engine. I figured I have more than $200 in the freezer and could also run a small window unit. In Central Florida. Put a good spark plug in it and broke it in so good to go whenever I need it.
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linuxuser
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by linuxuser » Mon Nov 12, 2012 10:14 pm

livesoft wrote:
linuxuser wrote:How did you know Pittsburgh was fine?
Lucky guess?
Text messaging to friends in Pittsburgh
You were lucky that you still had cell service.
There were people who lost theirs.
My Verizon worked, but my T-mobile didn't.

You were also lucky there weren't any problems on your path between where you were and Pittsburgh.
And you were lucky your car could take you that far.
I have driven to my mom in Columbus Ohio from central NJ, I am not sure my Honda Accord would be able to reach Pittsburgh on one tank of gas.

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linuxuser
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by linuxuser » Mon Nov 12, 2012 10:16 pm

livesoft wrote:
linuxuser wrote:
Watty wrote:The only time my power was off for more than a day it was off for about five days and we ended up getting by just fine by basically camping out in our house and eating takeout food.
Well, the local takeout places after Hurricane Sandy was also without power.
Your assumption is that you are the only household without power.
What if your entire county was without power?
When I am camping, I am never near a take-out place.

Have we reached the point in the U.S. of A. where prepared folks cannot live without electricity and/or cooking for a few days? I was eating bagels that were not even toasted. Heaven forbid! My spouse told me of an acquaintance that stores 6 months of freeze-dried food and guns to protect it in their home.

I do see the point where a $1,000,000+ home should probably have its own generator. But I do not believe a $250,000 home needs one.
How do you know whether you could last without electricity?
You by your own admission don't stick around.

And have you camped without any heat when the outside temperature is 30F?

btenny
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by btenny » Mon Nov 12, 2012 11:24 pm

The homes and neighborhoods in NY and NJ with above ground power lines hung allover on old poles with big trees hanging over everything is very similar to what we had in many places here in Arizona when we had poor power back when. You forget that electic power was only installed in the 1900s so we all had the same stuff. Poles and open wires for the first 50+ years. But the big difference is in our case some futuristic politicians made some leading edge decisions to improve things area wide and cramed it though the area utility commissions and zoning stuff. They made every neighborhood put stuff underground and make it more water proof. They made them put small dikes around the power substations, etc.. They made things storm proof. We have floods out here as well, about twice every summer. They are called monsoons. They helped the various neighborhoods find the money to redo stuff. And then it took those same leaders about 20 years of working budgets and finding funding and all sorts of fun and games to get it done across big areas of town. It was very hard but the results are pretty and reliable.....

The point I am trying to make is you guys and gals need to get together with your city governments and try to get your power undergrounded over big areas. Don't spend all your energy and money on putting in stop gap generators. Fix the underlying problems with real long term solutions.

Most of the outages you are having that last for so long are because the utilites have to rebuild the whole network in a half a**ed hurried way after every storm. This rebuilding after every storm costs a fortune when the money would be better spent on better solutions. Like after Katrina. They fixed the dikes and made them bigger and better. You need to do the same.
Then a good amount of this power outage stuff will be history and never occur again.

Bill

PS. Those same guys also helped build a giant local nuclear power station that also helps big time. But you have several of those so power supply is not an issue. It is reliable distribution....

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by Van » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:05 am

Not surprisingly, it depends upon your situation. We have a basement with a sump pump. If you loose power for longer than the battery backup lasts (ca. 6 hours), your basement floods. We have a well. If you loose power, you have no toilets. We have a freezer in the basement with several hundred dollars worth of meat. If you loose power, there goes the meat. We have a barn with 3 cats and 2 horses. If you loose power, the horses and cats have no water. And of course, if you loose power, the humans have no heat, no lights, no tv, etc, etc,

So yes, we have a 20 kW generator that runs off propane. It cost a lot of money: $7000. Boy, when Sandy was headed our way, that seemed like a great expenditure of money!

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by cheese_breath » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:13 am

I don't have a generator, but every time we lose power in our neighborhood I hear them running. So some of them must be good.... Actually with my wife's asthma and allergies we would need a whole house unit for climate and environment control if we did get one. For the few days we lose power each year we find it cheaper to just go to a hotel.
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by livesoft » Tue Nov 13, 2012 6:28 am

linuxuser wrote:And have you camped without any heat when the outside temperature is 30F?
I love ski camping. Have you been to Yosemite up the Merced River in January? Sequoia National Park? Kings Canyon? The temps are well below 30F. We are talking backcountry ski camping in 15+ feet of snow.
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by TomatoTomahto » Tue Nov 13, 2012 7:00 am

@btenny, I don't want to get political here, so I will be brief. I would love to see my $ spent on improving the infrastructure. It sucks to let a good emergency go to waste. Realistically, our elected and non-elected officials are only interested in kicking the can down the street.

SteveB3005
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by SteveB3005 » Tue Nov 13, 2012 7:52 am

I love ski camping.

lol, wait a second , it comes a point no matter how hard you wish it, that it doesn't resemble camping. There is often a sinister element that exists in an urban setting during a catastrophe, I think I'd rather have the lights on!

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czeckers
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by czeckers » Tue Nov 13, 2012 8:05 am

I don't think that the value of a home should dictate whether or not getting a whole house generator makes sense (as noted in some posts above).

I think the decision rests greatly on a) the likelyhood of having a prolonged power outage, and b) the potential consequences of such an outage.

If you live in a neighborhood that rarely loses power, then you probably don't need one. One the other hand, if you live in an area with many above ground power lines and many trees, then you may have frequent outages. Heavy snow and ice can makes things worse.

If you live in an area where winter temps are below freezing for months at a time, then there is a real concern for having your water pipes freeze and burst if you can't heat your home in the winter. Not as much of an issue in the southwest where your main concern may be that you cannot run the A/C. Does your basement depend on a sump pump to remain dry? If so, then you may run the potential of a several thousand dollar cleanup bill everytime you lose poser longer than a battery-backup pump may last. Are you on city water or well water? If on city water, you'll still have water even when power is out, and if you use natureal gas/LP to heat it, you'll still have hot water. Even if you lose heat in the winter, you can still just let the water drip from the faucets to keep it from freezing in the pipes. However, if you are on a well, then you lose all water. None to drink, none to flush toilets. Do you need electricity to power medical equipment such as an oxygen concentrator or to charge an electric wheelchair? Do you have small children that may not do as well if you lose heat in the middle of the winter? Finally, food spoilage in freezers/refrigerators is another issue. Are you someone like our family that buys an entire cow at a time, or do you shop on a weekly basis. Many people I know easily have $1000 worth of meat in their freezers at any given time. That's a pretty expensive loss if you lose power.

I must say that in my current house in the country, the combination of being on well water, having a sump pump that runs frequently, having winters where the temperature may never go above freezing between November and February and with 60-120 inches of snowfall every year, having small children, and buying meat in bulk has really made the whole house generator a no-brainer. 10 years ago, when I lived in the city on city water, no kids, minimal food in the freezer, and no sump pump -- a whole house generator would have been an unjustifiable luxury. As with investing, it all depends on your individual situation.

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by livesoft » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:11 am

SteveB3005 wrote:I love ski camping.

lol, wait a second , it comes a point no matter how hard you wish it, that it doesn't resemble camping. There is often a sinister element that exists in an urban setting during a catastrophe, I think I'd rather have the lights on!
I'm laughing as well. You have watched too many movies I thinks ... maybe even some Stephen King movies.

I have read that neighborhoods where everyone knows each other and their children do much better after catastrophes. I live in such a neighborhood which could not be called urban. We all help each other out.

OK, there is a little bit of a self-sufficient survivalist in me. I have experienced several times what some folks here fear and I am not afraid.

I also realize that I am not going to change the opinion of anyone who wants or uses a generator.
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SteveB3005
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by SteveB3005 » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:25 am

I didn't say a cozy suburban enclave, but not everyone needs a generator and I get that.

bluelight
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by bluelight » Tue Nov 13, 2012 9:37 am

We didn't lose power from Sandy, yet every street around my small dead-end did, for at least 5 days. Some homes in my town and the immediate surrounding towns just got power back in the last couple of days and there are still homes without power after 2 weeks. The out of state crews are still working here, using a local mall parking lot as their staging area.

My SO has wanted a generator for years, and I just blew it off because we hadn't had any problems. As Sandy approached I started to regret that decision. We were lucky. We researched and discussed what we would need for both winter and summer outages and have a portable generator on order. It should be here next week.

The storms appear to be getting worse so I consider it insurance and peace of mind. If I never have to use it, that's OK too.

Leesbro63
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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by Leesbro63 » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:24 am

We loose power from time to time here in my Pittsburgh suburb. Only 1 time in the 21 years that I've lived here has the outage been wide enough that no gas stations were pumping. Usually they outages last less than 24 hours but we've had more than a few that lasted for up to 3 days. Accordingly I bought, in 2008, a $750 5000 watt Troybilt generator at Lowe's. I keep 10 gallons of gas that I rotate into the cars every 6 months. It's not a perfect solution, but it's good enough. Requires running the generator monthly (and before big storms, if you know it's coming), changing the oil every few years and keeping gas fresh. I also have two circuits wired so that I can directly plug them into the generator at the garage, near where the generator runs outside.

Again, not a perfect solution but very much "good enough" when needed.

By the way, can anyone remember or point me to a link about the great power grid failure in the mid-Atlantic region a while back? 2006? 2005? I can't find reference to it but remember we were out in Pittsburgh and friends were out in Detroit too.

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Re: Generator or No Generator

Post by Tom_T » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:26 pm

Leesbro63 wrote:By the way, can anyone remember or point me to a link about the great power grid failure in the mid-Atlantic region a while back? 2006? 2005? I can't find reference to it but remember we were out in Pittsburgh and friends were out in Detroit too.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northeast_Blackout_of_2003

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