Buying a Generator Before the Storm
Storms and disasters usually trigger the most serious power outages, which means they not only last a long time but often occur in the middle of the winter or the height of summer and the hurricane season. In New Orleans, the average high temperature was above 90 degrees for the three weeks after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Imagine being without power during the height of a winter storm that’s pushed several feet of snow against your home. That’s why many homeowners consider purchasing a generator. There are two main types of generators – a temporary generator that can power only a few circuits in your home and a permanent generator that can usually take over all of your home’s electrical needs. Here are some issues to consider when buying a generator before the next storm.
Cost is a major factor. A portable generator, which usually runs on gasoline, is much less expensive than a generator that is permanently wired to your home’s electrical panel. Most power outages are restored in less than a day, although you may specifically want protection from the worst-case scenario. Portable generators come in different sizes, depending on how much you want to keep running during an outage. They generally range in price from about $500 to $2,000. Permanent generators usually run on natural gas or propane and can cost $20,000 to $30,000.
Ease of operation. Permanent generators win this battle easily. Portable generators require oil and gasoline and cannot be used inside a home because of exhaust from the machine. The portable generator must be hooked up with the help of an extension cord and kept just outside a home. Installation is complicated for a permanent generator, but that takes place when there is no emergency. The system includes automatic sensors that switch on when the power is lost and automatically switch over when the power company is back in control.
Pros and cons. Cost is perhaps the biggest issue, since permanent generators can cost 30 to 40 times more than the least expensive portable models. Since most outages are for a day or a matter of hours, a portable generator can be sufficient to keep the refrigerator, a TV and perhaps a few lights working to maintain comfort until the power is restored. Portable generators take more work, and if the issue is for a day or longer, you’ll need extra supplies of gasoline. Remember that it’s possible to be without power much like in a disaster like Katrina or Sandy which disrupted power for weeks to millions of people. Permanent generators have an added benefit of adding value and interest to your home whenever you decide to sell.