Every week up to 3.5 million Americans are affected by the loss of power. Whether from severe weather or interruption of service from a utility provider, blackouts can cause a great deal of inconvenience. Perishable foods go bad, vital home appliances such as sump pumps and water heaters are rendered useless and all of the basic comforts of home such as heating and cooling are no more. Other vital home necessities are drastically affected, basements may flood, frozen pipes could burst and smaller, yet needed items like cell phones and laptops can not be charged. Outages can put households out of not just comforts, but necessities for days at a time. Hurricane Sandy, the most devastating storm to hit the Atlantic seaboard in 2012 put an estimated 8 million Americans without power for sometimes longer than a week.
Homeowners are looking to other sources of electricity when their homes are taken off the main power grid. Living without the comforts of home, for some, is not an option. Generators have become an increasingly popular solution for some; available in a multitude of options, brands and varieties for all household needs. Mainly available in two standard types, portable and standby, each with their distinct qualities and features.
Regardless of the type of generator a homeowner chooses, the size needed will depend on the amount of wattage necessary. Portable generators can run as small as just a few thousand watts whereas standby generators can run entire homes seamlessly without the loss of any electrical use by providing tens of thousands of watts. When considering the size, first determine which appliances you want to power. For example, you might want to keep your refrigerator running, heating and / or air conditioning, a few household lights and any medically necessary devices. You should always keep in mind that every appliance needs additional power when starting up, far more than the wattage necessary to keep it on, and factor that goes the appropriate generator size.
Portable generators, true to their name, are easily movable, can be taken from location to location (such as camping trips) and are easily stored in an outdoor shed or garage. These types of generators run on gas, propane or other fuels and are available in different sizes. Although these types of generators are more cost effective than Standby generators, they require more work to operate. They must be positioned in place when ready for use, which can be very noisy and require a lot of fuel. A standard sized portable generator can use up to 22 gallons of gas or 4-8 20lb tanks of propane per day. This can become cumbersome, as a homeowner must stockpile enough fuel to sustain use. Additionally, portable generators can only be used safely outdoors or in a well-ventilated area away from a house or garage as they give off very toxic, deadly and odorless carbon monoxide. These models also require the use of special extension cords or a transfer switch that will interface the generator with your home's circuit box. A drawback to portable generators during a severe weather outage is that they do not come on automatically, are typically operated and require the use of an electric or pull cord starter. Another danger associated with portable generators is the creation of backfeed. This phenomenon occurs when a generator is improperly connected and provides a current through the existing power lines. This current becomes amplified through transformers and may harm or even kill technicians working on downed power lines and miles away.
Standby generators are permanently mounted, do not require power cords and can carry a much larger load than their portable counterparts. These types of generators often recur a covered over HVAC unit and are permanently attached outside of a home. They are very quiet and when put in operation, function seamlessly when needed and are enabled automatically whenever your home's power is interrupted. Standby generators also run effortlessly and when connected to a natural fuel source such as gas that has little to no interruption of service, can typically supply a home with power problem-free. These models can power on in as little as ten seconds after main power is interrupted and automatically shut off once power is restored. Standby generators are much more complicated than portable ones and require professional installation as they tie into gas and other utility lines and usually require special permits. Although much more expensive than an average portable generator unit, due to their permanence, they add to your home's value and are a dependent source of backup power year after year and allow for your home to run self-sufficient in severe weather and other times of crisis and emergency.
Power outages can sometimes last for days, and in extreme cases, weeks at a time. Every household should consider the length of time your family can survive in emergency mode without traditional comforts and necessities such as refrigerated food, central heat or air conditioning, hot water and lights. Making the decision to purchase or invest in a generator may be the wisest choice to keep your family comfortable.