The recent hurricane-turned-storm Hermine knocked the power out for hundreds of thousands of people up the East Coast, especially for those along Florida's Gulf Coast where it first hit land. It certainly makes residents in the path of such storms wonder whether they should purchase a generator to keep their homes up and running. While businesses such as grocery stores and hospitals unquestionably need constant power, do most homes really need a generator? We took a look at a few criteria to help you decide for your situation. If you answer yes to any of these questions, you might want to look into a generator for your home.
Do you have medical equipment that relies on electricity? Ventilators, concentrators, breathing monitors, heart monitors and oxygen machines are all examples of medical equipment that are considered life-sustaining. While such machines often have back-up batteries, those batteries may last anywhere from a few minutes to a few hours, and may not last as long as needed during a lengthy outage.
Do you have a home business that requires constant power? Even small, home-based businesses often need continuous electricity to run phone systems, computers and other equipment. For example, a home bakery requires refrigeration to keep ingredients and finished products cold to prevent spoilage. Going more than four hours without power could wipe out the business' entire refrigerated stock.
Do you have a large amount of frozen goods? If you have a big family or someone in your family fishes or hunts, you might have freezers full of food that can go bad without power. An unopened, full freezer can keep its temperature for 48 hours; a half-full freezer will last 24 hours.
Do you often have long power losses? In 2015, power outages averaged more than three hours, according to the Energy Information Administration. But this can vary. If you live in a rural area with harder-to-access power lines, your average power outage is closer to five hours. And if a devastating tornado or hurricane hits, it could be days before power is back online.
If you decide you want a generator, there are two basic types: portable and standby. Depending on your power needs, a portable generator that delivers less than 5 kW and costs less than $1,000 may do the trick. Or you may want a professionally installed standby generator that's fully integrated into your home's wiring system. These range from $2,000 to $10,000+ and can handle 5-15 kW or more, enough to run necessary equipment and even heating and cooling systems.