Christmas Gifts: A Generator

Talk about saving the day!  You'll be the hero for sure when a power outage comes calling, and it always will.

In the US this year we have already experienced six major power outages (February - Texas, April - Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky, July - Chicagoland, August - Carribbean, US East Coast and Atlantic Canada, September - Southern California and Arizona, and October - US East Coast).  And while 2011 isn't over yet, this year's list does not include major outages (defined as 1,000,000 person*customer hours) caused by US earthquakes, floods or wildfires.  No place is immune!  When we look at the diverse causes of the 2011 outages, we see that disasters often leave us literally "powerless".  But we are not powerless with a generator!

Now, I realize that a generator is a gift with a hefty price tag.  I also know many families that give super-deluxe gifts every year.  Wouldn't keeping your parents safe or your grand-kids warm when disaster strikes be a great pay-off for an admittedly unusual gift?
Obviously a gift of this magnitude can require a considerable amount of research and planning.  Talk to an electrician, a contractor, or do your own research with a retailer or manufacturer to decide what you want to accomplish with your gift.  I have listed below a few of options you'll face when purchasing a generator.

Power source - Generators run on fuel.  Consider the cost, likely availability, storage potential, safety, usage rate and transportation needs of fuel when selecting a generator.
  • Gasoline - This may not be readily available during a power outage as gas stations require power to operate.  Gasoline is also difficult to store and easy to ignite.
  • Diesel - Easier to store and more difficult to ignite than gasoline, diesel can still be difficult to acquire if you run out during an outage.
  • Propane - Easiest to store, propane can also be seen as most dangerous to store.
  • Natural gas - These generators are often installed to kick on automatically, but even they won't run if the municipal gas supply is affected.
Connections -You need to know right away how you plan to connect the generator to the devices requiring power.
  • Portable - These heavy, but often wheeled, generators can go where you need them, but you'll usually find that you are limited by the the generator's output and the length of your extension cords.
  • Hard-wired / Standby - Like other household appliances, these offer the reliability of professional installation with tested and predictable service.
  • Commercial - These big, bad generators can power a commercial building, but they may require special connections and enormous quantities of fuel.  These also require more routine maintenance due to their size and high output.
Other details - 
  • House wiring - Are you planning on hiring an electrician to do the work and calculations required to tie in to the house's electrical system?
  • Pre-planned uses - Do you have very specific purposes, needs and appliances that require power in an emergency?  (Medical equipment, refrigerators and freezers, air conditioning and heat, communications, lights, etc.)
  • Fuel consumption - The capacity of a generator must meet the power needs of all the appliances to be connected.  However, purchasing a model that is larger than needed will waste fuel since larger models use more fuel regardless of power usage at a given moment.
Related Posts
Everyday Providence's Twelve Days of Christmas
Day 1 - Flashlights and Batteries
Day 2 - Water
Day 3 - Pocketknife
Day 4 - Smoke Detectors 
Day 5 - Generator
Day 6 - Backpack

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