We often talk about the need for heat and light during an outage. This is especially important if the outage occurs during the winter, when going without heat could be dangerous. It seems like a generator would be the natural answer to this kind of emergency, right? But a generator can be expensive and it’s loud and requires a lot of attention while running. So do you really need to have a generator for prolonged power outages?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Here are some questions to ask yourself
In order to decide if getting a generator is the right decision for you, here are some questions to ask:
- How difficult would it really be to “tough it out” and go without electricity for a few days?
- Can I go to a friend’s or family’s house during a power outage?
- Can I afford the expense of a generator?
- Do I have the space for a generator?
- Do I have a way to store fuel for a generator?
- What will I do to prevent pipes from freezing?
- Do I have food in the freezer or refrigerator that I need to keep from spoiling?
- Do I have a sump pump that protects my home from flooding?
- How good will communication be without electricity? (i.e. do I have a corded landline? Do I have a solar or other charging system for my cell phone?)
It is possible to get through a power outage without a generator. You’ll just need to seal up the doors to save heat loss, use candles and flashlights for light and plan to have cold dinners. You’ll also need to haul in some water for dishes and hand washing and maybe go shower at a friend’s house.
So maybe the hassle and expense of a generator is perfectly offset by the hassle of muddling through an outage.
In addition to the hassle—I mean adventure!—of living off-grid for a few days, there are these financial impacts to consider:
Lack of water: Does your water comes into the house with an electric pump? Even if you do not lose water, you still won’t have a hot-water heater so all your water will be COLD!
Communication: Without electricity you will not have access to phones (unless you have a corded landline), no radio, computer or TV. Getting up-to-date news may be difficult.
Safety: Without lights, you are more vulnerable to thieves, vandals and other mischief.
Heating: You can probably get by without air conditioning, but if you have small children or family members with a compromised immune system, going without heat can be dangerous.
Food spoilage: How much food will you lose from your fridge and freezer?
Property damage: Broken pipes or sump pump failure could be catastrophic.
Other monetary loss: You may lose wages if you need to stay home to man a wood stove or sump pump. And there may be expenses of eating out to get a hot meal, getting a hotel or other unexpected expenses.