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  • Whole home generators

    We live in PA, and are surrounded by elevated power lines with poorly maintained large trees.

    We have occasional power outages lasting 6-8 hours, but recently lost power for 5 days due to a storm with strong winds. We ended up throwing out about $800 worth of food and my wife took our 3 kids to my parents house to ride it out as our house was very warm without a/c.

    We only recently moved into the neighborhood (<1yr ago), but our neighbors tell us to expect this type of thing to happen once a year or so.

    The question: do we purchase a whole home replacement generator that would use our natural gas line to keep our hvac, electricity, appliances etc running in the event of future outages? We just got a quote for ~$10k all in.

    What are people’s thought on the inconvenience of future outages vs cost of the generator? Should I be worried my pipes may freeze if this happens in the winter and I don’t get the generator?

    other background:
    my wife does a lot of work from home, so she would need to go find a hotel or stay somewhere else for prolonged outages
    we live in our “doctor” house and have no plans to leave
    my wife and I both have stable-ish full time jobs...although nothing is certain with covid

    We would pay cash for the generator...but I would of course rather put the $10k in my kids 529’s or add it to our taxabale account

    input appreciated, thanks!

  • #2
    personally when I'll be in my forever house, I'm getting solar and battery backup. if you're in an area not optimal for solar or don't want to invest in that, the natural gas generator is a good option as well.

    battery or generator backup is just like any other type of insurance. if the power in your area really does go out once a year for 5 days at a time and other times for hours, I think it would be well worth it. can't your electric service identify the high risk areas and trees and trim those before it becomes a problem?

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    • #3
      I have a whole house generator that uses natural gas. I live in a tornado prone area. You do have to have it serviced and the oil changed every one to 2 years. This runs 280. I had to replace the battery this was around 400.

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      • #4
        We're building in an area w similar issues, and not really amendable to solar due to lack of sunshine. That said, the installation for gasline/transfer switch/concrete slab etc was about $4k, plus the generator itself of about $4k. We plan to be in the house as the kids go through school (15+ years) so this seemed to be a no brainer for us. I flirted with the idea of just having a hookup for a portable generator but decided the extra cost was worth it to save the eventual hassle.

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        • #5
          Why do you have eight hundred dollars worth of food inside your home? Do apples cost $17/lb where you live?

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          • #6
            legobikes some people are preppers (although I would guess $800 is preppers light). Also, if this were after the early coronovirus shut downs where people were keeping more food, it wouldn't be totally unthinkable.

            Hatton How often have you had to use it? We're also in a tornado prone area. We are building and putting in a shelter, but a whole home generator didn't seem necessary. I've only lived here 2 years, though, so I may be naive to such situations.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by HeyAnesthesia View Post
              The question: do we purchase a whole home replacement generator that would use our natural gas line to keep our hvac, electricity, appliances etc running in the event of future outages? We just got a quote for ~$10k all in.

              What are people’s thought on the inconvenience of future outages vs cost of the generator? Should I be worried my pipes may freeze if this happens in the winter and I don’t get the generator?
              How is your house heated. Natural gas?

              If your house is heated with natural gas, the generator uses the natural gas lines, and your concern is electricity going down, how would the generator help you regarding pipes freezing?

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              • #8
                Originally posted by 8arclay View Post
                We're building in an area w similar issues, and not really amendable to solar due to lack of sunshine. That said, the installation for gasline/transfer switch/concrete slab etc was about $4k, plus the generator itself of about $4k. We plan to be in the house as the kids go through school (15+ years) so this seemed to be a no brainer for us. I flirted with the idea of just having a hookup for a portable generator but decided the extra cost was worth it to save the eventual hassle.
                Different hazard: Hurricanes
                Same issue : Loss of power
                Short term : 5-6 hours
                Long term : 5-7 days
                From a cost/benefit standpoint, only one time have we had a long term outage in 20 years. The power company has really stepped up its game on providing estimates of the length of power outages. We have never had a long term power outage since the first one.

                The week outage is more than just you. The portable has issues too. Fuel being the primary. Service stations need electricity to pump. Grocery stores need electricity for registers as well as meat and freezers. Been there done that. The long term usually impacts cellphones and internet as well. Long term outage I am outta here. Your parents option or another unaffected area sounds good.

                Convenience, you will probably run it once a year in annual maintenance. Shut off your water and drain your pipes if you leave in the winter. I would venture a guess that once a year you actually have it kick in on average for an hour or two.

                Conclusion: Money well spent emotionally, but if it’s a long term outage, better off relocating. The size needed to fully power is a lot more than is required for basic functions and the inconveniences that accompany a wide spread outage.

                In considering cost, you might check how many times power has been out for days in the last 20 years. Then make your 529/generator choice. If short term (5-6) is more than an irritant once a year, do it. Convenient but not a lot of bang for the buck.





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                • #9
                  It would be a nice luxury to not have to worry about power outages. I read that whole house generators do add a significant part of their value to the house when newish. So if you did have to leave in a short time frame you might get some back.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Brains428 View Post
                    legobikes some people are preppers (although I would guess $800 is preppers light). Also, if this were after the early coronovirus shut downs where people were keeping more food, it wouldn't be totally unthinkable.
                    Not OP, but we keep a deep freezer full of meat (buy steers/hogs at county auction to support local farmers). A single outage causing loss of a freezer full would be a significant cost

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                    • #11
                      8arclay I know a more than a few people who have a second deep freezer for deer season. I also know people who keep cows and hogs on their small farm who also require more than 1 deep freezer.

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                      • #12
                        $800 is 80 items at $10 a pop. The last bag of frozen scallops I bought was twenty bucks. We used to buy frozen boxes of crab neptune individual servings for $120 bucks. I think if you opened your freezer door and started calculating what you see you'd be shocked at how quickly stuff adds up.

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                        • #13
                          $800 in food goes pretty quick with a couple kids. A normal fridge/freezer and a second freezer can easily add up to double that when you start looking at it.

                          Also preppers (or people with big gardens) can lots of their food and make it shelf stable.
                          Last edited by goldenchimpy; 06-17-2020, 04:45 PM.

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                          • #14
                            Solar with Tesla Powerwalls. Check it out!

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                            • #15
                              I rigged up my own "whole house" gasoline generator. Because I like to DIY with this type of stuff. And if the generator decides to give out, I'm getting the first new one & can get my hands on. No installer/technician needed. I am looking into a natural gas conversion, or a natural gas capable "portable" generator instead. Otherwise I'll siphon gasoline out of one of the cars if the gas stations don't have power. And yes, my way is not automatic. But I like to micromanage.

                              Rambling aside, yes, you should get a generator. I've always seen quotes, from pretty much all parts of the country, in the $10,000 range. BogleHeads discusses generators somewhat frequently. Strong opinions about the best brands exist among them.
                              $1 saved = >$1 earned. ✓

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