It makes me mad to see that people die after the storm. You buy a generator to keep the lights and fridge on, but the thing can kill you. Here are some thoughts.
First of all, have a battery backup system in place. This can be a building block for a future solar power system or it can be a quick solution. More on that later.
When you buy a generator, also buy a length of stout chain and a padlock. People steal generators and that is why their owners put them in the garage. Running a generator in a garage that is attached to the house can lead to carbon monoxide getting into the house and killing you. Don’t do it. Chain the thing to a tree or car and let it run outside.
Have lots of fresh gas and oil before the storm. You won’t be able to buy it for days because the pumps won’t run and neither will the credit card machines. Store the gas in a safe place in sealed plastic containers. Any thing not sealed and the gas will go bad quickly and it can ruin your generator. Bad gas in my 22 hp lawn mower just caused a stuck valve, which pretzeled a push rod. (See image above) You can’t buy engine parts after your town has blown away. Treat the gas with Stabil, Sea Foam or Marvel Mystery Oil.
Note, too, that most small generators need the oil changed frequently. 25 hours if it does not have a filter and 50 hours with. Don’t buy a used generator after a storm…they probably didn’t change the oil. After you are finished with the generator, let it run out of gas. That nasty stuff they sell today destroys carburetors. Change to fresh oil so you are ready for next time.
A whole home natural gas generator is a thing of joy, but expect a whopping gas bill. Mom spent a bunch on hers and never regretted it. Her neighborhood got trashed by a tornado a few years back and she was the only one with lights and a/c for days.
Don’t refuel when the engine is hot. They can catch fire and blow you up. And burn down your house if you are doing this in the garage. You’d think it a simple thing to put the spout in the hole and not spill anything, but a full can is a bit unwieldy at 30 lbs. and those !@#$% worthless government-mandated spouts make it worse. I broke two of them before I mastered getting the gas out. You can buy bootleg good spouts, but they cost more than the whole gas can used to cost!
Here’s where your battery backup system can shine. At night, it is quiet and not making fumes. You run the generator intermittently at an efficient load to charge the batteries instead of 24/7 buzzing to run light loads. You will use less fuel.
Your car can be the generator. Yeah, your car. After one storm, I was loathe to drag my monster diesel generator out of the barn. When I say drag, I mean drag. It weighs thousands of pounds and is on skids. Getting it out with a tractor is easy, but putting it back is a pain. For 3 days, until I knew the power was seriously out and would remain so, I traded generating duties between an F250 and a Chrysler LHS. There was a 2kw inverter connected to the battery. I would run them intermittently to keep the fridge cold and a few hours in the evening for lights and TV.
That same storm, my bro had a Rubbermaid tote box full of golf car batteries and an inverter on the balcony of his town house. His Chevy and a length of SEU service entrance cable topped them up.
I hauled a load of scrounged batteries and an inverter to Mom’s place and connected them to her minivan.
My later Chevy pickup was fitted with a forklift plug on the front so numerous accessories can be used, including a 2kw inverter. The Dodge Cummins pickup I recently acquired has two huge batteries, huge cables and a huge fuel tank. I have plans for it.
With just the addition of the inverter, your vehicle can be your power plant. Better yet, call Roberto at Sun and he can set you up with a simple standalone battery kit or a fully automatic setup that will switch power to the whole house. Lots of his customers live in places with unstable power, so he has kits for various situations and budgets. The bigger systems won’t be 12 volts, chargeable by your car, but they will be the first step in a solar power system.
Oh heck, why not go solar? Or maybe you have. In the event that the storm might blow away your solar panels, you might consider putting a few under the bed, just for insurance. We still have some time left in this storm season. Get prepared.