Sunday, July 1, 2012

The great electrical storm of '12 or how I learned to stop worrying and love a cheap generator

I've always considered myself somewhat prepared for a natural disaster.  Food (MREs, canned goods), four 7 gallon water containers, a shitload of ammo and mags for my "go-to" weapons (AR15 and Glock 9mm), 10 gallons of gas treated with fuel stabilizer, a guard dog (Belgian Malinois), et cetera.

A storm made its way across the US Friday night, sowing lightning and 75 MPH winds along the way, going from Ohio to the East Coast.  One thing that as a Westerner that I've always hated about the East Coast is the trees.  No rolling plains here, the trees sprout like weeds, overhang everything, and you can't see more than a few hundred yards most places.  Those trees falling along with a few lightning hits left 1.5 million people on the East Coast (mainly in DC, Maryland, and Virginia) without power during one of the hottest weekends on record.  We're talking 100 degree days plus humidity.

I woke up Saturday morning without power.  No water, no A/C, and no word on when it would be back on.  I've always waffled on generators.  Cursory searches online and chats with friends gave me the impression that all generators are Chinese junk except for (in order of preference) Honda, Yamaha, and Briggs&Stratton units.  I tried to watch Craigslist for a worthy specimen but never found one with the right combination of price and power for my needs.

At BJ's Wholesale Club (remember kids, Costco does NOT allow anyone to carry a firearm in their stores unless you are law enforcement), I sat and waited for the store to open impatiently.  A monstrous Ford F350 4x4 with a huge NRA sticker on the back glass was also there waiting.  The occupant was one of those stereotype destroyers, being a clean cut African American guy packing a Glock 17.  He was there for a generator and related that Lowe's had ran out of generators at 6 AM that morning.  He and I got two out of the three remaining Champion 46515 3500 watt generators and that's all they had.  $299.00 and as my dear old Southern mother always said: "Poor people have poor ways."  Also, desperate people.  The temperature was headed to over 90 degrees before noon.  My new friend and I shook hands, wished each other luck with the weather and the upcoming elections regarding gun rights and parted ways.

I stopped off at WalMart to pick up oil for the new generator and a window mounted air conditioner.  I was in a hurry and it paid off - as I checked out with my new purchases, the registers in that WalMart went down.  I absconded with my 8,000 BTU window mounted A/C, 14 gauge power cord for the generator to my house, and my Royal Purple 10w30 oil (nothing but the best for my cheap generator!) and hit the gas stations.  Note that I said "stations," plural.  Many gas stations lost their electricity or their ability to make transactions.  I had some gas to run the generator but I bought more, planning for a week's worth of running it.  Topped off my truck too, of course.

Unboxing the generator was anticlimactic with a handy simplified "cheat sheet" being supplied.  Add oil, fill gas tank, switch choke to "choke" for starting, give gentle tug, then strong tug to starter cord, boom, it started.  Let it warm up, switch choke to "Run," plug in refrigerator and let that cool down before plugging in A/C.  An hour later, my house was at 72 degrees during the hottest part of the day and settled down to 71 degrees with appliances, A/C, and the fridge running.   The gas tank was topped off in the evening (4 gallon capacity) and ran for 12 hours on the aforementioned load.  At the 12.5 hour mark, there was an eighth of a tank remaining and power has been restored.  The generator ran flawlessly and without stutter, sipping fuel.

I suppose I could have bought an equivalent Honda generator for eleven hundred dollars more but I'm glad I didn't.

After I got the house cooled down, it was time to get my Internets up again.  Using the tethering option on my 4G Verizon LTE phone, I had smoking download speeds once again with very decent wireless range.  The below was tested on my iPad, getting the connection off of my phone.

A generator is a lot like a firearm.  When you need it, you really need it and it might take needing it and not having it to open your eyes.  I was lucky enough that I found one when I needed it.  I have friends local to this area who don't expect power restored to their homes for days and are living at a hotel.  For less than a week's stay at a hotel, you could have a generator and a cutoff switch installed at your house to route all electrical needs to the generator.

Good luck and don't be afraid to buy a cheap generator!

1 comment:

  1. Great information. I've had the same reservations about generator purchase, holding out for a tri-fuel version, but now I'm reconsidering just keeping it simple with gasoline. I'm impressed with what appliances you were able keep running on that wattage rating.