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Standby generators stand tall in the event of power outages

September 6, 2006

Standby generators stand tall in the event of power outages

By David Bradley

Jon Spiers thought his home was sitting pretty after Hurricane Katrina’s storm surge knocked out electrical power for miles around his Ocean Springs, Miss., home. After all, he had not one but two portable generators filled with gas and ready to go when authorities sounded the all clear for Spiers and his family to return home.

But when the evacuee pulled the starter cords, neither generator fired up. Both had been submerged and the fuel supplies fouled.

“My plan for power had taken a blow,” says the physician. “But looking back, it was a blessing in disguise.”

Spiers’ silver lining: a quickly installed air conditioner-size standby generator fixed permanently alongside his house and powered by propane. While his neighbors did without power, the unit supplied enough voltage to run appliances and utilities throughout Spiers’ 2,700-square-foot home for days on end.

There are two principal types of generators on the emergency power market.

Most homeowners are familiar with gasoline-fueled portable generators on wheels. These units, in the $600 to $1,250 price range, crank out 5,000 to 8,000 watts. That’s sufficient to power an appliance or two and perhaps a few table lamps.

And that’s the problem. Portables lack the oomph to electrify an entire house, including energy-sapping air conditioners and multiple large appliances. Entire story

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