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I lived in Houston for most of my life. We experienced floods, hurricanes, tornados, droughts, wildfires… you name it and we’ve probably seen it. With all of those things going on, we lost our power a lot. Lost power means no appliances, no TV, no AC, and anything else that runs off of power from your home… kaput!

Large Emergency Home Generator image via Diane Kuehl || source unknown

Fortunately, my family during those times had the benefit of a backup home generator that kept our house operating at a normal capacity for the duration of the power outage (most of the time). Our house served as a safe haven for those families that lived on our street without their own generator.

While the benefits of having a home generator are many, there are a few things to consider before making the leap on this purchase.

Editor’s Note: For more on Emergency Preparedness, click through to that Category there.

CAN YOU AFFORD A GENERATOR… RIGHT NOW?

In this economy?  Um…maybe?

You’re probably going to end up paying close to $5,000 just on initial purchase for a new backup generator. (Though, sometimes a whole lot more, depending on the model. The model shown in the picture can cost anywhere from $14,000-$16,000.) And because natural disasters or power outages (power outages being the most likely) can happen at any time, I recommend you go ahead and start saving now.

After installation, a generator needs some routine annual maintenance. This includes an inspection and an oil change (yes, just like your car). Depending on the area you live in, as well as whether your generator runs on propane or gas, fuel prices vary. GeneratorJoe.net has some great info on different types of fuel and their advantages/disadvantages.

If you decide to go the gas route, you’ll have to replace the fuel more often than if you go with propane. And with rising fuel prices, this can be a costly endeavor. These are also somewhat inefficient, so you’ll need to keep more fuel on-hand, which, again, raises the operating cost of your generator. A gas generator can also be hazardous, as gas is flammable and should not be stored in large quantities.

Propane is a little cheaper. But, this fuel system is much more complicated to operate than a gas generator, which means you’re more likely to go without power if it breaks down. Also, the cost of the model is about 15-20% higher than other models. While propane has a longer shelf life than gas, the actual model of generator may have a shorter life expectancy than other air- or water-cooled generators.

WHAT ABOUT THE BENEFITS OF A GENERATOR?

Of course, there are critical financial benefits to having a generator for your home, as well.

–          Your appliances will continue to function normally, meaning food and other perishable items will not spoil. Everyone’s gotta eat, right?

–          If you work from home, your computer, television and other technological devices will continue to operate as normal, meaning you get to keep making money while other others are stuck.

–          To the same point, keeping your computers, televisions and radios working means you can stay on top of the current weather or power conditions.

–          Sump pumps will continue to operate even in severe conditions (if connected to the generator), reducing the likelihood of your home flooding from the inside-out (or outside-in for that matter).

–          Air conditioners and well pumps will also operate, meaning you won’t have to evacuate your home (unless the conditions make it dangerous to stay) and find a hotel to stay in for an indefinite amount of time.

–          Having a generator increases your home’s value and provides a selling point if you decide to sell your house.

ABOVE ALL, BE SAFE

Staying safe in a natural disaster or power outage is up to you. A home generator may keep your home operating as normal. Whether you evacuate your home during a serious event is a decision to be made based on the conditions outside.

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And, plan for a generator according to your budgetary needs. Don’t overextend yourself to make the purchase.

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Diane Kuehl is a freelance writer and DiY/home improvement professional. She lives in Springfield, Illinois with her husband and two kids.

For more from this series, please see the Category – It Could Happen. For more on Homeownership in general, please click the top-level category to the left – under the Search box. Cheers. ~jb, editor – BuildingMoxie.com.