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Winter power outages, generators and you

Thinking about looming winter power outages? Maybe it's time to consider a generator. (AP File Photo)

Winter is coming, which means “some of you are quickly approaching the winter power outages,” Pete says. To prepare yourself for possible loss of power this winter, Justin Blair and Donal Barnes from SME Electrical Contractors have some tips on purchasing a generator.

If you’re looking for a generator, you have two choices, says Justin. “You have a portable generator or a home standby generator.” A standby, he says, is a good choice for backup power for your home because you don’t have to turn it on; just make sure you’re doing the maintenance once a year. “It’s just easier to deal with and more reliable,” he says, than a portable generator.

A standby generator, Pete adds, will sit on a generator pad outside next to your house all year round, and will kick in automatically when you need it.

A portable generator, on the other hand, “you have to roll it out, you have to fire it up, and it may not run right away,” says Justin.

The generator you purchase can also be dependent on the size of your home, but, he says, for a typical home, “you don’t need that big of a generator. Usually the homeowner is more concerned with running the essentials – a couple of appliances and the hot water heater. You don’t want to be taking cold showers, and you want to run the refrigerator.” This means that you’ll be looking at an eight to 10 kilowatt (Kw) generator.

Depending on your needs – and how many appliances and lights you’d like on when the power goes out – you’ll require between a five and 10 kilowatt generator. But price may also factor into what you’re willing to purchase. “Best case scenario,” Justin says, “for a 5 Kw generator, for instance, you’re looking at around $4,000 to $5,000, installed.”

The price steadily increases for larger generators, to $5,000 to $6,000 for an 8 Kw generator, and $7,000 to $8,000 for a 12-17 Kw generator.

Donal also recommends having your appliances on a surge protector so that when the power flips back on, you don’t have any electrical spikes.

Pete thinks you should take the surge protector one step further and have whole-home surge protectors. Installed inside your electrical panel, it protects your whole home from various electrical surges, including utility power surges. Donal adds that price isn’t really a limiting factor for this device; at around $100, it’s a very inexpensive way to protect your appliances.

SME Electrical Contractors is a proud sponsor of Home Matters.

Home Matters with Pete and Rob can be heard on KIRO Radio every Saturday at 8 a.m. and Sunday at 6 a.m. or anytime at Like Home Matters on Facebook.

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