Do You Really Need that Generator?

As I write this article, I have a guy out gutting the old motorhome and it ‘s Honda generator. We are going to keep the generator, but with great hesitation. The most likely emergency scenario for us would be an hurricane. I have been through my share. Both with a generator and without.

When I lived in Puerto Rico, Hurricane Hortense made a visit and we were without power for a week in the mountains. There was no television or video games during that time, but other than that, life was pretty much the same. Water was plentiful in the buckets we put under the roof to collect the deluge. That was for flushing and the cistern worked as it always did with the flat roof solar water heaters working fine as soon as the clouds had moved on. Oh we HAD to use the candles and kerosene lamps instead of lights and the kids did more monopoly and card games than usual. It was normal to cook out on the propane grill. We had plenty of feed for the animals and ourselves and we did quite well.

In 2006, Hurricanes Frances (Sept. 8-10), Ivan (Sept. 17-19) and Jeanne (Sept. 27- 28) hit our small farm in Pennsylvania and again I found myself without electricity for a week. We had a freezer full of food and not much ability to get out due to downed trees or flooding. Close-by friends came on the fourth day of no lights with their generator to save the freezer food. We bought a generator after that experience.

Here are my concerns about having a generator in harsh emergencies: They get stolen. They have to be housed when there is not an emergency. They need gasoline and gasoline goes bad. They are loud and an obvious arrow as to who has a generator. They need to be serviced and in top shape in time for the emergency. They emit carbon dioxide.

My feeling is that it is a luxury, not a necessity, unless you have a freezer full of food. I don’t keep a large quantity of frozen food now, mostly because of that Pennsylvanian hurricane experience. If we had a bugout location out in the middle of nowhere, it would be different. If I had someone who needed electricity to survive I might reconsider it. I am leaning more and more towards getting off off-grid. I am learning to live with more manual devices that don’t depend on electricity to run. Not living in horse and buggy days necessarily, just having and using things like knives instead of food processors, a whip instead of hand beater, a rake instead of leaf blower, a treadle sewing machine, that sort of thing. We use solar for a few things, like small fans and heating water. But re-thinking electricity has led me to change what I used to see as necessities. Living off off-grid is considering a life-style which millions have lived not that long ago.

The difference between the two homes was that one was set up better to do without electricity. Puerto Ricans had helped us develop a better sense of living off the grid than we did in Pennsylvania. With a husband who has spent his life working in the electricity business, (nuclear power instrumentation and controls engineer), listen to us when we tell you that the grid may not always be at the ready when you flick a switch. If you think that a generator should be part of your preps, then get one that will do the job you need it to do but keep in mind that there is much more needed than buying that piece of machinery.

Questions to ask yourself are:

1. Do you have all the things that machine will need including extension cords, gas, oil, spark plugs?

2. Do you have it housed so it will not be exposed to the elements and do you have the needed place for it to run keeping the exhaust fumes in mind?

3. Do you know how to maintain it or fix it should it quit running?

4. What will you do about people knowing that you have it in an emergency?  The sound will direct them to you.  Are you prepared to share or offer hospitality if the emergency is longer in duration?  Or will you need to defend that generator?

5. Finally, what do you have that needs electricity that cannot be remedied in other ways?


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