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What do you do when there is a Power Outage?

September 19, 2014

Power failures are inevitable, unfortunately. Strong winds, thunderstorms, and the mix of both: hurricanes are natural enemies of the power grid. Texas electricity companies and utilities work around the clock to make sure the power grid stays up even when the weather conspires to knock it out. Even if they have to shut down parts of the grid to maintain others, in what’s called a rolling blackout, these professionals do everything they can to make sure you aren’t left in the dark. Unfortunately, there may be a time where you are without power for a couple days or more. What can you do?

Aside from the inconvenience of no lights or entertainment, there is the dangerous aspect of no power: powered medical equipment. Some family members may require a powered oxygen machine for breathing or other apparatus that relies on electricity. In this case, and to a lesser extent, any power outage, a backup generator can really help alleviate the stress involved with an indeterminately long blackout. Lets look at the different backup generators available.


  • Standby
    A standby generator is one that is permanently affixed outside the home and will kick in as soon as a power outage occurs. These generators are large capacity and can be run for a decently long time. They do, however consume fuel, usually gasoline, diesel, or natural gas. As long as the generator has fuel, you home will have power.

    • Transfer Switch – Standby generators require a transfer switch that changes your home’s electricity input from the mains (electrical grid) to the generator. Transfer switches are either manual or automatic. The amount of electricity flowing from the mains or the generator can be lethal, which is why the transfer switch is necessary.
  • Portable
    A portable generator is a small, usually gas powered generator suitable for powering one or two devices. They are more useful for only powering necessary devices like AC, refrigerators, medical equipment, or water pumps.

    • Safety Precautions – Portable generators should have a grounded connection. They should also be kept in a dry location outside your home. Never operate a portable generator in a confined space because of the harmful carbon monoxide emissions from the exhaust.
    • Fuel – Portable generators don’t carry nearly as much fuel as standby generators, so make sure you have a fair amount of fuel in case of an extended outage.
  • Alternative Energy
    There are some alternative, green energy backup generators that can be used as well. These either charge or directly power connected devices by solar or wind energy. Generally, though, these won’t be able to keep up with the power demands that a standby or even a portable generator could.


When installing any generator, you also need to consider the power needs of your home to get the right capacity. If the generator has to much of a load requirement, it could cause damage to your appliances. It isn’t enough to get a generator that can handle just the operational current, either. A lot of devices require a surge of about double the normal operating energy to get started. A ceiling fan rated for 75 watts, for example, could require as much as 150 watts for a half second to start. Your generator needs to be able to handle this extra surge. When switching over to a generator, it is best to turn on appliances one at a time to avoid a massive electrical surge that could damage your generator or components.

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