Obviously, given my line of work, I’m frequently told by people that they are prepared because they have a generator. Well, I see a whole lot of downsides of owning and relying on one, so I thought I’d share my two cents as to why I don’t plan on ever owning a generator.
- Generators are relatively expensive. If I had to opt between a generator and a firearm, I would definitely select the firearm. There’s a whole heck of a lot of wheat or water or other emergency preparedness supplies that I can buy in lieu of a generator. I’d much rather have items that run off of solar power rather than being reliant on a generator.
- In many instances, many generators will be destroyed in the event of an EMP strike. Some older generators may have points and condensers but most of them today are electronic fuel injected, making them useless in the event of an electro-magnetic pulse hit. So there goes all of the other necessary supplies you could have obtained instead of the generator.
- A generator usually takes gasoline to operate. Gasoline is combustible/flammable. It’s frankly hard to store it safely. It also gets old easily. Generators are temperamental. The gasoline needs to be clean in order to be effective. Yes, you can buy a gasoline additive to keep it clean, but that’s that much more money you need to spend on the generator and the gasoline. Also, the gasoline will not be available to buy once the electricity goes out. Most pumps are electric. So you will have to rely solely on the gasoline you have on hand. And I can think of a whole lot of more important uses for gasoline other than a generator.
- Except in the case of emergency medical assistance, I feel like a generator is a temporary luxury that most homes simply can’t afford to have. If you don’t have a year’s supply of food, fuel, water, ammo, clothing, shelter, financial reserves, medical supplies, and entertainment, then you can’t afford a generator. It’s not like you’re going to use a generator to keep your refrigerator going or to watch movies on you computer. Generators should be used for emergency purposes only, not to live off of otherwise. In my opinion, if I come across the need for a generator, it will be very temporary and for that I can work in trade to obtain the use of or trade with some of my supplies. Bottom line, if you ever saw me with a generator, it’s because I got it for free along with the fuel I needed for it, or I had so much money to burn and everything else I wanted, I just couldn’t resist.
A generator is simply not as necessary as many folks believe. As I said previously, other than keeping life-saving equipment on, I can’t think of another reason to have one. Yet most folks think they will need one in order to eat, cook, light, cool, and heat with. They are incorrect. You’ll have to let Mother Nature do the cooling for you. You can cook with more stable fuels such as wood, propane, butane, kerosene, isopropyl alcohol, rolled newspapers, charcoal, and solar. You can live off eating plenty of items that don’t need to be cooked or refrigerated. You can have light via a candle and several other fuels I’ve mentioned previously. And the same fuels, as well as quality cold-weather clothing, blankets, and sleeping tents and bags, will provide you and your family with the heat you need. Sure, when the power goes out you’re going to have some spoilage with the meat. But you don’t need electricity to recover from that. You need Mason jars, and a canner, and voila—you don’t need that freezer anymore. Sure there will be a few things you can live without, but considering all of the non-electrical technology that you can rely on today, losing electricity isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.
If you rely on electricity for physical life sustainment, then I recommend that you diligently research the best kind of generator to obtain that will not be affected by an EMP hit, and a way to store fuel for it around your home so that it’s safe. Also be mindful of the fact that if you have a generator running in hard times, you will be the target of crime and looting. Be sure that you have a way to secure it so that you can have the use of it when the fit hits the shan. Don’t plan on using a generator if you’re the lone dweller of a suburb home. You’ll need some help keeping it running and defending it.
Ultimately, before you rush out to the store thinking you need a generator, think about all of the other priorities that should come first on your preparedness list.
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hmmm...you've got me there. I tried to duplicate that process but couldn't. Guess my website is not "survival ready." :-)
I have to agree with you that air conditioning is my FAVORITE invention. I'm a bit concerned at how grumpy I will be without it. But I did live in the Philippines for a year and half with high heat and very high humdidity. There's hope for me yet.
We bought a generator 10 years ago after going through a hurricane, but we've never used it. I wish I had the money back.
If I had the money to have a generator permanently wired into the house, with the requisite huge propane at the ready, I'd be tempted, despite the added carbon footprint. But, I think, only tempted. What I really want is a solar generation system, but that's another thing that's just not an economic option right now.
We went through Katrina with our unused generator. A few neighbors ran generators, but had to drive a couple hundred miles or so every couple of days to another state, across dangerous roads, to buy expensive, rationed gasoline to haul back and run their generators.
Generators are noisy and give off dangerous fumes. They are a hazard unless used very carefully, and are a major nuisance to neighbors who are not running generators but are trying to get along with windows open. The fumes and noise of a neighbor's generator outside our open bedroom window were tough on my asthma and let us get next to no sleep at night, which is bad because my husband was working 12 - 18 hour days in emergency services.
I didn't begrudge the neighbor the generator - the lady was dying of cancer and the husband was a seriously ill man on dialysis. They were worse off than we were.
The use of a generator is a personal one, and it's not up to me to say who should and should not have one. But as gas prices and availability are just going to get worse and worse in natural disasters, I think that running them becomes less realistic all the time.
As for learning to live without a/c, yes, that's tough, and admittedly tougher for some than for others. Heat does kill, especially the elderly and infirm whose systems may be too weak to make the adjustment or who aren't able to take the necessary actions to cool themselves down adequately.
But my husband and I have been learning this year to live with less a/c, as part of cutting down on our electricity use in order to reduce expenses, reduce carbon consumption, and prepare for a time when electricity will be far more expensive and less reliable than today.
Starting in the early spring when air conditioners start running regularly here (it has been around 100 here, too, with extreme humidity, for weeks), we moved up the thermostat a degree or two every 4 - 8 days. We adjusted, over and over again. It was never as bad as I expected it to be. Maybe a bit like boiling a frog in hot water, but starting out cold!
Last year, we ran the a/c at around 73 degrees. Now, we run it around 82 - 84 during the day -- just enough to knock off the humidity a bit, and at 80 - 81 at night, to sleep better. I feel like we can do even a bit better than that, even.
We run ceiling fans, which helps a lot. And my hot flashes are under better control than they were a couple of years ago, which makes this all possible.
It's surprising what you get used to. I wouldn't have believed it of us, but we just kept inching up, adjusting, and inching up again.
We know what it is to have no a/c, no fans, after a hurricane, so we know what hot is, and we know that this isn't that. Surprisingly, it feels nice and cool in the house when we come in from having been out in the heat for a bit. And we're happy that our power bills are coming down.
That said, if I had to go through our 6 months of hot summer here without ever having air conditioning, it would be really tough. But then, in that situation, there would be other things even tougher, I imagine.
Anyway, you can prepare to do without electricity by using less and less of it, gradually, during normal times. Drying clothes outside. Using a solar cooker for some of your regular cooking, getting used to being somewhat hotter or colder than you used to think you needed.
Using a damp scarf, wetting your hair, a quick spash of water on wrists and face, or feet in a pan of water for a while helps to ward off heat stress.
About losing the food in your fridge and freezer, yes, that's going to be a loss without a generator. Our home insurance covers part, but never all, of what we lose in a hurricane.
But I still choose that, bad as it is, to dangerous, carbon-intensive driving all over creation in constant search for more expensive carbon juice to keep the generator running one more day.
I'm in the process of transitioning out of having an extra freezer, switching more to using canning and drying foods for food reserves, and getting used to less of the convenience of a freezer. I'm not happy about it, but it's part of the transition I feel we must make both in terms of reducing fuel consumption / carbon footprint and preparing for living more simply.
I'm not ready to give up a regular fridge/freezer, but I know how to live without one in a power outage.
Giving up our modern comforts is always difficult. It just seems wrong to us, and unnecessarly.
Except that when I realize most people in the world don't have those comforts to start with, and that our great grandparents didn't have them, and as far as I can tell our grandchildren won't have them, or won't have them to the extent we have them today - when I realize this, I think that I can do just a little more to wean my family off of the belief that life isn't livable without full power.
Yep, no generator here. Just a big, expensive doorstop, sitting in the garage.
We purchased a generator last year b/c of Ike. I agree that a generator is useless after EMP and makes you a target if things get really crazy. And I agree that it is not first on my list of emergency supplies.
I'm still really glad I have it b/c many of the crisis I face may be temporary. During Ike we didn't have a civil breakdown, things just got very very very uncomfortable. I also lost everything in my fridge and freezer. We did not have a generator. Our neighbor did and their conditions were much better than ours. Thankfully, they let us come over to charge our phones and cool off.
Lately, the temps in Houston have been over 100 degrees with high humidity. If we have an emp, people will die from the heat. If we have a temp emergency like a mild hurricane, the generators may make a difference and you can get extra gasoline in advance of the storm.
I don't know how people lived in times before (and now in some parts of the world) a/c, but I guess their bodies got used to the heat. We are not and these really high temps are hard on this mom. Maybe I need to toughen up and stop complaining. But I cannot imagine life without a/c.... YIKES!!!
Great post. I agree with all your points, and would like to add one more. I've read a handful of accounts of people who used their generators during and after Hurricane Katrina, and they found out really quick how being the only home in the neighborhood with lights and a loud generator made them a target for less-than desirable people.
If you are going to use a generator, I would highly suggest you add on a muffler and put it in a shed or other structure which can suppress the sound. And do all you can to conceal the fact that you are running electrical appliances and lights.
thanks for enhancing the point I made in the article.
Oh, please, do not put a generator in a shed, garage, etc. I don't know if a generator can be muffled, safely or otherwise, but putting a generator inside any structure is a recipe for deadly. Think: sitting in your car in a closed garage, only maybe worse. I'm not an expert at generators, but I do know that people die every year for this reason.
Just one more thing about generators, a clip from cpsc.gov. I was shocked to learn that 1 generator creates as much exhaust as *hundreds* of cars, which is one reason they're so deadly. The clip:
The death toll from carbon monoxide (CO) associated with generators has been steadily rising in recent years. In 2005, the last year for which the data is considered to be substantially complete, there were 94 deaths from generator-related CO poisoning. Many of the deaths occurred after hurricanes, ice storms and blizzards. While reporting of incidents for the subsequent years is still on-going, there were 83 and 43 deaths in 2006 and 2007, respectively, reported to CPSC as of June 30, 2008.
* CO from a generator is deadly and can kill you in minutes. One generator produces as much CO as hundreds of cars. It can incapacitate and kill consumers within minutes.
* NEVER use portable generators indoors or in garages, basements, or sheds. They should always be used outside well away from windows, doors, vents, or any other opening.
Rather than a generator, which is only good for as long as its fuel (if that - we all know about the hazards of CO and being a target), I would think that it would be far better to have a deep cycle battery (or several, linked) that was hooked up to a solar collector for recharging. A fridge or a freezer (or even medical equipment) can be run off of a battery for many hours, and the battery can be recharged. More panels = faster recharging. Several batteries = reserve capacity in emergencies (esp. medical).
Simple fact is that you can run a fridge or freezer for only a few hours a day and have it keep its cool, so to speak. In the meantime, you could use and/or dry the contents using either a dehydrator (also powered by deep cycle batteries) or a solar oven.
The battery/batteries will be QUIET, so as not to bother neighbors or attract unwanted attention from the looting crowd. They can be recharged for repeated use with key appliances, so you don't have to completely forego modern conveniences...though you can pretty much forget about the A/C.
I'm not too worried about the carbon produced by ANYTHING - I believe Globull Warming to be among the biggest hoaxes in history, which we'll find out about in a few years as we rapidly cool down as the decline in solar radiation over the past few years would mandate. NONETHELESS, operating on solar via batteries isn't a bad idea, as it really doesn't cost anything except to buy the equipment in the first place. Besides, it is relatively clean (though the manufacturing of the batteries and solar panels is WAY dirty, from the mines to the actual manufacturing), and even if I'm a heartless conservative/libertarian, I still like my air and water to be clean.
I'm ALL about the solar energy use! I LOVE my solar gadgets!
We bought a 5KV generator just prior to the Y2K non-event. It was fired up quarterly. I have lost track of how many times we used it during power failures that seemed to happen every time it snowed or became windy because the electric company didn't want to pay to have trees along the right of way trimmed. A 44 hour-long power failure that begins Christmas night is at best annoying. We cranked it up periodically to recharge the well’s pressure tank (rather than breaking into our stored water and to chill the fridge. It was just outside the closed basement door when it was running and I assure you we were armed and ready.
i absolutely detest those who bring a generator for "camping". and, one usually has little need of a generator for less than a single day power outage. but, if you need to operate a sump pump, power your well pump, wash clothes after two weeks without power, keep frozen foods, operate medical life support equipment, charge up your PV batteries when the sun isn't cooperating, operate a furnace fan and ignitor to keep from literally freezing to death, keep pipes from freeze burst, and so on there really is no substitute for a generator. just run it a couple hours each day - it shouldn't be used to watch tv, surf internet or other wasteful activities.
and, one can purchase a high quality, high output welder/generator for LESS than a generator alone. and, the welder/generator will be designed and constructed for severe duty use. it just won't be portable, so you won't take it "camping".
why is it when i click on your home page i go back to may 12.nice article thx
Very interesting viewpoint on
Very interesting viewpoint on generators. I've always thought having a generator in the basement meant I was ready for anything. But you've almost got me convinced. I have never thought about a generator making me a target. I think generators are still useful to have for other situations though, like temporary power-outages. Really interesting article.