Generators: Is This the Way We Show Status Now?

6 years ago

I myself am no stranger to ice storms. I wrote on my personal blog in 2007 about our new generator, the one we got after this experience:

The worst ice storm I remember happened the year we moved into This Old House, which I believe was the winter of 2001-2002. The ice was around two inches thick and weighed down the above-ground power lines to the point that they snapped and arced in a spectacular display of "you're screwed." Our power line, as in the line that connected This Old House to the power grid, fell down in between the back door and the area where we parked our cars, making it impossible to get to the cars without touching live wire. That was fun.

After losing power for several days more than once in our 80-year-old house in Kansas City, my husband and I started thinking seriously about getting a generator. Then my generator-owning, farm-living parents gave us one as a gift. I remember I cried with relief when it was delivered. We then went on to spend hundreds of dollars to have the electrical box wired so we could turn parts of the house on via the box instead of via cords. And then ... we moved.

Our little piece of heaven

In the suburb where I now live, the power doesn't go out as often, probably because the lines are underground. (Though I hesitate to even type that, as I've probably now jinxed myself.) But every year, my husband gets out the generator and makes sure it will start, because generators are like insurance -- you hope you never have to use it, but if you have to use it, it had better be there.

I had no idea whole-house generators even existed, or generators that turned on automatically. I suppose I should -- how do hospitals and office buildings power their emergency lighting? But to have one for your house seems like an extreme luxury. Of course, the houses described in the recent New York Times article are, um, a little bigger than mine. With more, well, electronics.

Last year, one of Mr. DiBiase’s mega-houses sold for more than $11 million, one of the highest spec sales in Greenwich history, said Ms. McElwreath, who had the listing. Mr. DiBiase ticked off its features, starting with a 100-kilowatt Cummins, the Rolls-Royce of generators. It was a necessary feature, he explained, if you consider the power needs of the 16,000-square-foot house: nine zones of hydro-air, 10 zones of radiant heat, a whole-house Lutron lighting system, a Sub-Zero, several refrigerator drawers and wine coolers, a wine cellar, a home theater and a gym.

Insert collective barfing sound.

Having grown up in Iowa, I'm all for owning a generator if you live in a freestanding house. (I don't think a gasoline- or kerosene-powered generator would work if you didn't have a driveway or other safe place to put it -- you can't exactly fire these things up in the hallway of your apartment building.) They aren't free -- in fact, they're really expensive, starting at several hundred dollars and going up into five figures -- and they aren't exactly small to store, either. But once you've lost hundreds of dollars of food during a hot summer storm or thousands of dollars of flooring or furniture because your pipes burst, well, the generator purchase starts to look smarter and smarter.

Do you have a generator? Have you lost power in the past few years? What would have to happen to make you buy one?

Rita Arens authors Surrender Dorothy and is the editor of Sleep is for the Weak. She is BlogHer's assignment and syndication editor.

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