Using a Portable Generator For Power Outages


Texas experiences several serious windstorms every year. As storms move inland they become weaker. I live about 50 miles inland so I do not feel the need to flee further inland when a hurricane is forecasted. However there is a good chance that my area will have a power outage from a major storm. A generator can make your home much more livable if the power goes out.

If money is no object you can spend $5,000 to $15,000 for a permanent standby power system. If you budget is more limited (like mine) you can get a portable unit for much less.

In hot areas like Houston the key appliances to run off a generator are your refrigerator and a room air conditioner. A 12,000 BTU AC unit might take around 1,200 watts to run and 3,000 watts to start. You could probably run that, and your refrigerator, on a generator with 3,000 running watts. (The generators starting watts will usually be rated higher than the running watts.) This size generator could cost $300 to $400 and may be all you need for a very small house, or better than nothing for a mid size or larger home.

My generator is a 10 horsepower model rated for 8500 starting watts and 5500 running watts. It cost about $600. I think this is a good size unit for a small or medium sized house. My unit can run 2-3 room 12,000 BTU AC units, a refrigerator, and other small appliances. After IKE we ran the generator continuously for 2 weeks and our home was cool and comfortable.

Here are some ideas if you are considering a portable generator:

  • Think about what appliances you want to run. Then research the wattage needed to run them and select your generator accordingly.
  • Generators are dangerous! Read the instruction manual and think safety!
  • Get a heavy duty power cord set designed for generator use.
  • Buy you room size AC units in advance. Stores will probably be closed or sold out after a hurricane.
  • Do not try to start all your appliances at the same time. Check the manual for instructions.
  • Buy enough fuel cans to hold 30+ gallons of gas. Fill them at the start of each windstorm season is you have a safe storage space. Add fuel stabilizer to the fuel; and then carefully dump the fuel into you cars tank at the end of the season.
  • Generator oil needs very frequent changes so get a couple extra bottles of oil.
  • Secure your generator with a heavy duty chain or cable to make it theft resistant.
  • Don’t forget other storm supply’s like bottled water, canned food, etc.
  • Be sure you have good flood and windstorm insurance coverage.