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I need to make a decision, but having 2nd thoughts

December 6th, 2017 at 02:29 am

So the bids are all in for the install of the stand-by generator I was interested in getting for the house. The generator and propane tank would be installed on the north side exterior of the house, which is a pretty good spot for it since you couldn't see the stuff unless you walked around that way. My central air unit is also on that side.

Electrician #1 wanted $5,000 for the job and the 2 propane companies who came over both quoted me prices of about $2,000 to install and connect a tank, which would hold the fuel needed to power the generator. So we're talking $7,000 total, a pretty hefty sum that made me start to have second thoughts.

We do get power outages here regularly, usually starting with late fall hurricanes and through the winter. Sometimes they're for a few hours, a day or a week. The last one I had about a month ago here was for 16 hours.

It's an inconvenience with some discomfort if it happens in the fall; you don't want to open the refrigerator and of course you can't operate any lights at night, etc. But if you have an extended outage in the winter, your pipes could freeze. This is really what's prompted me to consider a generator in the first place.

So after I got those prices, I decided to have a 2nd electrician out since that part of the work accounts for the biggest cost. He was over this morning before I left for work and he just sent me his estimate, which is about $750 less than the 1st electrician. One advantage to working with him is that he would handle all the work, sub-contracting the propane tank install to someone he regularly works with, so having to deal with one company would be easier than dealing with two.

So the generator would be a Generac, which is a top line brand, and 7.5 kilowatts (probably the smallest unit you can buy), which would be plenty to power the following things should I lose power in a storm:

1. furnace
2. refrigerator/freezer
3. Computer
4. TV
5. One kitchen outlet, which powers my microwave
6. A light in my bathroom and bedroom

I noticed that all the guys here tried to tell me i needed at least a 9 kilowatt generator or that they don't usually sell any smaller than that, etc, but once i informed them how i added up the energy use of each of the appliances i wanted powered and that i knew they added up to well under 5 kilowatts, they backed off and quoted me a price for what i said i wanted.

I also have an Angie's List coupon for 5% I could use with the 2nd electrician, although he asked me twice how I found him and I just said "online." I didn't want to say Angie's List because they he would probably jack up his price a little to account for the coupon. I hope he doesn't give me a hard time about not telling him I have his coupon until after he bid on the job, but I can just plead forgetfulness. The coupon would save me over $300.

However, CT sales tax is 6.38%. His quote said the total price for everything except the permit was such and such a price; i would have to assume he included sales tax since he didn't itemize it.

I'm still feeling a little hesitant about doing it. Partly because when I asked him what he charges for the annual maintenance on this thing, he said $475! That was quite a bit more than the other guys, who i think said something like $275.

So it seems like a big, new, ongoing added expense for me, which I don't like, and of course, I would need to keep an eye on the propane level and have it filled up after I used it up.

I guess I feel like it's yet another responsibility I'll have to take on, in addition to others involved in maintaining this home, and I do like things simple. If I had a husband, i wouldn't care since I'd know he could take care of it.

On the other hand, I can picture myself in the next storm, and the next, inevitable outage, and feeling anxious as I have in the past when it happens at the wrong time, when it's very cold out, and I worry about frozen pipes.

One has to wonder if the cost of repairing frozen pipes and dealing with possible flood damage is more or less than the cost of a $6,000 generator. Flood damage can be serious, especially if you're not home when it happens, but I don't think it would add up to $6,000. My basement is unfinished and there's not too much down there that could be damaged by water aside from my bike and miscellaneous stuff. But even absent that kind of scenario, extended power outages are not fun to deal with.

So I guess I'll go ahead with it, but I don't know. There are a lot of other things I could do with $6,000, and I would probably get more enjoyment out of those other things.

But this particular improvement is not really about "enjoyment"' it's more about protecting my investment, and keeping myself safe in bad weather. As I get older, I'm less inclined to tough things out in a cold, unheated house, and from what I'm hearing about global warming, storms of the future will be more damaging and more powerful.

So please tell me this makes sense. Or not.

7 Responses to “I need to make a decision, but having 2nd thoughts”

  1. My English Castle Says:

    PS: Are you going to stay in your beautiful house long term? I think I'd consider that.

  2. creditcardfree Says:

    Primarily what you are paying for is peace of mind and the avoidance of the inconvenience factor.

    My husband says he wants a generator the next time we own a home. The maintenance cost definitely what turns me off just a bit from your scenario since it seems so high! Much more than a furnace service.

    There are also generators that are gas powered that can be set up IF the power goes out. Much less expensive long term. Super convenient for something like a 6 hour outage. A week...that would be pushing it on those types. And you need to have enough fuel to run it on hand.

    I can understand your hesitation. It's not wrong to wait on it, and revisit in the spring or again in the fall.

  3. Laura S. Says:

    I lost power so many times in NH. I was in an apartment, so I had no option for a generator. The best I could do was a power pack (the kind that charges the car battery) where I could charge cell phones and have a light. If you are staying in the home for awhile, I would likely stick with the cost. I know three friends who purchased homes with a generator. It wasn't their only reason, but it sure played a big part. I have no doubt it would be good for the resale value.

  4. CB in the City Says:

    I tend to weigh in with safety when I am making decisions like this. Having a generator will be safer for you. You have a proven record of power outages, you are living alone (in a somewhat isolated setting?), and you are getting older (though I realize you are still young!) You are going to feel less and less like toughing it out. Add to that, it will increase the value of your property. I think you should do it.

  5. rob62521 Says:

    I think safety is a big issue, but comfort always plays a part. As someone else mentioned, if you are planning on staying in this home, then why not make it as nice as you can afford?

  6. Butterscotch Says:

    Call your homeowners insurance and see if you get a break on your rates if you have a generator. If so that savings might make it easier to swallow the cost.
    Also, but prepared that the Angie’s list guy might not accept the coupon if he’s already making a small return on the job, which he might be if he’s quoting you so low. But even if he doesn’t accept it his install rate is still substantially lower than the others.

  7. Bluebird Says:

    Frozen pipes can occur on any outside wall, not just in the basement. The damage could far exceed $6,000.

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