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An about-face: no generator

December 8th, 2017 at 02:23 pm

I decided not to get the $7,000 generator for my home.

Why I'm not getting the generator
It wasn't the upfront cost...I more or less expected that price range. Believe it or not, it was the $475 charge quoted me for annual maintenance.

Sure, I could probably "afford it," but I didn't get to where I am today without being frugal and carefully weighing big ticket purchases like this one.

The light bulb went off in my had after my cousin mentioned, at the tail end of our "should I or shouldn't I" conversation, that he had used a kerosene heater for years before transitioning to a portable generator, and later, a whole house generator like the one I'd been considering.

I decided to more thoroughly research kerosene heaters, and I liked what I read. A nearly 100% efficient fuel source, unlike my top-line oil furnace which is just 83% efficient. Very quiet. A compact, 22-lb DuraHeat kerosene heater could warm my entire house quite quickly! I was somewhat amazed.

Vague fears of fire or carbon monoxide poisoning had caused me to avoid even considering using one, but after reading Amazon product reviews in great detail, I ordered one online, along with a carbon monoxide monitor for the basement (i already have 2 detectors upstairs).

Since any kind of burning fuel will consume oxygen, you just need to crack a window to ensure good air flow (and no carbon monoxide poisoning). If you have a drafty house, you might not need to crack a window. My basement is fairly drafty under the door to garage, but I will set up the monitor anyway, so instead of merely sounding an alarm if there's a problem, I can see at any time what the carbon monoxide levels are on the LCD display. I also have a small window I will crack open near where I will put the heater, which will sit on a concrete floor.

It has an auto off feature if it's accidentally knocked over.

The only hassle will be filling up the tank, which they recommend you do outside because upon start-up, there may be a minute or so of stinky smell. So I'd have to carry the roughly 22-pound heater from basement into attached garage, where I'd start just outside the garage door, let it run a minute or so, then carefully carry it indoors again.

And since I would only plan on using it during a power outage, I could be trying to fill up the heater in the dark, or with a flashlight, which could be a bit tricky.

Unfortunately, I do have a step down from the basement to garage, but otherwise, it could be done. I do routinely haul 44-lb boxes of cat litter home from BJs. That's about the most I'd want to lift.

My cousin suggested filling the heater only about one-quarter full outside so it's not too much heavier when I bring it back in the basement, at which time I would fill it completely.

My cousin, who is VERY long-winded, was actually extremely helpful because his habit of explaining things in great, excruciating detail, which normally makes me impatient, was very informative for someone who has had little exposure to things like alternative fuels and how they work.

I feel a lot more comfortable now after our conversation, which confirmed much of what I'd read in customer reviews of the heater I just bought. He even said he ran the heater overnight while he slept, and when he went off to work, 2 things I would not do.

the only other caveat to remember is that kerosene fuel does not store well long-term, so I would plan to buy fresh fuel around October, before late fall storms roll around, and then in April, when I felt the coast was clear as far as future storms, I would just burn up the rest of any remaining fuel i had. It actually would be more efficient and cost less than my heating oil.

So yeah, using a kerosene heater would not be a PERFECT solution to the power outage problem, in that the house would still be dark at night and the fridge could not be opened, etc, but it would ensure my pipes would stay toasty warm, as would the rest of the house.

And I started thinking about how many other ways I could use that $7,000 investment. Finally, just knowing I'm not at the complete mercy of the electric provider (Eversource) as to when power is restored is a truly empowering feeling (pun intended).

So when you consider the kerosene heater is a FRACTION of the cost of the generator, it's a slam dunk for me. My total outlay for the kerosene heater, 2 fuel cans, a siphon, and the carbon monoxide detector, is less than $200 vs $7,000+. Of course, there's the cost of the fuel itself, but it's nothing inordinately expensive and you can purchase it many places, apparently, including gas stations. I never really noticed before.

Now that I've totally bored you with the minutiae of my decision-making process, I'll move on to other things.

The one thing I like about my job...
Since I don't have to be at work til 10:30 am, I get up at my normal time (at this time of year, 6 or 6:30 am) and make good use of my limited free time.

I've gotten into the habit of doing a 1/2 hour walk around the block here during this time. This is an excellent thing since I also ALWAYS go for a 1/2 hour walk during my lunch break at work. I consider this essential for my sanity and it's also a really good idea to stretch my legs.

So I've basically DOUBLED my daily walking routine to 1 hour a day. I track my exercise using supertracker.usda.gov and I'm hoping it could help me with some weight loss.

However, I really don't like walking much when it gets below 30 degrees, like it is this morning, but overall, having the extra time in the morning is really extremely helpful.

I've used this little bit of extra time in other ways, including my Wednesday morning trips to the landfill (which lets me avoid having to go there on crowded Saturdays), vacuuming the house and heck, not feeling like I have to spring out of bed at the crack of dawn if I stayed up a little late the night before.

The weekend
I am really hoping they don't ask me to work tomorrow (Saturday). I have much I'd like to do, and it can't all be done Sunday.

I got another debit card ($10) from an electric company I had problems with. Contacting the state regulatory agency promptly fixed the problem, but I am not doing business with them, so sending me gift cards after the fact, to someone who will not be returning to you as a customer, is sort of dumb. It's a shame they couldn't process a new, discounted rate they advertised on the state's website. That's all it was all about. But I will apply the gift card toward groceries.

8 Responses to “An about-face: no generator”

  1. creditcardfree Says:

    I think you have made a wise decision! If the kerosene heater is heavy, may also consider an appliance dolly to help you move it more efficiently. Also, remember that leaving faucets running a little can help keep them from freezing.

  2. CB in the City Says:

    I would have been a little afraid of a kerosene heater, too, but it sounds liked you have done your research. Good decision -- you will keep your house warm, the most important reason for a generator, at a fraction of the cost.

  3. My English Castle Says:

    I think it's a good idea too. Seems like some of the pro-generator argument was from anxiety--completely understandable. The savings can go a long way towards other things. In my former house we had a bathroom that was poorly insulated and always left the undersink doors open. CCF has a good idea about the dolly. My DH swears it's the best thing I ever bought him.

  4. rob62521 Says:

    My folks used kerosene heaters for years. The only caveat was they didn't use them at night. So, they turned down the furnace quite low during the day and then turned it up a bit at night and had extra blankets on the bed. I'm glad they have really come a long way from what my folks had in the 1980s.

    Good deal on walking in the morning and at lunch.

  5. LuckyRobin Says:

    If I were you I would get the Goal Zero Yeti 1400 Lithium Portable Power Station. You keep it charged up and then when there is a power failure you can plug things into it. It charges from a wall outlet, but you can also get the additional solar panel charger. And if that is too expensive for you, the Schumacher XP2260 1200 Peak Amp Instant Portable Power Source and Jump Starter would be a good option. We have something similar to the Schumacher so we can plug in lamps, the wifi box, charge the computers and phones, and run our c-paps off of during power failures. Actually, we have two. We check them weekly to make sure the are fully charged. There are also rechargeable lanterns with lithium batteries now that are bright enough to read by. Personally I would go with the BESTON 440 Lumens IP65 Waterproof Portable Rechargeable LED Camping Lantern with 10400mAh USB External Lithium Battery Pack. They last a very long time. They are next on my list of things to buy for prepping for emergencies.

  6. PatientSaver Says:

    Thanks, LuckyRobin, what you mentioned is another interesting way to weather a storm. I never really investigated these...thanks! It looks like whatever you'd want to power would all have to be in the same room, unless you are able to use extension cords?

    I'm thinking fridge, microwave and lights in the kitchen alone would be very helpful during an outage, and I have a TV there too.

  7. PatientSaver Says:

    LuckyRobin, I researched the Yeti power station on Amazon. It could power a full-size fridge, which is probably the 2nd most important thing to me during a power outage, after the heat.

    For optimal battery life, you need to "exercise" the battery by using it at least once every 3 to 6 mths and let the power drain down to below 50% before recharging again. Which is fine, but even by doing this, the manufacturer says the lithium battery will last just 3 to 5 years. And right now, they don't make the power station so you can replace the battery.

    You'd have to buy a whole new unit apparently, and at $1400 plus the solar panel, another $300, that would be pricey. Not as pricey as a one-time purchase of the stand-by generator, although the generator too would have ongoing costs of $1000 every 2 years for servicing.

    It's tempting, but let's take worst case scenario. The power station battery lasts just 3 years. So the cost would be $466 in each of the 3 years. Which would be more than the cost of lost food in the fridge/freezer each year, I would say.

    It's very interesting to read about all these amazing new products, though. If you know of any others, I hope you'll share them.

  8. LuckyRobin Says:

    Well, I haven't purchased the Yeti, but I have a friend who has had it for several years and been happy with it. I like the smaller portable power stations I do have a lot, though. You could have one in each room you needed it in. Mine can have extension cords plugged into them.

    There are also portable small generators that run on gasoline. Lowe's and Home Depot and a lot of auto parts stores sell them. We used one of those when we lived in the mountains to power the fridge and microwave and freezer. I think it was $500. Used it for 10 years, never had it serviced, but DH did maintain it himself. We had the house wired for it, though, so we could hook it up outside and not have to run an extension cord through a window. We had an electrician do it and it didn't cost that much. Far less than what generator installers would have charged. We gave it to the neighbor when we moved to the city.

    Since we are so close to the hospital our lines are always the first ones restored in a power failure, so we seldom lose power for more than 8 hours, but if it happens at night we want something.

    If you keep a jug of ice in your freezer, you can put that in your fridge to help keep it cold during the first 24 hours. If you have more than one jug of ice in your freezer, you can change them daily to keep the fridge cold, just be very quick about opening and shutting the freezer. If you have access to ice, you can keep things in a cooler, too, which will work even better than the fridge since it is a smaller space.

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