While most families can muddle through a short-term power outage, major storms can sometimes leave entire neighborhoods and towns without electricity for days at a time. Superstorm Sandy knocked out power to 8 million homes, leaving some families without electricity for more than a week.
Flashlights and candles serve as a quick fix for lack of lighting, but families rely on electricity for much more than light, says Carl Eikenburg, a product manager for Power Equipment Plus, an outdoor power equipment supplier based in Vermont. Refrigerators only retain their cooling capacity for a brief period without power. "No matter what kind of heat you have – it doesn't matter if it's electric, fossil fuel, or geothermal – you need electricity to heat your home," Mr. Eikenberg says.
Installing a generator before storms hit can ensure nearly uninterrupted power for the home. Whole house generators provide the most reliable back up, but can set a family back several thousand dollars, Eikenberg says. Portable emergency generators are a lower-cost alternative; PEP sells models that range in price from $700 TO $1,200, he says. He cautions that families take generator fuel into consideration when comparing models. Gasoline, in particular, can be problematic, he says, because gas can go bad after several months. If the power outage affects gas pumps as well, residents may be out of luck.