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3 Alternatives to costly whole-house generators

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In early 2019, Douglas County, Oregon was hit by a massive snowstorm that dumped eight inches of snow overnight and brought down trees and power lines.

Power was out for tens of thousands of people in rural areas.

But the next night another six inches of snow fell, hampering efforts to get the power back up.

In fact, some residents went three weeks without power.

Now, the reason it was such a big problem is that one saw the storm coming…

Meteorologists predicted it would hit farther north, and they didn’t expect snow.

But the night this all happened Mercy Medical Center was prepared.

The hospital has two 800 kilowatt generators – a primary and a backup generator.

They also have a generator that is dedicated to running the surgery center, which is the most critical part of the hospital.

According to representatives of the hospital, the primary generator is capable of running 40% of the entire hospital.

If the primary generator fails, the backup generator will automatically start.

The hospital’s diesel generators are supplied by a 15,000-gallon tank.

During a power outage, the generator will use about 500 gallons of diesel fuel a day.

So, the hospital can run for 30 days on generator power based on the stored fuel.

And in the event the hospital was running low on diesel…

They have a contract with a local fuel supplier, and they’re considered a top priority in case they need more diesel.

Not only that, but for the past 25 years, the generators have been tested once a week to make sure they are ready to go.

So, the night the storm hit, the generators did exactly what they were designed to do – they kept the hospital powered up and running without a hitch.

However, there was one crisis the hospital faced from the storm… the cafeteria had to adjust its menu. Not too bad.

Now, these days, a generator is a critical part of survival gear.

Yet, chances are good you’re not going to have a complex system like a hospital.

Instead, companies like Generac sell generators that tie into a home’s system.

They provide backup power to everything.

A whole house generator is a good choice.

But it’s very expensive and requires a lot of installation work.

That said, here are three useful options for connecting a generator to your home to help keep you powered up in an emergency.

Extension cords:

The easiest thing to do during a power outage is to run extension cords from the generator to things in your home.

But there are drawbacks to this method.

First, you are limited to the amount of extension cords.

Plus, some items cannot run off of an extension cord. For instance, some appliances are hardwired into your house.

And there are special power strips you can get that will plug into your generator, which will give you more outlets.

Lastly, depending on the size of your generator, chances are you won’t use the full power when using extension cords.

Transfer switch:

The benefit of a transfer switch is that it will allow you to power hardwired items in your house. In addition, it will use the full capacity of the generator.

But, this method will require an electrician to install some equipment.

You will need to install an outdoor connection port, which is the place you will plug the cable from your generator into your home.

Next, you will need to install a transfer panel.

This panel is where you would have your essential power outlets designated.

You likely cannot run your entire home off your generator.  But you would have the most critical needs set up on this separate panel.

This electric panel will also have a big switch. With it, you can switch the essentials from running off the regular power and switch them to the generator.


The GenerLink is a cylinder size device that attaches to your existing electrical system. It installs between your electric meter and the meter base.

The GenerLink device can tell whether your home is getting power from the grid. When you’re not, you can plug in your generator. This will supply power to your entire house.

The cylinder has a port that will accept a specific type of cord that connects to your generator. The cord must be from GenerLink.

The GenerLink should be installed by a licensed electrician, and in most places, you will need a permit from your municipality to complete the work.

But your generator likely can’t power your whole home…

So, you would need to go to your breaker box and shut off power where you don’t need it.

Before buying a GenerLink check your local and state laws to see if it’s allowed.

Now, when it comes to generator costs, it all depends on the size and needs of your house.

Obviously, of all the options, extension cords will be the cheapest.

Whereas a transfer switch and GenerLink will be similar when you add the costs of installation.

The GenerLink will be the easiest during a power outage.

But the transfer switch gives you more customization options.

If you don’t want to pay tens of thousands of dollars for a permanent generator, these options can work.

Be sure to do your research to know how much power you will need.

This will help you make the best decision to survive a long-term outage.

And remember, if you plan on installing any new electrical equipment, have it done by a professional.

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