Surviving an Ice Storm-Induced Power Outage

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Hurricane season may be officially behind us, but ice storms can snap power lines just as easily. Electric Generators Direct.com, an online emergency generator superstore, offers some tips on how to survive a winter power outage.

Hurricane season may be officially behind us, but the threat of wide-spread power outages still loom in the horizon.

"Ice storms can snap power lines just as easily as any hurricane," said Jon Hoch, founder of Electric Generators Direct.com (http://www.electricgeneratorsdirect.com), an online emergency generator superstore.

Surviving an ice storm-induced power outage is a lot different from the recent hurricanes in Florida, warns Hoch. First, even is you have a natural gas furnance, it will not operate without electricity to power the blower. Secondly, if you try coping without the heat, the decrease in temperature could freeze your water pipes, causing them burst and flood your home. And finally, the days are much shorter, and the need for artificial light is even more critical.

According to Hoch, you simply need a portable generator and a power transfer system to protect yourself from the next power outage. Many homeowners are unable or unwilling to wait out the next power outage, so they are converting their portable generators into emergency backup power systems.

Shop by Style (http://electricgeneratorsdirect.com/catalog/shopbystyle.php) Recreational generators are great for tailgating or camping. A power outage, however, is no picnic. Small recreational models will only power an appliance or two. Plus, you'll need to refill their small gas tanks every few hours. Unless your a contactor using your generator on a daily basis, you don't need to go overboard with a jobsite model with a professional grade engine either.

"What's the point in purchasing a top-of-the line generator with all the bells and whistles that's only used a few times a year?" asks Hoch.

Electric Generators Direct actually grades the style of every generator to help customers quickly find their perfect portable generator. Hoch recommends purchasing a do-it-yourself grade model specifically designed for "Emergency Power" and reinvesting the savings into a generator with additional wattage.

Shop by Watts (http://electricgeneratorsdirect.com/catalog/shopbywatts.php). Yes, you can calculate your exact wattage needs through various online wattage calculators. Electric Generators Direct recommends Power Protection's Home Wattage Wizard (http://www.powerprotection.org/powergeneration/homewattage.shtml).

According to Hoch, the service is nice, but not always necessary. Electric Generators Direct has categorized their "Emergency Power" generators into three sizes: Mid-Sized, Large and X-Large. Mid-Sized generators (4,000-5,000 watts) will power your basic survival appliances. Large generators (6,000-9,000 watts) will help make the power outage experience more peaceful, supplying power to even more appliance.

X-Large generators (10,000+ watts) supply enough electricity to restore power to small homes. Most include an electric starter, which is ideal for elderly homeowners who are unable to pull the cord. Getting the generator is one thing. Getting the electricity into the house is another. According to Tom Kraeutler, host of the nationally syndicated Money Pit radio show (http://www.888moneypit.com), you NEVER should back feed the electricity into the house. If done incorrectly, you can electrocute utility workers repairing downed power lines.

Kraeutler says extension cords are fine for small generators because you can only plug in one or two appliances. The most common way to use a portable electric generator is to place it outdoors, then run extension cords through an open window or door to the chosen appliances.

Extension cords have several drawbacks. First, most extension cords can't be plugged into a furnace, well pump or ceiling-light fixture. If the cords are too long, the resulting power drop may damage the generator and appliances. And, if they are placed under rugs or carpets, heat can buildup and spark a fire.

For safety's sake, Kraeutler recommends hiring a licensed electrician to install a power transfer system that redistributes power from the generator to the circuit panel. The power transfer system (starting around $200) reduces the need for multiple extension cords running from the generator to an individual appliance.

It is installed beside the main electrical panel, and then it's connected to the circuits you'll want running during a blackout. When the power goes out, you simply crank up the generator and run a single power cord from it to a transfer switch.

"Once the generator is running, you can choose which appliances and circuits you want to use by simply flipping the switches," said Kraeutler.

Most manual transfer switches also include built-in wattage meters, which keep track of what's being powered. Without them, you can overload the system, damaging your generator and appliances.

"A typical power transfer system installation will take about 3-4 hours and cost around $200-$300," said Kraeutler. "But it's an investment that will be fully appreciated the next time the power goes out."

About Electric Generators Direct

Electric Generators Direct (http://www.electricgeneratorsdirect.com) is an online generator superstore owned and operated by Power Equipment Direct, Inc.

The company also maintains Pressure Washers Direct (http://www.pressurewashersdirect.com) and Air Compressors Direct (http://www.aircompressorsdirect.com).

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Jon Hoch