CenterPoint Energy has an offer which is available for a limited time to help you secure power to your home.
When Hurricane Ike hit last year, I was fortunate to be without power for only one week. I did not feel so lucky at the time, but I know people who were without electricity for three weeks. My main concerns were finding and preparing healthy food for my pregnant wife and my children; trying to find ways of coping with the heat and humidity; and dealing with the mosquitoes. I did not miss television, but I did feel unconnected to the world without listening to NPR and my internet connection. Those were not really necessary, but having electricity would have dealt with my main concerns.
Portable generators are fine; however, they are usually noisy, and you need to find fuel. I had to drive far from my area to locate a working gas station. The alternative is to install a unit which is connected to your gas line. These generators will automatically turn on when a power failure has been detected; they do not need to be refilled with fuel; and they can be quiet. Underground electrical lines can suffer damage during flooding, but gas lines will not. I cannot recall a gas outage happening during a storm, so this may be the most secure way to ensure that you have power after severe weather has damaged your area. Solar panels can work after a storm, but you do have to think if they may be damaged during high winds from flying debris.
How much will this cost, and what do I need to do to have one installed?Cost depends upon your installation situation and the unit that you choose. You will likely need a permit for the install, and hooking the unit up to the gas line and service panel (breaker box) has to be done correctly. (Think about this: if you sell your home, a home inspector like me could give you problems if the unit is not installed properly, which means you may have the expense of the install eventually). Most units that I have seen are designed for exterior locations, but like CHP systems, you could have this installed in your home. Interior installations will be more involved, so they will cost more. I cannot give you an estimate for a completed job, but a generator for most home applications will cost between $4000 to $8000. What do I mean by “most home applications”. Common outputs for residential generators are 8kw, 10kw, 14kw, 17kw, 20kw, and 25kw. A lower number of kilowatts may run your lights and refrigerator, but not your air conditioning system. How to choose which one is right for you? One consideration is of course cost; another will be comfort. I know that my family could get by without air conditioning if the ceiling fans were working. Our bodies sense comfort more with air movement than they do with temperature. I do need my refrigerator to work, and I will need lights, so a 10kw unit may be just the thing for my application. You may decide that television, computers, and a few other goodies are necessities, but you could do without your cooling equipment, so maybe 14 or 17kw. Before you speak to the salesmen at an installation company, think about what power you need to get by, rather than what power you need to have everything as normal. The offer seems to be connected with Generac generator, since those are pictured on the website.
To take advantage of the program, you have to be a CenterPoint customer. Here are their instructions:
For a limited time, CenterPoint Energy is offering its natural gas customers up to $2,500 off the installed price of a qualified natural gas standby generator contracted for or installed between April 27 – June 30 through a participating dealer.
How to apply
Visit CenterPointEnergy.com/naturalgasgenerators or call 888-273-7080 to sign up for this offer. Don’t wait. Take advantage of this offer and regain control over the uncertainty of severe weather. With a natural gas standby generator at your home, there’s no need to be left in the dark.
If you do not take up this offer, now is the time to make your plans for the next hurricane season anyway. I saw some good rechargeable GE lanterns at Costco for a reasonable price. We used quite a few candles at my house, but there is always the fear of a fire being caused by recklessness. You may also consider buying dry goods and can goods. My vegetable garden took a big hit, but I managed to harvest some food from it. Herbs did better than other plants. I know that many people have started vegetable gardens recently, so you may think that you can rely on obtaining food from it when all of the power is out at the grocery stores. Taller plants like my peppers and eggplants were blown down. Have a plan, and you will survive.