I call this the $1,200 solution to a $12,000 problem.
When we moved into our house, I knew we had sump pumps in the basement- and as our realtor put it “they’re your friend”. Here’s a hint for anyone house hunting: if your house requires a sump pump, unless you REALLY REALLY LOVE IT… pass. It’s better to not need a sump pump. But for us, it's too late.
As a former Boy Scout, I still seriously believe in the motto “be prepared”. When hurricane Irene was heading toward my area, I just shrugged. We have all sorts of battery backup items to charge phones and keep ourselves entertained. He have a barbecue to cook with. What could possibly go wrong? The power inevitably failed as it often does in our area. No big deal. But then I had a thought. “Hey- do those sump pumps need electric?”. I went down to the basement to check. The water as at the top of the well for the pump. My HEAD exploded. I grabbed a Black and Decker battery gadget, powered up the inverter on it and plugged in the sump pump. Nothing. Not nearly enough power as I would later learn. A neighbor had a handy water powered sump pump gadget! You connect it to your faucet- and for every gallon of water you pass through it, it removes 6 gallons! AWESOME. Except it didn’t work. The town had cut the water due to concerns of contamination after the power failed at the water supply.
Our power was out for 5 days during Irene. A neighbor with a portable generator threw us a lifeline for our sump pumps and another neighbor who never lost power ran us a line. No- you’re not supposed to do that! But it beats a flooded basement.
Then came a series of TORNADO warnings in my area. I was already feeling like a WWII Veteran after too many air raids. My head would spin every time I heard RAIN in the forecast. Now they’re adding tornadoes?? Screw this! On the night of one of those pending storms, my wife and I ran to The Home Depot and purchased a generator and two 5 gallon gas containers. The moment we got it in the car, the sky opened up and it felt like someone threw a bucket of water on us! Luckily we never lost power.
Then came Hurricane Sandy! Two days before it hit, I finally uncrated the generator! I had it all ready to rock should the power go out. And it did. For NINE DAYS. But it was not an elegant solution. I had long extension cords running down the driveway and into the house… requiring the door to be opened a crack in some pretty cold weather. I ran a line to the refrigerator with a splitter to charge cell phones… and a second line ran to the basement for the sump pumps. Ahhh. No need to worry about flooding. We were all set. Until it started to get REALLY COLD… and snowed! The power company told us that we would have power back the next day… then the next day… times nine. Finally, an electrician came over for us and wired a connector to our heating system so that we could power it from the generator. It worked PERFECTLY. And an hour after he left, the power came back on.
What I REALLY needed for the piece of mind I desired was a WHOLE HOUSE generator. I had started doing research after Hurricane Irene. It was nearly impossible to get people to return calls for estimates, but the ballpark I was getting was $10,500… the bulk of which was for the plumber to run gas lines and for the electrician, permits, etc. Post hurricane SANDY, the numbers are more like $12,000 (our neighbor had one installed for a grand total of $12,500).
But by now I already owned a generator that handled our needs like a champ. Dealing with it during Sandy was not elegant. Opening the garage and wheeling it out in the morning… firing it up… running extension cords down the driveway and through the house. Powering it down around 11pm and locking it all back up and putting the cables away. I was missing something to make life easier!