Most Residents Inadequately Prepared for Power Outages
Residents of states prone to hurricanes are concerned about the possibility of losing electricity during the current storm season but are probably not as prepared as they should be to keep their homes operating, according to a recent survey by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC).
The survey found that almost half of the adults (48%) polled in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina — representing 9 million households — expected to lose their electricity for 24 hours or more within the next six months.
Nationally, one in three adults (32%) said that a lengthy loss of power would have at least some impact on their personal financial situation.
However, only 26% of those polled in the hurricane states and 20% nationwide said that they own a generator that can be used as a backup power supply. Of those who did own generators, 66% were portable and 25% were standby generators.
Portable generators supply electricity to selected appliances through extension cords, while standby generators are permanently installed and designed to automatically turn on in the case of a power outage to supply electricity to selected circuits in a home.
Of those surveyed, 53% said they knew little or nothing about standby generators.
“Given the increasing frequency of power outages, builders putting up new homes and remodeling old ones need to make home owners aware of the benefits of owning a standby generator,” said Brian Feehan, PERC’s managing director of engine fuel programs.
“Builders, especially in hurricane zones and other areas that experience violent weather, want to make sure home owners are thinking about generators to serve both their immediate needs as well as to offer solutions that can keep their families, homes and possessions safe for the long term,” he said. “A standby generator provides a continuous source of electricity when the power grid fails, whether it be for several hours or several days.”
An average home’s essential appliances will operate on a standby generator with 7,000 to 13,000 watts of power, according to PERC. High wattage “comfort” appliances that require dedicated circuits — such as central air conditioners, pool heaters and dryers — require a surge of electricity when they first start up, so that may influence the size of the generator home owners need or how many appliances a home owner can power.
For example, a 7,000-watt standby generator will power eight circuits and a window air conditioning unit, whereas a 13,000-watt unit will operate up to 12 circuits and a four-ton central air conditioning system.
A stand-by generator can also be fueled by an underground propane tank. In another survey conducted by the NAHB Research Center on behalf of PERC, 34% of homes built by surveyed builders over the previous 12 months in locations with partial or no access to natural gas featured an underground propane tank.
The same survey found that once builders understood the benefits of underground propane tanks, those intending to use propane in the homes they would be building in the next 12 months jumped from 18% to 29%.
PERC’s surveying found that 66% of residents’ generators run on either unleaded gasoline or diesel fuel, which may be difficult to access in a severe storm situation.
Standby generators, on the other hand, run on either propane or natural gas and can be hooked directly to a home owner’s existing gas lines, which means that in the event of a severe storm, home owners have access to a reliable source of fuel to power the generator, PERC says.
Propane marketers can provide home owners with an underground tank that is protected from the elements so that a constant source of fuel is available, says PERC. On average, a 250-gallon propane tank fueling a seven kilowatt standby generator would provide enough electricity to power a home for five days, while a 500 gallon tank would provide 11 days worth of power.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Propane Education and Research Council is a member of the National Council of the Housing Industry — The Supplier 100 of NAHB.
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