Blackouts, backup generators, and natural gas

So we had a blackout here this morning. It was due to power pole work down the street, no big deal, power out at 8 am back at 9:30 am. But we were just about to eat breakfast, and it was annoying to not be able to open the fridge (since we didn’t know when power was gonna come back, we didn’t want to crack the fridge, since the second you do that you’ve cut the food’s life in half).

And it all reminded me of last summer, when the 110 degree heat wave was blowing transformers all over California, and our power was off and on for a week. Some people near us lost power for days on end.

Now, honestly, losing power is not that big a deal… except for the kitchen. It’s a big drag to lose all the food in the fridge. If we just had some kind of low-power backup solution, one that could run the fridge and maybe one power strip (for fans, cellphone chargers, rechargeable flashlights, and Nintendo DSes), we’d be totally set.

Eventually we want a solar array, but that’s a lot of money and will be in our next house. It also wouldn’t work today on a dark rainy day. The easy thing would be a Honda portable generator, but that would require storing gasoline, which is a menace.

Today my wife wanted oatmeal, so we lit the gas stove with a burning paper towel (no electric igniter) and hey presto, oatmeal. And I realized, during an electric blackout the natural gas supply is still usually OK. Soooo… why couldn’t we have an emergency backup generator that runs from the natural gas line???

That would avoid the need to store gasoline. It could be very low capacity (powering only the kitchen circuit). We wouldn’t use it much.

Do they make such a thing?

Short answer. Yes.
Long answer. You should pay to have it professionally installed.

Plenty. We have one of these and I have developed a sick kind of fetishistic love of it. It came with the house when we bought it so I can’t help you on cost of installation. The unexpected benefit is the feeling you get when the entire neighborhood is dark and you are running lights and AC; Like you should start nailing doors up against the windows and loading the shotguns. “NO YOU MAY NOT HAVE A DAIQUIRI, ANIMALS.”

Down heah in Virginia, the gas company sells backup generators installed for around $7000.

You just cracked us both up. My wife, quote: “That’s awesome.”

Thanks guys, good to know it’s so easy to get the hook up. Next question: liquid propane or natural gas? If there’s an earthquake or some shit (non-zero chance out here), the gas supply will be dead too, no? Of course, then a big propane tank on your property might be a liability too…

We don’t actually have all that much dinero right now either, and given our proper requirements it might be overkill to have a house-powering system. (Plus we live shouting distance from some hood-like hoodlums, so having the whole house all lit up when the street is dark actually would be a bit too attention-getting.) For backups, all we really need is a couple outlets worth, fridge, fan, like I said. So a cheapie $300 portable generator would really do the trick. Problem with THAT is, like I said in the OP, it runs on gasoline and gasoline is a pain in the ass to store. I wish there were some cheap generators that ran off liquid propane, which seems a lot more storable…

Though my wife just asked whether we couldn’t spring for a cheapish one ($2K) if we were staying in this house longer. And I realized, hm, we COULD get one now and then move it when we move – it’s not like it has to stay here with the house…

Edit: Huh, Motherhead, that’s the very model I browsed to. Looks like you can get one for under $2,000, not including professional installation which we DEFINITELY WOULD GET.