Here in the NJ suburbs of NYC, we (my wife, three kids under 6, and me) were fortunate in that we had no injuries to our family and no flooding or serious tree fall damage to our house or vehicles. Sandy was primarily an exercise in a large-scale, extended blackout: no electricity, no heat, no hot water; 12 days in our case.
Here in this thread I will post a few thoughts on what I learned and how we fared. I will break it up into a few posts. Topic 1. Generator. What worked:
I bought one. Barely just in time, but I bought one.
I never owned a generator before. For a long time, I was on the fence about buying one. My primary reasoning was that since we don't really use AC up here, it wasn’t necessary, and that we had plenty of lanterns, flashlights, etc.
But I remembered how last year in October we had a freak snowstorm and lost power for about 5 days, and it was not a pleasant experience. So a few days before Sandy hit, and motivated by Steven Harris’ recent interviews on generators, I got down off the fence and bought one a Yamaha EF2000iS inverter. And I’m glad I did. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002RWK9N2/ref=as_li_ss_il?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B002RWK9N2&linkCode=as2&tag=knowledgepubc-20
Some benefits of a generator/inverter that this confessed generator-skeptic discovered:
Light - First of all, when the whole town went dark, there was just something comforting about being able to light up the downstairs living area of my house at night, and carry on with a bit of “normal” light; especially at this time of year when it gets dark around 5 p.m., when my wife typically starts cooking dinner.
Computer / internet - Also, I was able to power my computers and other devices to connect to the internet (which was still working). I became the "internet-connected" hangout/headquarters for my immediate neighbors, which I think helped to foster a better sense of teamwork between us during the outage, and helped grease the "barter wheels" so to speak. And being able to run my computer (and internet) allowed me to work from home when public transportation went down and driving to work was not an option.
Fridge/Freezer - Being able to run the freezer/fridge for roughly 6-8 hours each day bought us enough time to slowly use up what food we had in the fridge/freezer, and we lost very little.
Laundry - We even ran a few loads of laundry through my neighbor’s energy-efficient front-load washer/dryer.
Entertainment - Being able to sit the little kids (and the neighbors' little kid) down in front of the TV and pop in a Disney DVD to keep them occupied for a few hours was priceless, and allowed the grown-ups to deal with other issues.
Phone - I dislike talking on the cell phone, and since I had power I was able to use our VOIP line with our regular phone.
Fuel - And because I had a small/mid-sized inverter that is very fuel efficient, I was able to do all of this without interruption even in the midst of the fuel shortages and gasoline rationing put into effect in our area.What didn’t work
: Well, I waited until the last minute before the storm to buy the generator, so I didn’t have time to order a tri-fuel version, which I would have liked.
Also, because I waited until the last minute to buy the generator, I did not have the proper amount of fuel storage; more gas cans were impossible to find by the time I headed out to look for them 2 days before the storm. I managed to store 6 gallons (about a week’s worth in my case) before the storm in the cans I had but I ended up being one of those shmucks you saw photos of waiting in line for gas. That was not a smart thing; I’m lucky I ended up getting gas and not getting into a fight.
And if you think that you’ll be able to siphon gas from your car, try it out first to make sure you can; I wasn’t able to get past the anti-siphon devices on my cars so that backup fuel storage plan failed me. I'm still trying different ideas to see if I can get that to work.
Finally, because I waited until the last minute, I wasn’t able to explore connecting the generator to my central heating system (oil-fueled steam heat).Lesson learned:
Even if you don't use AC much, at least a small generator is a worthwhile investment; and a small, efficient generator/inverter like the Yamaha/Honda ones Steven Harris discussed in his interviews with Jack would be my first choice for anyone who is on the fence.