Conversations with generator pros

REGION — The March 2 blizzard and following storms led to a sharp increase in people in the region who are now interested in purchasing a home generator. It’s not surprising. Every time there is an event that knocks power out for days at a time, such as in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, there’s an uptick in interest in fortifying homes against power outages.

Ben Rinker of Lake Ariel, PA has been an electrician for more than 30 years, and has been installing whole-house generators for 10. He says weather events like the blizzard raise awareness about generators. “People see that the neighbor has one; they realize they don’t have to sit home in th edark, or plug into the portable generators. There are options.”

But he cautions that, before buying, people should know what they need. He said, “I’ll have people go out to Home Depot and see one for $2,500 and say ‘Oh, I’ll buy this one.’ So they buy an automatic system and it gets dropped off in their driveway, and they call me and say ‘Hey, I want my generator installed.’ Then, I get there to look at it and they’ve got electric heat, they’ve got an electric water heater, they’ve got central air. I ask what circuits would you like me to run. They say, ‘I want the whole house,’ and I say ‘Nope, that’s not going happen’—at least not with the generator the customer purchased. But, he says, there are viable options for every house, even those with electric heat.

Another business that has experienced a large increase in inquiries about generators is American Electric, LLC, headquartered in Lake Huntington, NY. Mike Popollilo Jr., one of the owners, says a lot of people are looking to install generators and don’t know a lot about the process, but they don’t really have to because his company as well as others fill in the gaps. “We’ll help them out with permits, inspections… it’s a process.” He said most people are going for whole-house generators rather than portable ones, which make sense because the circuits that people want to operate during a power outage draw the most power, such as a well pump, hot water, heat and so on.

Popollilo said there are a lot of people in the region who have been considering installing a generator, but it wasn’t a top priority. But it seems the outages are becoming more frequent and interest is growing. And he says, if a person is “at work all day, you can’t be home trying to start a generator, make sure the heat is running.” He added that there are accessories like remote monitoring, so the owner or the company providing maintenance can be alerted if the generator needs attention.

Another company busy installing generators these days is R3 Hardware in Honesdale, PA. Asked what was most important for a person to know about a generator before buying one, Christie Langone said the customer should know about the maintenance required, and also the difference between the maintenance and operation of a portable generator as opposed to a whole-house standby. She emphasized, “It is very important to ensure that it is installed properly.”

She said permits for installation are required in some municipalities but not in others. In Narrowsburg, for instance, the Town of Tusten requires permits. And like the previous companies, hers will help out with permits. Also, if the customer needs a propane tank or a differently-sized tank R3 will handle that.

As with the other installers, R3 Hardware experienced a surge in orders after the heavy snows of March that knocked out power for so many for so long. Langone said, “I would say through June we’re booked,” and it’s actually longer than that but the jobs aren’t yet scheduled. “It’s probably well into the summer.”


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