On the East Coast, staying toasty is paramount when facing the brutality of “biblical weather” in winter.
Penelope Green writes in the Times today that home generators—those mega-units that chug along emitting a kitten-like purr—are becoming the new status symbol among the luxury set, particularly in snowy, upper-crust locales like Greenwich, Conn. and the Catskills in upstate New York.
For those who can’t escape to their summer home in Cape Cod, having a generator, which costs between hundreds and thousands to install—a standard 14-kilowatt Generac goes for $7,000, says Green—offers a practical plan B when electricity goes on the fritz.
Even rockers who frequent the Catskills like The Stroke’s guitarist Albert Hammond approve.
“The new owners, who are from out of the country, didn’t understand what needing a generator was all about,” Julio DiBiase Jr., a luxury builder in Fairfied County, Conn. who’s making a habit of outfitting every home with one, told Green. “Then we had [hurricane Irene], and they were without power for four days. They really saw the value in their generator.”
If you’re considering installing a generator in your home, here’s what you’ll get for your price range:
$200 to $1,000: With generators, any add-ons, like electric or manual starts, cost extra. Generators that can power a few lightbulbs start out at a few hundred dollars, then as they gain more wattage they go up in price.
The least expensive option, says Ways to Conserve, a blog about living green, is a portable home generator, which allows home appliances, like a heating unit, to be plugged right into the unit. The only catch is that these have to be refueled often, and if your local gas station’s lights are out, you’ll still have to battle the elements. You’ll need to keep a spare can of gas handy around the house, and have enough on hand to sustain you through a three to four day freeze.
You’ll also need between $500 and $1,500 to pay the electrician to install a transfer panel so you can hook up the machine to the breakers, said an expert Green spoke to. Unfortunately, this too can vary in cost and as the generators increase in popularity, it’ll be harder to book the service.
$5,000 and up: According to the Conserve blog, the permanent standby home generator, which generates roughly between 8,000 and 20,000 watts, switches on once your power goes out and can be installed for “under $8,000.” That’s not quite a steal, but it may be worth if you have pets at home (and food in the fridge) and want something to automatically crank up the heat.
Finally, there are issues of motor sounds (really), insurance, and brand. Generac, the Tiffany of generator units, tends to go for the most these days.
A word of warning: A gasoline-powered generator requires a skillful hand, and the generator must be installed outside your home to ensure it a. doesn’t go up in flames and b. no one suffers carbon monoxide poisoning. Be careful and turn to an expert for installation.