Joseph and Teresa Genovesi have lived in Bedford for 79 years, the last 47 years at their house in Katonah.
“I’ve never seen anything like this storm,” Joe Genovesi said, of Irene. He’s used a portable generator for the past ten years—one that he bought after a bad winter storm and is powered by gasoline. “It makes us feel very comfortable to have the generator when we really need it, like we did last Sunday,” he said. “Though we feel very fortunate compared to some in our region and in places like New Jersey who are seeing damage that is mind-boggling.”
After enduring a long, aggravating stretch without electric power, many area residents are looking to prevent similar frustrations in the future by investing in a generator.
There has been high demand this week at large distributors, like Home Depot in Brewster— who sold over 200 portable generators during the weekend of the storm, according to a sales associate. Neighborhood shops like Paul’s Power Products in Bedford Hills and Arroway Tractor in Katonah have received an enormous amount of calls for repairs of overused and damaged generators.
“A generator at a private home used to be only for the very wealthy,” said Tim Bland, of Bland Electric of Bedford Hills who has been in the business for 33 years. “Then we saw a surge in demand for generators for the Y2K event, when people were willing to spend large amounts to prepare for any widespread power loss.”
As prices have come down for generators and more families are obtaining them, Bland advised buyers consult a licensed electrician (he no longer installs them) before purchasing one. He said electrician will direct customers to generator that fits their needs—be it for just the essentials like well water, heating and refrigeration or for setting up a larger back-up system— and will install them according to safety code requirements.
Bill Richards, a sales associate at Home Depot, cautioned first-time generator buyers to educate themselves.
“These are serious machines that can do harm to your home and your neighbors if they are not used properly,” he said. “People should know what they are doing when operating and maintaining them.”
Prices range from about $700 to $1000, depending on the generator’s size.
More permanent units, called “home standby generators” are connected to a home’s circuitry and are housed outside the home in a weather-protective enclosure. Companies like Northeast Generator, based in Bridgeport, CT, will send an engineer for a “load evaluation” and then recommend an appropriate unit.
“These types of generators are good for someone who does not want to deal with the machine themselves,” says service manager Adam Pryor. “They kick in automatically when the power goes off; they exercise (start-up) once a week and are serviced by our company.”
Prices are steeper for this option, and range from approximately $5,000-$15,000. But for some, the benefits outweigh the costs.
“The other night, a guy just called me because he was driving home to another night in his power-less house and saw our truck on the highway,” said Pryor. “He just had to call.”