No Power/Gas in NY...Making me consider investing in a generator

No Power/Gas in NY...Making me consider investing in a generator

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy here in NYC & Long Island I went without power at my house for a week and still there are hundreds of thousands without power. Last year I lost power for four days after Hurricane Irene....(yeah and some still say there's no such thing as global warming)

Additionally the gas line at the stations across the area extend for miles.

All of this has me longing for my Model S (Jan/Feb) but it also got me wondering what will I do if (when) this happens again.

I would love to put solar panels on my house but have too many tall trees around so that's not an option. So I guess I'm stuck with getting a generator to charge my car. Has anyone else considered getting a backup generator to charge their Model S in the event of a catastrophic power failure? If so, what types of models would work the best and charge the quickest?


adstein | November 6, 2012

I just purchased a pair of portable Honda generators that each put out 1.6avg/2kw peak. They can be used in parallel to get a constant 3.6kw. Not a lot of power but enough to get 100+ miles overnight. Extra benefits are that they are incredibly efficient and quiet, 1.1 gallons for 10 hours per generator at 50% load. Finally, they are very small and light and one would easily fit in the frunk. At 45lbs I may carry one in the frunk as a safety precaution until more chargers become available or I get comfortable that I won't run down the battery. Note that the generators can, of course, be used to power a furnace, well pump, fridge etc as well.

TheAustin | November 6, 2012


We're in the Hamptons (yes, year-round), and we lost power for four days...It went back on Friday, but guess what? The gas lines are still ridiculous. At first, my wife said "How would we charge your car if it was here already?" In retrospect, had it been on a full charge, the 300 or so range would have been more than enough to get around for four days, probably even a week...And once the power came back on, I'd be laughing at all of the people lined up for $30 of gas (yes, that's what some stations out here have rationed purchases to).

Regarding solar panels...Even if you could put them on your house, they don't just go into a storage cell on your property...The power goes back to LIPA, and you get a credit for it. So, when the power is out, you still have no power (and conversely, LIPA doesn't receive your solar power either until power is restored.)...And I know this because I've talked to SolarCity and got a quote for solar panel installation that I'm strongly considering.

So, that brings us back to your question about a generator...And after losing power during this storm, we are also seriously considering installing a whole-house back-up generator. Whole house because, if we lose power again while it's hot (like during Irene) or cold (like during Sandy), only a whole-house will continue to run air conditioning or heat. And, we would install a generator that connects to our propane tanks rather than a gasoline powered one. Propane-powered generators are quieter, and getting propane into your home tank is a lot easier than going out and getting gasoline one gallon at a time from a gas station (even when there aren't shortages going on).

We have a 17 kW Generac backup generator at our lake house, and we're talking to an electrician here to see if that would be appropriate for our house here...I'll jump back on here and let you know what he says. If you want to tell me the rough square footage of your house, I can ask him what size (i.e. How many kW) you would need to power your house (If you want it to power your whole house). If you're just looking to power your car, you'll be fine with something pretty small (but I'll ask about that too).

Steve841 | November 6, 2012

4 days? Try two solid weeks after Wimla here in FL.

Whole home generator is wired and installed.

Steve841 | November 6, 2012

Wilma that is or was.

nwdiver93 | November 6, 2012

I would recommend "grid interactive" solar. Even in cloudy weather mine produces 8 kWh/day or ~50 kWh on a sunny day. That's enough to run anything critical and drive a few miles. Unlike a generator this would pay for itself over time and does't require much maintenance.

noel.smyth | November 6, 2012

I have grid tied solar but am seriously considering a natural gas generation after this last storm. 2 to 3 k and I could still power my car and it kicks on within seconds of an outage.
The efficiency of my solar goes down if I use it to charge battery and the power loss event is so rare ( say 5 days per year) that the natural gas generator is very compelling. If you don't have natural gas you could use propane.

Docrob | November 6, 2012

TheAustin and others discussing solar, most typical solar installations don't include storage and do indeed shut down in the event of a grid failure. However it certainly is possible to have a small storage back up which will keep your solar array functioning during an outage. one such system from a major manufacturer is the Sunny Backup set from SMA. This is a solar junction box that is added to an existing or new grid connect system which allows a solar array, generator and battery bank to all be linked to the grid, it auto isolates the system from the grid in the event of a power failure and runs as a stand alone system charging the battery array from the solar array or a generator.

dborn | November 6, 2012

Regarding solar grid- tie systems, there is also this product .
This product will allow grid tie and also home backup in case of an outage.

iholtzman | November 6, 2012

I live in the Chicago area and recently had a GE 20kW whole house generator installed. It runs on natural gas. If you have a NEMA 14-50 outlet your car will draw about 10kW which means you can fully charge your car in about 8 hours. The peace of mind is well worth it. It ran $8,500. In my mind now I can run my car on electric or natural gas. In fact based on the current price of natural gas it would cost around $11 for a full charge on an 85kW battery.

space09 | November 6, 2012

Houston has many whole house backup generators installed. They sell them at Home Depot and Lowes and it is rare to lose natural gas even in a hurricane. While I doubt they pay for themselves in the longrun, they are good for piece of mind. (Keep in mind they can also annoy the neighbors as they self test--usually weekly.)

Seriously, do you want to be the guy waiting in line all day for gas or driving around trying to find a gas station that has power? Or do you want to generate your own power and charge at home? Fox News ran a story yesterday on this that I think completely misses the mark:

They don't mention the resupply problem of gas stations or the long lines at the few stations that had power to pump. EVs actually have a lot of advantages in that scenario especially if you have a natural gas backup generator or solar can you can feed directly to your house.

vouteb | November 7, 2012

I recently looked at a propane fuelled back up generator for my house in Sc.
Kohler has a good website where you can calculate the size of the generator needed depending on size of the house, appliances,etc.

I am 3146 | November 7, 2012

I am having a solar array installed by SolarCity and they actually can sell a Tesla Battery for back-up. However, most states do not allow the array to operate off of the grid. So if power is lost, the solar array can't generate power. While waiting for my array to be installed and my Tesla to be manufactured, I just purchased a Kohler generator which should be here Friday. The reason I went with Kohler is that their generator supposedly "(d)elivers exceptional voltage and frequency regulation along with ultra-low levels of harmonic distortion for optimal power, protecting even the most sophisticated electronics."

lightly | November 7, 2012

@adstein @sounds like you'll be driving a Volt. Lol

I like the Idea of the Nat Gas whole house generator. I will have to look into that and was completely unaware that solar arrays go offline when the power goes out. It should come standard with a battery backup.

Peter7 | November 7, 2012


What states don't allow a backup solar system? I have exactly that and did not know that it was not allowed anywhere in the US provided the system meets NEC requirements.


zwjohnston7 | November 7, 2012

It is not the states, it is your electric utility that has requirements and restrictions for you installing any kind of generation in your home. (I work for one and have had some involvement with this) Almost all utilities will require you to have compliant inverters on your system that will shut off if your source from the grid is lost. In addition, most utilities will require you to have a visible break disconnect switch installed by your meter so that the utility can be sure that they can disconnect you from the grid. This is a big SAFETY requirement for the utility. It would be very dangerous for workers if your home is keeping a line energized when the utility thinks that they have isolated it for work. There are too many people out there would don't think about this and install these systems without notifying their utility providers so they can approve your installation. If you are one of them, please do this, before someone could get hurt.

Now, some utilities will allow you to have a system that could be grid independant. However, there are going to be many more requirements you are going to have to meet. You will need a system that disconnects itself from the grid in the event of an outage. The equipment required for this will add to your cost. Cheapest would be an open transition switch for this, but if you didn't want the momentary blink then you would need a closed transition switching scheme. This would be very expensive because now the utility is going to require a lot more equipment to protect itself and its line. You'll need protection devices, syncing equipment, etc.

In conclusion, by far the cheapest and most utility preferred systems are the ones that shut off during outages and are not capable of providing power without the grid source.

DouglasR | November 7, 2012

Where I live, the primary disaster we prepare for is earthquake. We have natural gas, but we also have a device to shut it off in the event of an earthquake. Although the device can be reset, natural gas deliveries may get disrupted in the event of earthquake, just as electricity may get disrupted.

I have a 3kW gasoline powered generator which can be plugged in to the critical circuits in my house (heating, refrigerator/freezer, computers, etc.). I am not that comfortable, however, storing a large quantity of gasoline under my back deck.

Peter7 | November 7, 2012


First, I completely agree about the safety issues that are raised by running any power generation at a house. An important point is that these issues have nothing to do with having a solar system, the same exact issues are raised by running any type of generator at house.

My system does automatically detects that grid power is down, and has a UPS grade switch built into the power inverter that switches now isolated loads to run directly from the solar system. There was a small adder to the cost of the system to have it run independently when grid power is down, but it was not much compared to the full system costs.

My utility company was primarily concerned that my equipment met UL1741, which showed that the system would not back-feed the power lines when the grid goes down.

Having the system act as backup power when the grid goes down is by far the most useful thing about it and one that I would pay even more for then I have. I'm in a major metro area, but the regularity of power outages that last days continues to amaze everyone, even though it happens year after year. I think that is something that the public is simply going to have to accept as the norm and plan for.