Home uncategorized The Events Of This Weekend Have Us Considering A Whole Home Generator

The Events Of This Weekend Have Us Considering A Whole Home Generator

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This past weekend was a little bit crazy in the Linauer household, with super high heat index temperatures, crazy thunderstorms, a power outage, and a scramble against the clock (or the sun) to get Matt out of the house. And now, we’re considering a whole house generator so that we don’t have to scramble like that again.

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Friday was really hot. I don’t remember what the actual temperature was, but the heat index (i.e., the “feels like” temperature) got up to 120 degrees, according to Weatherbug. And let me tell you, a 120-degree heat index in Waco, Texas, feels nothing like the dry 120-degree heat of Arizona. In central Texas, the humidity is awful, and it was about 80% humidity on Friday.

If you’ve never felt a Texas summer day with 80% humidity, the only way I can describe it is stifling. You walk outside from your air conditioned house into the heat and humidity, and if you wear glasses, they fog over immediately. The air feels thick, and your skin feels sticky and clammy. And if you’re not accustomed to high humidity (or even if you are), it can be hard to breathe. It’s awful.

I grew up in central Texas, and so I was pretty accustomed to the humidity. In fact, when I was young and older adults around me would talk about how humid it was, I had no idea what they were talking about. I was acclimated to it, so it didn’t bother me at all. Then in my late 20’s, I moved to Istanbul, Turkey. After about a year there, I flew back for a friend’s wedding, and I’ll never forget stepping out of DFW into the Texas air. At that moment, for the first time in my life, I understood what humidity was. The air felt so thick that it was hard for me to catch my breath.

And that’s what Friday felt like — stifling heat and humidity. It generally doesn’t bother me as long as I’m inside in the air conditioned air, but I always know when the humidity is high without even stepping outside because high humidity really affects Matt even when he’s inside. Because of his M.S., his body doesn’t regulate temperature very well anyway, but when the outdoor temperature is hot, and the humidity is high, he has a much harder time, even if he’s indoors in the air conditioning.

So Friday night, I was sitting at the little desk in the bedroom, working at my laptop computer, and watching/listening as a thunderstorm rolled in.

guest bedroom - finished - closet nook

There was so much wind and lightening and continuous rolling thunder with the occasional HUGE thunder clap that it was a little eerie and scary. I sat and watched through the window as the lightening danced all around the sky, and I saw the high wind take down a pretty large branch in our big oak tree that’s directly in front of the bedroom window. I was anticipating a tornado warning and the civil defense sirens to start blaring, but that never happened.

What I wasn’t anticipating was for our electricity to go out. We’ve been in this house almost ten years now, and I could count on one hand the number of times our electricity has gone out. And until Friday, I’m pretty sure the longest it’s ever gone out is about an hour. But most times, it’s just 30 minutes or less.

We even had electricity all through Snowmaggedon of 2021, when winter storm “Uri dragged an arctic wrecking ball southward” into Texas, causing everything to close down for days, and leaving and untold number of Texans without electricity for a week during the coldest winter in 30 years. But our electricity held out.

So Friday, when our electricity went off at around 7:00pm, I didn’t think much of it. I figured it would be like the other times, and it would be back on in an hour or less. Then we got a text message from the electric delivery company that it would be two hours, but it should be back on by 9:00pm. That was fine. It wasn’t great, but our house is pretty well-insulated, and we always keep the thermostat set to 67 (again, because of Matt’s heat intolerance, that’s the temp he needs), so I knew we’d be fine until 9:00pm.

In fact, I was so unconcerned about it that I spent that time scrolling on my phone. Then 9:00pm came and went, and Matt said, “You might need to stay off your phone and save what power is left.” So I put it down, grabbed a flashlight and a book, and started reading, still expecting the power to kick on in any minute.

Well, at 11:30pm, we still didn’t have electricity, but I decided that I had had enough of reading by flashlight, and was ready to go to bed. I had no idea how I was going to sleep since we always sleep with a ceiling fan, a floor fan, a small air purifier, and a white noise machine, all of which work together to drown out ambient sound, sound from Cooper and Felicity, outdoor sounds…everything. But Friday night, we didn’t have any of that, so going from sleeping with all of that white noise to sleeping with no sound at all made it nearly impossible to get sleep. Every little sound from inside and outside the house kept me awake.

But I figured that the electricity would come back on at any minute. So I lay there in bed, in the deafening silence, just waiting. At some time after 3:00am, I did manage to fall asleep, and then woke up at around 6:00am in a complete panic. We still didn’t have electricity, and there were no updates. I was panicking because from that point, I knew it was a race against the clock (and against the sun) to get Matt out of the house and into a cool place where he could lie down.

My mom’s house would be the obvious choice, but I couldn’t get in touch with her by text, and the last I had heard from her, she didn’t have electricity, either. So I thought my only option was to start calling hotels and see if any of them had a room we could get into immediately. I knew that would be a challenge since they might be filled up with other people who had lost power, and most check-in times are after 12:00pm anyway. And then I realized that my phone was down to 7% power.

I went and sat in the van, started the engine, plugged in my phone, and tried to come up with a game plan. And while I waited for my phone to charge a bit, I decided to drive around the neighborhood to see just how far the power outage went. The other end of our street (about three blocks away) had power. Other streets around us had power, but we didn’t. My neighbor told me that the power delivery company was reporting that our neighborhood had power restored, but it definitely didn’t. I saw on Nextdoor that people all over the city were reporting power outages, but it was all very hit and miss. One street over, homes would have power. Two streets over, homes wouldn’t.

Around 6:30am, I finally got in touch with my mom, and her power had been restored. So we could pack up everything we needed for the day (and potentially an overnight stay) and head over there. But even with the issue of where to go resolved, it was still stressful. The sun was already up (although, thankfully, it was a cloudy day!), the heat was already starting to rise, and the humidity had already fully infiltrated our house.

I wasn’t worried about myself, although I was pretty miserable and hot and sweaty as I ran around gathering up everything we needed, getting Matt dressed, getting him into his wheelchair, etc. But I was fine. I was worried about Matt. He woke up feeling strong on Saturday morning, but the longer he stayed in the hot and humid house, the weaker he got. And by the time I got him dressed and in his wheelchair and ready to go, it was like trying to wrangle a 219-pound, 6’2″-long piece of cooked spaghetti. He just got weaker and weaker with every passing minute.

I finally decided to put him and his Hoyer lift in the van (this was the first time I’ve tried fitting his Hoyer lift in the van with him, and I was so pleasantly surprised that they both fit!!) with the engine running and the air conditioner on full blast while I came back in the house and gathered up the rest of our stuff.

We finally pulled out of the driveway around 8:30am, and headed to my mom’s house. Thankfully, her house is wheelchair accessible (for the most part 😀 ), so I was able to get Matt inside, get his Hoyer lift inside, and get him settled on a daybed where he could cool off and recuperate.

Our neighbors texted us around 3:30 on Saturday afternoon to let us know that the electricity was back on, so then I had to repeat all of that process to get Matt, his Hoyer lift, and all of our stuff back home. But at least that time, he had been in a cool air conditioned home for hours, so he wasn’t so weak.

It was just such a stressful 22 hours. Had it just been me, I probably would have stayed home and just dealt with the heat. I’m not heat intolerant (although I don’t love it when it’s that humid), so if I were on my own, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. It was just 22 hours. Healthy, able-bodied people can endure much more than 22 hours without electricity in a hot, humid climate.

But when I add a wheelchair-dependent person with M.S. and severe heat intolerance into the mix, that changes everything. If Matt gets too weak, he can actually get so weak that he can’t even drink water. And when that happens, the only option is to go to the hospital. I was trying desperately to avoid that, but I knew that would be his fate if I didn’t get him out of the house fast enough on Saturday morning.

So now we’ve been talking about getting a whole house generator so that we don’t have to deal with that again. It’s not an easy decision because whole house generators aren’t cheap! They cost several thousands of dollars for the unit, and then you have to pay for installation, which includes having a little concrete pad poured. And it’s so difficult to part with several thousands of dollars for something that might happen. I mean, again, this is the first time in 10 years that we’ve been without electricity for longer than an hour.

But for the peace of mind it will bring in the event that it happens again, I’m thinking it might be worth the cost. The brand we’re looking at is Generac, and it seems to have really great reviews. I think a generator for our house runs about $6000, plus installation. I have no idea how much installation costs.

The units run on either natural gas or liquid propane, and it would sit on the side of our house on its little concrete pad like this. (Photo from a customer review on the Home Depot Generac generator product listing)…

I’d love to hear about any of your experiences with a whole house generator. If you have one, have you ever had to use it? If so, was it reliable? Did it work properly? Did it come on as it was supposed to? And what brand do you have?

Matt is all for it. Once our electricity was back on, and we were back home, and he was settled comfortably in bed, he said to me, “I didn’t want to say anything this morning because I didn’t want to stress you out even more, but I was scared.” He mentioned it again later, and used the work “terrified”. I don’t doubt that for a second. I could tell he was scared, but was trying to hold it together for my sake. I don’t want him to have to go through that again.

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