A Tale of Two Outages

Like many folks, John Donaldson was on the fence about buying backup power for his home. After all, a backup generator is a significant investment, and he had lived in his house for years, with the longest power outage lasting just five hours. Until October 29, 2011.

It was the worst of times. 

That’s when the so-called “Halloween nor’easter” roared through the mid-Atlantic states, dumping up to ten inches of wet, heavy snow on the Donaldson home in Hellertown, Pennsylvania. 

“We didn’t know how important it was to have backup power until the storm brought snow that weighed down trees, and they were snapping and going down all over the place — that knocked out our power for four days!” says Donaldson. “Without a power outage plan, we were scared and unsure of what to do or how to react. We sat in front of the fireplace in our winter coats to stay warm, burned all the wood we had and worried about our safety and whether the pipes would freeze. Since our well pump and furnace blower run on electricity, we knew we had some serious problems! When I realized that the pressure-assist toilets and garage door also needed power, there weren’t a lot of options. It was difficult not to panic, and for the next four days we had a taste of how people lived in the 1700s — with no electricity, no lights, no central heat. How good modern life can be!”

What was the first thing that Donaldson and his wife needed? “Water!” says Donaldson. “We had filled up the bathtubs, but it turns out bathtub drains aren’t designed to hold a seal for days. We were very, very fortunate that the local hardware store was open on generator power, and they still had five-gallon water jugs we could buy, but they were going fast.”

Since refrigerators and freezers can only keep food safe for a very limited amount of time during an outage, the Donaldsons ate their food as fast as they could but ended up losing a lot of it. The storm brought low temperatures, so they slept under extra blankets and felt lucky that winter cold hadn’t set in. “If we had had January temperatures, we would have had to find a motel or stay with a relative for our own safety.”

It was the best of times. 

On the heels of that experience, John had a KOHLER 20 RESA home generator installed in early 2012. As time progressed, he wondered if they’d ever use it. Then Superstorm Sandy battered the Lehigh Valley with heavy rain and 60mph wind gusts that downed trees, damaged homes and started transformer fires. 

“When the grid went down, we were afraid of experiencing another outage. We crossed our fingers that the Kohler was going to work as advertised,” says Donaldson. “Within seconds we heard the Kohler generator kick in — what a relief!” 

For the Donaldsons, everything assigned to be powered by their generator worked fine — the well pump, furnace blower, lights and power in key rooms, fridge and freezer, garage doors, television and computers. “We were one of the few houses in the area that had lights,” says Donaldson. “We felt a little guilty in a way but also a little smart.”

To help keep the rest of the family safe and comfortable, the Donaldsons invited their daughter and her children down from Westchester County to stay with them until power was restored at their home nine days later. “She and her husband had been thinking of buying a generator but dithered on it,” adds Donaldson. “So we shared our power with them and ended up having a family get-together.”

Donaldson says he and his wife debated before buying a Kohler generator, but, “We’ve never regretted it for a second. It’s already worth every penny.”