Planning ahead for the next outage: Generator tips, solar alternatives

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The power is back on for most people across West Michigan, but storm season is just getting started.

For those looking to prepare for the next time power goes out, here's what the experts say about picking the right generator.

First things first, open your breaker and find the number of amps your home needs. Then figure out your “must-haves," like the refrigerator or lights.

"That will allow us to recommend a generator that will work with what you've got going on and give you the maximum what you need," says Lowes electrical pro, Don Cooper.

A portable generator could run anywhere from $400 to $700, but will only power a few of those important things.

If you plan ahead you can set up a full-house generator, that way you won't have to pick and choose what to keep on, but that could cost upwards of $8,000.

But there is an alternative: solar batteries.

"LG Batteries are in a lot electric vehicles except for the Tesla cars and they have a longer track record of the safety feature and you can always on a battery later but get one earlier and then you have self control and self reliance during the power outages," says Nick Zientarski of Powerhome Solar.

Powerhome Solar has supplied more than 500 families with solar panels in just the last month and say solar batteries are a cleaner alternative to traditional gas-powered generators. It saves money in the long run, but it doesn’t come cheap.

"It's about $20,000, but there's a 30 percent tax credit available this year if you qualify," says Zientarski.

Either way you go, planning ahead is key.

"You really need to check with your township and get an electrician. Get your house ready where you can plug in your generator, plug in your thing and the automatic unit will automatically turn things on and off," says Cooper.

"You want to have more self control as well as just kind of prepare for the future," Zientarski says.

Remember, don't leave the generator in the house or garage because a carbon monoxide leak could kill you.

Again planning ahead is always suggested, so if you plan to go the solar route know that here is a payment plan and down payment to jump start the process but you should start before the next outage.

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