We get a lot of questions about back-up generators, whether you should bring one, buy one when you get here, or how many homes on Guam have generators. So I thought I'd write a bit about it here. When I moved here 10 years ago it was also on my list of things to buy too. I still don't have one.
I know very little about electricity. I don't know the difference between volts and watts, and I couldn't begin to comment on the actual amount of either required to run a house. While I can manage to change a light bulb, and even replace the electrical outlet in my daughters room (as long as it doesn't have more that two wires coming out of the wall), and when traveling outside the country I "usually" manage to figure out which outlets in the hotel room I can plug my laptop into. But I think I can put the back up generator idea into some kind of perspective for someone moving to Guam.
Common Full Backup for a Average Size Home
The truth is, very few private homes have back up generators here. As a real estate guy, I see some now and then, and I can tell you the ones I have seen are pretty big. The size of a smart car almost. This goes a long with my other observation, that it's mostly the higher end homes that have them. The nicest set-up I've seen was in a small subdivision near Andersen. The particular home ($4,000 /month rental at the time) I have in mind had a full back up generator connected to the home, and there was a "start" button in the kitchen. I didn't get to see it in action, but I'm sure it sounds like a bulldozer idling outside the living room window when it's running.
There are only a handful of condo buildings that have full back up generators, most have nothing. So we can deduce that most people don't have them, myself included.
If you ask someone that knows too much about electricity, they will probably tell you to have a load analysis done to determine how big you need to go where a generator is concerned. From what I can gather on the Internet, the "average" 1200 – 3000 square foot house a 5000 – 7000 watt generator should be sufficient to maintain "critical" functions. It doesn't, however, identify whether or not air conditioning is a critical function. The article I was most pleased with went on to say that a 15000 watt generator would leave you able to run your entire home. I in no way endorse these numbers, I really have no idea. Research it on the Internet and see for yourself.
What is more common is a small generator to power let's say, your refrigerator. They're about the size of a lawn mower or a little bigger, and sound like one too. Not something you're going to run 24/7 for weeks on end. These can be purchased for well under $1000.00 and can help you survive an extended power outage.
Portable Backup Generator
Power outages do occur on Guam, but they're not as frequent as some people think. Here in my home Village of Mangilao, we have them a couple times a month, for an hour or two at a time, usually just long enough to become annoying. The truth is that Guam's infrastructure is overburdened and at times, it catches up with us. Outages due to storms are certainly something everyone who doesn't live here already worries about. Typhoons can happen, but they haven't for a number of years now. Since my official transplant date of August 4, 2004, we haven't had one. There have been some near-misses with big storms but they seem to be tracking more towards the north from what I can tell. With all the talk of global warming and climate change, maybe we'll have more, maybe not. It's always a good idea to be prepared for a storm. But maybe that's a topic for another blog post.