Lots of people put back up generators on their wish list when shopping for a new place to buy or rent. Questions include whether you should bring one with you, buy one when you get here, or how many homes on Guam have generators and what kind of generator is best. So I thought I'd write a bit about it here. When I moved here 18 years ago, it was also on my list of things to buy too.
I know very little about electricity. I don't know the difference between volts, amps 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.
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, run on diesel fuel, and sound like a bulldozer idling. More modern propane powered generators are much smaller and quieter, but have the price tag to go along with it. They’re mostly found in higher end homes.
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. To run your whole home, it’s going to take a lot of fuel. I was recently quoted $30K to install a new propane generator in my home, and advised the biggest propane tank available would only run the full household for a few days.
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 under $1000.00 and can help you survive an extended power outage.
Power outages do occur on Guam, but they're not as frequent as some think. Normally they only last for an hour or two and you’re back in business. The fact is 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 have had exactly 1. 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.