Survey Shows Nearly 50 Percent of Residents in “Hurricane States” Expect to Lose Power This Season


Washington, DC (July 13, 2006) – A survey released today by the Propane Education & Research Council (PERC) found that almost half (48 percent) of adults in hurricane-prone states (representing 9 million households) expect to lose their electricity for 24 hours or more in the next six months. And at least one in three adults (32 percent) nationally say a lengthy loss of power would present at least some impact on their personal financial situation.

While nearly half of adults in hurricane states expect to lose power, just one in four surveyed (26 percent) – and just 20 percent nationally – say they own a generator that can be used as a backup power supply.  Of the national respondents, 66 percent report owning a portable generator versus 25 percent who say they own a standby generator. Portable generators supply electricity to selected appliances through extension cords, while standby generators are permanently installed. Standby generators are also designed to automatically turn on in the case of a power outage to supply electricity to selected circuits in a home, ensuring that the impact of any power loss is minimized.

“Given the increasing frequency of power outages, homeowners should be thinking about both their immediate needs as well as solutions that can keep their families, homes, and possessions safe for the long-term,” said Brian Feehan, PERC’s managing director of engine fuel programs. “A standby generator provides a continuous source of electricity when the power grid fails, whether it be for several hours or several days.”

Cost can be a concern with standby generators.  Prices start at $1,500 plus installation, which runs about $1,000 additional.  Some portable generators can cost less than $1,000, but they provide significantly less power and convenience than a permanent standby generator. New standby generators can provide cost-effective and care-free protection from power loss, yet homeowner understanding of the benefits they deliver remains low, with 53 percent of those surveyed saying they knew a little or nothing at all about them.

A starting point – consider the availability of the fuel that powers the generator

Sixty-six percent of those surveyed said their generator runs on either unleaded gasoline or diesel fuel. In a severe storm situation, access to gasoline and diesel fuel will be limited. Standby generators run on either propane or natural gas and can be hooked directly to a homeowner’s existing gas lines, which means that in the event of a severe storm, homeowners have access to a reliable source of fuel to power the generator. In fact, propane marketers are able to provide homeowners with an underground tank that is protected from the elements so that a constant source of fuel is available. On average, a 250 gallon propane tank fueling a seven kilowatt standby generator would provide enough electricity to power a home for five days, while a 500 gallon underground tank would provide 11 days’ power.

“Sixty-six percent of those surveyed say that an extended power loss would have a significant impact on their personal living habits,” Feehan said. “But it appears consumers don’t really consider the costs associated with power loss, such as the failure of in-home medical devices to operate. A permanent standby generator could pay for itself in the event of a single power loss, and with propane, homeowners have a worry-free back-up power source that is environmentally safe to store, unlike diesel fuel and gasoline.”

The survey explored those issues homeowners would be concerned about in the event of a power loss that lasted more than 24 hours. Food spoilage topped the list of concerns in the event of a power loss (69 percent), followed by loss of air conditioning (50 percent) and inability to stay informed (50 percent). Other concerns include computer or phone loss (41 percent), followed by mold growth (39 percent), inability to use medical devices installed in the home (29 percent), and loss of a security system (24 percent).

An average home’s essential appliances will operate on a standby generator with 7,000 – 13,000 watts of power.  High wattage “comfort” appliances that require dedicated circuits, such as central air conditioners, pool heaters, and dryers, require a surge of electricity when they first start up, so that may influence the size of the generator homeowners need or how many appliances a homeowner can power.  As an example, a 7,000 watt standby generator will power eight circuits and a window air conditioning unit, whereas a 13,000 watt unit will operate up to 12 circuits and a four-ton central air conditioning system.

The survey, which asked American adults a variety of questions on their preparedness for the upcoming storm season as well as their knowledge of the options available to power their home in the event of an extended outage, was conducted for PERC using Opinion Research Corporation’s CARAVAN National Omnibus.  Telephone interviews were conducted from June 15-18, 2006, among 1,008 adults 18 years of age and older, including 178 adults who live in hurricane-prone states: Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina.  The margin of error is ±3.1%.

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