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Should you buy a generator for your home?
There aren't many South Africans who like to be without power. When load shedding first reared its ugly head there was the novelty of candlelit dinners and (at least) the kids were watching less TV! A few years in and the majority of us are quite tired of having our power forcibly removed at seemingly random intervals.
Most of us have considered buying a home generator at some stage over the last few years, but, buying a home generator is a serious commitment, not only are they expensive, but they require maintenance, fuel and meticulous attention to safety.
We are going to look at the arguments for and against a home generator and weigh up whether it's worth the expense.
Some downsides to consider
The major downside of a home generator is the expense. We all know that generators can be pricey, but there are other hidden costs to consider too. You'll need a licensed electrician to help you determine your exact energy needs and install the generator, you'll need to service your generator regularly, the fuel isn't cheap either and there are all kinds of extras that you might want to make your generator function efficiently. It all adds up. One has to ask, is it really worth the expense?
Aside from the expense, generators take up a lot of space. They create noise and carbon monoxide and will need to be housed a few meters away. A generator can be a safety issue. During Hurricane Sandy in the U.S, there were nine deaths attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning from generators.
When a generator is essential?
There are many reasons to consider a home generator. Not all areas experience load shedding or Eskom problems equally, and we've all heard the reports of people for days without power. Whether its load shedding, stolen cables or wet coal, those with generators won't stress.
Any home with a resident requiring critical life support equipment needs to have a generator. Medical equipment like respirators, nebulizers, or dialysis machines all need a reliable electricity supply.
Those running a business from home can't afford Eskom enforced breaks. The energy crisis has taken its toll on small businesses and for some types of home businesses, like small catering companies, a power cut can devastate stock and result in major losses.
Anyone with an extensive home security system. Alarms, CCTV cameras and electric fences can only go on emergency power for so long. If you live in a high crime area and have a fortress setup, it will be of little use when the power goes out. If you've spent all that money on a security system, a generator is a worthwhile investment to ensure uninterrupted safety in your home.
Ask yourself if you:
1) Have the money to purchase, install and fuel a generator?
2) Have the space to accommodate a generator?
3) Have the time to maintain a generator?
4) Live in an area hard hit by Eskom?
5) Does anyone in your home have special needs that require electricity?
6) Is your home business affected by power outages?
7) Do you feel unsafe when the power goes out?
8) Feel like another previously lit evening might cause you to go postal?
9) Do you feel an unholy wave of jealousy because your neighbours have a generator and carry on with business as usual during power cuts?
10) Worry about the world ending and compulsively stockpile canned goods and toilet paper?

If you answered yes to these questions, you should buy a generator for your home.

Useful information
- Most home generators in South Africa are either petrol or diesel.
- IIf your needs are short term, for a special event or transient medical condition, consider renting a generator.
- Prices start at R3500 and extra features add to this cost.
- Portable generators are the cheapest, but provide less output than standby generators.

If the idea of owning your own generator sounds like a choir of angels singing, it might be time to explore your options...There's no guarantee that Eskom will deliver on their promises and provide reliable power any time soon.
If you rely on electricity for your livelihood, your safety or your sanity – it's a worthwhile expense.