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Potomac residents consider generators

Donald Sladkin, left, and Jim Fab of Fab Electric talk about members of the River Falls community installing generators.
Donald Sladkin, left, and Jim Fab of Fab Electric talk about members of the River Falls community installing generators. (Chris Rossi/the Gazette)
By Cody Calamaio
The Gazette
Thursday, September 30, 2010

While she and her husband, seeking a heated place, camped inside their car during the February snowstorms, Linda Rieger ran an extension cord from the AC adapter of her idling vehicle into her house to power her tropical fish tank.

"With a full tank of gas, we could go a week like that," said Rieger, 62, of Potomac. "We just cocooned in there."

When the storm knocked out the power to their house, Rieger and her husband found an occasional respite from the cold in their car. With the garage door open, Rieger used the power coming off her car like a generator to produce electricity during the several days they were without power.

Although she considered it a savvy solution, Rieger said she hopes she doesn't have to spend another winter with emergency power provided by her Toyota Prius. She has joined homeowners in the River Falls neighborhood of Potomac who are discussing buying power generators that would provide power when Pepco can't.

They formed an online group for people interested in buying generators, said coordinator Donald Sladkin, 69, of Potomac. "I think this year, the extreme weather and Pepco's kind of inability to keep up kind of got everybody thinking in this direction," he said.

About 27 neighbors are in the group, which trades information, discusses vendors and commiserates about outages. He said he knows of about six homes in the area that have completed generator installations in the past few months.

The neighborhood lost power for as long as five days in February and about two or three days after each heavy storm this summer, he said. Sladkin has had four vendors evaluate his house and is trying to coordinate the online group to buy in bulk from one vendor in hopes of getting a discount.

Natural gas or propane generators cost about $11,000 for parts and labor, said Jim Fab, owner of Fab Electric in Gaithersburg.

"When you're offsetting the costs of the inconvenience, it's not a hotel room. People spent way more in hotels and loss of food," said Fab, 50, of Potomac. "This generator pays for itself in a couple of bad experiences."

He installed a generator for neighbor Jody Reitzes.

"We finally decided after the blizzard that we were going to do it," said Reitzes, 47, of Potomac. "Then when we lost power this summer, I said, 'Okay, this is getting ridiculous; we're doing it now.' "

After summer storms left tens of thousands in Montgomery County without power for several days, Pepco has been working to restore customers' trust, spokesman Andre Francis said.

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