In the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri, there is plenty of interest in being able to generate your own power. With hurricane season also bearing down on us, maybe you’re thinking that a generator or other disaster equipment is a worthy investment.
If you hold off until April 24 – 26, you can save quite a bit of money.
That when the state of Texas has its Emergency Preparation Supplies Sales Tax Holiday. Certain items are exempt from sales tax in unlimited quantities during the weekend, and that includes generators.
There are some significant restrictions, and this is a good time to start planning for how best to take advantage of the program. The main one is that generators are capped at $3,000 and they must be portable. If you were hoping to save $1,000 off the price of a top-of-the-line Generac, you’re out of luck.
However, there are some very nice generators you can buy in that range that will see you through most blackouts. One of those to look out for is the Honda EU3000is. It’s only technically portable because the wheels are sold separately, but aside from that it is one of the most reliable and sought-after generators on the market. At 3000 watts, it can run everything from the air conditioning to your refrigerator for more than 12 hours, and it has very good fuel efficiency. For big spenders, you can buy more than one with the same tax break and chain them together to ride out any emergency in style. It also has an electric start, so you don’t have to be physically strong to get it going.
Personal tip: if you are planning a generator set up you need to figure out the logistics of how you’re going to plug everything in. Running your home’s air conditioner might require some slight rewiring. Have that mapped out before the disaster hits because it is no damned fun doing it during.
If the Honda is still out of your price range even with the tax holiday, consider the Predator line from Harbor Freight. They generally run about a third of the price and are a little less elegant or modern. Still, they will get the job done the same as a Honda. I recommend the Predator 6500 for the prepper on a budget.
The tax holiday will also give you a break on fuel containers. Please, for the love of God, read up on how to store gasoline safely. Be aware that gasoline starts to degrade within months without additional stabilizers so carefully maintaining your supply is critical.
Apartment dwellers have fewer options since most of us aren’t allowed to rework the house to run the HVAC and your neighbors will probably complain about the sound of a running generator. Some complexes (like mine) also have restrictions against the storage and use of gas generators, so check with your landlord before buying.
That said, the first thing on my list for the tax holiday is a Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer 240. It’s an electric generator with a lithium battery that can charge up your devices and some very small appliances, which would have been very useful for a reporter trying to file stories at 2 a.m. in the dark, let me tell you. At 500 watts, it’s not even strong enough to run a rice steamer or an electric kettle, but it can help keep life in your rechargeable lanterns and your kids' devices.
The tax holiday includes some other items that are worth getting as well. It doesn’t cover camping stoves, unfortunately, which should be priority one on everyone’s prepper list along with dehydrated food, bottled water and purification tablets. It does cover those lanterns I mentioned as well as flashlights, candles, and batteries.
External phone batteries are included, and they are incredibly useful in all kinds of situations. I swear by the Bonai brand, which has never failed me from working during blackouts to camping out on the Comicpalooza floor for days on end.
Lastly, consider getting a really nice first aid kit. They are tax free up to $75, and the medical aspect of prepping is often overlooked by the more… freedom-loving portion of the population. Get a soft case one because whatever you buy is going to need to be supplemented by purchasing actual drugs like pain killers, decongestants, sleep aids, and antiseptic ointments. Also, seriously consider buying James Hubbard’s What to Do When There Is No Doctor on Kindle and make sure you download it. It can walk you through a lot of basic medical care and includes video demonstrations.
As you can see, there is a lot of work that goes into disaster prep. However, it doesn’t have to be the refuge of white dudes who fantasize about government collapse. It can be a fun hobby with potentially real benefit to your family and the community as we experience more and more climate disasters in Houston. The state hands out these tax holidays for a reason. Start saving up and use them.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.