When the power remained out after a ferocious storm, Brianne finally realized she took uninterrupted electricity far too much for granted. After three powerless days, she still flipped light switches and was startled when rooms remained dark. The hot water had cooled. The freezer had warmed. Most upsetting? It was the second multi-day outage in two years.

“Three major factors are challenging electrical grids and distribution: extreme weather, aging equipment and growing demand,” says Kevin Sullivan, Paul Davis of Northern Virginia. “More frequent, longer power outages result and they inflict serious inconveniences, lost productivity, high costs and even danger in some cases. Uninterrupted power is not a given these days in many locations.”

Weary of unpredictable outages, many property owners are installing standby generators. Should you install one? Sullivan leads customers through questions with helpful scoring to clarify their needs.

Do I live in a challenging climate? (Yes: score 1/No: score 0)

Property owners living on a coast, along waterways, in the far north or in the Pacific Northwest are experiencing severe weather and related damages more often than ever before. Power outages often accompany severe weather.

Do I experience frequent outages? (Yes: score 1/No: score 0)

Electrical grids vary tremendously in age, capacity, resilience and maintenance. If you live in a historic town with older overhead wires and abundant tree canopy, outages are likely. Newer developments with underground wiring, recently constructed substations and higher-capacity transformers are less likely to regularly plunge owners into darkness.

How long does it typically take to restore power when I have an outage? (A week or longer: score 2/Several days: score 1/Within hours: score O)

Utilities triage needs, restoring power to large customer groups first. If you live in a multi-dwelling community or work in a busy commercial park, expect quick action. If you live on a sparsely populated rural road, you may wait much longer for the lights to go back on.

Do I have special needs (such as health-compromised family members or pets, or medications that must remain cold), systems that count on sustained electricity or work remotely? (Yes for any: score 1 each/No for all: score 0)

Losing a few freezer items is acceptable. Other losses – a beloved aquarium, an elderly relative who develops heat stroke without HVAC, a burglary when security fails – can be devastating. Sump pumps are another casualty: basements flooded during Hurricane Ida as power failed, rainfall continued and sump pumps didn’t kick on. And if your home is your workplace, few employers give paid time off for power failure.

“If you scored 2 or more after tallying your total, a standby generator may be in your best interest,” Sullivan says. “In these cases, the costs of lacking a generator may outweigh the cost of installation.”