An electric generator is useful for communications, to keep the 'fridge cold, and other purposes in an emergency. Here is discussion of the ones I recommend.
My sister lives on Long Island and had no power for weeks after Hurricane Sandy. While PG&E is not quite the disaster of the Long Island Power
Authority, it's not inconceivable that California could be down for a long time
after an 8.0+ earthquake.
A solar panel will be enough to keep some electronics charged, and this
may be all that some of us need. I have this one:
It's kept my campsite battery full, and provided lots of light and
charging of phones, tablets, etc. Beware: most of the portable panels
sold are too small to be useful.
To make the furnace run and keep the refrigerator going, you would need
a generator. Honda makes the best generators that I know of. The ones
that I recommend are
eu2000iac $1000 + tax.
eu3000iac $2000 + $150 wheel kit + tax.
They have good mufflers, so are much quieter than others, and they are
reliable and work OK for powering both motors and electronics. The
models I quoted are made for CARB (California Air Resources Board)
limits. A lot of online companies advertise the "i" models instead of
the "iac" ones, and then won't ship them to California.
You pay for the quality. Costco has generators at half the price for the
equivalent power, but I am not so sure they'd last long.
One local dealer is Camping World in Vacaville.
The eu2000iac can be lifted easily enough, the eu3000iac is heavier and
I recommend the optional wheel kit.
There are two ways to connect them up to your home. One is to get a
"transfer panel" installed by an electrician. This will switch some of
your circuit breakers over to generator, you plug it into the generator
and then throw switches. The other way is to buy heavy-gauge extension
cords and just plug in. Since neither of these generators will power
your entire home, the extension cord method might be sufficient. The
eu3000iac will keep your refrigerator + furnace and other needs going,
the eu2000iac has just has enough power to start the refrigerator.
Refrigerators might need 2000 watts to start, and then pull less than
1000 while running. My old 1200 watt generator failed to start a
You need to keep oil on hand, as well as gas, they go through it quickly.
All reserve gas, and gas in the generator's tank, needs to be treated
with a "stabilizer" to keep it from getting gummy while stored - or it
won't work when you need it. You can buy a bottle of "Sta-Bil" at the
auto parts store.
There is a more expensive alternative which is a permanently connected
unit. These will run your whole home, but run at least $10,000 by the
time you're done with the concrete base and the wiring.