In the hurricane-hardened Florida Keys, a generator is, quite literally, a powerful and often priceless tool.

With 81 days remaining in the 2020 hurricane season (as of Sept. 10), Keys Weekly spoke with Wil Howerton, who launched his new business, Key West Generator, when he moved permanently to the Florida Keys in May.

“After 10 years as an electrical contractor it was, during the Y2K panic, just before 2000, when people thought the power grid was going to shut down, that I saw an opportunity for a niche in the market,” Howerton said. “That’s when I jumped into the generator arena with both feet and have specialized in them ever since.” 

From the portable “suitcase” styles that typically live in Florida Keys garages or on a raised platform underneath stilt homes, to the industrial-sized “standby power” units that kick on instantly in an outage and can power a whole building, Howerton can sell, fix and maintain them all.

“In fact, I just worked on Monroe County’s generator in their Emergency Management facility,” he said. “There’s definitely a need down here for an experienced generator company.”

Howerton is a certified technician for Generac, Kohler, Briggs & Stratton, GE, but can fix and maintain all brands. (“The only thing that’s not my specialty is marine generators,” he said.)

“If, say, a Honda generator is still under warranty, the owner will have to contact a certified Honda service rep for repairs, but if it’s out of warranty, I’m happy to work on it,” said Howerton.

Key West Generator is based on Cudjoe Key, but takes care of clients from Key West to Marathon. Howerton also works with local electricians to ensure he’s not stepping on anyone’s toes during a new construction project or a maintenance program for existing generators.

Wil Howerton, owner of Key West Generator, is a certified sales and service representative for Generac, Briggs & Stratton, GE and Kohler generators, but can service many other brands. CONTRIBUTED

Keys Weekly asked Howerton for some tips and advice about generators, particularly during storm season. Here’s what the expert had to say:

What’s the best advice you can give generator owners in the Florida Keys? Like everything related to hurricanes, preparedness is key. Waiting until the last minute and just assuming you’ll fuel ’er up and plug things in is a mistake. If you wait until a storm is on the horizon, you’re going to have trouble getting access to the people and materials you might need. 

What do you, as an expert, look for when evaluating your clients’ generator needs and system? It’s important to get someone who’s familiar with the climate and conditions in the Keys. I look at how high a generator needs to be off the ground; how much air is getting into the system, the amount and type of fuel an owner will need. And I always, always emphasize the dangers of carbon monoxide getting into a home. I check for CO detectors and proper ventilation. My clients get a complete approach from start to finish: consultation, installation, maintenance and repair.

Is it really necessary to have “a generator guy” such as yourself, or can someone who’s handy handle things themselves? I get it. A lot of people with a portable generator have a do-it-yourself approach to many things. Everyone thinks they’ll be fine on their own, and often they are. But when a storm is coming, and we get busy, if you have an existing relationship in place with a pro, you’ll be higher on our list for service calls. At Key West Generator, our priorities for service are the government and senior citizens first, then our existing clients, then our first-time callers. If you’re not on our client list, there’s no guarantee we’ll get to you before the storm does.

When someone calls Key West Generator, will they get you or an employee? They’ll get me. I’m owner, operator and everything else. I’m a new, small, locally owned business and I value personal relationships with both clients and local electrical contractors.

With 81 days left in the 2020 hurricane season, how can people reach Key West Generator? My website is in the works, but they can reach me on Facebook at Key West Generator, or call 305-849-3703 or email [email protected].

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