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Home Standby Generators
Homeowners can improve the safety and security of
their family and home with a home standby generator. An emergency
generator can keep security systems such as cameras, intrusion detection
alarms, smoke and fire alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, and other
security and safety equipment operational during home power outages.
In addition, the backup power provided by a
generator can keep key appliances working so you have heat, water, and
food continues to be refrigerated. Emergency generators provide some
safety and comfort during power shortages caused by weather or other types
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Home Standby Generator Considerations
The challenge associated with purchasing a home
standby or emergency generator is deciding what type and size generator to
purchase for your home.
Professional Installation or Do-It-Yourself
(DIY)? If you are handy with electricity, electronics, and home
repairs you might be able to self-install a home standby generator. This
will save you a bit of money. But electricity can be dangerous and
complicated and there are certain building and installation codes that you
will need to follow. So it might be best to go with a professional
installation by a technician who does it every day!
Portable or Permanent Standby.
Portable generators are cheaper and can be used for a variety of purposes.
Portable generators will run the few vital appliances that you need for a
short time. A permanent standby generator can be connected to your
existing fuel supply and power many more appliances for a longer time.
Fuel Capacity. Generators
run on fuel so the size of the generator fuel tank could be a limiting
factor. The amount of fuel used will depend on how many and what type of house appliances are running for how long a period.
Connecting to Generators. You will
need to connect the generator to the appliances that need power. You can
do this with long extension cords, plugging in only those appliances or
lights that you need at the time. Another option is to use a Manual
Transfer Switch system. Some more expensive generators come with an
Automatic Transfer Switch. Be aware that connecting some appliances (such
as stoves) can cause injury to utility workers.
Municipal Noise Restrictions. Some
communities have regulations that limit how much noise a home generator
can produce. Be aware of those restrictions before purchasing a generator.
Generator Testing. You should run
your generator periodically to ensure that it will function during an
emergency. Do these test runs when it is less likely to annoy the
neighbors! More expensive generators will have automatic generator testing
features. You may want to build an enclosure for your generator to reduce
the noise it produces.
Surge Power vs. Constant Operating Power.
Appliances use more power the initial seconds that they power on than they
do once they are turned on. If you turn on your appliances one at a time
you will not overload your generator.
Well Pumps. If you have city
supplied water through water pipes then this isn't a consideration. But if
you have a well pump - as many homes in rural areas do - then you could
have a significant startup spike when your well pump kicks on. You
definitely want running water during a power outage so keep the power
requirements of a well pump in mind when calculating the size of a
Basement Sump Pumps. If you have
one you may need to hook this up to your generator as well to avoid water
coming into your basement.
The Positives of a Small Generator.
For short-term power outages a small generator is sufficient. They are
less expensive to buy, consume less fuel, and have a lower noise level
(keeping your neighbors happy). However, you may want a large generator in
case a natural or man-made disaster knocks you off the electrical grid for
a long period of time.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
on Home Standby Generators
What is Load Shifting? The term
load shifting refers to turning on and off appliances while relying on
emergency generator power. Unless you have a large, expensive generator
you will not be able to run everything in your house that requires
electrical power. So you need to pick which appliances are on and which
are off during a power outage. Load shifting is turning on the
refrigerator for short periods of time just long enough to keep food
frozen or cool. You would keep only those lights that are essential. You
may opt to keep your security system running. Load shifting can be done
one of three ways: manually (turning on and off items), through
connections in your electrical panel, or with an expensive automatic
transfer switch (bought as part of the generator package).
How do I Wire a Transfer Switch to an
Electrical Sub-Panel? If you are asking this question you should
probably hire an electrician; you want your installation to be safe and in
compliance with electrical codes. A manual or automatic transfer switch
will connect to a subpanel in your home electrical system. This provides
electrical power to the circuits in that panel.
What Size Generator do I need?
This depends on where you live. If you are in the woods of Maine and you
experience power outages during the winter as a result of ice and snow
storms then you may want a large generator to run your heat, plumbing,
lights, stove, refrigerator and more. If you have a wood stove you can
choose to not run the furnace. You need to decide what appliances and home
systems you want to run and then decide on the size generator you need (or
want). Many generator manufacturing firms have generator sizing tools on
their websites. The best way to determine your generator sizing
requirements is to have an electrician do it for you. He can compute the
wattage and voltage requirements for the different electrical appliances
within the home.
What Type of Fuel Should I Use?
There are pros and cons with any type of generator fuel. Diesel fuel is
more economical over the long haul however it is hard to start in cold
weather environments and the fuel needs to be "winterized" to prevent
clogged fuel filters.
Videos on Home Standby Generators
How Does a Standby Generator Work? By GE Generator
Systems. This video is 2:19 minutes long.
Generator Buying Guide. By Consumer Reports.
Home Standby Generator. By Cummins Onan.
More Information on Home Standby Generators
Portable Generators for Emergency Use. By Norwall
www.norwall.com/blog/news-and-updates/portable-generators . . .
How Does an Emergency Generator Work? By eHow
Generator Buying Guide. By Consumer Reports
(published August 2012).
To get through an emergency, how big a generator
do you need? By Consumer Reports (published October 29, 2012).
Emergency Preparedness: Get a Backup Generator for
When Disaster Strikes. By Mother Earth News (published May 18,
www.motherearthnews.com/ . . . /back-up-generator-emergency- . . .
Everything You Need to Know About Emergency
Generators. By Bob Villa.
www.bobvila.com/articles/485-everything-you-need-to-know . . .
Backup Generators for Emergencies. By State Farm
http://learningcenter.statefarm.com/. . . /back-up-generators- . . .
Choosing the Best Power Generator. The Family
http://www.familyhandyman.com/ . . . /-best-power-generator/View-All
Installing a Home Generator for Emergency Power.
by Ron Hazelton.
www.ronhazelton.com/projects/how_to_install_a_home_generator_ . . .
Emergency Home Generators. By Home Advisor.
www.homeadvisor.com/ . . . Emergency-Home-Generators . . .
Generators Buyer's Guide. By Northern Tool and
Stores and Firms Selling Home Standby Generators
BJ's Emergency Preparedness Home Generators.
Home Depot Generators.
www.homedepot.com/ . . .-Generators/ . . .
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