Power failures can be overwhelming, and dangerous If you’re not ready for them. At the very least, power failures disable heating and air-conditioning systems, refrigerators, sump pumps, and lighting. If the power failure lasts for any length of time, your home can become uncomfortable and possibly not fit to live in. Your water pipes may freeze and burst, the food in your refrigerator may thaw and spoil, or your sump pump may stop working, flooding your basement. Any of these occurrences can become expensive. If you’re snowed-in during subzero temperatures, grid failure can even be critical. However you can make your home blackout-proof by Installing a standby generator.
Here are five facts to help you decide whether you want to make the investment:
1. What are They
Standby generators offer a trustworthy solution to long-term outages. Unlike portable generators, they’re installed permanently on a concrete pad in your yard and will provide uninterrupted backup for days. That’s because they’re connected directly to your home’s electrical panel and powered by an external fuel supply, such as natural gas, liquid propane, or diesel.
2. How They Work
The genius behind the functionality is an automatic transfer switch that disconnects your home from your utility after detecting an interruption in service. Once your home is safely off the grid, the switch starts up the generator before transferring its power to the home’s electrical panel. At the core of the system is an internal combustion engine, which is typically fueled by the local natural gas supply. Where natural gas isn’t available, liquid propane or diesel stored in a large tank close by can be used. Keep in mind that these systems depend on a limited amount of fuel that could run out if storm damage prevents delivery or increased demand hinders supply.
When municipal power recommences, the switch shuts down the generator and reconnects your house to the grid. This flawless operation makes standby generators perfect for families with small children, as well as those needing uninterrupted use of electric-powered medical equipment. They are also crucial for anyone running a business in their home. The transfer switch acts as a safety device, as well. It prevents back-feeding electricity to the grid, a potentially fatal practice that can start fires and harm utility workers attempting to restore your neighborhood’s power.
3. The Installation
Hire a licensed electrician, or a certified generator technician not only for your load needs, but also for the planning, and installation. If you’re planning on connecting to your local natural gas system, you’ll need a high-pressure, high-volume line. Most generators require gas supplied at 5 to 7 inches of water-column pressure.
If the pressure is not high enough, you risk damaging the unit or the supply itself. Only your gas company can give you more gas pressure.
Installing a standby generator is not a do-it-yourself project It requires advanced electrical skills, as well as knowledge of local building codes. You’ll also need permits before you start and inspections when you’re done.
4. The Cost
The higher the generator’s capacity, the more circuits it can power at once. However, the size of your generator should be determined by your needs in an emergency situation, you’re not looking to power each and every appliance and device during critical times.
Many homeowners choose a generator based on what they can afford. A quality essential-circuit system starts at approximately $3000, and that’s not including installation. Then there’s the price of fuel: A fully loaded 7-kw unit consumes around 140 cubic feet of natural gas per hour.
5. The Upkeep
Like cars, standby generators run nonstop for many hours, so they have to be maintained as if they were cars. In general, the bigger units require more care.
After 24 to 48 hours of nonstop use, you should get it serviced. Your generator will stay in top shape through a lifetime of outages if you check the engine oil daily during use, replace overworked or deformed motor brushes, and avoid starting or stopping it under load whenever possible.