At one time, a whole-house generator was considered to be a luxury. However, after Hurricane Katrina, the Great Plains tornados and numerous unexpected blackouts, many people have made a backup generator an essential part of their fuel and power strategy. In the event of an extended electricity outage, a standby generator can help reduce the expense associated with an extended hotel stay, spoiled food and damaged electronics. If a natural disaster does strike, a continuous power supply will keep your heating and cooling system functioning normally so your family will stay safe and comfortable.
Emergency Power When You Need It
Standby generators provide nearly instantaneous power when electric service from the local utility is disrupted. Units are installed in a fixed location and fueled by propane or natural gas. In most instances, a high-volume, high-pressure gas line capable of supplying five to seven inches of WC pressure is required. The unit is hardwired directly into your home’s electrical panel and controlled through a specially designed transfer switch. Electronic sensors monitor incoming voltage from the power grid, and the transfer switch engages when it identifies a disruption in the flow of electricity. The internal line to the generator is only opened after the line from the utility is closed, which eliminates the chance of power entering the wiring system from both sources simultaneously. When the power is restored to the grid, the backup generator shuts down, and the line from the utility is reopened.
In years past, standby generators were considered a commercial product used primarily by construction companies, farmers, ranchers and enterprise-scale businesses. However, vulnerabilities in the aging power distribution system have caused homeowners to explore backup power options. In 2010, there were 247 massive power outage events nationally caused by weather, equipment failures, line fatigue and excessive demand. While older units were prohibitively large, noisy and expensive, today’s models are quiet, low profile and affordable. Every year, more homeowners choose to install a backup generator to protect their families in the event of an unexpected electric failure or natural disaster.
Whole-House Generator Benefits
Backup generators play an increasingly important role in safeguarding our food supply and protecting our standard of living. Modern society is highly interconnected, and electric grids are vulnerable to a wide array of natural disasters and human error. Like fresh water, waste elimination and garbage service, electricity is one of modern life’s necessities. This is especially true in homes with residents who have special needs such as life support equipment or medicine that must be refrigerated.
An uninterrupted power supply is also critical for those living in remote areas where electrical grid disruptions are common. A backup generator can help protect a wide array of important machines, tools and devices if the power fails.
- Air conditioning and heating equipment
- Computers and accessories
- Basement sump pumps
- Televisions and entertainment equipment
- Medical equipment
- Security systems
- Refrigerators and freezers
- Stoves, ovens and microwaves
- Washers and dryers
- Pool pumps
From a practical standpoint, homeowners increasingly recognize how an investment in a standby generator can pay huge dividends if power is lost for a significant period of time.
- Prevents perishables from spoiling in the freezer or refrigerator.
- Eliminates the need to move out of the home and helps avoid the costs associated with lodging, food and other necessities.
- Protects the home from damage caused by inclement weather, including frozen pipes, flooded basements and theft.
- Safety and comfort are maintained throughout the power outage, which is important for family members with health issues.
- Heating and air conditioning equipment continues to operate, eliminating the chance of accidental carbon monoxide poisoning associated with improper use of outdoor appliances.
- Eliminates the need to wait in line at the gas station. Portable generators run on gasoline, but whole-house generators use propane or natural gas, so you won’t have to repeatedly find a gas pump every time the unit runs dry.
- Fully-enclosed cabinets help eliminate the noise associated with portable units. In fact, a standby generator registers sound levels similar to background conversation at a restaurant.
How to Choose the Right Generator
In reality, there is no single backup generator that will fit every family’s needs. People have different motivations for buying a generator based on a variety of scenarios. However, there are several common criteria people use when deciding on a specific model:
- Price: Developing a budget is the most important part of the buying process. Important features should be accounted for including the cost of the unit, accessories and installation charges.
- Applications: Those living in remote areas that are more prone to blackouts may consider purchasing a premium unit to ensure that power will never be interrupted. Those in dense urban areas may elect to install a more basic model that powers essential appliances for short periods.
- Vulnerable Locations: Everyone experiences an occasional power outage, but some people live in areas with frequent natural disasters such as hurricanes, extreme temperatures or tornadoes. Installing a high-end generator minimizes the inconvenience caused by frequent, unexpected electrical outages.
The most important factor related to buying a generator revolves around whether the central HVAC system should remain powered during a blackout. In most southern states, summer heat can be sweltering during an outage, so air conditioning is a necessity. Installing a generator without sufficient capacity to power your central AC system may leave your home or office uninhabitable. In general, backup generators designed to power a central air conditioner require a minimum capacity of 14 kW to run the unit and still have enough excess power left over for other essential appliances and devices.
What Size Generator do I Need?
Prior to shopping for a generator, it makes sense to calculate the sum total wattage for the different appliances and devices that will need to stay powered in an emergency. For the most accurate calculations, it is worth having a licensed electrician come out and evaluate your circuits and appliances. Electricians are trained to assess the impact of different devices on the system to ensure the generator is sized properly. Undersized units can overheat and damage your entire electrical system while oversized units are more expensive to purchase and install without providing any additional value.
While the measurements can be completed by the homeowner, it is important to note that online calculators only provide rough estimates of wattage usage. Every home has a different electrical-usage profile, and power consumption fluctuates significantly throughout the day.
Essential Backup Generator Features
There are many available backup generators that can service an entire house. These units range from basic to deluxe. Here are some of the features that help optimize the operation of the unit:
- Built-In Battery Charger: This feature helps maintain the battery to ensure it is always operating at peak efficiency.
- Automatic Run Test: On a periodic basis, the unit automatically starts and runs for a short period to verify it is functioning properly.
- Automatic Transfer Switch: A device that switches incoming line voltage between the generator and the utility to guarantee safe operation and an uninterrupted supply of power.
- Smart Management Module: In conjunction with the transfer switch, smart management modules monitor each circuit to supply power exactly where it is needed.
- Panel Replacement: Several standby generator manufacturers offer main circuit panel replacement units that incorporate an automatic transfer switch. All power switching is handled by a single device, so only specific chosen circuits are covered during a power interruption.
Backup Generators Provide Comfort and Peace of Mind
It’s hard to imagine living in the 21st century without electricity. If a prolonged power outage hit your area, how would it affect your lifestyle? How would you respond? With a quality whole-house generator, you can rest easy knowing your family will remain safe and comfortable throughout the ordeal until the power is restored. Contact McAllister today to discuss your options about installing a generator. Call us today at 877-216-3505.