by Dan Jape
The recent hurricanes have brought about a lot of interest in backup generators for both homes and businesses. I have written about the advantages of a generators before but, by the time you realize you need one, it is too late. Many manufacturers run low on inventory during storm season, so consider acting before the need arises.
You never want to be without power as it leaves your home and family vulnerable. You also stand the chance of losing all the food in your refrigerator and freezer. If it is extremely cold, you may have frozen water pipes which can cause extensive damage to your home.
The first thing one must do when considering a generator purchase is determine how much power is needed. To accomplish this, you need to add up all the wattage of the appliances you want to operate. Keep in mind some appliances have higher wattage needs during start-up, so this should be accounted for. One should always size slightly larger as you may want to add appliances later. It’s good idea to have some extra output for expansion.
Some people are happy having a few lights and their refrigerator functioning while others want their whole home in full operation. These decisions are important because what you want to operate determines what kilowatt output you need. A licensed electrician can easily help you determine the correct kilowatt output for your home.
There are two basic types of generators available: portable and stationary. Stationary generators are permanently installed in your home and portable are hooked up when needed. Generally stationary generators are of a higher quality and made to run trouble free for longer periods of time.
Minimal appliances can be operated on portable generators as their output is small. These units typically run on gasoline and usually are for short term usage.
Another option is to have a professional electrical contracting company like Reliable Heating & Air permanently install a generator that ties into your electrical panel and runs on your natural gas or propane supply. These units can run for days at a time and can power an entire house.
Transfer switches need to be installed so a generator can be connected to a home’s power lines without the chance of electricity being back fed onto the power grid. The more desirable transfer switches can turn off or shed certain appliances in your home when the capacity of the generator is exceeded. These switches help decide how to distribute the amps you generate and what appliances your generator can safely operate. They also perform load shedding if the draw of your home exceeds the capacity of your generator.
When the electricity from your utility company is interrupted, the stationary generator automatically starts within seconds and the transfer switch connects it to your home’s power wiring. Portable generators must be manually hooked up to you homes electrical panel.
Since emergency generators can sit idle for long periods of time without being used, it is important they be tested and serviced on a regular basis. The generator automatically starts itself periodically to make sure the battery stays charged and the unit is ready to go when needed.
An approved service dealer also needs to return on a semiannual basis to change the oil and perform full preventive maintenance on a generator.
If these few simple steps are followed, one should be able to count on never being left in the dark again and your backup generator will provide years of trouble free service. You can be the only one in your neighborhood with lights on in the next storm!