When the power goes out in your home it can be a minor inconvenience, or cause major problems, especially if the outage lasts for days at a time. Imagine the power going out for a day or two if you or a loved one relies on electrically powered medical equipment. Or being home alone with an infant and no power, or worse yet older kids who will act as if the world has come to a screeching halt with no electricity! Or even something as simple as having just returned with a week’s worth of groceries, which are sure to go to waste. No matter the situation, losing power is an inconvenience to say the least. To avoid such challenges, many homeowners are turning to contractors to install a permanent standby generator in their home.
Size Does Matter
The first important item to consider when purchasing a home generator is the size of the home that it’s required to power, along with which of the key circuits of the house you want the generator to service. For some homeowners this can mean a few lights and the refrigerator, while others may want to include the entertainment system, heating and air conditioning system, microwave, etc. Once you have done a careful assessment of your needs, you’ll be able to determine the size of the system you’ll require. The size of the generator is measured by kilowatts (kW), with larger systems being able to power more items. The good news is, generators have become much more efficient in the past few years, with smaller generators being able to do more work.
Fuel and System Type
Permanent standby generators run on natural gas, propane or diesel fuel. If available, natural gas is a great option because once it’s installed you won’t need to refill it, as you would with propane or diesel. However, please keep in mind that most generators need to be serviced at least once a year, and after one is installed it’s essential to have a service contract. Automatic systems are preferable since you won’t have to be at home to activate it. An auto transfer switch senses the power outage, isolates the electrical wiring or designated emergency circuits and starts the generator. After power is restored, the system will automatically connect you back to utility lines, and shut itself off. (One alternative to a permanent standby generator system is a battery powered backup. To read more, click here.)
Before You Buy
Although generators are treated similarly to AC units, there are some special zoning rules and noise restrictions that may apply. Each jurisdiction is different, so investigate before getting to far along in the planning process. Older generators were quite noisy, but recent technological advancements, such as sound shrouds, have brought the level down to the amount of noise that an AC unit makes when placed outside. In addition, before purchasing a generator make sure there aren’t any key circuits you overlooked, such as security systems, hot water heaters, internet connections, garage doors, and outlets for alarm clocks, cell phone chargers, and coffee makers. One homeowner used only the garage door opener as his house key, and found out he was locked out upon returning from a vacation. It’s best to buy a home generator with more kW power output then you think you will need, since you will most likely change or add electronics and appliances over time. This is also important to keep in mind if you are planning a home addition or renovation, as you will need more kW to power the new portion of your home. Permanent standby systems are a considerable investment, but the convenience of an autostart system, along with the peace of mind of having one, are well worth the price for many homeowners. And don’t forget, having a home generator will likely increase the value of your home.