Generators Help you Weather Power Outages
October 1, 2013
No matter the season, experiencing a power outage can be a real threat to a homeowner’s peace of mind. It’s estimated that 3.5 million Americans experience power outages each week. More than 70 million people have experienced an outage that lasted more than 24 hours sometime in the last two years.
According to the Edison Electric Institute, the majority of these outages are weather- related.
The good news is, there are portable generators designed with user ease in mind that can be short-term sources of emergency power. Contained in steel frames, with wheels for easy relocation, they are powered by gasoline stored in a provided tank.
Those looking for a more permanent alternative may consider a standby generator. This is hardwired into the home’s electrical system and connected to the natural gas or propane supply. When the utility power goes out, the load center senses the loss of electrical power and turns on the generator, which then powers all of your emergency circuits. You can back up just a few rooms or the whole house. Once the utility power comes back on, the load center will automatically switch back to utility power. If you were not home when your power went out, you would not even know the difference.
Standby generators don’t require much maintenance and can sit outside next to your air-conditioner units. Stationary, outside-mounted generators run on propane or natural gas and supply more power than portable models. Determine your average wattage needs for most common electricity-using household appliances and devices to choose the best model for your needs.
HOW TO CHOOSE
Calculate the watts for the items you need. Figure on $500 to $1,000 for installing a stationary generator and, for all types, at least $500 for a power-transfer switch. A transfer switch permanently patches a backup generator into the electrical system in your home, eliminating the need to run extension cords into and out of the house. Installing a transfer switch is the only safe way to run hardwired items, such as a furnace fan and central air, and to route power to wall outlets.
Manual transfer switches require that you flip the switch and change over from standard utility power to standby power during a power outage. Automatic transfer switches kick in on their own when the power goes out — useful for running the refrigerator or keeping the furnace going when you’re away from home.
Transfer switches are included with many stationary generators. A manual switch will cost roughly $500 installed; an automatic version, about $1,000.
Wheels — Models with these can be moved by one person, rather than two, but you’ll still need two people to lift the generator.
Oil guard — This protects the engine from damage by shutting it down if the oil level falls below the minimum.
Fuel gauge — Lets you check the level inside the tank at a glance, important for extended power outages.
Inverter technology — Improves power quality via a microprocessor-controlled circuit. Currently, however, models that offer it have low wattage and a high price.
Nice, but not essential:
Electric starting — Provides push-button starts via a battery-powered motor, saving you the hassle of pull-starting.
Alternative-fuel capability — Lets you run the generator on propane or natural gas, as well as gasoline.
Sources: www.consumerreports.org and North American Precis Syndicate (NAPS)
Generac 7KW CorePower System Generator
A complete generator and transfer-switch system with a pre-packaged 50-amp, eight-circuit load center with breakers. Immediate automatic backup power supply with a continuous fuel source of either liquid propane (LP) or natural gas. Starts automatically whether you are home or away, eliminating extension cords and refueling. Compact design is lightweight for easy mounting and engineered for easy maintenance and serviceability; ideal when space is limited.
Suggested Retail Price: $1,799
* Digital controller with LED light status and fault indicators
* Composite all-weather enclosure, no rust concerns
* Three of the four sides slide off completely for full serviceability access
* Easy roof removal, no tools required
* Lightweight narrow transfer switch for easy flush mounting
* Simple field conversion from natural gas to LP
* Two-year limited warranty
Briggs & Stratton 10KW Home Standby Generator
Gives you the ability to run household essentials. The Vanguard V-twin commercial engine, engineered to stringent commercial specifications to provide years of long lasting, reliable standby power, also comes pre-filled with synthetic oil and is pre-run at the factory. Remote system transmits advanced diagnostic reporting on system functions to a safe location inside your home
Suggested Retail Price: $2,384 (at www.Norwall.com)
* Fully automatic operation
* System includes a battery charger, hour meter and installation pad
* Diagnostic alerts on eight different systems functions with remote system: Low Oil Shutdown, Fail to Start, Low Frequency, Engine Over-speed, Low Voltage, Low Battery Voltage, Oil Temp High and Transfer Switch Fault
* Limited three-year warranty
GE 10KW Home Generator Systems
A compact, energy-efficient, whole-house backup power solution — including up to two three-ton central air conditioners — for small and medium size homes. Gives you peak backup power performance from a smaller generator; a smaller generator means less expense, less fuel consumption, less sound and lower emissions
Suggested Retail Price: $2,898 (at www.HomeDepot.com)
* Package includes a 200-amp whole-house symphony transfer switch
* Synergy power train combines a commercial Vanguard V-Twin engine with a premium alternator for computer-friendly power
* Sound vault technology features a patented aerodynamic design and an all-weather enclosure for ultra-quiet operation
* Remote system status panel displays eight different system faults hardwired into your home
* Four-year limited warranty (a value of up to $140)