Automatic Standby Generators
How Not To Get Left Out In The Cold (Or Heat) When The Power Goes Out
Heating, cooling, lighting, refrigeration, television and computing are just a few of many modern day necessities and conveniences to which we have grown accustomed. So, when the power goes out and with it go the lights, heating (or cooling) and the food in the refrigerator and freezer begins to spoil, it can lead to a feeling of fear and helplessness. Not to mention the fact that being without heating and/or cooling during extreme temperatures – which, ironically, is when many power outages typically occur — can lead to health concerns for children and the elderly.
In the last several years ‘rolling blackouts’ and power outages have become commonplace in many urban areas due to the high demand placed on municipal power providers – and, major storms haven’t helped. These outages can last from just a few minutes to several days – or longer. In addition to outages caused by increased demand, changing weather patterns resulting in a rise in the incidence and severity of hurricanes, snowstorms and tornadoes are causing tens of millions of Americans to lose electrical power to their homes and businesses each year.
What’s worse, sump pumps in basements and crawl spaces won’t operate when they are most needed to discharge vast amounts of storm water, which can lead to thousands of dollars of damage to one’s home and personal property. Even a sump pump equipped with a back up battery has its limitations! Being without power for few hours is a nuisance. Not having power for days, weeks or even longer can be both costly and dangerous.
The good news is that an automatic standby generator can return your home to full power within seconds, anytime of year. An automatic standby generator works even when you’re not at home. In contrast to a portable generator, an automatic standby generator senses an outage and begins to produce power immediately. There are no extension cords to plug in, gas tanks to fill or switches to flip.
Even better news is that although automatic standby generators were reserved almost exclusively for hospitals, television and radio stations or the ‘rich and famous,’ advances in technology have made automatic standby generators more affordable and available to mainstream America. As evidence, automatic standby generators rank high on Remodeling Magazine’s annual ‘Cost vs. Value Report,’ which measures the popularity and return on investment as regards consumer spending on home improvement projects.
Depending on the number of essential circuits required, homes can be protected for about $2,000 plus installation with an 8-kilowatt unit.
How Does It Work? Unlike a portable generator, which can be dangerous and difficult to operate, an automatic standby generator operates on your LP gas or natural gas supply. The generator monitors incoming voltage from the utility line and when power is interrupted, it senses a problem and transfers to standby power. Within seconds, the generator supplies electricity to the essential circuits you’ve chosen. When utility voltage returns, the electrical load is transferred back to the utility line.
Sound pretty simple? Truth be told it is. There are no levers to pull to activate power, no pull cords to yank to start a generator motor and no potentially harmful carbon monoxide fumes due to the fact that the unit is permanently installed outdoors in a safe and secure location. In fact, most automatic standby generators look surprising like the compressor for a central air conditioning system. With a little creative landscaping, you’ll never know it’s there.
If you think that an automatic standby generator might be for you, the first step is to determine what systems in your home you need or want to have powered during an outage. Although you can backup your entire home, it is typically more cost efficient to back up essential circuits, which can include some lighting (kitchen, bathroom, basement), a sump pump, a refrigerator and/or freezer, a television, a computer, a microwave for cooking, a garage circuit (to operate an automatic door opener), and a security system. You may also opt to include a home office, an electric water heater (or the electrical supply for ignition for a tankless or hybrid water heater), and a well or irrigation pump.
The next step is to determine the amount of power (in watts) that each of the desired systems requires and add them up to establish the total amount of power needed, which, in turn, will determine the size of the generator needed in kilowatts (kW). Most residential automatic standby generators range in size from 8kW to 16kW (though there are smaller and larger units) and retail from between $2,000 to $3,500 plus installation. Installation prices vary depending upon the local and specific installation conditions. However, installation of most air-cooled generators can be accomplished in less than a day. Installing the unit near the LP or natural gas supply and in close proximity to the electrical service panel can make installation easier and less costly. If you need an automatic emergency generator, you can get it installed via A-Lumination Electric services.
Leading brands have an ‘exercise’ mode, which will automatically start the generator motor on a regular predetermined schedule – typically weekly – to make sure that the device is operating properly and at peak performance. Failure for the equipment to operate properly will result in consumer notification via a warning light or alarm, which will allow for necessary maintenance or repairs. Beyond regular ‘exercising,’ the oil level should be checked regularly and other maintenance performed as suggested by the manufacturer.
Whether it’s a winter storm or a summer blackout, an automatic standby power generator can keep you from being in the dark.
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