Power Failure and Your Backup Home Generator

The gathering storm clouds have you concerned, with news reports suggesting that this approaching weather event will be one for the ages. Thoughts of destruction have you planning your escape, but you have also considered battening down the hatches and riding the storm out. Although the track of the storm is subject to change, there is one thing you can count on: an interruption in your electrical service. You can, however, combat a power outage by installing a backup generator, one that can supply electricity to your home when you want it.

Here’s what you need to know about backup home generators:

When you think of a home generator, your thoughts may turn to the portable type, one that is powered by a small, gas engine. Such a unit may not be adequate for your needs. Besides, there is always some risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if it is not placed outside and far enough away from your home.

Choose a home generator based on the size of your home or at least based on what you want to use if for. Some generators can handle the entire home, while others can power up one or two appliances with extension cord connections.

To find out what size generator you want to buy, you need to consider the appliances that you will use concurrently when the generator is on. This might include the microwave, a stove and the refrigerator. Add up the wattage for all three and choose a generator that provides sufficient power at start up. If you plan to run air-conditioning or heating, you will need to choose a generator toward the higher end of the spectrum. Do not skimp here: only the most robust package will meet your needs.

Generator Choices

English: This is a generator.

A portable generator. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A 3,650-watt portable gas generator will run from approximately $300 and provide up to 10 hours of run time at half load operation. On the other end of the pricing spectrum you can pay $1,200 for a portable generator that is rated at 7,500 watts and gives you slightly longer run time. Such units are gasoline powered and must be shut off and cooled before refueling.

You will pay several thousand dollars for a permanently installed generator, with larger units topping $5,000. The advantage here is that your system is powered by propane or natural gas, not gasoline. The price and the complicated installation process mean that homeowners typically make this investment after careful consideration and rely on a professional for installation.

A battery-inverter system is ideal for homes where only a minimal amount of power is needed during a blackout. These units are clean, safe to run and have no exhaust emissions. For about $1,000 you can have an inverter generator installed in your basement or opt for more battery banks to extend your power capabilities.

Your Safety

A power generator produces carbon monoxide, a silent and deadly killer that can snuff out lives before a problem is detected. Keep everyone safe by locating your generator at least 10 feet away from your home if it is a portable unit. This rule does not apply to permanent generators as these can be safely installed outside next to your home.

You also want to choose a heavy-duty exterior extension cord to connect appliances directly into the generator. Optionally, choose a single cord and connect that directly to power transfer station.

A Practice Run

As with any generator, you will want to try it out before it is needed. This means hooking up the generator and connecting appliances to give it a dry run. By doing so you can head off potential problems as well as align your expectancies with the generator’s capabilities. You also want to review troubleshooting procedures and warranty coverage. No generator is worth considering if it is too difficult to operate or it cannot withstand the load of a prolonged power outage.
Author Information

Author Information

Barry Atkins writes for Portable Appliance Safety Services, and enjoys teaching and writing about modern testing equipment, like the Fluke 1651 multifunction tester. You can also find Barry on Google+.

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