How to Purchase a Standby Generator

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Many people are becoming increasingly dependent upon technology in their day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, technology only works if you have the electricity to power it. Here are some steps you can take to keep your lights on and computer running when the unexpected hits!

Steps

  1. Know what you need to power. This could potentially save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars when it comes time to select the model that is right for you. Do you only want to power a few lights in your house? Do you want to power major appliances such as a washer or dryer? Do you have expensive computer equipment or medical equipment? Decide what circuits and appliances you would like to power and add up the maximum wattage they produce. You can find out what wattage your appliances produce by multiplying their voltage times their amperage. When computing your wattage requirements, youll want to add in the maximum wattage your appliance needs on startup, not its normal running wattage. Add all of the wattages together, and then youll know the minimum power capacity of the generator you need to buy. Having additional unused power capacity wont hurt anything (and might come in handy later), but purchasing a generator that cannot provide enough power can lead to many problems down the road.
  2. Determine the right model for you. Well-established brands include Briggs & Stratton and Generac. Other brands are Honda, Onan and Kohler. However, once you have worked your way through the first step of the process, you can greatly simplify your decision. Typically, standby generators produce wattages starting from 7,000 watts, usually referred to as 7 kilowatts or 7kW. Although sufficient power capacity varies, most middle class homes will need at least 7kW. This would allow you to power a few lights and small appliances. If you want to include large appliances such as washers, dryers and air conditioners, then 15kW would be more appropriate. For power capacities in this range, any of the generator brands above offer excellent quality choices. Using search strings like "standby generators", "Generac", "Briggs and Stratton" and "backup generators" will produce a large number of vendors. Also, you can look on online services such as Froogle and Ebay. Typical prices can range anywhere from $3,000 to over $30,000.
  3. Install your generator. These systems are not small - a 7kW system can weigh as much as 300 or 400 pounds. Also, installing a standby generator requires specialized knowledge of plumbing and wiring. Contact a qualified professional such as your local liquid propane dealer, electrician or plumber for assistance with installation.
  4. Maintain your generator. After you spend a few thousand dollars on the generator youll want to take whatever reasonable steps you need to in order to ensure it runs properly. If you do not, it can cause thousands of dollars in damage to your appliances. If the power goes out and your improperly maintained standby generator activates, it may not be able to provide the electricity needed to power your appliances. This in turn will cause the appliance to draw more power to make up for the shortfall. In response to this, the generator will work harder in an attempt to increase power capacity. The increased work load will place additional stress on the generator unit and cause it to burn out, potentially damaging any appliance it is connected to. The second problem that arises from improper maintenance is that of warranty coverage. Manufacturers of standby generators will not honor the warranty on a unit that has not been properly maintained. In light of these two facts, it just makes sense to keep your standby generator properly maintained.

Tips

  • Another thing to keep in mind is that appliances with large electrical motors need more electricity when they start up as opposed to when they actually run. Usually, the amount of electricity an appliance needs at startup is 2 to 3 times the amount of electricity an appliance needs to run on normally.
  • Most standby generators can take up to 30 seconds to activate; you may wish to get a battery backup to power your computer equipment while the generator is warming up.

Warnings

  • Installing a standby generator is serious business - if you do not know how to install one you should contact a qualified professional.
  • You can use the links below to find qualified professionals in your area that can help you pick out and install a generator.
  • Never repair the generator indoors. It can cause a fire.

Related wikiHows

Sources and Citations

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