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Standby generators and backup generators are two different things. A standby generator, also known as a stationary or whole-house generator, is installed outside your home on a permanent basis. A backup generator, sometimes called a portable generator, is used only when it is needed.
Evaluating Electric Use
A portable generator is good for recreational purposes or powering a few essential functions during a power outage. Standby generators typically provide much more power and let households function normally. Homeowners need to consider several factors before choosing an appropriate backup generator.
The first concern is deciding how much of your normal electric use will be covered during an outage. Refrigerators, freezers, and medical equipment and devices are priorities. Adequate lighting is very important, but most households can function without using every light in the house. Conserve backup power by limiting lights to a few designated rooms and just enough outdoor lighting to maintain safety.
Washing machines, dishwashers, clothes dryers, and garbage disposals can be unplugged to conserve electricity. Go over your list several times and think about everything that needs electricity in your home. Don’t forget devices such as sump pumps or well pumps.
The size of a backup generator refers to kilowatt electricity output. You can estimate the necessary size by listing all essential electrical devices and appliances, along with their total wattage. Equipment and devices with motors use a steady amount of electric during operation, but they require a larger burst of electric current during start-up. This slight increase should be added to total wattage, especially if a motorized device will be powered on or off repeatedly.
Central air conditioning and HVAC systems account for over half of an average home’s electricity. Disabling these systems during a power outage lets you use a smaller generator with less fuel, but going without heat or air conditioning isn’t always feasible. Adverse weather events likely to cause a power outage in Marion, SC, are often accompanied by rain, heat, and humidity. Hot, humid weather can be very uncomfortable for some people and aggravate respiratory illnesses, so air conditioning may be more of a requirement than a luxury.
It may be simpler and less stressful to consult a professional to handle wattage calculations and suggest appropriate generators. Households with medical equipment should always consult a professional. Medical equipment is an essential need, and some devices, especially oxygen concentrators, use a lot of electricity.
Automatic or Delayed
Standby generators have automatic transfer switches, or ATS, with sensors to monitor electricity. The switch automatically disconnects the home’s wiring from the power grid when voltage drops below a certain point. An ATS also starts the backup generator. A properly installed ATS smoothly switches between power sources so quickly that downtime is barely noticable.
Backup generators have to be connected and turned on when the power goes out, so some delay between losing and regaining power is inevitable. A standby generator may be safer than a backup generator when home health equipment is involved. Standby models are more suited to powering an entire house, and the ATS feature avoids downtime for medical equipment. This is even more important for people with health conditions that may not always have another person in the home in case of emergency.
Fuel may be the most important factor in choosing a generator. A generator without fuel might as well not exist at all. Most standby generators run on natural gas, propane gas, or diesel fuel. Backup generators use gasoline, propane, or diesel fuel. Keep in mind that fuel may not be easily accessible during a power outage, especially during severe weather events. You shouldn’t count on having any fuel other than your own storage. Standby generators powered by natural gas have a significant advantage in terms of fuel. Their fuel is technically unlimited as long as infrastructure providing natural gas in Marion, SC, remains intact.
Every other fuel type, including gasoline, diesel, or propane, is limited. Calculate fuel requirements by estimating the potential duration of a power outage. Add at least one additional day’s worth of fuel to your calculated amount for a small margin of safety. Purchase and store fuel ahead of time to avoid last minute scrambling.
Store propane tanks, regardless of size, outdoors. Never store them inside, even in a basement or garage. Arrange tanks in an upright position on a dry, solid surface, such as a row of cinder blocks or flat slab of wood. Avoid setting tanks directly on the ground. Keep tanks in a small shed or cover them with a durable plastic tarp as protection from the elements. Rain and humidity may encourage rust on the cylinders. Examine tanks for leaks every 2 to 3 months and have professional check tanks that are over 2 years old.
Diesel fuel can be stored for approximately 12 months without additives. Biocide additives inhibit bacteria that cause fuel breakdown, while stabilizers prevent destructive chemical reactions. Water contaminates diesel and hot temperatures encourage breakdown. Store tanks in a small lean-to or other basic shelter in a cool area. Try to minimize open space in storage tanks. Tank configuration determines the minimum amount of empty space after filling, but too much space lets condensation build up and drip into the fuel. Store gasoline in approved containers meant for that purpose, and add stabilizers to keep gas fresh for up to a year. Keep gasoline in a cool, ventilated location and never let gas containers sit inside a hot car or under direct sunlight. Avoid smoking around gasoline or other fuels. Some backup generators are designed as ‘tri-fuel.’ These generators run on gas, diesel, or propane, but there are many advantages and disadvantages to weigh before trying a tri-fuel model.
Contact Mister Sparky Generators in Marion, SC, for help or advice. Skilled professionals can answer all your questions about standby generators and provide installation, repair, or maintenance services.