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Severe weather events in Dillon, SC, can have a far-reaching effect on utilities, which means these events have a serious impact on our daily lives. A hurricane, or a massive unexpected blizzard, can knock out utility power for weeks at a time, although an extended outage of such length is rare. Most outages don’t last more than a few days, but that is still plenty of time to create difficulty if households aren’t prepared. A backup generator can be very useful for anything from lighting and entertainment to vital medical equipment.
Backup Generators vs Solar Power
Preparing for adverse weather is steadily becoming a routine aspect of life. Homeowners plan strategies for securing their homes and accessing power sources, such as backup generators or solar energy with battery storage. Either option provides a steady source of power and works with automatic transfer switches that let homes use the energy produced on the spot instead of pulling energy from the power grid.
Solar power has some advantages over generators and some downsides. The solar power produced to power your home belongs to you, and some utility companies even buy any excess power. Solar batteries store energy produced during the day that wasn’t immediately used. Regulations governing solar energy and power grid hook-ups vary between providers. After the initial investment, solar energy shouldn’t be a continuous expense.
Backup generators are an ongoing expense while they’re in operation, but generators may be more reliable in some circumstances. Solar panels can’t produce energy without generous exposure to sunlight. People with in-home medical equipment and other urgent or vital needs linked to electricity may not want to risk unpredictable solar power. Risk can be mitigated to some extent by setting the system to conserve energy by powering only essential functions.
Propane, diesel and natural gas generators are available in a wide range of sizes and capabilities. Backup generators also need regular maintenance to ensure safety and reliability. Keeping enough propane on hand to make it through an outage can be tricky. A backup generator meant to power a home of 1500-2000 square feet will need between 2-4 gallons of propane per hour.
Natural gas generators may be risky if gas pressure is lost. This would leave your generator without a fuel source. There is always a risk of running out of propane or diesel fuel as well, so you need to decide which option poses the least risk in your situation.
Diesel generators tend to require less maintenance than other types, but maintenance is still important. Another potential problem associated with diesel-fueled generators is wet stacking. Wet stacking refers to a buildup of unburned fuel in or around the exhaust. This can happen when a generator runs below 50-80% of the total load capacity. The engine may not reach the optimal temperature necessary to burn the fuel completely, which lets unburned fuel escape.
Gasses and fuel can also leak into the oil pan. The generator probably won’t suffer long-term damage if wet stacking occurs over a short time, but it reduces fuel efficiency, and running below 50% of the load capacity over an extended period can damage the engine. Contact a professional to avoid this situation and perform regular maintenance to safeguard your generator.
Automatic or Manual
There are two main generator types, automatic and manual. Automatic generators power on by themselves when electricity from the grid isn’t available. Most automatic models also exercise themselves. Many of these generators run automatically for 10 to 15 minutes each week. Combustion engines may benefit from periodic operation to lubricate moving parts. A manual generator is fairly simple to use. You can just plug it in and turn it on, but some manual models are very loud and don’t use fuel efficiently.
Power Loads and Endurance
Before choosing a backup generator, you need to decide which electrical systems, equipment, and devices will stay on during a power outage. The power load of the generator has to meet the demands of your designated essential functions. Air conditioners, both window units, and central air systems use a lot of electricity. AC units usually have BTUs, tons, or amps displayed somewhere so you have a general idea of their electrical demands. An average 3-ton unit requires at least a 16-kilowatt generator, but a larger 5-to unit needs more than 20 kilowatts.
Endurance refers to the generator’s running time. Most homeowners never use the maximum amount of electricity they could access with 200-amp main breakers, and a backup generator isn’t meant to power 100% of a home’s needs throughout an outage. You should prioritize essential things like heat and air conditioning systems, refrigerators and freezers, medical equipment, and lighting. Try to minimize lighting as much as possible to conserve power. Don’t leave electrical devices on in rooms that don’t need to be used during the outage.
Installing a backup generator isn’t quite as simple as it may seem. Building and safety codes in Dillon, SC, may affect acceptable locations in your home. Backfeeding, which can happen when a generator is simply plugged into an outlet, can be dangerous. A transfer switch ensures that your home is disconnected from the power grid before the generator starts. A surge in electricity from an incorrectly installed generator can travel beyond the home and present a risk to others.
A home consultation helps you choose an ideal situation for your generator. It should be a stable area with good drainage that is not susceptible to flooding. You need enough room around the generator to perform routine maintenance, and it shouldn’t be located near doors, windows, and other places that let fresh air enter the home. Sometimes a concrete slab or pea gravel is useful for preparing the installation site. Sometimes a technician can perform an outage simulation to ensure your generator will work properly when it’s needed.
Contact Mister Sparky Generators in Dillon, SC, to ask about backup generators. Experienced professionals help you find the most appropriate model for your home and handle installation and maintenance.