Once a rare feature in private homes, a standby generator has become standard equipment at many residences. This is largely due to increasing reliance on electricity to sustain normal life. An interruption of the power grid incapacitates vital functions in your house and may make the residence uninhabitable until power is restored. Increasing utility blackouts and brownouts, as well as the random intervention of inclement weather, earthquakes and other natural phenomena, have convinced many homeowners that a standby generator is an investment in family health and safety. Here are three factors to consider when selecting a standby generator:
Whole-house power or essential circuits only? A whole-house standby generator provides enough electricity to power all circuits in your home. Everything that runs on standard utility power in the house will run on the generator. The generating capacity required for whole-house power is usually substantial and necessitates a larger, more expensive generator. A smaller, “essential circuits” generator provides power to a limited number of household circuits — usually enough to maintain lights, refrigerator and stove, computer equipment and a small air conditioner. While not supporting all elements of normal life, essential circuits generators keep the house comfortably habitable for the duration of a power outage.
What are your wattage requirements? Determine your electrical needs in kilowatts. The wesbsites of many generator manufacturers include a household wattage calculator to help you estimate usage. When selecting a standby generator, include a safety margin of 10 to 20 percent more power capacity than what you expect to use.
What fuel should power the generator? The best choice is a standby generator that runs on the same fuel already supplied to your home to heat water and cook. Natural gas-powered standby generators are air-cooled and low maintenance. The natural gas supply to your home is not affected by power outages. Most natural gas-powered generators can operate on propane, too. Propane is inexpensive and an outdoor storage tank can store sufficient propane to run a generator for days.
Overland Park Heating & Cooling has kept Kansas City and Kansas area homeowners comfortable since 1983. Contact us for more advice on selecting a standby generator.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). For more information about standby generators and other HVAC topics, download our free Home Comfort Resource guide.
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