Consider a standby generator for emergency use

Electric power outages - many lasting as long as 24 hours or more - aren’t uncommon in major metropolitan areas. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers this advice for residents when suddenly faced with a power outage.

  • To prevent carbon monoxide poisoning in the home, limit the use of generators, grills and other similar items to the outdoors.
  • If a power outage lasts two hours or longer, throw away food with a temperature higher than 40°F.
  • Contact your local authorities to make sure your water is safe.
  • In hot weather, drink plenty of fluids to prevent heat-related illness.
  • In cold weather, keep up your body heat by wearing several layers of clothing.
  • Make sure you and your family avoid power lines when outdoors.

It is important to note that portable generators can typically operate between eight and 10 hours with gasoline. Since the machines should only be operated outdoors, you could potentially need to refuel the generator in the midst of heavy rain or blizzard conditions. If a natural disaster has occurred, it may not even be possible to constantly access the amount of gasoline needed to operate the generator for several days or weeks.

For that reason, homeowners should consider purchasing a standby generator. These machines resemble a small air conditioning unit. Providers can install the unit outside the home, where it will be permanently mounted. They may be encased in aluminum or steel to protect the unit from weather conditions. The units require natural gas, gasoline or diesel fuel to function and must be professionally installed.

In the event of power loss, an automatic transfer switch monitors the condition of power from the utility and then signals the generator to kick into action. When power is restored, the transfer switch signals the generator. Everything happens automatically, without the homeowner lifting a single finger in the process.

The most common size of a standby generator for residential needs supplies 30 kilowatts and costs between $7,500 and $12,000, depending on the equipment and including installation. A portable generator costs between $900 and $1,200.


Comments

We have just purchased a 20kW standby generator. We plan to install it beside our garage, about 50 feet from the house. Is this a good idea?

The most common residential size is 30kW? Seriously? I doubt that. And the estimated costs of $7.5k - $12k? Not today, and certainly not including installation. Generators over 25kW are typically water-cooled adding significant cost, complexity, and maintenance requirements though they tend to be quieter due to lower motor speed. In contrast, most 20kW generators deliver a sustained output over 83 amps. That is a huge amount of power, and should suffice for almost any home up to about 9,000 sq. ft. Larger generators also use significantly more fuel; gas meters and lines must be sized appropriately.

I just had a highly regarded,fully automatic six kilowatt standby generator installed for less than $5000. It will power all essential functions (furnace, refrig, MW, sump pumps, essential lights, PC, TV, washer & gas dryer) when used judiciously. Who needs 30kw unless you have electric heat and want to power central air?

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