An emergency backup generator can be a great investment that keeps you protected against power outages. A power outage that only lasts a short time often isn’t a major issue, but an outage that lasts for a long time can be. Not only will you have no way to power your lights, but all the food in your refrigerator or freezer may also start to spoil. You’ll also have no way to cook any food unless you have a gas stove or grill, and this isn’t always the case as some newer gas stoves won’t work without electricity.
Any time the power goes out in the middle of summer or winter, your home can also become extremely hot or bitterly cold quite quickly. An emergency backup generator can help you avoid these issues. Here is a quick overview of these units so you can better understand how they work and why they can be such a great addition to your home.
Differences Between Backup Generators and Portable Generators
All generators work in the same way by burning fuel to power a motor that produces mechanical energy and then converting the mechanical energy into electricity. Portable generators can come in handy during a power outage, but they do have some major limitations compared to backup generators. Probably the biggest limitation is that anything you want to power needs to be plugged directly into the generator or to an extension cord or power strip that’s plugged into the generator. This means the generator won’t be able to power any hardwired appliances like a central air conditioner, furnace, water heater, oven, stovetop, etc.
It is sometimes possible for an electrician to install a transfer switch that allows you to connect a portable generator to your home’s electrical system, but most portable generators won’t produce enough watts to power everything you may need to run during a blackout. Emergency backup generators don’t have these same limitations since they are also connected to your electrical system via an automatic transfer switch. If the generator is properly sized, it will also provide enough electricity to power your home’s lighting, HVAC system, and all your hardwired appliances.
Another issue is that portable generators have a limited fuel supply. If the power was out for a few days, you’d need to have lots of extra gasoline or diesel fuel on hand so you can keep refilling the generator when the fuel starts to run low. Some portable generators run on propane instead, but you’d still need to have extra propane tanks to keep the generator running. Gas and diesel portable generators can also only run for a certain amount of time before they need to be shut off and left to rest for a period. In most cases, you’ll only be able to run the generator for somewhere around six to 15 hours at a time.
Backup generators are also superior in both regards. If the unit is properly maintained, a backup generator can usually run continuously for up to 500 hours. This means the unit could continue powering your home for nearly three full weeks. If you choose a backup generator that runs on natural gas, you also won’t ever need to worry about running out of fuel since the unit will be directly connected to your home’s natural gas supply. You can also opt to install a large propane tank to power your backup generator. If the tank is the appropriate size for the generator, the fuel supply will usually be enough to power the generator for around one full month.
One other important thing to consider is that backup generators are permanently mounted outside the home. This means you won’t need to worry about dragging the unit out whenever the power goes out like you would with a portable generator. Portable generators really should always be stored inside a shed or garage since they can easily suffer damage if they’re always left outside exposed to the elements. This is yet another thing you don’t need to worry about with a backup generator since they are built to withstand rain and snow.
How a Backup Generator Can Power Your Home During a Blackout
The automatic transfer switch (ATS) is what enables a backup generator to power a home any time the electricity goes out as it is basically the link between the generator and the building’s electrical system. The ATS is wired into the home’s main electrical panel and a heavy-duty power cord runs from the ATS to the generator.
An ATS works by continuously monitoring the electricity flowing into the home’s electrical panel so that it can instantly detect if the power goes out. Any time there is a power outage, the ATS will send a signal to the generator for it to start. Once the ATS senses electricity is flowing from the generator, it will temporarily disconnect the home from the electrical grid so that the generator is then supplying power to the home’s electrical system. This prevents the electricity produced by the generator from flowing out of the home and back into the electrical grid, which is important for two reasons.
The most obvious one is that it would simply be a waste of electricity and could potentially lead to the generator not providing enough electricity to power the entire home. The second reason is that electricity flowing back into the grid could seriously injure or possibly kill anyone working on the grid. This second reason is why it is illegal to connect either a portable generator or a backup generator to a home’s electrical system without running it through a transfer switch.
The entire process from when the power goes out to when the generator starts supplying electricity to the home only takes a few seconds. This ensures that the home will again have power almost immediately. Once the generator is running, the ATS will continue to monitor and check to see if there is power from the grid flowing to the home. Once the power comes back on, the ATS will send a signal for the generator to turn off and then switch back on so that the home is again powered by the grid.
How to Determine What Size of Backup Generator You Need
The size of the home and the power draw of all the lights and appliances are the main factors that will determine what size of backup generator is needed. You don’t necessarily need a generator that is powerful enough to supply electricity to everything in the home at the same time. However, you do want to make sure it is powerful enough to run all the most important things such as your lighting, refrigerator, freezer, TV, computer, and HVAC system.
Powering your HVAC system is especially important. If the power goes out for a long period in the winter, your home could quickly become so cold that your pipes freeze. In most cases, the size of your HVAC system will dictate what size of generator you need. This is because central air conditioners and heat pumps require far more electricity than any of the other things in the home.
Norman Air specializes in all types of electrical installations, and we’re ready to assist if you’re looking to add an emergency backup generator to your home. We can also assist if you have a generator that needs any repairs or maintenance work or if you need any plumbing, HVAC, or other electrical services in the Norman area. Give us a call today to learn more about backup generators or our other range of other services.