5 Questions to Ask When Buying a Home Standby Generator

Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc in Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast, specifically New Orleans.  Thousands of homes and businesses were without electricity - some for nearly a month. This is of course the worst case scenario, but it is a possibility for which you should be prepare. If constant electricity is something that you need during a natural disaster, then consider a whole house generator. However, before you go out and buy the first generator you see, here are five important questions that you should ask yourself.

1. What kind of fuel will your standby generator use?

Whole house generators can run on natural gas, propane or diesel. While natural gas is one of the best fuel sources, you should not discount a propane or diesel-powered generator. It all depends on your needs and whether natural gas is supplied to your home. If natural gas is present, confirm the pressure is compatible with the generator requirements. Some standby generators require more pressure and this means your utility company installing a larger gas meter for your home.

Alternatively, you can choose liquid propane gas as the generator fuel source. You can store the fuel in a large tank and use it when needed, with no worries of liquid propane gas spoiling. The tank does not have to disrupt the curb appeal of your home, as you can place it underground to keep it out of sight.

Lastly, there are diesel generators, which are quite durable. Most diesel generators have an internal fuel tank, or an option to purchase a sub-base fuel tank (a tank that sits under the diesel generator). Diesel fuel can spoil, so some extra maintenance is required by adding a fuel treatment to diesel at least once each year.

2. What size generator is the best for your needs?

The size of a whole house generator is dependent on the number of electrical appliances you want to power and the size of your home. It is best to get a professional to advise you on the size. If you buy one that is too small, you will not be able to run your HVAC and all appliances and gadgets.

3. Where will the standby-generator be located?

Before you buy a whole house generator, make sure you are clear about the installation area. The location of the generator will impact the installation cost, being close to the electrical utility meter and natural gas meter is better. The generator will require at least one annual maintenance, so easy access (at least 36") to all sides is preferrable. Also,try to place the generator away from bedroom windows or other areas where its sound may be a nuisance. If a liquid propane is installed, check with local authorities for proper distances from your home and the generator.

  1. How will the generator be connected to the house?

You need a professional to the install the whole house generator (both electrically and fuel plumbing). The generator is permanently connected to your house via an automatic transfer switch (ATS). This ATS will isolate your house from the grid when the utility power fails and the generator is providing power. The entire process is fully automatic and takes about 10 seconds. The same ATS also is responsible for transferring your home back to the grid when utlity power is restored.

  1. Do I require a permit-to-install a standby-generator?

Installing a whole house generator will normally require an permit with an electrical inspection after the installation is complete. Ask your electrical contractor to incude a permit in the price of installation.

Whole house generators can be a blessing during a power outage. If you have children, seniors who require medical devices, or you just want to ensure that you and your family are comfortable during a power outage, you should seriously consider installing a standby generator. Consult a professional about getting the best generator to fit your needs.

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