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Standby Emergency Generator Basics:

Coping in a Natural Disaster Isolated From the National Power Grid

© 2009 by ; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

A standby emergency generator provides electricity during a power outage

When a natural disaster occurs, an emergency backup generator is as important as a disaster preparedness kit. Rolling blackouts in California, hurricanes in the southland, and ice storms across the US and Canada! Be ready with an alternate power supply and an automatic transfer switch.

The question: When is the prime time to purchase, hook up, and function test a backup power supply?

The answer: Before a natural disaster has a chance to occur. Have you ever waited to make a trip to the home improvement store for plywood to board up windows, batteries for the flashlight, and a disaster emergency kit? It’s frustrating and often futile.

Disaster Preparation: Make a Plan Now

Certainly human safety, water supplies, and canned goods are critical, but creature comfort is also high on the list of priorities. A hurricane making landfall doesn’t always spell out evacuation, but it ensures that your and your family’s life is going to be disrupted.

Frozen as well as fresh food trumps beans and Spam out of the can any day of the week. An ice storm accompanied by a power blackout spells misery when your home relies of electricity-generated heat. An emergency backup generator of the right capacity will solve all these problems.

It’s important to make your insurance company aware of a new generator and update your homeowners insurance policy.

How to Perform an Electrical Equipment Load Analysis

Performing an electrical load assessment on the home will determine the power output a generator needs to provide. First, calculate the running load and the surge wattage.

Surge wattage is what happens when there is a sudden additional power need. A good example is when a central air conditioner system cycles. To a slightly lesser degree, when a refrigerator compressor kicks in.

Calculate the surge wattage by figuring the greatest demand and then multiply that by a factor of three. Then, the running load may be found by adding the cumulative wattages of all the appliances that will be included on the home “power grid”.

Where Should the the Back-Up Generator be Situated?

The main danger associated with this machine is carbon monoxide. This is the same invisible deadly gas that a car emits. A second and minor annoyance is the noise it makes. Ideally, the generator should be situated outside of the residence with sufficient air circulation. Never place it in an unvented garage or under a backyard deck or porch.

Additionally, it’s preferable to have it elevated above grade on a sturdy metal platform to guard against flooding.

It is also recommended to erect a shelter for it, like a small roof that’s strong enough to keep ice, rain, and small branches from striking it.

Optionally, Have a Professional Install an Automatic Transfer Switch

The easiest way to transfer electricity from the standby generator to your home’s electrical circuits and critical appliances is with a special heavy-duty extension cord, but is this really the optimal solution? Don’t count on it.

A superior solution is to contract a licensed electrician to install an automatic transfer switch. A quality switch will sense when the electricity drops off and transfers the power source from the external electrical grid to the generator.

The switch is so fast that digital clocks won’t reset and flash zeros.

On the other hand, a manual switch is thrown by hand. The switch also makes sure that electricity won’t unintentionally flow from the generator back onto the grid, which poses a serious danger to any lineman who might be working on the system.

Research and Obey Local Electrical Building Codes

It can’t be too strongly pointed out to have the installation completed professionally by a professional licensed electrician. In many cases, the local electrical building code requires pulling a building permit and a visit by the electrical inspector.

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