What are the benefits of an automatic backup generator?
With hurricane season upon us, an automatic generator can provide peace of mind and safety for your home and family.
Overall, a generator acts like an insurance policy. There is no telling when or if one will be needed, but when power is lost, there is nothing more calming than knowing your home will not lose power.
To determine if it is worth the investment, you need to ask yourself what is your tolerance to power loss. People who rely on electricity to power medical equipment, or who live in an area with frequent, prolonged blackouts, or work at home and need uninterrupted power to stay connected should invest in a generator.
An automatic backup generator or standby generator differs in a few ways from the portable generators that you many have seen in campgrounds or out in a driveway. Most portable generators are stored in an enclosed area, like a storage shed or garage, and have to be physically placed outdoors prior to use – an issue if you are not home at the time of a power loss. A portable generator also requires the storage of gasoline containers so that gas can be added when you are ready to use the generator – a definite safety issue, as gasoline should never be stored in a garage or in a room attached to your home.
Furthermore, a portable generator limits the amount of devices that are manually plugged in, as the capacity of the generator is associated with the physical size of the unit. Rather than plugging in a few chosen devices to a portable generator, an automatic standby model is wired directly into your home’s electrical panel – meaning there is no need to provide any manual work when power is lost. This also allows for more devices to be energized through the generator.
A standby generator monitors voltage 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and are designed to automatically engage within seconds of a power loss, through use of an automatic transfer switch. Then, when power is restored, your generator shuts down and your home reconnects to the grid automatically. It is a seamless transition that makes standby home generators ideal for families with small children, or homes that require electrically powered, life-sustaining medical equipment.
Standby generators provide critical benefits for homeowners. Sump pumps can continue to operate – reducing the likelihood that your home gets flooded. Appliances can continue to function, allowing food to stay fresh, and allowing heating and air conditioning systems to continue operating, keeping homes conditioned – no need to stay at a hotel to be comfortable.
If you work from home, your computer, television and other technological devices will continue to operate – meaning you can still make money working. Keeping your technologies alive also means you can stay on top of current weather or power conditions, and allow for your phone to be charged and stay connected. If you operate your business from home, consult with your accountant – a generator installation may be a tax deduction.
Loss of power can simply be a result of a blown transformer in your neighborhood, or can be as complex as a region wide, grid disabling natural disaster- like we experienced in the summer of 2003 and during Super Storm Sandy.
Power outages cost American families millions of dollars a year. Only about a third of that comes from weather-related episodes. Both locally and nationally, our power grid is under stress due to complex power-consuming devices and an ever growing population.
To some, the benefits of having a standby home generator outweigh the investment. Meaning, the convenience of a generator automatically engaging within seconds of a power loss, whether you are home or away, is worth its considerable cost. Use of a generator can also protect your home from dangerous voltage fluctuation and surges when power is restored. The intangible value of a generator is clearly apparent when your home is the only one on the block with lights, a working refrigerator, and a heating or air conditioning system.
Installing a standby home generator is not a "do it yourself" project. They are installed permanently on a concrete pad in your yard and can provide uninterrupted power use for days. They are connected directly to your home's electrical panel and are powered by either natural gas, liquid propane or diesel.
A generator installation requires a licensed electrician and plumber, as well as an architect to obtain permits with the Department of Buildings. The particulars of installing a home generator are complex, and require an approved site plan to complete the legal process. A non-permitted generator can lead to DOB violations that carry hefty penalties, including the requirement to remove the generator from your premises. In addition, any damages caused by an illegally installed generator can lead to coverage issues with your home insurance provider.
Installing a generator "legally" can increase the resale value of your home. Consumer Reports states that in some cases, your home value can increase by 3 to 5%. A 2014 report by Remodeling Magazine indicated that installing a standby generator can provide up to a 150% return on your investment. Meaning, if you spent $12,000 on installing a generator, your home value may increase up to $18,000.
A qualified professional will need to assess your home to properly size your generator to include all appliances that you would like to use during a power outage. They will provide you with the best solution for your home in terms of the type and size of the generator, and explain the installation process.
It is also important to know that after the installation, a generator will require annual maintenance, including an inspection and oil change. Just like a car, generators have an engine that drives the power to your home. Maintenance is required after a certain period of use, or at least annually to ensure it will continue operating seamlessly.
So, are there benefits to installing a standby generator? The answer is that a generator is an investment in your home, your family's safety and your comfort. Is that something you can live without?
Donald Pagano, President DRP Electrical Contracting Inc.