In some regions that experience extreme temperatures, the possibility of a blackout could entail serious consequences. Or perhaps you simply have essential systems that cannot afford to be without power, even for short periods of time. In such instances, it behooves you to install a home backup generator. How can you choose the best model for your needs? Here are a few shopping tips.
1. Understand Power Requirements
The most important factor to consider when shopping for home backup generators is the power supply you’ll need. Naturally, you want items like fridges and freezers to remain functional during a blackout so that your food doesn’t spoil, and during extreme seasonal temperatures (the cold of winter or the heart of summer), keeping the HVAC running could be a necessity. However, you should carefully consider whether you need enough power for your whole home or just for essential components.
In many regions, blackouts are most likely to occur during peak usage times, which is to say, when summer temperatures soar or winter chill falls below zero. During such times, maintaining a livable interior temperature could be a matter of life and death, so unless you live in a climate that enjoys moderate temperatures year-round, it’s probably best to plan for this eventuality and seek a generator that is adequate to handle the load.
You’ll also want to consider the type of switch you prefer. Do you want energy draw to automatically revert to your backup generator when the power goes out, or would you prefer to switch it over manually? If you travel frequently and there are often blackouts in your area, automatic switching may be preferable. However, if blackouts are few and far between, and you don’t have any essential systems that require power (like, say, a giant saltwater fish tank that will cool and kill fish in short order), then consider interlock kits from Siemens that allow for easy manual switching.
2. Consider Fuel Types
Naturally, backup generators don’t run on electricity – they’re a contingency for when the power goes out. While you can find solar powered home generator backups, and they could work fine in areas that get plenty of sunlight, the majority of generators run on some kind of fuel, such as gas, propane, or diesel. Which type should you pick?
Probably the most convenient fuel source is propane, because it is contained to canisters that are safe to use and that you can easily swap out. You can also safely store them and when they are empty, take them to a local gas station or hardware store for a refill. However, there may be restrictions on propane in your municipality, so it’s best to check local codes (or simply ask a salesperson) before you install a propane-fueled generator.
As for gas and diesel options, you may find them more cost-effective (especially diesel), but less convenient. While you can probably find gas stations that sell both types of fuel within fairly close proximity to your home, the larger problem is storing fuel on-site. This can be a dangerous proposition. In addition, refueling could be a messy affair. You need to understand the pros and cons associated with various fuel sources before making a decision.
3. Plan for Placement
Where are you going to put your backup generator? Whether you have room in your basement or garage or you plan to create a concrete pad and a storage shed outdoors, the intended placement of your generator could definitely play a role in the model and the features you ultimately choose, not to mention the size of the unit. Keep in mind that you may need to comply with city codes when it comes to placement, so you should check these or contract with a licensed installer that already knows the rules.
4. What Next?
When choosing your standby generator, it’s important to look beyond the initial purchase. A generator is a piece of machinery, and it will require regular maintenance if you want it to continue working properly. Just imagine what might happen if you let your car sit idle for a year or more and then tried to fire it up. Without proper inspection and maintenance, the engine could seize, or you might find that rodents have chewed through electrical wiring or fuel lines.
You also need to read and understand the warranty, just in case anything goes wrong. You want to make sure you’re covered, but also that you meet the warranty requirements (which may include regularly scheduled maintenance, for example). This will ensure the best possible experience when you purchase your home generator, and for many years to come.