Frequently Asked Questions
What size generator do I need?
Generator sizing depends on a number of factors. The size of the home, the number of appliances, the number and type of air conditioning units all figure in. Although total connected load is used to calculate the size of the generator, the starting current of any motors must be considered. If a family can place limits on what loads are deemed necessary, a smaller generator may meet their needs. A generator sizing calculator can be found here: http://www.powertohomes.com/estimate-power-needs
What is the purpose of a transfer switch?
The transfer switch serves to isolate the utility power from the generator power. In most systems, the transfer switch monitors the utility power and when it senses a problem, it signals the generator to start and then switches the loads from the house to generator power.
What type of fuel does the generator use?
Most home systems use natural gas or propane. These sources provide an abundant supply of fuel without the risk of re-fueling. Some large home systems operate on diesel fuel. Purchase price and maintenance costs are greater with these systems, however the increased power and long life of these units make them a good choice in some instances.
How large is the generator?
A typical home generator is slightly larger than the A/C unit that is currently outside your home. The units have been designed to blend into the home's decor.
How loud is the generator?
Stand-by generators are designed to provide quiet power in neighborhoods. The sound can be slightly louder than the typical air conditioner. Often, in the home a quite hum is all that is heard.
Can I install the system myself?
We suggest that you consider carefully who installs your system. Many do-it-your-selfers have successfully installed a generator system. Installing a home generator encompasses a number of different tasks. Electrical wiring, gas piping, moving heavy equipment and doing a thorough start-up is a part of most installations. Most municipalities have code and licensing requirements that must be followed. The investment that you have made is best protected by installation and start-up that meets the manufacturers requirements.
Can I maintain the system myself?
The engine of the stand-by generator is similar to the engine in other equipment you may be familiar with. Regular maintenance is required to achieve the performance and life that was intended by the manufacturer. Some things are pretty straight-forward and intuitive for mechanically-inclined persons. However some important differences require that maintenance procedures be modified. Also, the alternator and transfer switch have specific maintenance tasks required to ensure a properly operating system. These differences offer compelling reasons to have maintenance performed by factory-trained personnel.
Why should I buy an automatic standby generator instead of a portable generator?
During a utility power outage, an automatic standby generator provides numerous advantages over a portable generator:
- The American Red Cross recommends permanently installed standby generators as a safer way to provide backup power to a home than a portable generator.
- With an automatic standby generator properly installed outside, your home is protected from deadly carbon monoxide poisoning that is a much greater risk with portable generators.
- Running on the home’s natural gas or LP fuel supply, it is less expensive to run than gasoline and does not need to be refilled.
- They start automatically within seconds of a power outage, and eliminate the need to haul a portable generator outside or run extension cords throughout your home.
- They provide protection 24/7, whether you’re home or away, and they turn themselves off when utility power returns, so there is no need to monitor the unit during an outage.
Do we need an emergency generator?
That depends on the type of facility being discussed. A manufacturing facility may choose to install a generator to protect equipment that would be damaged by a power outage. A data center will have a generator to protect critical processes and data. A hospital is required to have a generator to protect life.
The National Electrical Code (NEC) describes three types of systems: Emergency power systems (Art. 700) are at the top of the hierarchy of backup power systems. Legally required standby systems, which fall under Art. 701, hold the No. 2 spot. Optional standby systems (Art. 702) are third in the pecking order. Basically, their level of importance corresponds to the order in which they appear in the NEC.
Can maintenance be performed by our staff?
Many maintenance tasks can be performed by skilled in-house personnel. Some specialized tasks require training and tools that may not be available in house. In these cases often a hybrid solution makes sense; use employees for frequent, routine tasks and contract with factory-trained service providers for critical services. If your facility has an Emergency or legally-required stand-by-power system, there are specific requirements for maintenance that must be followed to comply with government regulations.
Is maintenance required for transfer switches and the electrical distribution equipment?
Yes, transfer switches should be inspected annually to identify issues that will affect long-term operation. Wire terminations, contact condition, free movement of the mechanism and general condition of the enclosure are check points. Infrared thermal imaging can identify potential overheating of terminations and bus connections.
Is load-bank testing required?
Load-bank testing puts the generator system under optimum operational load. It verifies that the system can carry the load when it is needed. For diesel engines, load bank testing plays an important role in keeping the generator in operating condition. Depending on the connected building load, the diesel engine my not achieve correct operating temperature. Over time, this condition, known as “wet stacking” can damage the engine. So, for units that are lightly loaded, the load bank must be used to load the generator to reach operating temperature.