Avoid the Hassles and Damage of a Power Outage
December 2, 2015
Imagine your home without the electrical systems that you rely on. No heat, no lights, no internet connection, no television. You cannot charge your cell phone or laptop. If your water is supplied by a well, the well pump will no longer work, meaning running showers and flushing toilets are not possible. Your home’s sump pump will not work so your basement is vulnerable to flooding. Then there are the safety and security issues. If not sufficiently backed up, your burglar and fire alarms may not function.
Having the right automatic generator installed can help you avoid the hassles of a power outage – and the resulting damage.
Following are a few pointers to help you through the selection and installation of an automatic generator.
Selecting a Generator
Q: Where do I start?
A: First and foremost, a PURE Member Advocate® can personally assist you in the process of selecting a permanently installed automatic generator - from answering questions to helping you identify which model is right for your home and family’s needs. A Member Advocate may also assist in expediting the process. For some members, the wait time was shortened from several weeks to just a few days.
Q: Why are automatic generators a better option than portable models?
A: During a power outage, an automatic generator provides numerous advantages over a portable generator.
- They are safer. The risk of carbon monoxide poisoning is high with small gas-powered portable generators. Permanently installed units are situated outside of the home and powered by natural gas or liquid petroleum.
- They cost less to operate. They run on your home’s natural gas or a liquid propane fuel supply.
- They start and stop automatically. Within seconds of a power failure, the permanently installed generator will begin supplying power directly to your home’s electrical circuit breaker box. Once power is restored, the generator shuts down.
Q: What size is right for my home?
A: The most logical way to determine your needs is to envision your home without power. Outages can last for days or even weeks. What would your family miss if an extended outage were to occur? To begin:
- Identify a list of all appliances that you would want to power during an extended outage. You can support just a few critical household appliances, your whole home, or anything in between.
- Know the number of circuits required by each appliance. Most common household appliances require either one or two circuits — an air conditioner for example, typically needs two, while a sump pump or furnace each require one.
- Determine how many appliances you will operate at the same time. This will tell you how many circuits you need to support. Note that some appliances have a higher wattage requirement for startup than for sustained usage.
- When selecting your generator, consider future wattage needs. We suggest selecting a model that will allow you to add additional circuits; otherwise, you will have to replace the whole unit if your power needs grow.
Q: How much do automatic generators cost?
A: Cost varies depending on the wattage requirements and other features. Small, mid-sized and large models are available.
- Small (7-10 kW) will power a few basic household appliances. Costs range from $1,850 to $4,000.
- Mid-size (12-20 kW) is a good option if you intend to support a heating or cooling system. Costs range from $4,000 to $10,000.
- Large (22-45 kW) will allow you to power your entire home. The cost of a whole-home unit typically starts at $9,000.
In the unfortunate instance that you suffer a large loss resulting from a power outage, PURE will contribute up to $2,500 towards the cost of your new automatic generator. In addition, PURE members may be eligible for a discount on their homeowner’s premium simply by having an automatic generator in place.
Q: Are there quiet models that wont disturb my family and neighbors?
A: Yes. Newer models are equipped with sound-reducing covers and operate at fewer decibels than a lawnmower. By code, generators must be placed a minimum of five feet away from household openings and are usually placed away from other nearby homes, reducing the possibility of disturbance.
Installing and Powering a Generator
Q: When is the best time of year to install a permanent generator?
A: Smaller units can typically be installed at any time of year but larger units (20kw & up) can present a challenge to installers if the ground is frozen. These larger units will sometimes require that a trench be dug or a concrete pad be poured. Some installers can get around this if they have equipment to thaw the ground.
Q. Do I need a permit? If so, how do I procure one?
A: Permits are required in nearly all locales and are procured through your town's Building Department or equivalent municipality. Often times, your installer will obtain the necessary permits on your behalf. The turnaround time for a permit could be up to 4 weeks or longer if a significant weather event recently occured.
Q: What is the general timeline for the installation of a permanent generator?
A: The process from ordering to installation usually take 3-4 weeks, but if the dealer is especially busy or if there is an extreme weather emergency, allow 6-8 weeks. The actual installation of the unit itself may only take 1-2 days.
Q: Where should I place my generator?
A: Your dealer will know what local codes are in place for the installation and can offer additional advice. In general:
- Place generators close to existing electrical panels and fuel sources. This is most economical and provides easy access to your source of fuel.
- Place generators outside. Ensure that they are a safe distance away from your home and it's openings to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Some generators can be placed in a trench where landscaping can be planted around the unit for aesthetics. Landscaping should be at least 5 feet away from the exhaust to allow for proper air flow.
- Raise units above water elevation. If the generator is to be placed in an area that floods, the unit should be raised above the high water elevation.
Q: I don’t have a fuel supply in place. How will I power a permanently installed generator?
A: Automatic generators can run on natural gas or liquid propane. A licensed specialist can help facilitate the installation of the fuel supply as well as the generator.
Q: Liquid Propane or Natural Gas – what are the advantages/disadvantages of each?
A: If you have a natural gas line already running to your home and you can place the unit nearby, it will lessen the installation cost. At present, natural gas costs less than propane and provides an endless fuel source unless the utility needs to shut off the gas. Liquid propane enables your generator to provide a slight power advantage (a 20kw unit may be listed as an 18kw if it is powered by natural gas), but we have seen propane shortages in some regions. On the flip side, however, if authorities have shut down natural gas service, a propane fueled generator will continue to operate until the propane runs out.
Q: Other than my installer, what other contractors will be required?
A: An electrician will need to connect the generator to the electrical panel and a propane or natural gas provider will need to connect it to a fuel source. Your installer will make all of the necessary arrangements.
Q: What can I expect during the installation?
A: A licensed specialist should be able to complete the installation within 1-2 days. The generator is either placed atop a crushed gravel base or a prefabricated plastic or concrete pad (depends on size and weight). The wiring is done between the generator panel and the main panel for the home. As long as the generator is installed near the fuel supply and electric supply, the process should be quick.
Q: How long will an automatic generator run?
A: If properly maintained, your generator will keep running as long as its fuel supply remains uninterrupted.
If you have any additional questions about selecting or installing an automatic generator, please contact a Member Advocate at firstname.lastname@example.org or 888.813.7873.