With all the PG&E outage buzz, I’m concerned people are going to make quick decisions without a good knowledge base. Who would think people would suddenly need to know all about generators? Here are basic generator concepts you should understand:
There are two basic types of generator engines; air-cooled (typically up to size 20kW) and liquid-cooled (typically above 20kW). Generators burn oil and just like a car, it is important that oil levels are checked. In long outages, the smaller, air-cooled units need to have oil levels checked every day of run time.
1. Noise. Thank goodness there are noise regulations for backup home generators. Most of us remember those noisy generators on campers that parked next to us in camp sites – automatic, home standby systems have come a long way and are so much quieter!
2. Home backup generators are typically natural gas or propane. Larger units may be diesel. Small portables may be gasoline (please note Leete does not sell portable generators, battery packs, or units under 14 kW).
3. Cost. $6000 is a starting point for an automatic system. Like buying a car, cost/quality can vary greatly – some industrial units cost over $100,000.
4. You don’t just ‘plug it in’. Typical applications require installation from an electrician before the generator is started. Depending upon the age of the home, location of generator, electrical panels, a small home standby installation runs from $6000-$9000. This is a small construction project, so we recommend people budget for $14,000 for an air-cooled automatic system. Building code and permits may apply.
5. Room. A big challenge is having room to place a generator. Do you have a small side yard? There are new units with 18″ setbacks which is great for small yards. Minimally you need a side yard that is approximately 94″ to fit a 14 kW or 20 kW generator. Kohler has a nice load calculator you can utilize to figure out what size generator you may need.
6. Carbon monoxide. Odorless and deadly. Essential you understand the risks.
7. Loads. What do you want to run on your generator? Just your lights and a few items? A small generator or battery pack might be OK for a few hours of support. Inductive/heavy loads are key to calculations (pumps, air conditioners, hot tubs, car chargers) and need heavier kW support to handle the initial surge.
8. Auto or Manual. Auto= An automatic transfer switch takes care of power outages with little interruption (you might not even notice there was an outage, when the outage is over, it will automatically transfer you back to utility power). Manual system = You have to go turn on the generator in a power outage.
9. Warranty. You need to understand that without a professional start-up your warranty may begin at the shipment date (which can be months before it reaches your site) and you can loose months of warranty coverage.
10. Air Permits: Above 50 horse power (approx. 30 kW), there are air regulations through Bay Area Air Quality Management District and other air boards.
Already own an automatic home standby generator?
-Essential that you verify you generator is exercising on its set schedule.
-Do you know how to turn it off/on/manual/auto? Remember, after an outage, a generator may continue to run for 15 minutes in a cool down cycle.
-Do you know how to clear a simple fault?
-Read your manual to understand oil change schedule, faults, etc. Keep generator clear of yard debris. Rodent damage is common, keep unit clean.
***Due to heavy call volume, please see blog post “Reservations Recommended”.