With all the PG&E outage buzz, I’m concerned people are going to make quick decisions without a good knowledge base. Here are basic generator concepts you should understand:
1. Noise. Thank goodness there are noise regulations for backup home generators. Believe it or not, a very popular home backup generator is too loud for Bay Area applications.
2. Fuel types. Home backup generators are typically natural gas or propane. Larger units may be diesel. Small portables may be gasoline.
3. Cost. A small automatic home standby system cost a minimum of $6000.00. Like buying a car, cost/quality can vary greatly.
4. You don’t just ‘plug it in’. Typical applications require installation from an electrician before the generator is hooked up. Typically, a small home standby installation runs from $6000-$9000. So we recommend people budget for $14,000.
5. Room. A big challenge, especially in San Francisco, is having room to place a generator. Generators are typically bolted to a concrete pad on the side of a house with specific set-back rules.
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?
-Do you know how to clear a simple fault?
-Do you know how to change your battery? Keep generator clear of yard debris. Rodent damage is common, keep unit clean.