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Peterman Brothers A Homeowners Guide To Generators-Blog-Header-Image

A Homeowners Guide to Generators

If you’ve been thinking about getting a generator for your home, it can be overwhelming with all the options and technical jargon out there. This guide is designed to simplify that process, providing you with a clear and concise overview of everything you need to know about whole home generators.  In this article, we’ll explore several key aspects to help you make an informed decision about generators for your home. Here’s what we’ll cover:
  1. Understanding Whole-Home Generators
  2. The Importance of Having a Whole-Home Generator
  3. Different Types of Whole-Home Generators
  4. Determining the Right Size Generator for Your Home
  5. Generator Fuel Types and Efficiency
  6. The Installation and Placement of Generators
  7. Operation and Maintenance Tips
  8. Home Generator Cost Analysis
  9. Essential Safety Precautions
  10. Legal and Insurance Considerations
  11. Choosing the Right Generator for Your Home
  12. Final Recommendations and Considerations

What is a Whole-Home Generator?

A whole home generator, or standby generator, is a backup electrical system that operates automatically during a power outage. These generators provide an instant power supply to your home’s electrical circuit breaker box, ensuring a seamless transition during a power loss. Their primary purpose is to maintain critical appliances like refrigerators, air conditioners, and heating systems operational, providing comfort and safety in your home during emergencies.

Importance of Having a Whole-Home Generator

In regions prone to severe weather or frequent power outages, a whole-home generator is not just a convenience but a necessity. It safeguards against food spoilage, maintains essential medical equipment, and ensures continuous heating or cooling. Additionally, these generators add value to the property. They can be a lifeline for remote homes where power outages are more than an inconvenience, often posing significant risks.

Types of Whole-Home Generators

Standby Generators

Standby generators are permanent installations that power your entire home. They are typically connected to a natural gas line or large propane tank and start automatically during a power outage. Standby generators are ideal for homes with frequent, prolonged power outages. They are designed to handle a heavy load for extended periods.

Portable Generators

Portable generators, while not intended to power an entire house, can be a budget-friendly alternative. They run on gasoline or propane and provide electricity to essential appliances through extension cords. These generators require manual operation and are best suited for temporary power solutions during short-term outages.

What Size Generator do I need?

Assessing Your Home’s Power Needs

Before purchasing a generator, it’s essential to understand your home’s energy requirements. This involves listing all the appliances and systems you need to keep running during an outage and noting their wattage requirements. Items like refrigerators, sump pumps, and HVAC systems should be prioritized.

How to Calculate Required Generator Size

To determine the generator size needed, add the total wattage of all the appliances and devices you plan to run simultaneously. It’s crucial to consider both the starting wattage (the initial surge of power required to start an appliance) and the running wattage. A generator’s size is typically measured in kilowatts (kW), and the total wattage of your appliances will guide you in selecting a generator with the appropriate capacity.

Generator Fuel Types and Efficiency

Gasoline Generators

Gasoline generators are widely popular due to their availability and ease of refueling. These generators are generally more affordable and are ideal for short-term use during temporary power outages. However, gasoline has a shorter shelf life compared to other fuels, which can be a limitation for long-term storage. Gasoline generators also tend to be less fuel-efficient and might require more frequent refueling during extended use. They are a good choice for those needing a portable and easy-to-operate power solution in situations where fuel availability is not an issue.

Diesel Generators

Diesel generators are known for their fuel efficiency and longer running times, making them suitable for extended power outages. Diesel fuel has a longer shelf life than gasoline, which is advantageous for storage and preparedness. These generators are often more durable and can handle heavier workloads. However, diesel generators can be more expensive upfront and are generally larger and noisier, which might be a consideration in residential settings. Their efficiency and reliability make them a preferred choice for situations requiring a more robust and long-lasting power solution.

Propane Generators

Propane generators are a popular choice for residential backup power due to their clean-burning nature and efficient operation. Propane has a significant advantage in terms of storage, as it can be stored indefinitely without degradation, making it ideal for emergency preparedness. Propane generators are also known for their quiet operation and generally produce fewer emissions compared to gasoline and diesel generators. They require a propane tank, which means you’ll need adequate space for safe storage. These generators are suitable for those who prefer a balance between eco-friendliness and convenience, as propane is readily available and easy to store.

Natural Gas Generators

Natural gas generators offer the convenience of a continuous fuel supply, particularly advantageous for those connected to a municipal gas line. This eliminates the need for manual refueling, making them a low-maintenance option for home backup power. Natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline or diesel, resulting in fewer emissions and making it an environmentally friendly choice. The initial installation may require professional assistance to connect to the gas line, which can be a consideration in terms of cost and feasibility. These generators are ideal for homeowners seeking a reliable, eco-friendly, and virtually maintenance-free emergency power solution, with the added benefit of an uninterrupted fuel supply.

Installation and Placement For Your Generator

Professional Installation vs DIY

Installing a whole home generator differs from a typical DIY project due to its complexity and the need to adhere to safety standards and local building codes. Professional installation ensures the generator is correctly connected to your home’s electrical system and fuel supply. It also guarantees that the installation complies with local codes, which might include specific requirements for distance from the house, noise ordinances, and exhaust systems.

Safety Regulations and Local Codes

Adhering to local building and safety codes is crucial when installing a whole home generator. These regulations vary by location and can include specifications for the placement of the generator to ensure it’s away from windows and doors to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.  Additionally, there might be requirements for soundproofing, especially in residential areas, to minimize noise pollution. Hiring a certified electrician or contractor familiar with these codes is essential for a safe and compliant installation.

Operation and Maintenance of Your Generator

How to Operate Your Home Generator

Operating a whole home generator typically involves ensuring it’s in ‘auto’ mode, allowing it to start automatically during a power outage. For portable generators, operation involves manually starting the generator and connecting it to the essential appliances. It’s crucial to read and understand the manufacturer’s instructions thoroughly for safe operation and to ensure you’re familiar with the generator’s features and limitations.

Monitoring Your Generator’s Status

Modern whole-home generators often come with the ability to monitor their status via smartphone apps or web portals. This technology allows homeowners to remotely check their generator’s performance, fuel levels, and maintenance needs, ensuring they are always prepared and informed.

Routine Maintenance Checks

Regular maintenance is vital to ensuring the longevity and reliability of your generator. This includes checking oil levels, replacing air and fuel filters, and ensuring the battery is charged. It’s also essential to run the generator periodically to make sure it’s in good working order. For standby generators, it’s recommended to have a professional service inspection at least once a year.

Home Generator Cost Analysis

Initial costs of home generators vary by size and type. Installation requires professional work, representing a significant initial investment. Still, these costs are easily justified by the benefits and convenience during stressful power outages. Operational costs include fuel consumption, maintenance, and repair. Costs vary depending on generator type and usage frequency. Standby generators generally incur lower operating costs due to their efficiency and fuel type.  Some insurers offer premium discounts for homes with backup generators, reducing damage risks from power outages. Additionally, a home generator can increase property value, an essential factor in the overall cost-benefit analysis of installation.

Safety Precautions

Safety Measures During Use

Safety should be your top priority when operating a generator. Always place portable generators outside and away from windows, doors, and vents to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Ensure the generator is placed on a flat surface to prevent tipping. Never refuel a hot or running generator, which can lead to fires or explosions. Also, use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords to connect appliances.

Emergency Protocols

In case of an emergency, such as a fire or carbon monoxide alarm, it’s crucial to have a plan in place. This includes knowing how to quickly and safely shut down your generator and evacuate if needed.  Install carbon monoxide detectors in your home to monitor levels, especially when the generator is running. Regularly review and practice your emergency plan with all household members.

Permits and Legal Requirements

Before installing a whole home generator, it’s important to understand the local legal requirements. This may include obtaining permits or adhering to specific installation codes.  Failure to comply with these regulations can result in fines or legal complications. Additionally, improperly installed generators can pose safety hazards.

Impact on Home Insurance and Warranties

Installing a generator can affect your home insurance policy. Some insurers require notification of such installations and may adjust your coverage or premiums accordingly. On the other hand, a properly installed generator can also be seen as a home improvement, potentially lowering insurance costs. Ensure that your generator comes with a warranty, and understand what it covers to protect your investment.

Choosing the Right Generator for Your Home

Factors to Consider When Buying

Selecting the right generator involves considering factors like power capacity, fuel type, noise level, and cost. Assess your home’s power needs to determine the appropriate size. Consider the fuel availability in your area and the generator’s efficiency.  Noise level is an essential consideration for residential areas. Lastly, weigh the initial cost against long-term benefits and maintenance expenses.

The Brand We Trust Our Customers With

We are proud to install the Cummins line of generators. Their impressive patent record highlights Cummins’ commitment to innovation in product development. This level of innovation reflects their commitment to quality and reliability in their products. Cummins’ generators, in particular, are known for their durability and efficiency, making them a preferred choice in various industries, including residential power generation. Their generators are designed to meet diverse needs, offering multiple power solutions for different applications.

Final Thoughts

Summarizing the Importance of Whole Home Generators

Home generators provide peace of mind and security during power outages. They ensure the continuous operation of essential appliances and systems, protecting against potential damages and inconveniences. The right generator can be valuable, offering functional benefits and increased property value.

Final Recommendations for Homeowners

As a homeowner, investing in a whole home generator requires careful consideration and planning. Evaluate your specific needs, conduct thorough research, and consult with professionals Remember to prioritize safety, comply with legal requirements, and perform regular maintenance. With the right approach, a whole-home generator can be a dependable and valuable addition to your home.
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