In recent years, extreme weather conditions across the nation have proved to us that at any time, thousands in an area can be without electricity, for days at a time. From the hurricanes in the southern coastal regions, to the ice storms in the northern states, and flooding in between, pretty much anyone can be affected by power outages due to extreme weather.
How would your daily life be affected if you lost power for a few days? Do you have a basement that would flood when your pump lost power? Wouldn’t most of the food in your refrigerator and freezer go bad? If it were really hot or cold out, how comfortable would your family be? These days, we are dependent on electricity in our daily lives, and a loss of it for even a single day could mean a great deal of inconveniences to your routine.
Many homeowners choose to protect themselves with a backup power source. A whole house generator, also known as a standby generator, switches on as your home’s power source when it recognizes an absence in utility-fed power. It typically takes less than 30 seconds for the whole house generator to startup, and you do not have to be home when it happens. The only thing you might have to do is reset your digital clocks, and go on with your life.
To figure out what size your whole house generator needs to be, you’ll need to decide which devices in your home you’ll want to power during an outage, and what their startup and running power requirements are. This is an important step, and there are two ways to do it.
One way is to have an electrician come out and measure all your appliances and circuits. This is the recommended way to do it, because if you under-measure, you risk overheating the whole house generator and doing damage to your electrical system, and if you over-measure you will waste money on the initial purchase cost of your whole house generator unit.
It is also possible to measure your wattage requirements yourself. With a little investigating you can find out the start-up and running power requirements of your appliances. One thing you might be tempted to do is use one of the many wattage calculators found on the internet. If you decide to go this route, proceed with caution. The wattage amounts for the listed appliances in these calculators are just estimates, and every appliance and every home is different. Wattage calculators also don’t take into account that not all appliances that you will be running off your whole house generator will run simultaneously; the usage for many appliances fluctuates. Also, when you are considering a whole house generator system, the wattage requirements of an individual light bulb is insignificant compared to the other, larger appliances and circuits.
Remember that the safest, most accurate way to determine what size whole house generator you need is to have an electrician do the measuring. But if you decide to take on the task yourself, use the online calculators just to get a rough estimate.
To read more about generator size, checkout our generator buyer's guide.
For a whole house generator, your best bet for fuel source will either be natural gas or propane, whichever is available in your area. Diesel generators are more rugged; they are louder and require delivery and storage of diesel fuel, and are therefore better suited for industrial applications rather than residential. And as gasoline-fueled generators are usually the portable type, they are not typically used to power an entire household. (To read more about the different fuel types, check out our generator buyer's guide.) But a whole house generator set powered by natural gas or propane is permanently installed outside of your home and is hooked up to your utility gas lines, so you don’t have to bother with refueling the unit or fuel storage.
If you wind up choosing a natural gas powered generator, here is a timesaving tip that can keep you from having to backtrack during the installation process: make sure to check the unit’s required gas pressure and call your gas utility company to verify that that amount is available to your home. Some higher-power whole house generator models will occasionally require more than the standard delivery pressure available to your home. If this is the case with your whole house generator set, you will need to have an additional high pressure gas meter installed by the gas company. They do this often; it will just be a lot more convenient to have it done before your generator dealer shows up to install.
Homeowners should not attempt to install a whole house generator system on their own. It should be done by a licensed professional. The amount of time it takes to complete the installation process is relatively short. The professional installer can have it finished in one or two visits to your home. A few things to consider though are:
Hopefully these tips will help you in your whole house generator endeavors. If you are ready to receive free quotes from up to five reputable vendors, fill out our simple form here.