• Powering Your Home Through Storm Outages

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    Powering Your Home Through Storm Outages
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    Powering your home through storm outages

    After such a cruel winter and a July tropical storm whose winds gusted above 60 miles per hour, thoughts of a generator may be very much on your mind.

    If so, what is the best option for your home? A portable generator? A stationary one?

    What fuel is best? Gasoline? Diesel? Natural Gas? LPG?

    How much money should you spend? $400 or $4,000 and more?

    Why do you truly want or need a generator? To keep your refrigerator running and not have to throw away hundreds of dollars of food? To protect your computer’s data and let you continue working during a storm? To keep your sump pump or well pump operating?

    First, here is a quick description of the two basic choices: portable and automatic standby:

    Portables are more for short-term use. You will have to refuel the tank several times a day if they run continuously. They may not support more than a few select appliances and may not have the power to maintain critical pumps and larger loads.

    You must consider where to store the generator safely and where to run the generator safely know how to manually start it in an outage situation. Sometimes, you can connect a portable generator to an external fuel source such as propane or natural gas, but if this is the case, it’s probably time for you to consider the long-term benefits of a stationary or automatic standby system.

    Standby stationary systems must be hooked up to an external fuel source such as your natural gas line or propane. Like your central air conditioning, it starts automatically via signal from the automatic transfer switch or even remotely with a tablet or smart phone.

    Automatic systems have an auto transfer switch, that sense a power outage, isolate your electrical wiring or designated emergency circuits from the grid, and start the generator to run those loads. When electricity is restored, your system will connect back to the utility lines and turn itself off, whether you are at home or not.

    Standby systems, can provide more power than portable ones. While a portable generator will provide on average 4,000 watts for as little as $400, a standby system can support thousands of kilowatts to support your entire home for an extended period.

    The downside: cost not only of the unit, but of the installation. A modest installation could cost $6,000 to $12,000. On average, a modest home with a 4-ton central air conditioning system probably will require upwards of a 20Kw or greater. Isolating necessity circuits can reduce size and cost.

    Is there a return on investment? If your sump pump is disabled during flooding, yes. If your pipes freeze, yes. If you live full time hundreds of miles from the Cape, yes. If you are concerned that your security system will be disabled for a long period of time, yes.

    “For most homeowners who can afford a whole-house system,” a key consideration is peace of mind,” says Bernadette Braman, co-owner of South Shore Generator Sales & Service in Wareham. “But deciding which generator to install can be overwhelming.” Finding a full service generator provider you can trust to be your expert and walk you through the sales process and then take care of your servicing needs after installation is important.

    She suggests these considerations to her customers:

    • Manufacturer: Not all generators are created equal. Consumer Reports offers reviews, but you also want to look into the features and options available, length of warranty and estimated lifespan.

    • Load: Keep in mind that the more load you typically put on the generator, the larger a unit you will need. Backing up the entire service of a home or office may be an option, but a large electrical load may put you in a higher price bracket than you prefer.

    • Location: Where will you want to locate your generator? Keep in mind that there are codes and clearances that must be met. The National Fire Protection Agency dictates that generators must have a minimum clearance of five feet from combustibles, which includes the siding of a home, decks, fences and even plant life. Site conditions vary and so do some towns’ specific requirements, so local authorities must be consulted when and if there is a question.

    Standby systems are typically mounted to a flat pad similar to air conditioning units and to prevent exhaust gases from entering the house, it must be located away from doors and windows and in a well-ventilated space.

    • Installations: Generators require both gas and electrical connections to complete the system installation. The closer the generator is located to the electrical and fuel connections, the more cost effective your installation. Always rely on licensed electricians and certified vendors. Consider maintenance programs and warranties generators are mechanical equipment and require regular maintenance similar to your car in order to remain in optimum operating condition.

    Bernadette Braman of South Shore Generator Sales & Service can be contacted at 508-295-7336 or at www.ssgen.com

    October 15, 2014