Power outages can occur unexpectedly and for a wide variety of reasons: heavy winds, significant snowfall, and power line accidents to name just a few. An extended power outage is not merely inconvenient, either; it can actually be quite costly. By purchasing a backup generator for your home, you can ensure that you and your family have electrical power when you need it most. But what should you consider when shopping for a backup generator? How can you prepare your home (and yourself) for the day you will actually need a backup generator?
Following are some of the ways that you can ensure that you and your home are prepared for your backup generator:
Determine What Appliances and Systems You Need to Keep Powered
In general, you probably don’t need to plan to keep every light, gadget and appliance in your home powered in the case of an outage. Your refrigerator, furnace, hot water heater and lights in your main living space are probably critical; your television is probably not. Figuring out in advance what your backup generator needs to power during an outage–also known as its load–can help ensure that you choose the right size generator. Skip this step and you may end up with a generator that’s too small, leaving you with some difficult choices to make.
Set Up a Transfer Switch
Backup generators cannot simply be plugged into a wall outlet. Doing so can cause the generator’s electricity to backfeed, or travel from your home to your area’s transformer. In turn, this can seriously injure or kill any utility workers performing repairs. Instead, you must have a generator transfer switch installed in advance. This switch operates by taking your house off the electrical grid when the power is out, allowing your generator to send electricity only to your home and not back into the grid.
When shopping for a standby generator, it is best to go through a certified generator dealer to ensure that a generator transfer switch is properly installed by a licensed electrician prior to generator installation.
Figure Out What Generator Best Meets Your Expected Load and Other Needs
Understanding what your expected load is in the event of a power outage is a key component of choosing the right generator. Other issues may factor into determining what size generator you need as well. Do you live in a rural area that is often cut off from electricity for extended periods of time? Does anyone in your family have at-home medical equipment that must run throughout the day and night? These and other circumstances can dictate the need for a larger capacity generator–or even a standby generator instead.
A standby generator is considered the best way to keep power running to your home in the event of a power outage.
Practice Installing Your Generator in Advance
The worst time to try installing a portable generator for the first time is in the dark after your power has already gone out. Before the need arises, practice installing your generator so that the routine is familiar to you. Periodically testing it out is also important to ensure that it still starts when you need it. Lastly, make sure that you put your generator in a safe but convenient location: a place that is well-ventilated and far enough from your home to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning, but close enough to easily refuel when needed.