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Alternative Power Home Emergency Generators

"Severe weather along with the frequent unreliability of utility providers is a concern for homeowners who rely on a steady source of power."

Power Outages: How Can Homeowners Prepare?

Website: http://www.aracontent.com/

(ARA) - When tropical storm Isabel swept through the East Coast in September, it left widespread flooding, countless downed trees and 6 million people without power. Everything ground to a halt: of those homes and businesses affected, most were without any electrical power for days, rather than just hours.

"We had to throw out all the food in the refrigerator," says Kathryn Meany of Alexandria, Va., who lost power for 51 hours. "We relied on a lot of candles and I used my camping headlamp in the evenings."

Meany was luckier than many others, who lost power for longer stretches. Don Weber of Williamsburg, Va. was without electricity for eight straight days. Luckily he had an alternative: earlier in the year he had installed a Kohler residential emergency generator system.

"I work out of my home, and I wanted the security of a reliable power source," says Weber, who also wanted to be sure his home would not lose power when the family was away on vacation.

"With all the recent weather-related disasters, I saw it as a way to protect my family and our home," he adds. The only resident in the neighborhood with a power source after Isabel blew through, Weber was popular with the neighbors: "I took in as much food as I could, placing the neighbors' food in my refrigerator and freezer."

Severe weather along with the frequent unreliability of utility providers is a concern for homeowners who rely on a steady source of power. From computers, to electric water and sewage pumps to the radio and television -- there are so many things that most of us take for granted and can hardly function without.

A permanently installed residential generator can help protect homeowners and their property from an unexpected loss of power. "What homeowners appreciate about permanently installed, automatic home generators is the peace of mind and convenience. Automatic home generators run on natural gas or LP," says Mark Repp, of Kohler Power Systems, a division of Kohler Co. "During the recent power outages, those with a portable generator couldn't always use it because the gas stations were closed, and therefore couldn't fill their generators with gasoline."

Portable generators require someone present to manually start the unit. Extension cords are also necessary and someone needs to continually refuel the generator with gasoline.

The permanently installed generator system starts within 10 seconds of a power outage, automatically powering critical systems in the home. The homeowner need not be present. About the size of a typical air conditioner, the generator system is installed outside the house, enclosed within a special housing unit to filter engine noise and provide protection from the elements.

Repp offers the following suggestions for what to consider when selecting a generator for the home:

  • Identify what in the home should be powered during an outage and the size of the house. This will help determine what size generator system is appropriate. The homeowner can pre-select which critical systems in the home will receive electricity during an outage. This might include lights, refrigerator, furnace, sump pump, water heater, computer, and any medical equipment. Homeowners seeking this type of backup system should consider a generator in the 8.5kW to 17kW range.
  • A generator should have an industrial-grade engine that will allow it to operate non-stop for extended periods of time. Most portable generators do not have powerful enough engines and will only support one or two small appliances for a short period of time.
  • The system should monitor the home's incoming utility power and come online automatically during an interruption, even if the owner is not home. The brain behind an automatic generator is the automatic transfer switch, which continually monitors the utility power for interruption. If utility power fails, the transfer switch automatically starts the generator, transfers the electrical loads and restores the electricity to the home.
  • When the utility power resumes, the automatic transfer switch reverses the process. It returns the electrical load to the utility source, shuts down the generator and resumes monitoring.
  • Consider what fuel source your generator will need. Ideally, a residential system will run on natural gas or LP, which are inexpensive and can be conveniently piped directly to the unit. Most permanently installed generators run on the same fuel supply as the home's other gas appliances, eliminating the need to continually add fuel to run the generator.

All generators require ventilation to operate properly -- they produce exhaust, which requires that they be used outdoors. Portable generators produce smoke, heat and noise, not to mention carbon monoxide, and should never be used in a garage.

Weber found that with his residential generator he was able to use most of his major appliances without a problem. He was even able to continue to light the decorative single candles in his windows, a Williamsburg tradition. "Everyone gave me grief about that," he added.

Note: This article was submitted by a second party and the contents are subject to our disclaimer.

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