What You Need to Know about Standby Generators

20 Nov 2020 Licensed Electrician

Power outages can be a nuisance during any season, and they are exceptionally common during winter in British Columbia’s Lower Mainland. At Expert Electric, we know that power outages often last longer than they should, sometimes leaving homes without power for days on end. Our experienced team of licensed electricians have been offering standby generator installations for many years and we can help to keep your home powered in the occurrence of an unforeseen power outage. Whether you own a business that needs to be able to continue operations or are a homeowner looking to stay warm during winter outages, the team from Expert Electric can tell you everything you need to know about standby generators.

What is a Standby Generator?

Unlike portable generators, standby generators can provide an uninterrupted backup power supply for days. This is because it is connected directly into your home’s electrical panel and powered by an essential fuel supply (natural gas, liquid propane, or diesel). When power to a home or business is lost, the generator can be turned on to create a new source of electricity. Depending on how the generator is installed, this transition can be made automatic so the generator will take over seamlessly when power is lost. While portable generators can typically be stored, most standby generators are permanently positioned on a concrete pad outside of the home or business.

When the power comes back on, the switch will shut down the generator and reconnect the home or business to the grid. This seamless operation makes home standby generators ideal for families with small children, farms or businesses with refrigeration units, or facilities requiring uninterrupted use of electric-powered medical equipment. The transfer switch also acts as a safety mechanism by preventing back-feeding electricity to the grid, which could potentially start a fire or harm utility workers.

Benefits of Standby Generators for Businesses

Downtime caused by a power outage can hurt any type of business, especially if a business depends on electricity for its main operations. An office full of workers with computers that do not turn on or a gas station that cannot pump gas will suffer greatly in a large power outage without backup generators. During winter months, larger power outages can be expected in the Lower Mainland, and smaller outages tend to occur throughout the year. These can be disruptive to businesses at best and a major hinderance or cause for businesses to shut down at worst.

Benefits of Standby Generators for Homes

Most homes and families have become dependent on electricity to function. Electricity plays a large role in the heating of most spaces, and many homes depend on electricity in order to cook food and heat water needed for vital functions. Electricity is also a major player in comfort and entertainment systems. Without electricity, most food in refrigerators and freezers will spoil. Although it is possible to light a house using candles and battery-operated lighting, batteries run out of power eventually and candles are a major fire hazard, especially in homes with children. Backup generators are especially useful in homes that house seniors or individuals with special medical needs.

Choosing the Right Type of Standby Generator

Standby generators come in a range of different sizes, from the smaller units that can only energize a few circuits at a time to larger units that will comfortably power an entire house, farm, or business. The first step in choosing the right generator is to identify the things that you absolutely cannot live or work without during a power outage. Usually items high on the list for homes would be the fridge and freezer, furnace fan, heating, a couple of outlets to charge phones and other emergency devices, and some lighting. Homes farther away from city centres might also require well pumps and other systems. For businesses, this would include any electrical systems vital to daily operations.

Once you have identified these items, a licensed electrician, like the ones at Expert Electric, can help determine which type and size of generator is best. The number of systems that require electricity and the size of electrical load required by each system to operate will influence the type of generator that needs to be installed.

Standby Emergency Generator Installations

While portable generators can be operated by anybody, larger standby generators typically need to be installed by a licensed electrician. These generators need to be properly plugged into the building’s electrical panel and, if set up improperly, they can cause injury or death to those installing the generator or benefiting from the generator’s use, as well as utility workers on the electrical network.

Maintaining Your Home Standby Generator

In order to ensure that your home standby generator functions properly, it is important to make sure that it is properly maintained. A generator can stay healthy through a lifetime of outages as long as it is properly maintained. Some maintenance tips for standby generators include:

  • Check and maintain engine oil daily during its use
  • Run it at no more than 75% of its rated capacity
  • Replace overworked or deformed motor brushes regularly
  • Avoid starting or stopping it under load whenever possible

If you would like to find out more information about standby generators or to learn more about our suite of electrical services, make sure to contact the licensed electricians at Expert Electric and we can help you to find the answers you are looking for.