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  • “Your company did good work and we will go with you next time we have an electrical project or upgrade to complete in our building.”–Sergio A., Church of Scientology, MN
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Residential Generators

Written by Scott Weingart, NEI Electric-MN

In the United States, over 3.5 million residents lose power each week according to a study from the Electric Power Research Institute. Most items in your home are powered by electricity, think of how inconvenient a power outage would be if it were to last hours or even days. When the power goes out, food can spoil, lights and appliances stop working, computers would crash which could be devastating for a home business, and the temperature of your house could get dangerously cold or hot. When the temperature in a house drops too low for an extended period of time, pipes will freeze and burst causing extensive water damage. During hot, humid weather, the conditions in a house can become dangerous for humans and pets.

Severe weather is the leading cause of power outages and living in the Midwest we deal with these weather extremes quite frequently. A home generator will give you the peace of mind that the items you take for granted and depend on daily will continue to run; keeping you warm or cool and keeping your business operating avoiding lost time and money. There are two options when looking at a home generator; is a portable generator or an automatic stand by generator better for you?

The most economical way to supply power during an outage is by using a portable generator to run previously designated circuits. A licensed electrician can install a transfer switch and panel that connects to the house main electrical panel. When a power outage occurs, a portable generator will need to be manually started and connected with a single power cord to the transfer switch panel. The panel will then distribute power to the identified circuits through a main breaker.

Portable generators are run on gasoline and are also useful for other applications; however, the generator needs to be operated outdoors to avoid dangerous carbon monoxide gases building up in the house. We strongly recommend having carbon monoxide detectors in your home to monitor the levels of this gas which could become present under normal conditions but even more so if a portable generator is in use.

A second option is an automatic stand by generator. This is a more costly route but it provides better overall coverage of your electrical needs. It will provide back up power to your electrical system and operate whether you are at home during the power outage or not; no action is required to initiate the generator to start. The unit monitors utility power and the automatic transfer switch senses an outage. Within seconds of an outage occurring the generator will start and the transfer switch will engage power to your main panel. The transfer switch will sense the return of normal power and re-engage with the utility power, in turn setting the generator into cool down mode and then shutting down. These generators operate on natural gas or liquid propane gas and sit outside your home very similar to an air-conditioning unit.

When selecting a generator it is important to choose the right size. A generator that is too small will not provide enough power to run essential equipment in the home and a power overload could damage the generator and the electrical system. Selecting a generator too large will burn more fuel than needed.

Here are 5 tips to consider when selecting the right generator:

  • Know the size of your home in square feet, this will help estimate the generator size based on daily electrical demand.
  • Identify essential appliances you want to keep running during a power outage. This will determine how many kilowatts the generator will need to run at once.
  • Note starting and running wattage of each essential appliance.
  • Calculate the total wattage use. If an appliance is labeled in amperes, use wattage (=) amperes (X) volts to calculate.
  • Consult a generator dealer for options. Dealers have better knowledge of unit specifications and ranges that will best suit your home requirements.

Next time you walk into your house take a few minutes to look around, take an inventory of all the items that are powered by electricity. Then consider a scenario where the power goes out and it is 5 below zero during a winter storm or maybe it is 99 degrees with high humidity, what would you do? What if someone in your home has a medical condition, or an elderly family member or a newborn baby is present? Do you need power to run your well? Do you run your own business out of your home? With no power, will you be able to remain in your home? Leaving may not be an option.

NEI Electric has professionals who can assist you in assessing your current electrical system. Our service technicians have experience installing various types of generators and are qualified to safely install your new generator panel and transfer switch.

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