Most property owners with a flair for independence, or at least convenience, have considered buying a home generator as backup to their primary power, the electric utility provider. In general, our local electric providers in the Austin area are reliable; however, the unforeseen does happen, and with it can come power interruptions. There are many options for home generators, each with its own profile. If you’re interested in finding the best generator for your home, here are some considerations and thoughts.
Everyone’s preferences and budgets are different. When picking a generator, size, function and cost are variables. Most generators are sized to get you by – not to run everything. While it is possible to create a solution that will provide all the power you want in any situation, do you really need this for a temporary power outage?
The starting point is to list what must keep running and what is nice to have. For example, interior lighting, refrigerators, pool pumps, freezers and some heating and ventilation are at the top of the list. Next are comfort-related items, such as air conditioners (some or all), ovens and dryers. In general, most solutions involve leaving something behind.
Whole home generator cost is similar to that of AC installation. Through some electrical contractors, like us here in Austin, financing is available. In addition to upfront investment, there is also some maintenance cost. Though the requirements are light, these are small engines and require oil changes, air filter changes, etc.
For residential whole home generators, there is a sweet spot. The largest air-cooled units deliver up to 26KW (24KW in reality) from a two-cylinder engine. Examples are Generac and Kohler 20KW-26KW units. These are relatively affordable and will power most of the home (including the basics and up to 2 or 3 air conditioners). Higher capacity units become much larger and more expensive. They are typically 4+ cylinder engines, water cooled, and some are turbos.
Even the quiet models make noise akin to a garden tractor. It’s not terrible inside most homes with windows shut, and it is better than not having power.
Automatic transfer switches determine generator turn-on and turn-off parameters, manage maintenance cycles, and shed loads when needed. Typically, the switch will move to generator operation after 20-30 seconds of power outage and will not switch back until a stable source from the local utility is detected for a few minutes. Automatic transfer switches also prevent damage to downstream devices in the home. While it is possible to switch manually, automatic transfers do it seamlessly. Keep in mind that the weather conditions that caused the power outage may not be the best to run around outside in.
Generators need a fuel to run. In order of desirability (and investment): natural gas (hard piped), propane (hard piped), gasoline and diesel (the latter two are not very desirable). You can also supplement with solar panels.
A fully integrated whole home generator is not a typical do-it-yourself job. In addition to safety concerns, keep in mind that many expensive devices are connected to your home’s electrical system. Some thought should be given to added surge protection in the appropriate places as part of the installation.
At Efficient AC, Electric & Plumbing in Austin, our team knows how to determine which generator will best fit for your property and budget. In many cases, it takes time to assess the best location and routing for gas lines and electrical components. We prefer to install the unit on a permanent concrete pad rather than the precast pad normally used. We take care to route gas and electrical lines neatly. Our installation will integrate well with the property, be accessible for service, pass jurisdiction requirements and look great.
With an educated choice and a great installer, a whole home generator can be a worthwhile addition to your property and your peace of mind. Call us at 512-501-2275 or fill out our contact form to learn more.
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