This year, Northern Virginia has experienced several severe storms causing extended power outages. Being without heat or air conditioning or losing a freezer full of food just highlights the inconvenience of losing power. Some people are able to manage the loss, while others may have more pressing needs to maintain the power. Homes with wells or occupants with medical conditions are prime candidates for back-up generators. During hurricanes with severe rain, a loss of power means no sump pump and the potential for flooded basements. What is there to know about these engineering wonders?
A generator is a machine that creates electricity using Electro Magnetic Induction. Electricity is created by using an engine to spin electrical conductors around a magnetic field. A fuel source is required to run the engine with natural gas, propane, diesel or gasoline representing the most common options. For residential use, portable generators and automatic generators are available. The generator you choose will ultimately be determined by the amount of electrical appliances you wish to run and by the availability of fuel to your home.
Portable generators are most commonly used for smaller electrical needs. They can be fueled with gasoline or portable propane tanks and can supply up to 10 kilowatts of power. These are ideal for running a refrigerator, sump pump, well pump and various outlet and lighting circuits.
They are equipped with up to 6 or 8 110 volt outlets and 1 or 2 220 volt outlets where the devices can be plugged directly into the generator. These portable generators can also be wired to a manual transfer switch that connects to the homes main electrical panel eliminating the need for multiple extension cords. The portable generator must be manually started and plugged in to the transfer switch and the fuel must be manually refilled every few hours.
Automatic generators are a more versatile option that could run basic circuits or the entire home if sized correctly. Automatic generators are wired directly to the homes electrical panel and are connected to either natural gas or propane. An automatic transfer switch will sense when power is lost and automatically start the generator to replace the lost power. The ATS will also transfer the connection from the utility company to the generator and can be used to power critical circuits or the entire electrical panel. Once power has been restored, the ATS will automatically shut off the generator and switch power back to the utility company. Generators in the 10 to 15 Kilowatt range can run most the lighting and outlet circuits in the home along with a gas or oil furnace. If air conditioning or ovens and dryers are to be used, a 20 kilowatt unit or larger will be required. Larger generators require a lot of fuel to run. The typical 20 kilowatt generator will consume more fuel than all of the gas appliances within a home combined. Therefore, the gas company must be contacted to determine if there is enough gas capacity available to the home or if a meter or service upgrade is required.
When shopping for a generator, there are many options available to the consumer. Home centers will gladly sell you a generator and refer you to possible contractors to hook up the unit. Electrical companies are available to hook up your generator to your electrical system and then leave you on your own to hook your fuel source. Full service remodeling companies like Foster Remodeling Solutions, Inc. can provide a full service approach where they will consult with you in the beginning to properly size the generator. They will also help coordinate the utility changes and install the generator with their own in house installers and finally offer yearly maintenance contracts for the system. When planned and installed correctly, generators can provide peace of mind and uninterrupted service during weather emergencies and make you the savior of the neighborhood.
If you would like to talk about ideas for remodeling or renovating your home in Fairfax, Mclean, Springfield, Woodbridge, Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church VA, reach out to us at Foster Remodeling. Call now for a free consultation!
by Chris Arnold – Senior Design Consultant