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Home Standby Generator Basics

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Home standby generators are hardwired into your house's electrical system. In combination with another piece of hardware called a transfer switch, the generator will automatically start when the power goes out, and you won't be without electricity for more than a minute or so.

Almost all home standby generators get their fuel from city gas or propane lines. The primary advantage of this is that no fuel storage is required. The generator is simply connected to your utility lines and draws fuel when it needs to. The choice between gas and propane is based solely on which is available in your area, there's no real advantage to either.

Types of standby generators

Home backup generators are broken into a number of different options in an effort to supply necessary power while remaining cost-effective. These options include backup generators that tie into your home's electrical setup as well as portable models intended to run tools and other equipment.

With models produced by Generac, Kohler, Briggs & Stratton, and Honeywell, typical size ranges include:

Sizing a home standby generator

To choose a generator, you'll need to know your requirements for both voltage and wattage. Voltage is a measure of the "pressure" of an electric current, while wattage is more like the "volume" of electricity being created. When choosing a home standby generator, you'll calculate the specific voltage your home uses then pick the model that supplies enough wattage for everything you'll be running.

In the United States, almost all homes have 120/240v service, meaning they have two 120v circuits. The two are combined to provide 240v for power-hungry appliances such as electric ranges, clothes dryers, central air conditioning, and water pumps.

Wattage requirements increase with each additional appliance you want the generator to power. The best way to get the right size home standby generator is to have an electrician measure the amount of power your essential appliances draw. Home standby generators start around 7,000 watts (7 kW) and can easily be as large as several hundred kW.

If you're unsure exactly how much power you need to keep critical appliances running in the event of a power failure, don't guess! Find the proper model for the size of your home and specific power requirements, quickly and easily, by using a Generator Sizing Calculator.

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