What are standby generators?
A standby generator, often called a backup generator, waits for a power outage and restores power to a house or business within seconds after the power shuts off.
A standby generator is an automatic, permanently connected appliance like a water heater, central air conditioner, or furnace. The manufacturer designed it specifically to meet National Electrical Codes for use during a power outage. Connection to the home requires an Automatic Transfer Switch or ATS.
Although manufacturers often advertise small portables as a means of backup power in case of an outage, they only work if you are home to hook them up and fill with fuel several times a day.
A standby generator system detects an outage instantly. Within seconds, the generator starts and reaches operating speed. The automatic transfer switch disconnects the electricity utility and connects the generator to the home’s electrical system. When the utility restores power, the system disconnects the generator and reconnects the utility. Everything is automatic.
What size generator do I need?
The first step to buy a generator determines the capacity required. Standby generators are sized in kilowatts and there are three general categories to consider: Whole House Generator, Managed Power Backup Generator, and Home Standby Generator for Essential Power.
Whole House Generator—All the Power You Can Use
The Best Standby Generator for Large and Luxury Homes
Whole house generators produce enough power to handle everything in your house at the same time. Buy a unit large enough and you can power all the air conditioners, your large electric appliances, and still have plenty of power left over to run the pool, the backyard party lights, and the rec room arcade.
These liquid cooled standby generators supply from 20 kilowatts all way to 100 kilowatts or more. They can provide backup power to midsize houses or the largest luxury homes and are quieter than smaller air-cooled units.
Consider a whole house generator if you run multiple (more than two) central air conditioners and have large power requirements that must be met.
Backup Generator with Managed Power Automatic Transfer Switch
The best standby generator option for most mid-sized homes.
Most homes do not use all the power their electrical panels suggest. Even if every appliance ran at the same time, it is rare for the total power consumption to equal the main panel capacity. Most homeowners will find that a smaller standby generator with the right automatic transfer switch is all they need.
These generators offer 12 to 22 kilowatts of power.
An automatic transfer switch with power management capability can prevent overloading the generator by limiting when certain appliances receive power. A home with two central air conditioners is a good example. The automatic transfer switch can prevent both air conditioners from starting at the same time. When one starts, the second waits for the first to stop before it will run. In many cases, the two units will alternate as necessary to keep the house just as cool.
Home Standby Generator for Essential Power
Many homeowners will opt for less power and less expense. Small standby generators with capacities of 12 kilowatts or less can provide varying levels of essential power. They may supply the entire house or only those circuits chosen during installation depending on the automatic transfer switch.
These generators are just as reliable as their larger counterparts, but they cost less to purchase and run. They keep the sump pump operating, run smaller air conditioners, and of course, the food in your refrigerator or freezer stays cold or frozen while you can have some lights and the television.