As we transition from winter snow to spring and summer showers, the threat of power outages lurks in the darkening clouds. Unlike snow and ice storms, thunderstorms pack a punch that can cripple transmission lines across wide areas. They’re particularly dangerous in Colorado where lightning strikes more often than anywhere in the US outside of Florida.
Power outages are annoying at best, deadly at worst. Missing a TV show or two is a minor inconvenience, but when you can’t do your job or finish your studies due to a power outage, things can get serious. Income can be lost. Important meetings and classes can be missed. And if anyone in your household relies on critical medical equipment, outages become life-threatening.
Fortunately, there’s a wide variety of options for backup electrical power that suit all budgets and circumstances.
Choosing a Backup Power Supply
Your choice of backup power will depend on your individual needs and your budget.
- Backup Batteries
If you want a system that gives backup power for relatively short periods of low wattage demand without the hassle of a portable generator or the expense of a permanent installation, a storage battery or batteries might be right for you. Batteries are best for short outages with limited needs since they have fairly low storage capacity but may be a versatile solution if you only need minimal power to ride out an outage.
Like a portable car battery charger, these devices are trickle-charged to store energy when plugged into a wall outlet. They also have built-in AC inverters to run household appliances. You still need to plug individual cords into the units, but they’re virtually maintenance-free and can be used indoors as long as ventilation is provided in case the batteries release fumes. Many are portable and can be used on job sites, as well.
And if you have an electric vehicle, don’t overlook it as a possible backup source.
Backup batteries, both integrated and standalone, can be a temporary option for your computer or Wi-Fi network, but when you have a big project to finish, a dark house full of bored kids, appliances that don’t work, or someone relying on electrical devices for home health care, a backup generator is a better solution.
- Backup Generators
Generators fall into two basic categories: portable and permanent. Choosing the best one for you is a balance between your needs and your budget. Here are some considerations:
- Gasoline-Powered Portable Generators
Portable gas-powered generators are the least expensive and come in a variety of outputs to meet different needs. Properly sized, operated, and maintained, they’re a good choice for occasional outages, are budget-friendly, and can be used (carefully) by homeowners.
They also require the most work to set up, maintain, and operate and can be dangerous to use. If you’re considering a portable generator, read our article Backup Generator Benefits before buying. It has safety tips as well.
Any generator that ties into the household electrical supply should be set up by a licensed electrical contractor. Improper connections can result in severe damage to your home’s circuitry, injury, and devastating house fires.
- Permanent Installations
Long the choice for commercial locations, a permanently installed generator has several advantages for homeowners too. Installed similarly to an air conditioning unit, they’re as close to a “set it and forget it system” as you can get. They’re normally connected to a natural gas or propane supply, so you don’t have to worry about storing potentially dangerous gasoline—or running out at the worst time. They have sophisticated controls and switches that automatically turn the unit on when an outage is detected. They also cycle the generator periodically to keep it in good working condition and notify you when it isn’t.
They’re also the most expensive to buy and install but are a very reliable source of power for places where minimizing downtime is important. Talk to a licensed electrician about your options and costs. And be sure your contractor checks local building codes since several areas, including Denver and Aurora, now restrict, or even prohibit, new natural gas lines.
Stay Safe with Professional Help
Choosing the right generator and using it safely requires a knowledge of electrical circuitry and codes. Don’t risk injury, shock, fire hazards, or expensive repairs by getting in over your head.
If you’re thinking about adding safe, reliable backup power or have any problems or concerns about your electrical service, the pros at Allstar Electrical Services are ready to help. We offer homeowners, builders, and businesses reliable, professional electrical work that is safe and up to code.
Call Allstar Electrical at 303.399.7420 or visit our website. We’ve served Colorado’s Front Range for over 20 years, are top-rated by the BBB and are proud to be an Angi’s Home Advisor certified contractor.