When the lights go out be prepared with a standby generator

Override brownouts and survive complete outages with a portable or permanent power source that’s easy to install

DENVER, CO - The lights go out, the TV powers off, an eerie darkness sweeps over your home or office. After a few minutes, the search for candles and flashlights begins. Life without power is disruptive, unproductive and can be perilous.

When weather hits, Mother Nature wields extensive power and can shut down whole cities at a time. Think Katrina and the devastation of New Orleans a year ago. Residents in that city are still relying on generators in some situations. Construction too can affect your power if the construction is on the same power grid. If a construction worker hits a power line, the grid can be compromised throughout. Also, most burglar alarm systems are powered by electricity and a power outage can leave your home or office unsecured during the time of the outage.

A standby generator can be the answer, according to Gary Stone, owner of Allstar Electrical Services Co, a full-service electrical contractor serving Denver and the Front Range.

This electrical powerhouse is small but mighty. Fueled by natural gas, diesel or propane, a standby generator is able to meet essential electrical needs in a time of crisis. If there is a natural gas line in your home, it can be piped directly to the generator, otherwise propane or diesel gas tanks are an option.

A generator is capable of powering an entire house or like-sized office, even when you’re not there. Among other services, Stone’s company installs standby generators that don’t have to be plugged in or manually started, giving you 24/7 protection and electrical service. In the event of a power outage in your absence, a generator kicks in, preventing pipes from freezing, basements from flooding, food from spoiling and mold infestations.When the power fails, an automatic transfer switch shuts off the main supply of electricity, starts the generator and directs it to the designated emergency circuits in the generator. When the power recovers, the switch automatically turns the generator off and restores the house’s association with the power grid.

Standby generators are relatively inexpensive compared to the financial headache they will save you in the event of an outage that last for any length of time, says Stone. As little as $1,700 will get you a 7-kilowatt air-cooled system. Depending on your needs, $10,000 will buy a 35-kilowatt water-cooled generator large enough to run a 15,000 square foot mansion or office space big enough to house dozens of people. To figure out what size of generator you need, there is a simple formula: make a list of all the appliances that you will need in the event of an outage and add up their surge watts. Add to this the total run watts for electrical items without motors like light bulbs, water heaters and TVs. For safety measures, add 10 to 20 percent then divide by 1,000 for the kilowatt rating you should look for in a generator.

Keeping your generator cool will help keep it in prime working condition. There are two different methods to cooling, liquid and air. Liquid-cooled generators are best for large applications, such as commercial use or for a big house. They are much quieter but that doesn’t come with a small price tag. An 18-kilowatt steel generator will run around $6,000. Another option, air-cooled, is much more economically savvy. Ideal for a smaller house, air-cooled generators are the standard for a back-up generator.

The transfer switch is an integral part of your generator. It monitors the power coming into your home. When the supply decreases, the switch turns the generator on, reviving the power supply into your home. The process takes a few minutes; there is a delay so that the generator doesn’t turn on every time the lights in your home dim. When the main power supply returns, the generator waits until there is a sustained flow of current before it shuts down. Depending on the size of your generator, there is a corresponding transfer switch. A 100-amp transfer switch is ideal for generators ranging from 7-20 kilowatts. Two-hundred-amp transfer switches are ideal for mid-sized applications, ranging from 18-45 kilowatts and a 400-amp transfer switch can handle 60 kilowatts of power.

Installation of a switch can run $1,000, far less than the damage that can occur from no power service. In an average family home, an 11-kilowatt generator is more than enough to power an entire home including: heat and lights, security system, well or sump pumps, refrigerator or freezer, water heater, air conditioner, medical support, computer or television for days or even weeks depending on the judiciousness of use, says Stone.

Portable generators, a less expensive option, are more labor-intensive than standby generators. They need to be started manually, constantly monitored and require refueling with gasoline every few hours during use. Portable generators are unable to be used in basements or garages as exhaust fumes, risk of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning can occur.

Never, warns Stone, use a portable generator in an enclosed area.

Generators are relatively maintenance free. The engines can run from 1,500 to 3,000 hours, which when the short amount of time most outages last, amounts to a lifespan of 15 to 20 years. To keep up with the minor maintenance of your generator, most installers offer service contracts. For about $200 they will come and change the oil and air filter, check the starter battery and test the system. Some generators automatically turn on for a few minutes once a week to circulate oil and recharge the battery. Something to keep in mind when purchasing your generator is the material it is made of. A steel generator, while less expensive will rust and begin to deteriorate throughout the years. One made from aluminum is a much better option and erases the possibility of rust.

Whether you’re without power for a few hours, as in one of Colorado’s snowfalls last winter, or you’re without power for weeks and months, as in the case of Hurricane Katrina survivors, no power is no fun. Preparing ahead by having a standby generator will provide you with the assurance that your family and/or business is safe and sustained until full power is restored.

Contact Gary Stone at www.allstarelectrical.com or call (303) 399-7420