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Standby Generator Basics (What is a Standby Generator?)

a home standby generator keeping power on in rhode island

Power outages can be more than just an inconvenience. They can disrupt your daily life and even pose safety risks.

That’s where standby generators come in.

These devices provide backup power when your regular power source fails. They are a reliable solution for homes, businesses, and facilities that cannot afford to lose power.

In this guide, we’ll explore the basics of standby generators. We’ll cover what they are, how they work, and the different types available.

We’ll also delve into their uses, the importance of maintenance, and how to choose the right one for your needs.

Whether you’re a homeowner, a business owner, or a facility manager, this guide will help you understand standby generators and make informed decisions about backup power solutions, and whether to buy and install a standby generator for your home.

generac standby generator installation in Smithfield ri

Understanding Standby Generators

A standby generator is a device that automatically provides electricity during a power outage. It’s a permanent fixture, installed outside your home or business, much like an air conditioning unit.

Standby generators are connected directly to your property’s electrical system. They work in tandem with a transfer switch to monitor your utility power.

When the power goes out, the transfer switch disconnects your property from the utility grid. It then connects it to the generator. This process happens automatically and usually within seconds.

Standby generators can run on various fuel types, including natural gas, propane, or diesel. The choice of fuel depends on availability, cost, and personal preference.

Understanding the basics of standby generators is the first step in deciding if one is right for your needs. The next sections will delve deeper into their operation, types, uses, and maintenance.

The Importance of Standby Power

Standby power is crucial for maintaining normalcy during power outages. It ensures that essential appliances and systems continue to function. This is particularly important for businesses and homes that rely on electricity for critical operations.

For businesses, a power outage can lead to significant losses. It can disrupt operations, affect productivity, and even lead to data loss. A standby generator provides a reliable backup power solution, ensuring business continuity.

For homeowners, standby power can maintain comfort and safety. It keeps essential appliances running, like refrigerators, heating and cooling systems, and medical equipment. This is especially important during extended outages.

In areas prone to natural disasters, standby power can be a lifesaver. It ensures access to essential services and can make a significant difference in emergency situations.

How Standby Generators Work

How does a standby generator work?

Standby generators are designed to provide power automatically when a power outage occurs. They are connected directly to a building’s electrical system and are powered by an external fuel source. This could be natural gas, propane, or diesel.

When the power goes out, the generator’s automatic transfer switch senses the loss of power. It then signals the generator to start up. Once the generator is running, the transfer switch safely disconnects the utility line and simultaneously connects the generator to the electrical system.

The generator then supplies power to the building until the utility power is restored. When the utility power comes back on, the transfer switch senses this, disconnects the generator, and reconnects the utility line. The generator then shuts down and returns to standby mode, ready for the next power outage.

Key components of a standby generator system include:

  • Engine: Powers the generator.
  • Alternator: Produces the electrical output from the mechanical input supplied by the engine.
  • Fuel System: Stores and supplies fuel to the engine.
  • Voltage Regulator: Controls the voltage of the electricity produced.
  • Cooling and Exhaust Systems: Keep the generator from overheating and safely remove exhaust gases.
  • Lubrication System: Reduces friction between moving parts to prolong the generator’s lifespan.
  • Battery Charger: Keeps the starter battery charged.
  • Control Panel: Allows you to control and monitor the generator.

Learn more about how standby generators work here.

Types of Standby Generators

Standby generators come in various sizes and types, each designed for specific power needs. The two main types are residential and commercial standby generators.

Residential standby generators are typically smaller and designed to power a home during a power outage. They can power essential appliances like refrigerators, heating systems, and lights. Some larger models can power an entire home.

Commercial standby generators are larger and more powerful. They are designed to keep businesses running during power outages. These generators can power large buildings, including offices, factories, and retail stores.

There are also single-phase and three-phase standby generators. Single-phase generators are typically used for residential purposes, while three-phase generators are used for commercial and industrial applications.

Choosing the Right Generator for Your Needs

Choosing the right standby generator depends on several factors. The first step is to determine your power needs. This involves calculating the total wattage of all the appliances and systems you want to power during an outage.

Next, consider the type of fuel you prefer. Natural gas, propane, and diesel are common fuel sources for standby generators. Each has its pros and cons, which we will discuss in the next section.

The size of the generator is also crucial. A generator that’s too small won’t be able to handle your power needs. On the other hand, a generator that’s too large can be unnecessarily expensive. Learn more about how to choose the right sized generator here.

Here are some factors to consider when choosing a standby generator:

  • Power needs
  • Fuel type
  • Generator size
  • Noise level
  • Cost

Lastly, consider the brand and warranty of the generator. Some brands are known for their reliability and customer service. A good warranty can also provide peace of mind.

Generator Fuel Options and Considerations

Standby generators can run on various fuel types. The most common are natural gas, propane, and diesel. Each fuel type has its advantages and disadvantages.

Natural gas generators are popular because of the abundant supply of natural gas in many areas. These generators are also clean-burning and require less maintenance than diesel generators. However, they may not be as powerful as diesel generators.

Propane generators are another good option. They are also clean-burning and have a long shelf life. However, propane can be more expensive than natural gas and diesel.

Diesel generators are known for their durability and power. They can run for a long time without needing refueling. However, diesel fuel can be expensive and requires proper storage to prevent degradation.

Installation and Safety Guidelines

Installing a standby generator is not a DIY project. It involves complex electrical work and should be done by a professional. The installation process includes site preparation, generator placement, and connection to the fuel source and electrical system.

Safety is paramount when installing and using a standby generator. The generator should be placed in a well-ventilated area to prevent carbon monoxide buildup. It should also be located away from windows and doors to minimize noise and exhaust fumes inside the building.

A transfer switch is a crucial component of a standby generator system. It safely switches the power source from the utility to the generator during a power outage. It also prevents backfeeding, which can be dangerous.

Regular inspections and maintenance are essential to ensure the safe operation of the generator. This includes checking the fuel system, electrical connections, and overall generator condition.

a home with a standby generator during a power outage in rhode island

Generator Maintenance for Longevity

Proper maintenance is key to extending the lifespan of a standby generator. Regular checks and servicing can prevent breakdowns and ensure the generator is ready when needed.

Maintenance tasks include changing the oil and filters, checking the battery, and inspecting the overall condition of the generator. These tasks help keep the generator running smoothly and efficiently.

Here are some common maintenance tasks:

  • Regular oil and filter changes
  • Battery checks and replacements
  • Inspection of the fuel system for leaks or damage
  • Checking and cleaning the air filter
  • Regular testing of the generator under load

Neglecting maintenance can lead to problems. These include poor performance, increased fuel consumption, and even complete failure of the generator. Regular maintenance ensures the generator will provide reliable backup power when needed.

The Cost of Investing in a Standby Generator

The cost of a standby generator can vary widely. It depends on factors such as the size, brand, and complexity of the installation. On average, homeowners can expect to pay between $3,000 and $6,000 for a standby generator, including installation.

However, it’s important to consider the total cost of ownership. This includes the initial purchase price, installation costs, ongoing maintenance, and fuel costs.

While the upfront cost may seem high, the peace of mind and convenience provided by a standby generator can make it a worthwhile investment. Especially for those living in areas prone to power outages.

The Value of Reliable Backup Power

Investing in a standby generator is about more than just convenience. It’s about ensuring the safety and comfort of your home or business during a power outage.

Standby generators provide reliable backup power, allowing you to continue your daily activities without interruption. They also protect your property from potential damage caused by power outages.

While the initial investment may be significant, the benefits of owning a standby generator make it a worthwhile consideration for any homeowner or business.

Choose Coastline Electric for Your Standby Generator Installation or Maintenance in Rhode Island or Southeastern Massachusetts

Choosing Coastline Electric for your standby generator installation or maintenance ensures that you receive top-tier service from highly skilled professionals. With years of experience in both residential and commercial settings, Coastline Electric specializes in fitting your property with reliable Generac and Cummins generators. Our meticulous approach combines careful planning with expert execution, ensuring that your generator is integrated seamlessly into your property, providing dependable, uninterrupted power. We understand the importance of having a constant power supply, which is why our team is dedicated to installing systems that are not only efficient but also tailor-made to meet your specific needs.

When it comes to maintaining your standby generator, Coastline Electric stands out with its commitment to excellence. Our maintenance contracts are designed to keep your system in peak condition, ensuring that it performs reliably when you need it most. Our skilled technicians are adept at diagnosing and swiftly repairing any issues, minimizing downtime and extending the lifespan of your generator. Trust Coastline Electric to help you maintain a safe and comfortable environment in your home or business, no matter the weather. With Coastline Electric, you’re not just getting a service provider—you’re gaining a partner in power resilience. Install your standby generator with Coastline!