Electricity is now an essential necessity for a comfortable life. Without power, there is no internet, food spoils and your AC stops working. That is why investing in a backup generator for your home makes sense.
Power outages occur for many reasons, including overloaded power grids, downed power lines, lightning strikes to substations, and failures of the electric generators at the power plant itself.A generator can help keep your electrical devices working and your home comfortable during a power outage.
Don’t wait until the news station says the next big storm is on its way. Prepare ahead of time. Take your time to properly size and install your home generator. y Don’t skip over crucial generator safety steps. This guide will help you avoid such problems and ensure you get the best whole house generator.
- How To Calculate Your Power Needs
- Power Output Management
- Portable or Standby Whole House Generators
- Essential Features to Consider
- Air-Cooled Generators
- Liquid Cooled Home Generators
How To Calculate Your Power Needs
Every house has unique power requirements. A huge, four-bedroom mansion with two massive central Air Conditioners uses far more power compared to a one-bedroom home with a single window air conditioner unit. You want to ensure that you are choosing the best size generator, otherwise you will either have too little power, or you will pay too much for the generator and not use all its capacity.
The power output of a generator is listed in watts. 1000 watts is 1 Kilowatt (KW). You can make a list of what you want to power during an outage to figure out your power needs. Most household appliances feature a clear tag that states their voltage requirements. Here are a few rough power estimates for essential household appliances:
- Computers: 60W – 300W
- Lights: 60W – 600W (possibly less if they are LED lights)
- Fridge: 600W
- Air Conditioner: 1,800W
- Heater: 1,500W
- Electric stove/range:
- Electric water heater: 4500W
- Well Pump: 450 – 1500W
You can see from the list that some things are big loads, like the Electric Hot Water heater. You could choose to upgrade that to an energy efficient water heater, or go for solar hot water, or choose not to run the hot water heater when the electricity goes out.
Ensure that the generator you choose can deliver enough wattage to meet your power needs. Appliances that use motors will generally need more power when starting. That is known as surge watts. It is also a good practice to 1) not start all your “things” at once, and not run them all at the same time.
Add up all the voltage needs for your home. Leave a 15% margin between the maximum generator capacity and your voltage requirements. That way you will get a unit that can supply the whole home.
Transfer Switch Considerations
The transfer switch helps to safely connect a standby generator to the circuit panel by one cable. Avoid skipping it as it can lead to damaged appliances. It may even endanger electrical utility workers. An electrician can install this critical transfer switch as part of the generator installation.
With stationary standby generators, the transfer switch will automatically turn on during a power outage. If you are using a portable generator you will need to manually flip several switches once the lights go out. Ensure that the electrician guides you through the right procedure.
These transfer switches are a must for generators that produce 5,000 watts and higher. Or, you can use interlock devices if you have a limited budget as they are more affordable. They cover the primary cutoff switch in your service panel. They ensure that you cannot put your generator on by mistake once the power resumes.
Power Output Management
Include the generator’s power management system in your shopping criteria. Power management identifies when certain household appliances may cause a power overload. The system initially enables the appliances that need higher voltage. After the first five minutes, it then accepts the remaining load.
Other generators use a proactive approach to power management. This proactive method involves monitoring usage during operation. In this case, the system remembers the total consumption of all managed appliances. It will only start the appliances once the generator can produce adequate power.
The aim of power management is to prevent overloading. It ensures that household appliances are safely sharing the generator capacity. Automatically managing the power allows smaller generators to power huge homes. That is a great benefit if you want fuel efficiency and affordability.
However, managed power may not be suitable for every application. Sometimes sharing power is not practical as it will not help keep your home either cool or warm. In this case, get a sizeable generator that will simultaneously supply all the AC units in your home.
Portable or Standby Whole House Generators
There are two primary types of whole house generators, permanent standby and portable units. The one you select will depend on what you want. The home standby generator runs on propane or natural gas. It will automatically kick on when power goes off. They are also more expensive and produce more power than portable generators.
Portable generators provide between 3,000 and 8,500 watts. They use gasoline to run and some models feature electric starting. If you are getting a portable unit, get the inverter generator. The inverter runs more quietly and efficiently.
Essential Features to Consider
Shopping for generator may seem like a challenging activity due to the many features. Consider the following options when choosing the best whole house generator:
Some generators can switch on immediately the electricity goes off without your input. An automatic start is a convenient feature. It also means the power will quickly switch on during an emergency.
Some portable generators offer the electric start feature. It is much easier to deal with compared to the traditional pull-start. You will need to pay an extra cost of roughly $50. That cost covers the battery that enables the electric start function if it is not part of the package.
Low-Oil Shut Off
The generator will shut down when oil is used up below the smallest levels. It is among the standard features on a stationary generator. This functionality is also increasingly used on portables. It is still good practice to regularly check how much oil and fuel is in your generator.
Having at least four outlets or more allows you to best take advantage of your generator. Also, get a unit with a removable console. You can use it to connect the appliances you need without having to run extension cords.
Buying well known brands is smart as they are well-known for a reason. Aside from durability, or innovation, many known brands stand behind their products with solid warranties. Since this is a mechanical device and will be run only in emergencies and for maintenance, a good warranty will make getting parts and service easier for you.
Manufacturers offer various capacities of generators across both liquid-cooled and air-cooled varieties. Air-cooled generators produce 10kW to 20kW on natural gas and are ideal for most homes. Here are some of the best air-cooled house generators:
Generac is a respectable brand in the home generator sector. The company is known for producing best-selling units with robust, industrial engines for the perfect power backup solution. Their Guardian Series offer feature-rich generators that provide stable, clean, utility-level power. For example, the Generac Synergy 7040 produces 20/18 KW runs at a low RPM under light household loads for quiet operation and fuel savings.
Briggs and Stratton
Briggs and Stratton use their century’s worth of experience to produce dependable, commercial-level generators. Their generators use a customized power management unit that balances power requirements among household equipment. The company also offers an extensive 5-year warranty period for labor and parts. The most notable whole house air-cooled generator from this brand is the 20kW Briggs & Stratton 40584.
Cummins delivers powerful standby power choices to suit the demands of any home. Their V-twin engine features a pressurized fuel unit with the low oil shut off functionality to avoid engine damage. Their products also use a crank-only system that minimizes fuel use, noise, and engine wear during operation for a longer lifespan. The smart load management in a unit like the Cummins Quiet Connect RS20AC tracks power demands for all loads and restores them after a power outage.
Kohler home generators implement significant low noise distortion and high-tech voltage regulation for remarkably stable electrical power. Their units feature reliable four-stroke air cooled engines with electronic speed governors and pressurized lubrication systems. The PowerBoost function offers impressive motor starting capability for heavy loads like well pumps and air conditioners. Kohler generators are ideal for whole house usage as they offer great reliability covered by a 2,000-hour, 5-year limited warranty.
Liquid Cooled Home Generators
Liquid-cooled generators use coolant and radiator like a typical car. They are perfect for hotter climates and also for houses with high capacity power needs. These generators have larger engines and can work with either propane or natural gas. The power capacity for liquid-cooled power generators varies from 15kW to 22kW.
The Protector series from Generac includes whole house liquid-cooled generators that can power large properties. They are also ideal for luxury homes and big estates. The power ranges between 25kW and 60kW of reliable electricity for all appliances. These generators also have a remarkably quieter operation cycle.
Kohler Liquid Generators
Kohler provides whole house generators with models that can produce anywhere from 24kW to 150kW. The larger capacity units are great for agricultural operations and large estates. Despite their large power capacities, these generators from Kohler still operate very quietly.
Cummins Quiet Connect
The Quiet Connect and Power Connect Series from Cummins can produce 22kW to 60kW of power. They are built to run for a long time and can easily tolerate harsh weather conditions. Customers can run the inbuilt exercise mode twice a year to eliminate noise, reduce emissions and save fuel.
All the different generator options are well explained above. You should be comfortable choosing the best whole house generator. Remember to pick the generator that fits your situation. Invest in any of the generators mentioned above and your house will be safe from power outages.