Natural disasters, like the recent Superstorm Sandy that wreaked havoc on the coastal northeastern United States, provide eerie reminders of how vulnerable we are to the wrath of Mother Nature. While no amount of preparation can completely protect us from events like Sandy, there are several proactive steps we can take in an effort to minimize their impact.
In a time where most of us rely on electricity for nearly every aspect of our daily lives, power outages represent one of the most common annoyances resulting from all varieties of natural disasters. In fact, if power outages last for weeks on end, the practical and economic impact can be devastating. Having a generator can alleviate, or at least minimize, some of those problems.
Whether you’re a tenant staying in corporate housing for a short period of time or for a long stint, selecting a property equipped with a generator can reduce the potential hassle of a power outage. In addition, if you own or manage real estate on a corporate rental program, having a generator on site can minimize your tenant’s troubles if a storm or other natural event occurs. The information below outlines some of the basic information everyone should know about residential generators.
Standby Generators vs. Backup Generators
Standby generators are permanently installed on a pad outside the house and connect to the home’s electrical system. They run on natural gas or propane, and they constantly monitor the home’s electrical capacity so that, if a power outage occurs, the generator automatically takes over. Therefore, the homeowner (or in the case of corporate housing, the tenant) should have minimal power supply interruption and little hassle in an effort to stay connected.
In contrast, a backup gas or diesel generator is generally smaller and portable. When an outage occurs, a backup generator has to be wheeled into position outside the house and installed to power up the home. Although there is more work involved in operating a backup generator, they are generally less expensive than automatic standby generators.
Make sure you discuss your capacity needs with your generator retailer or dealer to ensure that they properly size the device to satisfy your use requirements. In making that determination, consider the areas and components of the home that deserve the highest priority from a power perspective (think refrigerators, furnaces, etc.). Failure to properly calculate the desired wattage may result in the generator not supplying ample power for your lifestyle and needs.
Carbone monoxide emissions from portable generators are a serious health concern, so it’s always a good idea to keep them at least ten feet from the house. Even when inclement weather looms, you should never run a generator inside a garage, a carport, or a covered porch. In addition, it’s a smart idea to install smoke and carbon monoxide detectors throughout the house.
Another way to minimize safety risks with a generator is to plug it into a transfer switch, which is a combination switch and electrical subpanel. And getting professional assistance to install a generator is always a prudent idea. Although automatic standby generators may not have as many inherent safety risks, adhering to manufacturer instructions and local building ordinances concerning installation and operation is imperative.
The Test Run
Don’t wait until the next major storm to discover the kinks in your generator. Instead, go ahead and run a test as soon as possible after purchasing the equipment to ensure that you’re prepared when the next power outage occurs.
Users should prepare themselves for the inevitable noise that generators produce. Newer and more sophisticated models may generate less noise, but a least some unwanted sound should probably be expected. Of course, consider the alternative: a quiet (but dark) home.
Regardless of whether you own your home or not, ensuring that you and your house are prepared for power outages will save you time and hassle when the time comes, especially if you rent or provide corporate housing to others who will be staying on the property. One of the best ways to do that is to invest in a generator ñ to power your house when the power is out.