Standby generators are similar to central air conditioners.
Both are permanently installed outside your home.
Air conditioners, however, use electric motors, which obviously won't work during an outage.
Standby generators feature engines instead, which are connected to your natural gas or propane line.
Instead of using a thermostat, standby generators work with an automatic transfer switch to automatically turn on and off - whether you're home or not.
Air-Cooled vs. Liquid-CooledAs the name suggests, air-cooled engines intake cooler air from the atmosphere to keep it from overheating.
You'll find air-cooled engines on lawn mowers, portable generators and standby generators up to 20 kilowatts.
Beyond that, you need a liquid-cooled engine that uses anti-freeze to keep it from overheating.
Liquid-cooled engines are basically small car engines. As a result, they are more expensive, durable and powerful, generating from 22 to 150 kilowatts of electricity.
Surprisingly, the bigger engines are actually quieter too. When exercising, the sound output is comparable to an idling automobile.
There are three basic styles of standby generators:
Home Standby Generators
One of the biggest misconceptions about home standby generators is that they restore power to the entire house.
In reality, these air-cooled systems generate 8-20 kilowatts capable of energizing 8-16 circuits in your electrical panel.
Newer – and more expensive models – come equipped with an intelligent automatic transfer switch than can actually restore power to your entire panel… if you limit your energy consumption.
Yes, home standby generators will get you through the storm, but parts of your house may still experience a mini-blackout.
Whole House Generators
The term "whole house" really depends on the size of your house.
If you want to power a doghouse, a small camping generator will work. If you own a luxury home, you'll need a massive generator.
Whole house generators feature automobile-like, liquid-cooled engines that use pure brawn instead of brains to power … surprise … the whole house.
Unfortunately, they aren’t cheap. For example, the least expensive whole house generator - a 25-kilowatt -- starts around $7,999 for just the generator. The transfer switch is sold separately.
Commercial Standby Generators
Normally, commercial-grade equates to a higher standard of quality.
Commercial generators, however, are built with the same high-level components as whole house generators.
Their application is what truly sets them apart. Instead of powering residential homes, these liquid-cooled giants are designed to power industrial parks and manufacturing centers, demanding huge draws of electricity to operate.
Commercial standby generators are built-to-order based on the wattage AND voltage requirements of their final destination.