A big storm hits, and after days of stumbling around lighting candles and melting in the Sahara Desert that is your home, you swear you won’t let another day pass without getting a standby generator. When you get your internet back, that is.
Even with an emergency portable generator, the frustration doesn't end. Sure, you might be able to power a refrigerator and a couple of lights, but you'll still have to: drive to the gas station, wait in line (hoping they have gas), lug around a jug of gasoline, place your generator outside (if it stops raining), run extension cords to the house, and hope it starts!
Choosing the best home standby generator is easier than you think and is a great investment for many reasons:
1. Pick a Fuel Source
The first step in selecting a good standby for your home starts with identifying the fuel type. Home standbys up to 22kW will use either natural gas (NG) or liquid propane (LP), but if you're looking for a generator that runs on diesel, you'll need to step up to a liquid-cooled whole-house type that could cost considerably more.
Both LP and diesel fuels will require tanks large enough to properly run the generator. Similarly, the natural gas meter and gas lines will need to be the correct size.
Prior to installation, your contractor will verify this with you, but you can find this information in the installation manual on our product pages.
2. Determine Power Needs
Standby generators are rated by kilowatt (kW) (1 kW = 1,000 watts) which measures the generator's power output. When determining the power needs of your home, you'll first need to decide if you want to power your central air conditioner or HVAC equipment during a blackout, since it is the most power-hungry of devices in your home.
During summer months, a sweltering blackout could make life miserable, and an ice storm in the winter could crash your holiday plans — leaving pipes susceptible to bursting.
So how can you tell what size you need? Easy, just look at the air conditioning unit's data plate and it'll tell you the size in either BTUs or Tons. There are 12,000 BTUs for each Ton of capacity. For example, a "3-Ton" Air Conditioner is equal to 36,000 BTUs and will require a standby generator that is 11kW or larger.
The bottom line: If you plan to run your central air conditioner, you'll need a generator that's capable of running it. To find the perfectly-sized generator that will meet the demands of your home and air conditioner, use our generator calculator.
3. Choose a Transfer Switch
Just like a light bulb needs a switch to turn on, your generator needs one too. An automatic transfer switch (ATS) allows your standby to spring into action the moment a power failure is detected. It does this by continuously sensing utility power and after an outage is detected, it simultaneously starts the engine and disconnects power coming from the line and energizes your home's panel through generator power.
Getting the right switch is just as crucial as getting the right generator as they work together to restore lost power. In order to know which will work for you, you'll need to know the amperage of your electrical service panel. You can check this by locating the main breaker in your electrical panel (usually the big pull-out at the top).
Typically, the average sized home has a 200-amp main breaker, so the maximum amount of electricity your home can consume is 200 amps. Smaller, older homes may have 100 to 150-amp service. Be sure to get the same amperage switch as your home's panel. If you have a 200-amp panel, you'll need a 200-amp transfer switch.
Take Back the Power!
Now that you know how to pick the perfect standby generator, you can backup your home with peace of mind. Imagine how great you'll feel once your home is protected against power outages of every kind. Never worry about the power going out again!