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Whole House Generator Buyer's Guide

How to Pick the Perfect Whole House Generator

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 | 
Generator Product Expert

From severe weather and natural disasters to an overloaded electrical grid, there are many ways the power can go out.

The electricity that was once thought of a luxury is now a necessity. Without it, food spoils, the internet is lost, and many mechanical systems that help protect your home stop working, presenting a dangerous situation during severe storms.



Now that you know the benefits and types of standby generators over portables, you realize that you need the ultimate protection from power outages by getting a whole-house backup generator.


Difference Between Home and Whole-House Generators
One of the biggest questions we receive is, "What's the difference between a home standby and whole-house generator?"

Regular Standby vs Whole-House Standby Generator Comparison Infographic


Whole-House Generator Benefits:
  • Higher quality automotive-style engine (instead of lawn-mower style on a home standby)
  • Liquid-cooled (on larger models ) Instead of air-cooled to handle extended outage times
  • Reduced noise (lower RPMs)
  • Longer maintenance intervals
  • Load Management & A/C Shedding Options
  • Back up entire home (instead of backing up essential circuits)
  • Better fuel utilization


Standard home standbys are capable of powering smaller homes with a kilowatt (kW) range from 9kW to 20kW. They have smaller, air-cooled engines that provide short-term power to mission-critical items like an air conditioner, sump pump, and refrigerator in addition to some lighting, but aren't well-suited for powering everything at once, backing-up larger homes, or running for extended periods of time.

Whole-house generators, on the other hand, range in capacity anywhere from 22-48kW. The added power brings you peace-of-mind knowing you won't have to sacrifice or make difficult choices like choosing whether to run a single air conditioner or a large commercial-style refrigerator. Instead, your house will be close to fully functional, like nothing happened at all.

Whole-house generators offer many benefits over the typical standby generator. They feature larger, more powerful engines that are liquid-cooled for longer run times without maintenance, sophisticated programming for better load management, and provide better fuel options like natural gas, liquid propane, and diesel.


3 Easy Steps to Pick the Perfect Whole-House Generator

1. Choose a Fuel SourceLiquid Propane Fuel Tank
In many coastal and remote parts of the country, finding an abundant fuel source necessary for large power generation can be problematic. In fact, the most important step in selecting the best standby for your home is identifying the fuel type. Unlike small home standbys that can only use natural gas (NG) or liquid propane (LP), whole-house generators also come in a diesel option, that makes generator power more accessible.

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. Pick the Right Size
Proper sizing of your generator is crucial to the success of any installation and requires a good working knowledge of electricity, as well as the load requirements of your home's electrical appliances.

Where to Find a Data Plate on an Air Conditioner When analyzing electrical loads, look at the manufacturerĺs data plate on each major appliance or piece of equipment to determine its starting amperage. The largest wattage draw will be central air conditioning units and to determine the size in Tons, simply divide the number of BTUs by 12,000. For example, a single 5 Ton Unit is equal to 60,000 BTUs.

The following formula can help determine the starting wattage. (Starting Amps x Volts = Watts) When choosing the generator output, select a rating that is approximately 20 to 25% higher than the peak load (for example, if the load is about 22 kilowatts, select a 27 kW generator).

A higher rated generator will operate comfortably at approximately 80% of its full capacity and will provide a margin of flexibility if the load increases in the future.

Whole-House Size Options
All standby generators are rated by kilowatt (kW) (1 kW = 1,000 watts) which measures the capacity or total load that the generator can handle.

Compare Whole House Standby Generator Sizes


For homeowners wanting the ultimate entry-level whole-house standby, a 22kW is a perfect choice to reap all of the benefits of a whole-house generator over a regular home standby.

A generator in the 27-36kW range is perfect for most homes since they replace 75% of the 200 amps coming into your electrical panel. Since these generators are equipped with advanced load-managing hardware, like A/C shedding, you will hardly notice that the air conditioners kick on at different times so they don't overload the system.

If you want to backup the entire house as if a blackout never occurred, a 48kW generator is capable of producing a whopping 220 amps of electricity at 240 volts, which is basically the same amount of power coming from the utility.


3. Pick a Transfer Switch
Electrical Breaker PanelJust 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. It's very important 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.



Protected
Now that you know how to pick the perfect whole-house standby generator, you can feel confident that your home will be protected against power outages of every kind. You no longer will have to feel vulnerable during the next blackout, instead you'll be the superhero who saves the day!


House Protected from Power Outage

 
 
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What's the difference between a home standby and whole-house generator? Whole House Buyer's Guide: How to Pick the Perfect Whole House Generator. Tips on buying a whole house standby generator for extended emergency use.