Installation of Two Automatic Transfer Switches for a Standby Generator

Generac Protector shown supplying a home, barn, and outbuildings.

Standby Generator Systems for Large Homes or Properties May Require Two or More Automatic Transfer Switches

Large homes with electrical systems that compliment their size may have special requirements for the installation of a standby generator that extend beyond the unit’s power rating.

Service panels, even those that accommodate the higher current ratings, only have room for a certain number of circuit breakers. A large home with many circuits and many permanently-wired appliances may require two (or more) main service panels, each with a set of circuit breakers to distribute power throughout the house.

National Electric Code (NEC) requires that service entrance equipment must be rated to supply all the devices it serves. The Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) that is a part of every standby generator installation becomes part of the service equipment if it is installed between the meter and the main service panel.

Modern Electrical Requirements

Kohler Standby Unit installed on a rock pad

Kohler Standby Generator For Emergency Backup Power

Modern homes have electrical requirements that far exceed what the average home required just twenty or thirty years ago. The minimum service for a new, single-family home is a 100-amp service. Some localities require 125 amps or 150 amps as the minimum.

It is not unusual for a large home to have a hot tub, a pair of furnaces with five-ton air conditioning units, a swimming pool with heaters and pumps, and double ovens with a range top, plus warming drawers. The loads quickly add up to a 300 or 400-amp service entrance requirement.

A service panel rated at 200 amperes has room for 40 single-pole circuit breakers. When more circuits are needed, additional service panels are required. When a service greater than 200 amperes is required, it is common to split the installation equally between two panels. A 300-amp service will have two 150-amp panels, and a 400-amp service will have a pair of 200-amp panels.

Larger installations may have additional main panels and sub panels.

Transfer Switch Installation

NFPA Logo - red flames surrounded by a square black outline wiht NFPA underneath.

The National Electrical Code is Published by the National Fire Prevention Association

The National Electric Code allows for different transfer switch installations when a home has more than one service panel.

  1. A single ATS that meets the combined rating of the main circuit breakers installed in the service panels. For example: Two main panels, each with a 200-amp main breaker, are supplied by a 400-amp ATS.
  2. One ATS for each main panel, with each ATS meeting the rating of the main circuit breaker in the main panel it supplies. For example: Two main panels, each with a 200-amp main breaker, are supplied by a pair of 200-amp automatic transfer switches.

Additionally,

  1. The transfer switches must carry a Service Entrance (SE) rating
  2. or a Service Entrance Disconnect that meets or exceeds the total of the all the main breakers is installed between the ATS units and the electric utility meter. Eg: two, 200-amp panels require a 400-amp main service disconnect.

Dual ATS Advantages

Two KohlerTransfer Switches Installed on One Generator

Two Kohler Automatic Transfer Switches Installed to Supply Power for Two Service Panels From One Generator

As the current rating of an ATS increases, so does the cost. Manufacturers offer standby generators bundled with an ATS at a lower cost than purchasing them separately. Adding a second ATS of the same size for the regular price represents a considerable cost saving over the separate costs of a generator and higher-rated ATS.

 

 

To illustrate, Norwall’s regular price* for a Generac 6551 is $4599 and includes the RTSY200A3 SE-Rated ATS. Add a second RTSY200A3 for $685 and the total purchase is $5284.

The 22kW generator without ATS (model 6552) costs $4099 and the 400-amp RTSY400A3 is $2645 for a total purchase of $6744. The cost difference is $1460, a substantial savings.

A dual automatic transfer switch installation does require more space, but the cost advantages outweigh this small disadvantage.

Always check the manufacturer’s recommendation for the most compatible transfer switches.

*Prices as of February 2015. All prices are subject to change.

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Transfer Switch Importance in Standby and Portable Generator Systems

Gen-Tran Power Inlet Box

A Portable Generator Connected to an Inlet Box Which Connects to the Transfer Switch

An important component of any generator system for backup power to a building that relies on an electric utility for its main source of power is the transfer switch.

Transfer switches fall into two main classifications: Automatic Transfer Switches and Manual Transfer Switches.

The transfer switch provides a number of functions that make it a necessary part of any emergency backup power system.

Portable generators use a Manual Transfer Switch (MTS). Standby generators use an Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS).

Transfer Switches

Steps a Generator and Transfer Switch Go Through to Restore Power.

An Automatic Transfer Switch can Provide Power from the Standby Generator During an Outage

Whether manual or automatic, transfer switches connect and disconnect utility and generator lines in a “Break—Make” operation. They “break” the current connection before they “make” the new connection.

Normal Operation: The transfer switch isolates the generator from the utility distribution grid. The generator is disconnected from the building’s electrical system and all power is supplied by the utility.

Outage Operation: As the transfer switch moves from utility (Line) to generator (Gen) mode, the utility connection is broken, then the generator connection is made. When Normal Operation is resumed, the generator connection is first broken, then the utility connection is made again.

An automatic transfer switch performs these operations without human intervention. Manual transfer switches require someone to select the switch position.

Utility Worker Protection

Drawing of a utility worker on on utility pole.

Lines Energized by a Generator can Injure Unsuspecting Line Workers

Transfer switches protect utility workers against electrocution by preventing unexpected current at high voltage on the local utility lines.

The electric utility distributes power in neighborhoods and to businesses at a high voltage. Common neighborhood voltage levels may be 4,000 volts, 13,000 volts, or as high as 33,000 volts. Before it is supplied to the building, the utility steps down the voltage with a transformer to 240 volts for most homes and small businesses. Some commercial buildings require higher voltages.

The transformer can work in either direction. It can step 13,000 volts down to 240 volts, or it can work in reverse and step 240 volts up to 13,000 volts.

A line energized by a generator that wasn’t properly connected will carry the higher voltage stepped up by the transformer. A utility worker that suddenly encounters 13,000 volts on a line they thought was safe could be injured, badly burned, or even killed.

Transfer switches prevent this from happening.

Generator and Building Protection

Generac standby connected to automatic transfer swtich

Standby Generator Connected to a Service Entrance Rated Transfer Switch

Although the generator and the electric utility both produce AC power, it is very unlikely that the frequency cycles are matched. The combination of electricity from both the utility and from generator at the same time will cause the equivalent of an unprotected short circuit.

In a best-case scenario, the generator’s main breaker will trip and take the unit off line. In the world of electricity however, the time it takes for a main breaker to trip is a lifetime. Main breakers are designed to allow a certain level of overload current for a very short period of time in order to allow motors and similar equipment to start.

During this short period, the generator could be damaged beyond repair.

Any condition that could damage the generator could also damage the home’s electrical system or the appliances connected to it. Motors can burn out and electronics can overheat.

Transfer switches eliminate the need for multiple extension cords (a possible safety hazard) and allow hard-wired appliances to operate on generator power.

Auxiliary Functions

Generac Power Management Module PMM and Starter Kit 6199

Generac Power Management Module PMM and Starter Kit 6199

Some automatic transfer switches also provide functionality beyond making and breaking utility and generator connections. The controllers in some standby generators monitor the utility supply lines, while some manufacturers leave that function up the transfer switch.

Load management is also a function usually delegated to the transfer switch. Loads with high current draw such as central air conditioners, electric ranges, water heaters, and well pumps may overload a generator when demand is high.

For example, if there is enough generator power for the first high-current load to run, but not the second, a transfer switch that employs load management allows the first load to operate while the second load waits. After the first load stops, the second is allowed to run.

An automatic transfer switch that manages power may allow a generator to serve an entire home, even if it can’t run all the high-current loads at the same time.

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Five Small Portable Generators for Power to Take Anywhere You Go

Picnic table with food, condiments, and accoutrements.

Small Portable Generators go Anywhere for Recreation

Too often, the portable generator is envisioned as a large, heavy power tool that isn’t very portable unless you’re only moving it from the garage to the driveway. Most people don’t think of it as something you can pick up and put in the family car.

Many ask, do I really need to drag all that weight around to run some lights or charge my battery drill? The answer is probably not.

There are a number of small portable generators that can fill your needs on camping trips, picnics, tailgate parties, or even in the back yard corner where that 100-foot extension cord won’t reach. These units are light weight, but provide enough power to handle the jobs asked of them.

Generac iX800

Generac iX800 portable inverter generator.

Generac’s iX800 weighs just 29 pounds.

If size and weight are limiting factors, it is hard to beat the Generac iX800 for portability. Weighing in at just 29 pounds, this inverter generator packs 800 watts of power in a small package that is just 18 inches long, 10 inches wide and 15 inches high. The half gallon fuel tank provides three and a half hours of run time at half load.

This easy to lug portable is well suited for jobs where there are not too many appliances to operate. It has enough power to start and run a small refrigerator, an electric drill, crock pot, or a string of low-wattage holiday lights.

Features low oil shutdown, two 120-volt receptacles with internal breakers, LED status lights, and a 2-year consumer warranty. Inverter technology provides clean power and keeps engine speed and noise to a minimum.

Westinghouse WH1000i

The Westinghouse 1000i Inverter Genertor

Westinghouse 1000i – quiet combined with easy portability

Just 30 pounds and just 53 – 59dB of noise make this power plant a great choice for packing up and getting away without disturbing the peace and quiet. The fuel tank holds slightly more than three quarts (0.8 gallons) and will keep the generator running for eight hours with a load of 500 watts.

Rated at 1000 watts of continuous power, this portable will easily run several small appliances, lights, and small tools. Super clean AC power from the inverter has less than 3 percent harmonic distortion—suitable for use with sensitive electronics like laptops or desktop computers.

Ergonomically designed for easy handling, the Westinghouse WH1000i includes two 120-volt receptacles, external push-button circuit breaker, high efficiency mode, and low oil shutdown. Two-year limited consumer warranty.

Briggs & Stratton PowerSmart 1600

Briggs & Stratton 1600 watt PowerSmart Inverter Generator

Briggs & Stratton 1600 Watt PowerSmart

This inverter generator features 1600 watts of continuous power—just short of the standard capability of most household lighting and convenience circuits. With a 2000-watt surge capacity, it will start and run most refrigerators and freezers or supply a number of smaller appliances.

The one gallon fuel tank offers up to six and half hours of run time at one-quarter load. Weighing in at just fifty pounds, the dual handles make transporting this unit easy for two people. The PowerSmart 1600’s inverter supplies clean, AC power with less than three percent total harmonic distortion to supply computers, game consoles, and other electronics.

Features two, 120-volt outlets, one 12-volt outlet for charging batteries, PowerSmart switch for additional economy, low-oil and overload alert, and quiet operation. Includes a two-year consumer warranty.

Westinghouse WH2000i

Westinghouse wh2000i inverter generator with parallel capability.

Westinghouse 2000 Watt. Super quiet, lightweight power.

Barely larger in size than its 1000 watt sibling, the WH2000i weighs in at just 43 pounds and provides the same continuous power as your average household circuit, all while producing less noise than comparable portables. If 1800 watts of continuous power isn’t enough, just add another unit with the parallel cord and double your available power to 3600 watts.

Get up to 17 hours of run time from the 1.3 gallon fuel tank at 25 percent load, or 13 hours at half load. Noise levels range from 52dB to 59dB—quiet enough to have a normal conversation while standing next to the generator. Operate a refrigerator, freezer, or even a window air conditioner.

The design includes two 120-volt receptacles, a 12 volt receptacle, high efficiency mode, low oil shutdown, and 2200 surge watts. Two-year consumer warranty.

Briggs & Stratton PowerSmart 3000

The Briggs & Stratton 3000 watt PowerSmart Inverter Generator

Briggs & Stratton PowerSmart 3000. Clean efficient power and portability.

When you need plenty of power in a small package, the PowerSmart 3000 is ready to go. The heaviest of this featured lineup, it weighs in at 90 pounds, but is still small enough for easy transport. The 1.5 gallon fuel tank offers up to nine hours of run time at one-quarter load.

The PowerSmart 3000 supplies 2600 watts continuous, 3000 watts surge. Need more power? This unit is parallel capable for a total of 5200 watts of continuous power or 6000 watts of surge power. A single unit can start and run a 15,000 BTU rooftop RV air conditioner.

Feature-rich design includes LCD display for power use and hours, USB charging port, four 120-volt receptacles, twelve volt receptacle, and 30-amp, 120-volt locking receptacle. Low oil and overload indicators. Two-year limited warranty.

Image: Picnic by Kenn W. Kiser

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Preparing Meals During an Extended Power Outage

An electric range will all stove-top burners and oven elements turned on.

Electric Stoves and Other Appliances Don’t Work During a Power Outage

We live with electricity every day and don’t think about it very much. At one time it seemed almost miraculous. Now, most of us take it for granted.

Then the power goes out and suddenly lights don’t go on at the flip of a switch and neither do a lot of other things. Without a source of backup power, accomplishing some things becomes more difficult.

Preparing food is one of those necessary chores that becomes a bit more difficult without power, or when you don’t have enough power.

Gas Ranges

A burner on a gas stove top.

Gas Stove Tops Work During and Outage if you Light Them With a Match or Lighter.

Most modern gas stoves and cook tops will still work during a power outage. Turn a burner on and if it doesn’t light, turn it off and wait for minute. Then turn the gas back on to Medium High and light it with a BBQ lighter or stick match.

Avoid very large, thick pieces of meat or large poultry. Break these items down into smaller pieces for cooking on the stove, or perhaps cook them outdoors on the grill.

Stove Top Chuck Roast: Season the roast with salt and pepper. Brown in a large pan with onion and garlic. Deglaze the pan with a cup of water or red wine. Bring to a simmer and cover tightly for one hour. Add cut up carrots and potatoes and simmer another 45 minutes.

BBQ Grills

Two charcoal kettle grills.

Grilling Outdoors is Another way to Cook Without Power

If the power is out and your standby generator can’t supply your electric range, just move the cooking outdoors. A gas grill works much like an oven or a stove top, and many people use it for both. Cook large pieces of meat until not quite done and move them over low heat or no heat to rest and come up to temperature. While you’re waiting, finish the meal by grilling your vegetables.

Quick Grilled Potatoes: Slice potatoes lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick planks. Season and grill a few minutes on each side until done. Sprinkle with grated cheese and a dollop of sour cream. They look awesome and taste even better.

Charcoal grills add their own flavor to outdoor cooking and many people use them for the taste and the fun. They become multipurpose tools in a power outage. Like the gas grill, cook the big things first. Add a few coals if you need to punch up the heat, then cook your vegetables.

If you have a large, cast-iron fry pan or griddle, you can even make pancakes for breakfast.

Slow Cookers / Crock Pots

A modern crock pot and it's parts.

Crock Pots Don’t Use Much Power—Very Useful When Your Emergency Generator is Running

An emergency supply of electrical power will power a slow cooker or crock pot and won’t add much to the overall electrical load. It is amazing how efficient these little devices are and you can prepare an entire meal in one, which makes clean up a breeze.

Crock Pot Stew: Cut meats and vegetables into similar sized pieces. Turn the cooker on high and let it get hot. Spread the meat out and brown it. Add your vegetables, liquid, and herbs and spices. Food cooks fairly quickly on high. You can stretch it out all day by cooking on low.

Power Outage Food Safety

A Kohler Standby Generator and Automatic Transfder Switch

A Standby Generator can keep your food safe by keeping the power on to refrigerators and freezers.

A standby generator system can keep your refrigerator and freezer powered up and running as if the power were still on. A portable generator with a manual transfer switch that operates some essential circuits is another possibility for emergency power, but it won’t operate on its own.

Keeping food cold or frozen is absolutely necessary to food safety. If refrigerator temperatures rise above 40 degrees, bacteria begins to multiply at a fast rate and food that was safe and delicious begins turning into poison.

If you have no power at all during an outage that extends into days, you’re probably going to throw some food away. There are some things you can do to minimize your loss. Keep a thermometer in both your fridge and your freezer and in a place where it only takes a glance to see it.

Keep the doors on your refrigerator and freezer closed unless absolutely necessary.

When the refrigerator temperature begins to rise, stock up on ice in tubs and coolers and pack as much as possible beneath the ice.

Is your freezer full? A full freezer is the most efficient and stays frozen longer. Fill empty space with gallon water bottles filled two-thirds full. If you need room, take one out. Put them back when you have space. They will help keep food frozen much longer during an outage.

If you consider the amount of money invested in food that is kept in your refrigerator and in your freezer, isn’t a source of emergency power worth the investment? When you add in the safety of your family, doesn’t that make it necessary?

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Use Generators Safely for Emergency Power During Winter Storm Outages

What Will My Portable Generator Run During a Power Outage?

Portable generators serve double duty as backup power for homes and primary power on the job, on camping trips, and RVing where there are no shore lines.

Just over two years ago, Hurricane Sandy roared up the coast and left millions in the dark. Most power outages took crews about a week to restore power. Others were left waiting and hoping and wishing for electricity for more than a month.

Bad weather and no power are worrisome. Your home cools until it becomes uncomfortable. Keeping the fridge closed only works so long and the temperature inside soon rises to unsafe level. Even worse, the heat is out and there is no way to keep warm.

Utility customers without power sometimes turn to portable generators. These workhorses can fill in during an outage, but they were not really designed to operate as a backup power supply in an emergency. That doesn’t mean you should not use them, only that special precautions must be taken to avoid illness or death.

Warning: Don’t use any generator to power a home unless you have carbon monoxide detectors located in all sleeping areas. Check batteries and test the units to ensure they work.

Carbon Monoxide

A plug-in carbon monoxide detector.

A CO Detector Provides Advance Warning that Deadly CO is accumulating.

A deadly gas present in the exhaust of all internal combustion engines, CO can rise to lethal levels in just a few minutes. When portable generators run indoors, they quickly fill the room with exhaust fumes. Leaving windows and doors open will not alleviate the problem sufficiently.

NEVER run a portable generator or any internal combustion engine indoors.

The best guideline is the further from the house the better. Ten feet is considered the minimum distance, but don’t forget to take in other factors. Small openings can create an air intake and pull exhaust fumes inside the home. Such was the case when two sisters died of CO poisoning after Hurricane Sandy. A window was open just a crack to allow an extension cord from the generator into the home.

Take the wind direction into consideration when you position the portable generator. Don’t allow the exhaust to blow directly at vents, open windows, open doors, or other openings.

Extension Cords

Let us help you prepare for your next power outage.

A transfer switch, now required by the National Electric Code, connects to the circuits in your electrical panel that you’ll need most during a power outage, like a furnace, refrigerator, lights, well pump, television, garage door opener, etc.

Only use heavy duty cords made for use outdoors. Remember that cords have a current limit, and maxing out a cord is asking for trouble. A 12-gauge cord can handle 20 amperes on an 80 percent duty cycle. If you want to pull 20 amperes all the time, step up to a 10-gauge cord.

The best connection for a portable generator is a manufacturer supplied cord that plugs into an inlet box. The inlet box connects to a manual transfer switch which provides power to selected circuits. It allows your generator to run permanently wires appliances such as your furnace. The switch disconnects the home from the distribution grid to prevent injury to line workers and prevent overloading the generator.

Upgrade

The Kohler 20RESAL-SE with included 200-Amp Automatic Transfer Switch.

The Kohler 20RESAL-SE with included 200-Amp Automatic Transfer Switch.

Let’s face it, who wants to run outside in the middle of a blizzard like Juno to drag the generator out of the garage or shed, connect it to the house, fill it with fuel and get it started.

Then, every few hours you have to run back outside, shut it down, let it cool, fill it with fuel, and then you can start it again.

A standby generator like the Kohler 20RESAL-SE can put an end to fuel storage issues and or having to hook it up in the middle of the night while a storm rages. Standby units like this include a 200-amp automatic transfer switch and are service-entrance rated. The system runs on your existing gas supply (natural gas or propane) and is a fully automatic, permanently installed appliance that begins providing power just seconds after an outage is detected.

They fit between your meter and existing main service panel to provide you with power throughout any outage, and they can run for more than a week before requiring maintenance. Just keep the vents and cover clear of snow and debris and you’re ready to power through the next storm.

Generators are a life saver and can keep you in your home during an extended outage. Use them safely and consider installing a standby unit made for emergency home power.

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Winter Storm Juno Bring Blizzard Warnings – Power Outages

NOAA Map of Winter Storm Juno and how it will impact the East Coast.

Predicted Impact of Winter Storm Juno

The National Weather Service has issued blizzard warnings from the Maine-New Brunswick border all the way down to the New Jersey shoreline. Affected major cities include Portland, Boston, Hartford, and New York City.

Snowfall accumulations may total in excess of two feet in these regions, coupled with high winds, white out conditions, and a storm surge more characteristic of a tropical storm or hurricane.

Final Update 28-Jan-2015 11:30 AM EST:

Radar imagery of Winter Storm Juno on Jan 27, 2015

Image Courtesy of NWS

Winter Storm Juno that severely impacted areas of New England is finally winding down. Some areas experienced blizzard conditions for fourteen hours. The storm also brought coastal flooding and 25-feet-high waves battered beaches and any structures close to it. Winds topped 78 miles per hours in parts of Massachusetts.

New York, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut had the highest local snowfalls with totals that exceeded 30 inches.

A few snowfall totals for comparison:

  • 32 inches in Nashua and 30 inches in Litchfield, NH.
  • 30 inches in Putnam and 33 inches in Thompson, CT.
  • 27.4 inches in Portland and 24 inches in Wells, ME.
  • 36 inches in Lunenberg and Auburn, MA.
  • 30 inches in Orient, but just 10 in Central Park, NY.

Update 27-Jan-2015  2:30 EST: Juno will continue to add snow to regions in New England for the rest of the afternoon and into the evening. Long Island has seen coastal flooding and received more than 28 inches of snow, while Central Park had received 8 inches. Farmington, MA and other areas in Massachusetts have already topped 30 inches. Boston is digging out from under 21 inches and more is coming.

Other states with the potential for substantial impact include Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware. Airport closures are likely and as of 10 EST, more than 7000 flights have already been canceled. Nearly five inches of snow has already fallen in Central Park and parts of New Jersey.

Update 27-Jan-2015  2:30 EST: According to Flightaware, the number of cancellations is 5,119 with 2,139 delays.

What to do in a winter in a winter stormHurricane-force wind warnings are in effect for Cape Cod with gusts exceeding 80 MPH over water. All boats and vessels are advised to stay in port. Most of the coastline in the storm-affected area has the potential for flooding with a storm-surge as high as four feet during the Tuesday afternoon high tide and after midnight Tuesday evening. Coastal flood warnings have been issued. High waves over 25 feet are also likely.

Travel will become impossible in many areas and NWS is warning travelers to postpone or cancel their plans. Connecticut has issued a ban on travel.

Widespread power outages are possible on Long Island all through the coast of Maine, with National Grid predicting as many as 400,000 people to lose power, some for as long as a week.

Update 27-Jan-2015  2:30 EST: National Grid has deployed 850 utility crews and 380 tree crews. By early this morning, there were already more than 22,000 outages. Electric utilities are hampered by high winds which prevent workers from accessing lines.

Winter Storm Juno is expected to affect as many as 28 million people.

Blizzards

image of near blizzard conditions in Minnesota.

The horizon nearly disappears in near blizzard conditions. In a true blizzard, the trees and other features disappear in a blur of white.

A blizzard is a combination of snow and high wind which combine to cause disorientation in those attempting to navigate through the storm. In a blizzard, the wind-blown snow makes it difficult for a person to see where they are going. They have no point of reference because roads, buildings, and other landmarks disappear into the snow.

These factors make travel extremely hazardous. Those walking cannot determine what direction they should walk, and drivers often cannot make out the difference between road, sky, horizon, or where the ditch is. It becomes easy to walk in the wrong direction or drive into obstructions and other hazards because they cannot be discerned in wind-driven snow.

The safest course of action in a blizzard is stay indoors. Even walking from a house to an outbuilding is dangerous, as the person could become disoriented and lost in the snow.

Storm Related Outages

What to Do in a Power Outage by NOAA NWSPower outages in blizzards are often related to trees that fall on power lines and also when those lines become coated with ice. The very heavy snowfall and high winds can damage power lines and equipment.

Winter outages are especially dangerous because without power, most homes also lose their heating capability. If the temperature inside the home drops below freezing, waters pipes can freeze and burst. When power is restored and the house warms, those frozen pipes thaw and the resulting torrent is a devastating flood.

Warning: Never run a portable generator or any internal combustion engine inside your home. Deadly carbon monoxide in the exhaust can accumulate to dangerous levels in minutes.

Freezing or near-freezing temperatures in a home are especially dangerous the young and elderly, but people can also lose their lives in fires when they attempt to provide heat with a gas range.

Standby Generator, 20 kw, by Briggs & Stratton includes 20kW gtenerator, ATS

Briggs & Stratton Standby with SE Rated ATS featuring Symphony Power Management.

The primary defense that homeowners can use to guard against the effects of a power outage is a standby generator, like the 20 kilowatt Briggs & Stratton model 40346 that includes an automatic transfer switch with Symphony II Power Management.

When a blizzard like Winter Storm Juno knocks out the power, the transfer switch automatically senses the outage and starts the standby generator automatically. The transfer switch seamlessly makes the transition to generator power while isolating the unit from the utility lines.

Within a few seconds, power is restored to the home. Lights, sump pumps, furnaces, and even your electric blanket will all operate to keep you warm, comfortable, and without having to worry when the utility crews will make it out to restore power.

The Briggs & Stratton 20kW generator features the Vanguard engine, well-known for its reliability and capable of operating on either natural gas or LP gas (propane). Installation is as close as 18 inches to your home (subject to local codes) and comes with a four-year limited consumer warranty.

Image: Near White Out in Minnesota by Googleaseerch licensed under CC 3.0.

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Cold Weather Kits and Winter Maintenance for Standby Generators

Winter road during a snowstorm. Image via Pixabay.com

Cold Weather Makes Standby Generator Starting Harder

The cold winter weather currently enveloping a good portion of the United States has people scurrying to purchase new car batteries and fill windshield fluid reservoirs.

Cold weather in these regions is nothing new and the past week has seen sub-zero temperatures in the Upper Midwest and Northeast portions of the country. Whether you love, hate, or even just tolerate it, the season requires more preparation in many aspects of life.

Standby generators sit outside in all sorts of weather, just waiting to wake up and provide power in the event of an outage. In the subfreezing weather, emergency power keeps the furnace running and pipes from freezing during an outage, not to mention keeping families warm.

Keep your standby generator clear of snow and ice and ensure that the air intake vents don’t become clogged or blocked by debris. Perform maintenance on schedule.

Replace Old Batteries

Generac Standby Generator showing snow cleared from around the unit and all vents cleared of snow.

Keep Snow and other Debris from Accumulating Around Standby Units

A marginal battery during the summer and fall may not seem like an issue. Every week the standby generator wakes up and starts its exercise cycle. All seems well, despite controller alerts that the battery is near the end of its life. Now that winter has arrived, that marginal battery may not have the power to start the engine when temperatures fall below freezing.

A power outage at two o’clock in the morning is not the time to realize your battery can’t start the engine in colder weather. If your battery is near the end of its expected life, or if the controller tells you it is time to replace the battery, purchase a new, quality battery and install it.

Battery Warmers

A Generac Battery Warmer.

Battery Warmers Keep the Battery Operating Even in Cold Temperatures.

Batteries produce electricity through a chemical reaction. The strength of that reaction is partially dependent on the temperature of the battery. As temperatures fall, the amount of current the battery is capable of producing declines.

In cold weather climates—and that means anywhere the temperature drops below thirty-two degrees—a battery warmer is the most basic cold weather kit you can purchase. A thermostat automatically senses when the battery temperature drops below freezing and turns on to keep it warm.

If you live where temperatures fall below thirty-two degrees, a battery warmer is an inexpensive option to ensure reliable starting.

Change the Oil

A Briggs & Stratton Preventative Maintenance Kit

Maintenance Kits have the Filters and Other Parts Needed to Keep your Generator Running.

Colder temperatures may require a lower viscosity oil for easier starting. In the summer, a higher viscosity oil works well to lubricate the engine, but in the winter that oil might be too thick. Changing to a dual viscosity oil will provide easier starting.

If the generator’s manufacturer allows or suggests, a dual viscosity synthetic oil may allow easier starting in the winter and still provide adequate lubrication and protection in the summer. It’s important to check your owner’s manual before switching oil viscosity. Never use an oil that isn’t recommended by the generator manufacturer.

Change the oil filter every time you change the oil. Dirty oil doesn’t lubricate as well and a clogged oil filter reduces the flow of oil in the engine. Maintenance kits contain all the necessary filters and parts to keep your standby generator engine running. Keep a couple on hand to see you through an extended outage.

Cold Weather Kits

Cold Weather Kit for 16kW and 20kW By Briggs and Stratton

Help ensure smooth starting and reliable operation in the winter months with a Cold Weather Kit .

Some standby models allow the addition of other accessories to ensure easy starts in cold weather. Oil warmers and block heaters help keep the engine warm for easier starts, but should always be paired with a battery warmer, if one is not included in the kit.

A cold weather kit is a necessity anywhere the temperature falls below thirty-two degrees. If it does not include a battery warmer, purchase one separately. Cold weather kits may change the oil type or viscosity required. Generac’s Extreme Cold Weather kit for their liquid cooled engines require the use of synthetic 5W-30 oil.

Even if you live in the south where temperatures are usually above freezing, ice storms and other weather events that last just a few days can make engine starts more difficult. The cost of a cold weather kit is cheap insurance.

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Four Reasons You Need a Standby Generator for Your Home

Guardian 22kW Home Backup Generator

Guardian 22kW Home Backup Generator

Power outages rarely happen on a schedule. Instead, they strike without warning and each time the power goes out, people wonder when the utility will turn it on again.

How long it takes to restore power is often determined by what caused the outage in the first place. Accidents and equipment failures often cause outages that last just a few hours. Widespread damage by large storms such as hurricanes or tornadoes can wreak havoc and crews work for weeks to restore power to everyone.

Standby generators work automatically during an outage to supply electricity to critical systems and provide comfort and security.

Property Damage Prevention

A homeowner works to save whatever possible after storm water flooded her finished basement.

Finished Basement Damaged by Flooding After a Storm.

When the power goes out, essential home systems that rely on electricity no longer function. This includes the furnace, sump pumps, and ejector (sewage) pumps. If your sump pump runs frequently, especially during a storm, your home is at higher risk of flooding during a power outage. During sub-freezing weather, pipes can freeze and burst, and then flood the home when they thaw out again.

Homes with below grade plumbing fixtures can flood with sewage if they rely on an ejector pump to move waste and gray water out of the home.

Keep Food Safe

A side-by-side refrigerator-freezer with the refrigerator door open.

Without Power, Refrigerators Can’t Keep Food Cold.

The moment the power goes out, refrigerators and freezers and begin to warm. At first, they can keep food within safe limits provided they are kept closed.

Just imagine arriving home from the grocery store with a week’s worth of meat and vegetables and finding the power off. The food inside the refrigerator is already at risk, and opening the door to add the new meat and vegetables will warm the the refrigerator more. Frozen foods in freezers will last a bit longer, but even that will thaw during an extended outage.

If you can’t find ice during an extended outage, you’ll find yourself storing refrigerated food in garbage bags until the next pickup day.

Medical Equipment

An oxygen concentrator provides oxygen for people with severe breathing problems.

Medical Equipment like oxygen concentrators make living at home possible for patients with advanced breathing problems.

The number of homes with some kind of medical equipment is on the rise. People depend on medical equipment for their independence and the ability to lead normal or near-normal lives.

Common types of equipment are CPAP machines, oxygen concentraters, and even home dialysis machines. Limited use during an outage may be possible with a battery backup system, but they can only function for a short time on battery power.

A source of standby power allows people who depend on medical equipment to stay in their homes until the electric utility restores power.

Personal Comfort

Standby generators are often packaged with an ATS that includes power management to control appliances that draw large amounts of power.

Standby Generators Keep Your Home and Your Family Safe and Comfortable

Without a doubt, we have come to rely on electricity as a source of comfort. It keeps our homes cool when it’s hot, and warm when it’s cold. It cooks our food, provides light, and allows us contact with the outside world in the form of television and internet and via land-line phones or cellular phones.

A standby generator can keep us comfortable while we wait for the electric utility. Instead of heading for a hotel, we stay in our homes with the lights on, the furnace or air conditioner running, and a cold beverage just inside the refrigerator. And while a comfortable hotel room is nice on vacation, it can quickly turn into an inconvenience when you’re there by necessity and not by choice.

 

Cummins Onan Home Standby Generator

Home Standby Generator System Integrates with Existing Electrical Equipment.

Unlike portable units, standby generators are permanently installed. You don’t have to hook them up, worry about fueling them two or three times a day, or wonder if you’ll be able to buy gasoline to keep it running. Even if you’re away on vacation, they will keep your home safe and essential systems operating in the event an outage leaves your home without electrical power.

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Prepare Your Home and Auto for Holiday Travel

Winter road during a snowstorm. Image via Pixabay.com

Winter Weather can Make Holiday Travel Hazardous

Ahead of the 2014 Christmas Week, weather forecasters are warning of the potential for at least two storms that could impact the Lower 48. While forecasts beyond three days carry a degree of uncertainty, there’s a good chance weather will impact holiday travel this year.

Preparing the home, family, and car for winter trips is something many of us don’t think much about. The hectic season often finds people loading the family car or van at the last minute and stopping at the gas station on the way out of town. There are a few things you can do to make sure both your home and your family are safe while you travel.

Are you ready for winter storm power outages?

Before you leave, check the weather and be aware of the potential for storms that might increase the potential for hazardous driving conditions. Consider adjusting travel to account for changing weather conditions. Continue reading “Prepare Your Home and Auto for Holiday Travel” »

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Six Portable Generator Features to Consider Before Purchase

The Generac XG8000E portable generator.

Generac Portable XG Series XG8000E Electric Start

A portable generator might be a convenience, a necessity, or a lifesaver, depending on the situation. Very often, they serve multiple purposes on job sites, camping trips, and around the home.

Their portability brings electrical power wherever it is needed and isn’t easily available. They show up at tailgate parties, farmer’s markets, community events, and picnics. Continue reading “Six Portable Generator Features to Consider Before Purchase” »

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