Hurricane Preparedness Week: Extreme Wind Hazards

Palm trees bent nearly horiztonal by hurricane-force winds.

Palm Trees Bent by Hurricane-Force Winds

Mention hurricane and the first thing people think of is the extreme wind that impacts structures and landscapes when the storm comes ashore. Television images depict reporters leaning into the wind and horizontal rain.

The winds associated with a tropical cyclone can shred structures, uproot or snap trees, and turn just about anything into a deadly missile. Coast dwellers typically board up their windows and doors when a hurricane threatens in order to keep the glass intact and keep the rain out.

The high winds, the debris they carry, and the trees they topple are all closely related to the widespread power outages as distribution systems are damaged and in some cases, destroyed.

Storm Intensity

Chart showing wind speed tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes.

Saffir Simpson Scale

Tropical cyclones are graded by intensity using the Saffir-Simpson scale which has three classifications: Tropical Depression, Tropical Storm, and Hurricane.

All three storms are cyclones, but the hurricane is the most organized and the strongest of the three. Hurricanes are categorized on a scale of 1 to 5, with five being the most intense. The Saffir-Simpson Scale excludes information about locations, barometric pressure, storm surge and inland flooding, all which effect the amount of damage the storm is capable of.


Less known are the tornadoes that a hurricane can spawn after it makes landfall. As the tropical cyclone begins to decay, the low pressure and difference in wind speed between the upper and lower levels in the atmosphere make conditions ripe for tornado formation. This also makes it likely that tornadoes may form far inland from the coast, and before the eye reaches land. Most tropical-cyclone related tornadoes form 50 to 200 miles from the eye, but some storms have had tornadoes within the eye or the eye wall.

Tropical-cyclone tornadoes may form out of small storm cells that appear harmless on radar, especially if they are far away from the radar equipment.

Nearly all tropical cyclones that make landfall cause at least one tornado to form, but the number is often much higher. Hurricane Ivan spawned at least 117 tornadoes which by themselves caused eight deaths and 17 injuries. Tornadoes formed when a tropical cyclone comes ashore are typically weaker and shorter lived, but they are still a force to be reckoned with and planned for and inland residents should take precautionary measures to keep themselves safe.

Prepare for High Winds

If you live near the coast, invest in a supply of plywood for boarding up your house. It’s a good idea to cut and label plywood for each window and door in the home. Have sufficient fasteners on hand and a battery powered drill to drive screws with. Screws hold better than nails and should be long enough to reach well into the home’s structural frame.

Visit for information on preparing an emergency disaster kit and formulating a plan to help your family safely survive a tropical-cyclone-related disaster.

Choose a shelter room away from exterior walls, preferably at ground level and without windows. Ideally, the room should not be open to other rooms and have wooden doors. The shelter room will help protect you and your family from flying debris and shattered window glass.

Stay indoors, in your shelter room, and don’t go outside. Stay away from windows.

Power Outages

Generac model# 5875Tropical storm and hurricane force winds can damage the utility lines and equipment directly, while flying debris slices through transmission and distribution lines and wrecks transformers and substations.

Power outages during and after a hurricane or tropical storm are very common and usually widespread. They often affect millions of utility customers and many residents will wait a full week after the storm for the utility to restore power. Some will wait much longer.

Emergency power supplied by a standby generator will turn on automatically and continue to run for an extended period of time without frequent refueling. Standby systems use municipal natural gas supplies or may run on propane supplied by the home’s tank. If a standby system is impractical, portable generators can operate appliances via extension cords. A manual transfer switch and inlet box allows a portable generator to power furnaces, air conditioners, and other permanently wired appliances.

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Hurricane Preparedness Week: Storm Surge and Coastal Flooding

National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2014 Banner for May 25th to May 31st.

National Hurricane Preparedness Week

News television networks often talk about storm surge and how it can overwhelm dikes and levees, cause damage to shorelines, and inundate coastal areas with fast rising water. When storm surge combines with a high tide, the effect is even more pronounced.

Coastal regions experience the greatest loss of life and property from the storm urge. High winds drive waves that batter shorelines and structures while the water level rises dramatically, sometimes more than 20 feet. The higher than normal water level allows the waves to reach further onto the shore than waves of a similar height.

Storm Surge

Depiction of wind and pressure storm surges

Storm Surge

Atmospheric pressure pushes down on the ocean surface. If pressure were equal everywhere, it would have no effect on water level. However, the center of a hurricane is an area of very low pressure which differs substantially from areas outside the storm. As the atmosphere presses down on the ocean surface, the low pressure within the eye of the hurricane allows the surface of the ocean to rise.

At the same time, the cyclonic winds push water at a 45-degree-angle to the wind. Hurricane winds move in a circle, thus all the water around the eye is being pushed toward the eye. The result is a mound of water that peaks in height at the edge of the hurricane’s eye.

Ocean currents affected by the earth’s rotation can also magnify the storm surge to a certain degree.

Storm Tide

an image showing water heights increased due to storm surge and high tides with tall waves.

Storm Surge Combines with High Tides and Extreme Waves

A high tide that coincides with the storm surge will magnify the surge by the height of the tide. A five-foot high tide will combine with a 15-foot surge to produce a 20-foot storm tide—water that is 20 feet above the mean sea level.

The coastline along the Gulf of Mexico experiences lower tides than the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts, typical high tides are usually less then two feet above mean sea level. The Atlantic Coast has higher tides, often more than five feet. As a result, the Atlantic Coast experiences greater storm tides than the Gulf Coast.

Battering Waves

Satellite image showing a tropical cyclone with defined rotation and storm bands.

Tropical Cyclone

As the tropical cyclone moves closer to shore, the winds drive high waves ahead of themselves and onto the shore. The waves will combine with the storm surge and storm tide to reach extreme heights and reach much further up the shore than normal. The kinetic energy within the wave combines with the force of the wind that drives it to push the waves further up the shore before they break. Waves can reach far beyond the beach under these circumstances to damage property and threaten lives.

Storm Preparation

Preparation begins long before a storm threatens. Residents of coastal areas should know evacuation routes and make plans that include where they will go if a hurricane or tropical storm forces evacuations in their areas. Once a storm is predicted and forecasters have determined a track, local officials will notify residents of evacuations.

Once the order has been given, evacuate as soon as possible. Routes may become clogged with traffic as the storm nears land and supplies of fuel may also run short.

Inland residents should also make preparations that include topping off stores of food and water and performing preventative maintenance on emergency standby generators. Homes with generators that run on propane should top off their supply if possible. Portable generator owners should also do maintenance and ensure that supplies of gasoline are fresh.

Regardless of location, anyone living where hurricanes or tropical storms threaten should have an emergency preparedness kit and an NOAA weather radio that provides storm updates and emergency information.

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Hurricane Preparedness Week: What You Need to Know About Storms

Hurricane Preparedness Week: What You Need to Know About Storms

NOAAs hurricane preparedness week banner

Hurricane Preparedness Week 2014

Few things in nature can match the power, breadth, and scope of a major hurricane. They can span more than a thousand miles, dump rainfall that measures in feet instead of inches, spawn tornadoes, flood miles of countryside, and wash shorelines and small islands into the ocean.

Hurricanes are the ultimate cyclonic storm and it is important to understand how they threaten life and property, and how to prepare your family, home and business when forecasters predict a hurricane will make landfall on a coastline near you.

The week of May 25 – May 31 is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. Are you prepared?

Tropical Cyclones

Satellite imagery of tropical cyclones

Tropical depression (left), Tropical Storm (upper right). Hurricane or Typhoon (lower right)

Low pressure systems over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico increase in strength and organization. In order of strength, they form tropical depressions, tropical storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes. They are cyclonic, which means they are rotating masses of air with an upward motion. When a weather system reaches tropical storm strength, the National Hurricane Center gives the storm a name.

Warm water evaporates and the vapor rises until it meets cooler air. The vapor condenses back into water droplets, and as each droplet releases a tiny amount of energy as it turns from a gas back into liquid. That tiny amount of energy pushes on the air and makes it move slightly. By itself, the energy of a single droplet is barely measurable, but combined with the uncountable other droplets doing the same thing, they can move the air at a considerable rate.

The difference in energy between the low pressure at the center of the forming storm and the energy released by the water droplets causes the air to move in a circle around the low pressure center. More water vapor is drawn into the system from the surrounding ocean water and rises to the top to add energy to the storm.

In a sense, the storm feeds on the energy in the warm ocean water.

Immediate Hazards

All tropical cyclones are capable of causing death or injury and property damage. A tropical depression—often a precursor to tropical cyclone formation—has sustained winds up to 38 MPH with gusts capable of snapping trees and heavy rainfall that causes inland flooding.

Extreme wind can shred buildings, topple large trees, and kill or maim people with deadly debris that flies with the wind. Despite media broadcasts that show reporters leaning into the wind and horizontal rain, wind isn’t the greatest worry, but it does help form the second most immediate hazard of a tropical cyclone.

The high winds and low pressure cause two mounds of water to form just ahead of the storm center. When the storm makes landfall, the mounds of water surge onto land and up waterways. The Storm Surge is the second most deadly hazard, second only to Inland Flooding.

Inland flooding is responsible for more property damage and takes more lives than storm surge and extreme winds combined. Torrential rains fall over a relatively short period of time and overwhelm natural and man-made drainages, filling low-lying areas and causing flash floods along waterways and many areas that are normally well above water.


The most important preparation is access to information. An NOAA Weather Radio can provide official information automatically and should be a part of every family’s disaster plan.

Prepare in advance to evacuate if necessary by knowing evacuation routes and having an emergency kit ready in the event an evacuation is necessary. The safest course of action for anyone living on or near the coast when a hurricane threatens is to leave well in advance of the storm.

Food, water, and fuel may be difficult to purchase in the days following a hurricane. Non-perishable foods supplies and enough drinking water for a week will make survival easier in the aftermath of a storm and lessen your dependence on outside sources.

Widespread power outages following a hurricane may last weeks. A source of emergency electricity such as a standby generator can keep refrigerators and freezers running, provide heating or air conditioning, and keep home safety appliances like sump pumps operating during and after the storm. Just as importantly, your emergency supply of electricity keeps you in touch by powering televisions, radios, and charging cell phones.

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Atlantic Hurricane Season is Just Three Weeks Away – Are You Ready?

A sattelite view of a tropical cyclone with hurricane or typhoon status showing circular motion and storm bands.

Are You Ready for Hurricane Season?

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1 and is far more likely to affect the United States than the Pacific Season. The NHC keeps the Atlantic Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook page on their website updated with storm tracks and weather systems that have even a slight chance of becoming a tropical cyclone.

The Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season begins this week on May 15th. The National Hurricane Center has already tracked one storm that could have escalated into a tropical cyclone as it headed straight for Mexico. Fortunately, it only brought heavy rains to affected areas, but it had a 50 percent chance of becoming a cyclone before it made landfall.

Atlantic Season Storms

The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1 and ends on November 30. Although tropical cyclones are possible during any month of the year, the official season marks a period when damaging storms are more likely to occur than during other times.

Tropical Cyclones include hurricanes, tropical storms, and tropical depressions. When a weather system reaches tropical storm status, it is named using the next name in the list for that year. The weather systems that produce these storms form mainly off the coast of Africa, in the Caribbean Sea, or in the Gulf of Mexico. Other areas can also produce weather systems that form into tropical cyclones.

Long term forecasts give an overview of what forecasters expect for any given storm season and often do not accurately reflect the actual activity. In 2013, forecasters predicted an above average Atlantic Hurricane Season, but it turned out to be one of the least active seasons on record. The long term forecast for 2014 by University of Colorado researchers indicates a below average season, but only time will reveal the accuracy of that prediction.

Hurricane Preparedness Week

National Hurricane Preparedness Week 2014 Banner for May 25th to May 31st.

National Hurricane Preparedness Week

The NHC will once again host Hurricane Preparedness Week to raise awareness and prepare coastal residents of coastal states for the upcoming season. This year the week runs from May 25 until May 31, with each day highlighting a different aspect of tropical cyclone understanding and how to prepare.

Hurricanes can cause enormous damage to large areas that encompass entire states. Advance preparation before the season arrives helps to ensure that local governments, businesses, and residents are ready for storms that may threaten their areas.

In some cases, only a few days of advance notice is possible as illustrated by Tropical Storm Debbie in 2012.

Tropical Storm Debbie formed out of a depression in the Gulf of Mexico on June 23rd and hit Florida on the 26th. Forecasters expected Debbie to head for Texas or Louisiana, but instead it tracked east. Debbie reached peak intensity with 65-MPH winds despite conditions that discouraged development. In other conditions, Debbie could have been a hurricane when it made landfall instead of a weakening tropical storm.

Even though Debbie continued to weaken as it made landfall, it dumped nearly 30 inches of rain in some places, flooded hundreds of homes, caused widespread power outages, and killed 10 people. State and Interstate Highways were closed due to flooding in Northern Florida with some roads under more than five feet of water. Tornadoes spawned by the storm wreaked additional havoc on buildings and infrastructure.

Home Preparedness

Prepare your home in advance for a hurricane or tropical storm. Determine the amount of plywood you will need to board up your windows and doors and purchase it in advance along with plenty of fasteners to hold the plywood in place. If you have a basement, you probably have a sump pump to help keep it dry. A backup pump can be well worth the money when it prevents your home from flooding.

Don’t forget about an emergency supply of electricity to run your pump, refrigerator, and furnace or air conditioner. A standby generator is your best option because it can run on natural gas from the municipal supply, or propane from your home storage tank. Standby units take time to purchase and install, so don’t wait until a storm threatens. Portable generators are also good options, but they require a steady diet of gasoline—often a hard to find commodity after a devastating storm.

Be prepared for hurricane season and watch for the upcoming blog posts during National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

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Generac Promotion Adds Extended Warranty to Standby Generator Packages

Generac 5-year extended warranty promotion ad.

Special Offer: Get a FREE 5 Year Extended Warranty $495.00 VALUE!! Expires 05/05/14 w/ Select Generac Generators

For a limited time beginning Monday, April 21, 2014, Generac’s standby generator packages offered by Norwall PowerSystems will include the Extended Warranty for Generac Power Systems Air-Cooled Generators, a 495-dollar value. The offer includes select standby packages from 8 to 20 kilowatts and includes “bumper-to-bumper” coverage for a five full years.

Generator packages that include the offer are the 20kW, 17kW, 14kW, and 11kW with 200-amp automatic transfer switch, and 17kW, 14kW, and 11kW with 100-amp automatic transfer switch. Also included are the 8kW and 11kW with 50-amp automatic transfer switch.

The Manufacturer’s Warranty as a Purchase Consideration

Anyone considering the purchase of a major appliance will usually factor the manufacturer’s limited consumer warranty in their decision making process. Two products that are otherwise equal in cost, features, and reputation may have different warranty periods or features, and those are an important part of the purchase.

Warranties are a good measure of product reliability. They tell the consumer that the manufacturer stands behind their product and if something goes wrong besides normal wear and tear, the manufacturer will fix it. There are usually limitations. If you crash your car into a wall, your warranty isn’t going to pay for replacing the bumper. Likewise, most product warranties don’t cover maintenance items or maintenance labor such as changing the oil or air filters.

Generac’s Limited Consumer Warranty

Generac’s limited consumer warranty on air-cooled products covers the standby generator for five years or 2000 hours—parts and labor are covered during years one and two, parts only during year three, and engine, rotor, and stator parts only during years four and five.

The standard limited warranty is limited to standby generators installed for residential use by a home that is connected to utility power. Use as a prime power generator or in a location without utility service will void the warranty. Generac air-cooled standby generators are designed to operate during a power outage to provide emergency power until the utility service is restored.

Bumper to Bumper Coverage

5-year extended warranty banner

• 5 years parts
• 5 years labor
• 5 years “Bumper to Bumper” Coverage

The extended warranty offered on Generac Power Systems standby generator packages at Norwall  includes their most popular standby systems and replaces the standard 5-year limited consumer warranty normally offered on the packages. The bumper-to-bumper protection covers all parts and labor for a full five years from date of activation.

Only the models sold as a package—6240, 6241, 6242, 6243, 6244, 6237, 6437, 6437—with automatic transfer switch are included in the offer. The sale applies only to standby packages shipped to US customers between April 21 and May 5, 2014.

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2014 Tropical Storm Risk Update: Are You Ready for Hurricane Season?

A hurricane as photographed by a satellite showing rotation and storm bands.

The time to prepare for the 2014 hurricane season is now.

Risk assessment for tropical cyclones during the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season for the North Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea has been updated as of April 7, 2014. Major factors in the assessment include the trade wind forecast and the ocean temperature forecast.

Ocean temperature aids tropical cyclone formation by contributing energy to storms in the form of heat and moisture while trade winds help spin storms into cyclones. This year, a moderate El Nino in mid summer along with cooler than normal late-summer North Atlantic Ocean temperatures are expected to somewhat moderate the hurricane season that begins June first and lasts until November 30.

For comparison, annual risks are based on a 64-year average. For 2014, there is a 21 percent chance the season will be more active than usual, a 32 percent chance of average activity, and a 47 percent chance the season will be somewhat less active.

Researchers and forecasters are quick to point out that long-range forecasting is not an exact science, and that forecasts made weeks and months in advance are not always accurate predictors, and the Tropical Storm Risk assessment will be updated on May 27th.

2014 Storms

Chart showing wind speed tropical depressions, storms, and hurricanes.

Saffir Simpson Scale

In the 2014 hurricane season, forecasters are expecting the formation of 12 tropical cyclones which includes seven (±3) tropical storms, three (±2) hurricanes, and two (±2) intense hurricanes. Some of those storms will almost certainly make landfall in the United States, the Caribbean Islands, Mexico, and the Lessor Antilles Islands.

The United States should expect one to three hurricanes and three to five tropical storms to make landfall this hurricane season. The ten year average is for three tropical storms and two hurricanes.

Prepare Now

Photographer Jim Occi captured these photos of gas lines in Cranford on Thursday following Hurricane Sandy.

Photographer Jim Occi captured these photos of gas lines in Cranford on Thursday following Hurricane Sandy.

By the time a tropical storm or hurricane is predicted to make landfall, the time for advance preparation has already passed. Stores will quickly run out of supplies and when evacuations are announced, the roads will be jammed with traffic.

If you live on the coast or in a low-lying area near the coast, be prepared by knowing your evacuation routes and determining where you will go in advance. When the time comes to leave, don’t hesitate. Grab your ready bag and your luggage and leave at once. Hotels and motels in destination areas will sell out quickly.

Those living away from the coast should be prepared with non-perishable food and water, and other supplies. Each person needs a minimum of one gallon of drinking water per day, and another gallon for personal hygiene.


Ocean City, N.J., Nov. 2, 2012 -- Linemen from Alabama Power and other crews form around the country have been working tirelessly to restore power to the hurricane-ravaged New Jersey shore. At the height of the storm, 2.5 million people were without power. Outages are down to about 1.7 million today. Photo by Liz Roll/FEMA

Photo by Liz Roll/FEMA

Tropical storms and hurricanes can destroy the local electrical distribution grid, and it can take weeks for crews to restore all utility customers. Homes equipped with a standby generator can keep the power on during extended outages. Portable generator owners are also equipped for long-term outages, but may have trouble finding fuel as gas stations run out of gas or are unable to sell the fuel because they don’t have electricity either.

It takes a fair amount of time and planning to install a standby generator. You won’t visit the local home center, buy one and have it running the next day. The project requires building permits, inspections, and the skills a qualified electrician and possibly a plumber.

Are you ready for hurricane season. It’s just six weeks away. Plan now and be prepared.

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Cummins Power Generation Standby Generators for Homes and Businesses

The Cummins Onan RS20 Standby Generator shown with automatic transfer switch.

Cummins Onan 20kW RS20 with ATS

The Cummins Power Generation line of standby generators at Norwall Power Systems offers 20-kilowatt and 13-kilowatt air-cooled models in various packages. Liquid-cooled models range in capacity from 20 to 60 kilowatts, with three-phase configurations available on some models.

Design considerations include appealing weather and corrosion-resistant enclosures, operating sound levels at or below those of most central air conditioning units, and various automatic transfer switch options.

Cummins Onan standby generator systems provide backup electrical power during an outage automatically to protect your home and family, even when you are not present.

Air-Cooled Standby

The Cummins Onan standby air-cooled generator packages include the RS20 and RS13 with options for 100- and 200-amp automatic transfer switches, wiring harnesses, and cold weather packages. At normal load conditions, the 62dB noise level is 10 percent quieter than the average 3-ton central-air conditioner, allowing it to easily fit into any neighborhood environment.

The in-home display makes control easy by putting control inside your home. No need to go outside in a storm or at night to check the generator.

The in-home display brings controls inside your home. No need to go outside in a storm or at night to check the generator.

All packages include the remote display which allows homeowners to view generator status without going outdoors. The remote display allows remote stopping and starting of the generator, setting exercise periods, configuration of the automatic transfer switch, fault and event display, service/maintenance reminders, and current load conditions to allow the homeowner to better manage the electrical load. The in-home display also allows email notification and Internet monitoring.

The remote display replaces the generator’s controller panel, an important consideration if technicians or maintenance personnel need access to the controller when the homeowner is away since they need access to the remote display.

The service-entrance-ready transfer switches are 100 or 200 amp with NEMA 3R enclosures suitable for indoor or outdoor installation. These ATS units include a 2-amp battery charger and are capable of managing non-essential loads (requires installation of optional contactor relays) to ensure an continuous supply of power.

RS20 Air Cooled

With up to 20 kilowatts of power, these standby generators can supply the average home with enough power that the homeowner will barely notice the outage. The generators operate on either Natural Gas or LP Gas and are easily configurable for either fuel during installation.

The RS20 air-cooled generators are US EPA and CARB emissions certified for sale in all 50 states. Generators and automatic transfer switches are UL2200 listed and CSA certified to protect your home and family. A molded polymer base and available wiring harnesses (included in some packages) simplify installation.

RS13 Air Cooled

Cummins Onan RS13 air-cooled standby generator

The RS13 Cummins Onan Standby Generator

The RS13 standby generators provide plenty of backup power for many homes and can start a 4-ton central air unit, even when the generator is already near full load.

Cummins Onan manufactures their RS13 standby generators as either LP units or NG units. These standby packages include generator-only models and bundles of different configurations with automatic transfer switches, cold-weather packages, and wiring harnesses. All RS13 packages include the remote display which also allows Internet monitoring and email notifications when installed inside the home.

US EPA and CARB emissions certification make the RS13 available in all 50 states. UL2200 listing for RS13A models, and CSA certification for RS13AC models.

Liquid Cooled Standby Generators

Liquid cooled Cummins Onan 20 kilowatt.

Cummins Onan RS20L

Cummins Onan liquid-cooled generators offer greater reliability for emergency backup power as residential or commercial generators. They have automotive style engines with a radiator, fan, and coolant to keep the engine cool, even in extreme heat.

The RS20L provides 20 kilowatts of power on LP Gas or Natural Gas. Two packages include either the 200-amp or 100-amp automatic transfer switch, coolant heater to improve cold weather starting and performance, fully automatic operation, and a 66dB sound level at full load.

Quiet Connect or Power Connect by Cummins Onan

Quiet Connect by Cummins Onan

The Quiet Connect Series of generators includes models ranging from 22 kilowatts to 40 kilowatts. They feature reliable 4-cylinder, 2.4 liter engines operating at 1800 RPM and are available in either 240-volt single phase or 208-volt three phase. Field-selectable LP Gas or Natural Gas operation.


Power Connect Series standby generators range in capacity from 30 kilowatts to 60 kilowatts and are easily configured in the field to run on Natural Gas or LP Gas. The 2.4 liter engines run at 3600 RPM. These generators provide either 120/240-volt single phase or 120/208-volt three phase current.

The Power Connect Standby Generator with Access Panel Removed.

The Power Connect with Access Panel Removed

Both the Power Connect and the Quiet Connect generators offer extreme cold-weather operation with reliable starting down to minus 40 degrees. They are NFPA 110 capable with the correct installation and configuration.

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Power Outage Frequency: How Reliable is the Power Grid?

Transmission tower supporting high-voltage electrical transmission cables.

High-Voltage Transmission Towers Support Cables that Carry Electricity Across the Continent’s Electrical Grid

Even though the United States is one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, the nation’s power grid is based on technology and equipment from the 1960s and 1970s. It’s no surprise therefore, that a 2012 study funded by the Department of Energy at University of California’s Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory found that the reported frequency and duration of power outages has been increasing at the rate of two percent every year.

In 2010, a Minnesota University study revealed that in the years 1991 to 1995, there were 41 non-disaster related outages affecting 50,000 or more customers. From 2001 to 2005, that number rose to 92, an increase of 124 percent.

And in 2006 alone, there were 36 such outages.

Best – Worst States

If you live in Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North or South Dakota, Nebraska, or Kansas, chances are you’re less likely to endure a protracted power outage. Based on the number of utility customers and the length of widespread outages, the average consumer experiences less than two hours of service interruption per year, according to a 2008 study.

Data from the same study shows that residents of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey can expect an average of four hours of service interruption every year.

Electric utility reliability in other states falls somewhere between these regions. The same study compared the United States to Japan where the interruptions average just 4 minutes per year, per consumer.

It bears repeating that reliability isn’t getting better, it is getting worse at the rate of two percent every year, and this study is already six years old. Equipment breakdowns in the nation’s aging electricity transmission and distribution system are responsible for more than 24 percent of the country’s power outages.

Grid Blackouts

The power grid in North America is comprised of several key components. Generating stations produce electrical power which is stepped up to as much as 765,000 volts by transformers for long-distance transmission. Transmission lines supported by steel towers carry the high voltage to sub-transmission stations where it is stepped down to 26,000 or 69,000 volts for local distribution. Substations reduce the voltage again to 13,000 volts. Local transformers reduce the power one more time for use in homes, businesses, industry, and other facilities.

Any component in the system that fails can cause a widespread outage that lasts for days and affects thousands of utility customers. And because the entire grid in North America is interconnected, failure in any of the transmission components can cause widespread blackouts that affect millions of people.

When transmission systems fail, they cause other failures and equipment damage. In 2003, A software bug caused a blackout with cascading failures in the Northeast and Canada, ultimately affecting more then 55 million people for at least two days. Another blackout was caused by human error when an substation under maintenance was prematurely put online. The error caused 26 other substations to shut down, affected millions of people, and economic losses ran into tens of millions of dollars.

Protect Your Home and Business

Guardian 20kW Home Backup Generator

Guardian 8kW  to 20kW Home Backup Generator

You can protect your home and business with a backup supply of electricity. Standby generators integrate into a building’s electrical system with an automatic transfer switch and isolate the building from the power grid during an outage. The system detects power interruptions immediately. After a short delay to prevent unnecessary starts during momentary outages, the automated system starts the generator, then switches the building onto generator power. Once utility power is restored, the system reconnects the building to the grid and then begins to shut down the generator.

Quiet Connect or Power Connect by Cummins Onan

Cummins Onan 30kW to 60kW Power Connect for Business or Home Use

It all happens automatically and without human intervention. Most standby generators run on natural gas or LP gas to eliminate frequent refueling or volatile fuel storage. Some systems run on diesel fuel with integrated fuel tanks.

A standby generator gives you peace of mind with the knowledge that you can keep your businesses doors open and your home livable and safe during an extended power outage.

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Steps to Secure Protect Portable Generators During Use

Briggs & Stratton Elite 7000 Watt Electric Start Portable Generator

Secure Your Portable Generator from Theft

In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, people who ran their generators indoors or too close to their home became a part of the storms sad statistics. Interviews with people sickened by carbon monoxide poisoning revealed that fear of theft was one of the main reasons why portable generator users put their generators too close to their homes, or even ran them indoors.

A portable generator operating during a power outage is worth its weight in cash, and too many unscrupulous people will take advantage of the opportunity. Keep your home safe and follow safety rules for proper generator placement.

Above all else, never operate a portable generator indoors or near an open window, door, or vent.

Storage Tips

If you’ve ever driven through a construction zone after working hours, you’ve probably seen tool boxes and generators suspended thirty feet off the ground by a crane to prevent the items from being stolen. Most homeowners don’t have access to a crane, but a good storage location is just as effective.

Store your portable generator in a secure, locked building when not in use. Garages and locked storage sheds are the best choice. The old adage, “out of sight, out of mind” is a good rule to follow. If thieves can’t see it, they won’t think about it and that adds a significant measure of security.

Remember that gasoline ages quickly, especially when the ambient temperature is warm. Before storing the unit, drain the generator’s gas tank and run the carburetor dry, or add fuel stabilizer to the gasoline before putting it in the tank. Aging gasoline forms varnishes and gummy deposits that can clog carburetor ports and cause poor performance.

If you must store the unit inside a house, drain the gasoline from the tank before putting it away.

Keep the generator’s make, model, and serial number with your owner’s manual and other documentation. If the unit is stolen despite your security measures, you can provide the information to the police and greatly ensure the odds your property is returned if police recover it.

In-Use Security

The creative methods people have invented to prevent portable generator theft are a testament to problem. Most thieves are opportunists—they see an easy opportunity and take it. If it’s not easy, they don’t take it. Usually. These methods are good ways to deter all but the most determined thief.

Use carriage bolts to secure a steel plate to the bottom of the generator frame with the nuts down. The plate should extend about two feet beyond the outside of the frame. Position the generator, then park your vehicle with the tire resting on the plate. Keep the muffler in mind when positioning the plate so that it won’t end up pointing at the vehicle. This method of theft prevention is often used by campers, but could certainly be used at home.

Place the generator inside a fenced-in area during use and lock the gate. Consider removing the wheels from the frame to make hauling the generator away more difficult. During the night, a light will also help deter thieves and a motion-activated trail camera can take pictures of potential thieves.

A hardened chain and hardened lock are another good deterrent. Buy a lock with a guard that prevents the use of bolt cutters. Although tools such as a battery-powered grinder with a cutting wheel will cut the lock or chain, using those tools makes noise and draws attention to the user.

Remember that the most important aspect of portable generator operation is the safety of your family. Follow all manufacturer’s guidelines and safety rules for operation and placement during use.

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New Mobile Link App Simplifies Generac Standby Remote Monitoring

The Mobile Link IOS screen showing status lights and current mode with options.

Mobile Link on IOS

Generac has released a new free app for IOS and Android devices to make remote monitoring of standby generators easier than ever before. Paired with the optional Mobile Link remote cellular monitoring system, the app allows users to receive status updates from their standby generators on smartphones and tablets.

Previously, Mobile Link users were able to check generator status in real time by logging onto the website and viewing their dashboard. The new app keeps the homeowner informed automatically without opening their web browser.

Mobile Link

Mobile Link with Generac Guardian Standby Generator

Generac Guardian with Optional Mobile Link – Access your Generator Controller from anywhere

The Mobile Link accessory attaches to the outside of the standby generator and communicates with the cellular system via text message. Cellular service is required and one year of service is included in the package. Messages are relayed to the website where laptop, tablet, and smartphone users are able to access the generator’s controller remotely. The Mobile Link services will also send updates as text messages to four different cell phone numbers and up to four email addresses.

The Mobile Link system was first introduced in 2013 and is compatible with any Generac-manufactured air-cooled generators of 20 kilowatt or less that were manufactured in or after 2008. Liquid-cooled generators from 22 to 60 kilowatts from 2010 and later years are also compatible with the system, but require an extension cable.

During emergencies, the cellular phone system has proven more reliable than traditional landlines and landline-based Internet connections, making the Mobile Link system more reliable than other technologies that use telephone lines or Ethernet connections. Using a connection established by the Mobile Link accessory between the generator’s controller and the cellular text system, the controller sends and receives information as text messages. Installation is simple and it takes only a few minutes to attach the Mobile Link to the outside of the generator enclosure and connect it to the controller.

A new feature planned for 2014 will allow homeowners to send standby generator messages directly to their local dealer to ensure on-time maintenance and allow the dealer to spot problems before they occur.

The New App

IOS Mobile Link App showing Maintenance Alerts for filters, oil changes, spark plug changes.

Mobile Link App Maintenance Alerts

A large majority of smartphone users rely on their phones for information in real time including weather, traffic, and directions. The Mobile Link App provides real-time information on the status of the user’s standby generator including when it starts and runs, if it needs maintenance, or has shut down in the event of a problem, such as a low oil condition.

The new Mobile Link app is available for Android and IOS tablets and smart phones at the Amazon App Store, iTunes App Store, and Google Play. Generac showcased the new technology in February at the annual International Builder’s Show in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Mobile Link at iTune App Store, Amazon App Store, Google Play.

Homeowners can still access their dashboards at via desktop or laptop computer, smartphone, or tablet, or receive email or text message notifications.

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