Standby Generators Increase Home Resale Value

Transmission tower supporting high-voltage electrical transmission cables.

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

Every major storm only serves to highlight the fragile nature of the nation’s power grid. According to Dr. Jeff Masters at Weather Underground, Hurricane Sandy disrupted power to 8.5 million people 2012, including three-quarters of New Jersey utility customers. It took more than a week (CNN) to restore service for most people, but after three weeks some were still waiting for service.

As bad as the aftermath of Sandy was, it was nothing compared to the previous year when power outages lasting more than 24 hours affected more than 21 million electric utility users across the country. Natural events cause extended, widespread power outages every year.

Standby Generator Value

We rely extensively on electricity to heat and cool our homes and to keep them dry and safe. It keeps our food cold or frozen, we cook with it, and heat water with it. Without electricity, homes are dark and swelter in the summer heat or freeze in the winter cold.

The intangible value(Generac Power Systems) of a standby generator becomes starkly apparent when your home is the only one in the neighborhood with lights, heating or air conditioning, and you’re not worrying about the basement flooding or the food spoiling.

Don’t be surprised when the next door neighbor shows up with extension cord in hand to ask if he connect his sump pump.

Return on Investment

Home improvement projects are often rated on the return they offer, and the installation of a standby generator system qualifies as a mid-range project. Few remodeling or home improvement projects return all the investment to the homeowner, but some do better than others.

Like almost every project, how much you can expect to recoup depends largely on where you live. A recent study of home projects across the United States compared the cost of various home improvement projects to their added value at the time of sale.

According to a 2014 report by Remodeling Magazine, on average, homeowners across the country can expect to increase their resale value by 67.5 percent of the cost of purchasing and installing a standby generator. The study included the costs of the standby unit (approx 17kW), the automatic transfer switch and other electrical hardware, connecting to existing gas lines, and the mounting pad.

Costs can vary widely by region, but so can returns. If you’re looking for a home improvement project guaranteed to return everything you invest and more, a new front door is your best bet with an average return of 105 percent. Few other projects will return more than they cost.

But if you live in the right area, a standby generator can not only improve the selling price of your home, it can return the investment cost and then some.

A sampling of cities from the 2014 report returned some surprising results that far exceeded the national average.

City Cost $ Value $ ROI %
El Paso, TX 10,849 18,135 167.2
Miami, FL 11,441 13,035 113.9
Albany, NY 11,842 14,348 121.2
Cincinnati, OH 11,548 13,838 119.8
Providence, RI 12,049 16,071 133.4

(Cities surveyed varied between a low of 35 percent and a high of 167.2 percent)

Other cities are closer to the average, and of course, some are well below the average too. The main advantage of a standby generator for most people is the improvement in living conditions during extended outages, and the safety of their families and homes.

According to the report, the return on investment for most cities and regions will fall somewhere between 67 and 85 percent. A few areas are significantly lower. If you’re looking for a project solely to improve your home’s value and return most or all of the investment do your research carefully. The most important benefits of a standby generator system are the safety and piece of mind they provide.

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Compare Important Home Standby Generator Features Before Purchase

Automatic Home Standby Generators

Automatic Home Standby Generator

Good comparisons are an important part of the decision making process prior to any large purchase, and standby generators are no different.

Making comparisons will help you determine which generator to purchase for you home and ensure the model you choose best meets your needs.

The first step in making a selection: do a power audit of your home to help you determine how much backup power your generator will have to supply. Then make choices based on which generator has the features to most efficiently supply that amount of power.

Power Management

A standby generator can supply a fair amount of power for a home, and since many major appliances don’t need to run all the time, or don’t have to run during a power outage, usually it is not necessary to purchase and install a generator that can supply enough power to run all appliances 24/7. Instead, a system that automatically manages power can substantially lower the cost of purchase and operation.

Power management prevents too many appliances that draw large amounts of power from operating at the same time. For example, a home with two air conditioners may only have enough backup power to start one at a time. Power management allows one unit to run, then starts the other if the generator isn’t at capacity.

Different manufacturers use different power management techniques, and some will control more devices than others, which makes comparing methods and capability important.

Fuel Considerations

Most home standby generators operate on either LP Gas (propane) or on Natural Gas. Some models run on diesel, making frequent refueling during extended outages necessary.

An important factor is the continuous power rating and how it relates to fuel. Generators that can operate on either LP Gas or Natural Gas are often less efficient while operating on Natural Gas. They produce more power while running on LP Gas, sometimes making it necessary to choose a larger generator if natural gas is the fuel of choice.

Larger capacity generators also use more fuel than those with less capacity. This becomes an important consideration when operating on LP Gas because the available fuel supply is limited by the size of the storage tank. Increasing the size of the fuel tank may be necessary to provide a fuel supply that lasts more than a few days.

Fuel use on all generators is directly related to electrical load. The size of the engine sets the minimum fuel use without an electrical load. As the electrical load increases fuel use also increases as the engine has to provide more power while running at the same speed.

Important comparisons to make are the specifications for full-load and half-load fuel consumption.

Transfer Switch Options

The automatic transfer switch is a key component to any standby generator system. Standby generators connect to homes via an automatic transfer switch, which automatically selects between utility power for normal operation or generator power during an outage. Choosing the correct transfer switch is an essential consideration for all installations. Most residential standby generator manufacturers offer automatic transfer switches designed to work specifically with their standby generators.

Ultimately, it is the transfer switch that controls what receives power during an outage and what does not. Choosing the right options may mean the difference between taking a hot shower, staying warm in the winter, or cool in the summer.


Before you buy, determine the best location for your generator. Some models are better suited to small yards and install closer to the home or take up less space. Locate standby generators away from windows, doors, and vents. Other considerations include the prevailing wind and your neighbor’s home. It is just as important to keep carbon monoxide out of their home as it is yours. Some states have air quality standards that also limit what generators you can purchase

Extreme environments are also a consideration. Coastal areas have salt in the air which causes corrosion. Select models with good corrosion resistant enclosures or materials that don’t corrode in harsh environments.

Purchasing a standby generator is an important step to keeping your family and home safe during an outage. Do your research and choose a model that meets your home’s unique requirements.

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New Briggs and Stratton Product Offerings By Norwall PowerSystems

Norwall PowerSystems is adding more Briggs & Stratton Standby Generator Products to give business and home owners additional options for standby power. Included are two air-cooled, three-phase standby generators, and three liquid-cooled, three-phase standby generators.

Maintenance and cold weather kits keep standby generators operating smoothly and make starting easy, even in cold weather. Stay informed wherever you are with generator status alerts via Infohub alerts on smart phones, tablets, or computers, or choose Basic Wireless Monitor.

25kW Managed Whole House Power

This liquid-cooled standby generator joins the Briggs & Stratton lineup of residential liquid-cooled generators offered by Norwall. Powered by an automotive-type liquid cooled engine, the generator supplies 25 kilowatts of power while operating on either LP or Natural Gas to supply your entire home with emergency power.

Briggs and Stratton 25kW NG LP Liquid Cooled Home Standby Generator and Dual 200 Amp Split 400 Amp Automatic Transfer Switch 76107

Briggs and Stratton 25kW NG LP Liquid Cooled Home Standby Generator and Dual 200 Amp Split 400 Amp Automatic Transfer Switch 76107

When power from the electric utility is interrupted, the generator begins to supply your entire home with power within seconds after detecting the outage. The 25kW generator is sold as a stand-alone unit (model 76180) or pre-packaged (model 76107) with a dual 200-amp automatic transfer switch. The transfer switch automatically selects utility power for normal operation or emergency standby generator power during an outage.

Integrated into the automatic transfer switch is the Air Conditioner Control Module which handles the management of two central air conditioning units. Adding a Load Control Center allows management of six additional heavy loads such as electric dryers, well pumps, and electric hot water heaters.

Air-Cooled Three-Phase Commercial

The new 17 kilowatt (model 40415) and 19 kilowatt (model 40422) air-cooled generators provide three-phase (240V Delta) power during an outage. Briggs & Stratton 993cc Vanguard V-Twin engines power the generators on either LP or Natural Gas.

Eliminate your customer's lossess from power outages. Backed by one of the best commercial warranties in the industry, the three phase 19kW1 is perfect for businesses with increasing electrical demands. Designed to offer you more options, you can trust that this standby generator is a reliable choice for backup power

Eliminate your customer’s lossess from power outages. Backed by one of the best commercial warranties in the industry, the three phase 19kW1 is perfect for businesses with increasing electrical demands. Designed to offer you more options, you can trust that this standby generator is a reliable choice for backup power

Less than thirty seconds after sensing an outage, the generator starts automatically and the GE Zenith automatic transfer switch isolates the building from the electric utility and begins supplying power from the generator.

While operating on Natural Gas, expect the 40415 to supply about 15.3 kilowatts and 17.1 kilowatts from the 40422.

Both three-phase generators include the Briggs & Stratton 4-year limited parts and labor warranty.

Liquid-Cooled Three-Phase Commercial

Also new to the Norwall product line are three-phase liquid-cooled standby generators in 35 kilowatts, 48 kilowattes, and 62 kilowatt models. These B&S standby generators offer three voltage configurations: single-phase 120/240V, three-phase 120/208V, or three-phase 139/240V.

Pair the commercial standby generators with Briggs & Stratton automatic transfer switches for single phase operation, or with a GE Zenith ATS for three-phase operation.

Designed for long-term reliability, the standby generators come with the most comprehensive and longest commercial warranty in the industry—four years (1600 hours) parts & labor. The corrosion resistant enclosure eases servicing with swing-open doors that allow easy access to the engine for maintenance.

Powered by GM Vortec Engines in 8 and 4 cylinder configurations, these units are factory set to run on natural gas, but easily convert to LP gas in the field during installation. They operate at lower speeds for less wear and tear, low noise, and better fuel efficiency. Look for an approximate 10 percent reduction in available power while operating on natural gas.

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Prepare Now for the 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Photo from space of a hurricane-class tropical cyclone showing circular motion and storm bands.


The National Hurricane Center reminds us that the hurricane season is just a few months away, and the time to prepare for that season is now. Although the direct force of a hurricane directly affects the coastal region where it comes ashore, effects can reach far inland. Hurricane Sandy hit New Jersey and traveled over the Appalachians to affect Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. Gale warnings were issued for Lake Michigan where waves in excess of 21 feet, with some some reaching 33 feet in height, were recorded.

Good Preparations for a hurricane begin with understanding the dangers and then forming a plan and putting that plan into action.

Atlantic Season Begins June 1

The official season begins on June 1 and runs through November 30. Long range forecasts can predict the intensity of the season, but not individual storms. Such forecasts are useful to gauge what to expect, but can’t offer insight into where storms will hit or how often. They are often publicized because they are newsworthy and help governmental agencies prepare for the worst.

Examining the records for Atlantic Basin Tropical Cyclones reveals that storms form during every month of the year, not just during the storm season.

Tropical Storm Risk, an organization headed by Prof. Mark Saunders and Dr. Adam Lea of the University of London Department of Climate and Space Physics, issued their long-range prediction for the 2014 season in December. This season could see as many as five intense hurricanes (category 3-5), nine hurricanes (category 1-2), and 18 tropical storms.

TSR will update their assessment in April.

Know the Dangers

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

Saffir Simpson Scale

High winds make for good headlines and are widely publicized, but they are not the most devastating effects of tropical storms. The winds normally begin subsiding when the storm crosses over land as the storm loses its primary energy source, which is warm ocean water. When a storm becomes extra-tropical however, it receives energy from other sources, as was the case with Hurricane Sandy which wreaked havoc all the way into the Western Great Lakes.

Storm surge is a double mound of water. A large mound is formed by the cyclonic winds pushing water ahead of the wind and forms just behind the eye of the storm. A second surge forms in the eye of the storm where barometric pressure is the lowest. The surrounding area has a higher pressure, which pushes down on the water and forces it up into a mound in the eye of the storm. Storm surges can reach 25 to 30 feet and inundate coastal bays, lakes, rivers, and estuaries.

Records for the past 30 years show that inland flooding causes more deaths than high winds and storm surge combined. Torrential rains easily measured in feet—not inches—inundate the land away from the coast and cause widespread flooding. Hurricane Claudette dropped nearly four feet of water on some areas of Texas after it moved inland.

Widespread power outages last for days and weeks after a hurricane. The extreme winds knock trees down onto power distribution lines and tornadoes spawned by the storm cause even more damage to transmission lines and substations. Three weeks after Hurricane Sandy, crews were still working to restore power to West Milford, New Jersey customers. Some customers waited more than five weeks.

Make Your Hurricane Preparedness Plan Now

Now is the time to take action and get ready for hurricane season. Formulate an evacuation plan if you live on or near the coast. Know the evacuation routes and put together an evacuation kit that includes non-perishable food, clothing, water, and personal items to take with you.

Understand the dangers of tropical cyclones as they pertain to where you live and how they will affect you, so that you can be prepared ahead of time. Stock non-perishable food supplies and a minimum of 1 gallon of water per person, per day, for at least one week. Provide for an alternative source of electrical power. Standby generators are best; portables offer a less-expensive option, but fuel for portables may be scarce during a widespread power outage.

Remember that Hurricane Preparedness Week begins May 25th. The time to begin preparedness is now, before the season begins.

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Generator Safety During Winter Storm Power Outages

Snow and Ice prediction by NWS for Georgia and Atlantic Coast

Ice and Snow Blanket the SE in a February Storm

As the United States records 2014 as one of the coldest and snowiest winters in recent memory, the number of winter-weather-related power outages may also be one for the records. Major ice storms have plunged large portions of the southern half of the country into darkness, while the East Coast and Midwest have been pummeled regularly with snow and ice.

The most recent storm cut power to nearly one million utility customers, and some waited days for restoration. Lack of heat was the cause of at least one death this winter. Damage to homes from outage-related flooding or freezing is always a problem during winter outages.

Note: Anyone using a generator for emergency home power should install carbon monoxide detectors in the home’s living areas.

Backup Generator Use

The most common solution to a power outage regardless of the season is a generator. The safest, easiest option is a standby unit. Permanently installed and connected, standby systems continuously monitor the utility power and automatically start and run within seconds after detecting an outage. The automatic transfer switch that connects the generator to the home transfers the power source from the utility lines to the generator while simultaneously isolating the system from the utility. When power is restored, the process is reversed and the generator shuts down.

Standby generators usually run on either propane or natural gas, but some diesel models are also available.

Another option is the portable generator. Portables are not automatic and require a human to connect them, start them, and refuel them, each of which carries its own safety risks. Portable generators can connect directly to appliances with extension cords, or to the home via a dedicated cord, inlet box, and manual transfer switch.

Standby Safety

Most safety issues for standby generator systems are addressed during installation. There’s no connections to make in the rain or snow, positioning is taken care of, and fuel storage and supply are eliminated for natural gas or LP systems.

Keep the generator vents and exhaust clear of snow and ice. Do not allow snow and ice to build up on the generator enclosure.

During extended outages, the generator may require service. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance intervals.

Stock up on maintenance supplies such as oil and filters. Shut the generator down for maintenance and follow the manufacturer’s safety steps to ensure it won’t start or attempt to start during servicing.

Never allow children to play on or around the generator.

Diesel standby units require refueling at regular intervals. Shut the unit down for refueling and follow all safety precautions.

Portable Safety

Portable generator users are at risk for a number for safety hazards and special precautions are required, especially in wet, icy, or snowy winter conditions.

Never connect a generator to an appliance outlet. Back feeding is extremely dangerous.

Never operate a portable generator indoors or inside an enclosed space. Even if the doors and windows are open, the deadly exhaust fumes can kill within minutes.

Keep the generator 10 feet away from the house and away from vents, windows and doors. Even a small opening can allow carbon monoxide to enter the home.

Shut the engine off and allow it to cool before refueling. Follow maintenance schedules and keep maintenance supplies on hand.

Store fuel in containers made for fuel storage. Storage locations should be well ventilated and local laws for fuel storage followed.

Make all electrical connections with the generator off and the circuit breaker in the off position. After connections are made, start the generator and then turn the breaker to the on position after it warms up.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for proper grounding.

Photo by National Weather Service

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Winter Storm Impacts South and Northeast States

Map showing ice accumulations in the south.

Expected Ice Accumulation in Georgia

By 9am Wednesday, the winter storm impacting the south had already accumulated more than 1/2 inch of ice in some areas. Ice accumulation rates of 0.1 inches per hour were expected to add even more ice, and the storm isn’t in a hurry to leave.

Road travel is extremely hazardous, and six people have been killed in Texas and Mississippi highway accidents attributed to the slick conditions.

Map showing snowfall prediction for the NE

Heavy Snowfall Predictions for the Northeast

Power outages had topped 100,000 customers by mid morning and increased to more than 200,000 homes and businesses by early Wednesday evening. Ice has damaged local distribution lines and long-distance transmission equipment.

Update: Friday February 14, 2014. The number of electric utility customers without power due to the storm peaked at nearly 1 million by late Thursday afternoon. Efforts were expected to restore most customers by Friday Evening, but some will remain without power into next week.

Overnight, more than a foot of snow is expected in parts of Georgia, but the ice accumulation along with 30 MPH gusts of wind will have greatest impact. As the storm moves up the coast, heavy snow is expected all the way to Maine.

Besides highway accidents, two deaths due to hypothermia are blamed on the storm. In once case, a 68 year-old woman was found dead in her unheated home. In another, a man was unable to make it back indoors, possibly due to a medical emergency, and was found dead Wednesday morning by his wife.

Update: Friday February 14, 2014. The storm is now being blamed for the deaths of more than 20 people.

Ice Storms

Three layers of air are necessary for an ice storm. The clouds make up the first layer where snow forms and begins falling toward the earth. The flakes reach a layer of warm air and melt into rain. The rain falls further and enters a sub-freezing layer of air close to the earth. The drops of water are already close to or at the freezing point.

When the water touches a surface below freezing, it quickly turns to ice and coats everything it touches.

A single electric wire between two poles can gather more than 500 pounds of weight from 1/2 inch of ice, and utility poles commonly support three electric utility wires in addition to cable distribution, and telephone. Combined with strong winds, the heavy weight can snap lines and poles.

Trees gather ice easily, and as the ice builds, large trees are burdened with thousands of pounds of ice, and branches snap and fall, damaging homes and power lines.

Surviving the Storm

Ice storms are dangerous, and despite widespread warnings, they often claim lives unnecessarily.

Don’t travel. Stay home and stay indoors. Don’t let children play outside under trees or power lines. Bring your pets indoors too. If it’s too cold for you, it’s too cold for them.

If you lose power, keep the refrigerator closed and it will maintain it’s cold temperature for about four hours. Freezers will keep food frozen for about two days if they remain shut.

Generators can supply power, but use them safely. Position portable generators away from the home and use approved outdoor extension cords to power appliances. Never run a portable generator indoors or inside a garage. Carbon monoxide in the fumes can kill within minutes. Make sure that the vents on standby generators remain clear of ice and snow.

Fortunately, the impact of this storm on the south will likely only last a few days as the weather warms quickly into the 40s on Thursday, and the 50s on Friday. Ice on the lines and branches will melt, road crews will clear away the ice and snow, and children will return to school. Although a foot or more of snow is nothing new to the Northeast, the impact of power outages is still a risk because some areas expect a wintry mix before the snow.

This storm will pass and we can begin to get ready for the next one.

Images by National Weather Service

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Standby Generator Options from Briggs & Stratton

NEW! 20kW Briggs & Stratton Home Standby Generator

Briggs & Stratton 20kW standby generators provide backup electricity for your air conditioner, appliances, lights, TVs or computers and give you the peace of mind to take charge.

Norwall PowerSystems offers Briggs & Stratton residential standby generators in both air-cooled and liquid-cooled models. All models run on either LP (propane) or natural gas and have a number of transfer switch options to suit the needs of almost any home. The factory ships their generators to run on natural gas, but conversion to LP during installation is easy.

These backup generator systems are permanently installed appliances that operate automatically during a power outage to keep your home supplied with electrical power. They offer peace of mind and keep essentials and conveniences alike up and running when the rest of the neighborhood is dark.

Air-cooled generators are powered by Briggs & Stratton’s highly reliable and well-known engines that pair a long and reliable service life with good fuel economy. Liquid-cooled GM Vortec engines similar to those found in automobiles provide the power needed for their larger standby units.

16kW & 20kW

With up to 16 or 20 kilowatts of power, these standby systems have enough power to keep two air conditioners running along with other essential and convenient circuits. You can choose between Managed Whole-House Power with a Load Control Center to provide your entire home with access to energy, or the Essential Power Plus system to supply only pre-selected essential circuits with power.

Briggs & Stratton 16kW and 20kW generators meet National Fire Protection Codes that allow placement as close as 18 inches to your home’s exterior, which makes them perfect for small lots and narrow spaces. These generators carry the Briggs & Stratton 4-year limited consumer warranty and are powered by commercial-grade Vanguard engines.

8kW & 10kW Home Generator System

8kW and 10kW Briggs & Stratton Standby Generator

8kW and 10kW Briggs & Stratton Standby Generator

A compact design and strict adherence to National Fire Protection Association codes allow placement as close as 18 inches to your home.

Choose the 8kW unit for powering essential circuits and maximizing fuel economy and pair it with a 50-amp, 10-circuit automatic transfer switch or a pre-wired, 50 amp 10 circuit automatic transfer switch. Powered by Briggs & Stratton’s redesigned premium engine.

Add more power with the 10kW system and choose either Managed Whole House Power with a 100-amp, 150-amp, or 200-amp automatic transfer switch, or the 16-circuit, 100-amp Essential Power Plus ATS. Vanguard V-twin commercial-grade engine.

The 8kW and 10kW standby generators carry a limited 3-year parts and labor warranty.

12kW Standby Generators

12kW Briggs & Stratton Standby Generator

12kW Briggs & Stratton Standby Generator

In keeping with the space saving design, the 12-kilowatt standby generators by Briggs & Stratton fit into small spaces along tight lot lines and allow placement as close as 20 inches to the home.

Package options include Managed Whole House Power with service-entranced-rated 100, 150, and 200-amp automatic transfer switches. Also available is the 100-amp, 16-circuit ATS to operate selected circuits.

The 12kW systems are powered by Vanguard engines and carry the Briggs & Stratton 3-year limited parts and labor warranty.

Liquid-Cooled Power

Briggs & Stratton liquid-cooled standby generator

Briggs & Stratton 35, 45, and 60-kilowatt liquid-cooled standby generator

For larger homes, the liquid-cooled Briggs & Stratton standby systems provide enough power to keep homes supplied with power for all of life’s necessities and luxuries. The four-cylinder and eight-cylinder engines operate at half the speed of air-cooled engines for minimal noise, maximum longevity, and good fuel economy.

Available models include the 35 kilowatt, 45 kilowatt, or 60 kilowatt generators—all carry a 4-year warranty.

Pair these standby generators with a 200-amp service-entrance-rated automatic transfer switch for Managed Whole House Power, or configure with a separate load center to power a limited number of essential and convenient circuits. Also available to serve 400-amp, split service homes is the 2x200A, a dual 200-amp ATS. Transfer switches for liquid-cooled generators are sold separately.

Briggs & Stratton generators from Norwall PowerSystems keep your lights on and your family safe.

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Portable Generator Facts to Consider Before Making a Purchase

Generac portable inverter generator in the orange case with carry handle.

Generac’s ix Series provides clean and stable power, for computers and other sensitive electronic devices.

Recently, a local store advertised an off-brand portable generator as the tool to have ready when the next power outage strikes or the world falls into chaos. It was also perfect for tailgating, picnics, outdoor festivals, and sporting events. The bright, flashy packaging showed the smiling faces of happy people running power tools, partying under festive lights, and charging cell phones.

It didn’t take long for the store to sell all the units they had on hand. At $199.99, the price was very tempting.

Instead of making an impulse purchase, the buyers of this unit probably should have done their homework. They might have saved themselves a couple of hundred dollars to put toward a portable generator that was more reliable and offered some useful features.

Power Capability

Briggs & Stratton engine, generator, control panel and gas tank mounted on a tubular steel frame.

Briggs & Stratton 1700 Watt Power Boss with 2000 watt surge capacity.

A common but misleading practice overstates a generator’s ability to provide power. The generator mentioned in the opening paragraph boasted 2000 watts. Careful inspection of the labeling revealed that unit was capable of 1550 watts of continuous power, and 2000 watts of surge power. Portable Generator Basics


By comparison, the average home convenience receptacle can provide 1800 watts of continuous power. That’s about the same amount of power used by many blow dryers or a little more than a good circular saw. It’s not going to light up your entire home while it keeps your refrigerator cold and your sump pump running.

Surge power is an extra boost that allows electric motors to start. A generator draws on reserve power to handle that extra boost, but it can’t handle it for long before the built-in circuit breaker trips.

When comparing generators, look for the continuous rating and the surge rating. Both are important, but continuous power is available all the time.

Run Time

Westinghouse Portable 6000 watt generator pictured with included 25 foot power cord.

Westinghouse 6000 watt portable and included 25 foot power cord.

It might seem that the fuel tank capacity determines how often refueling is required, but that is only part of the story. Most manufacturers list run time at half load and full load. This will provide a good picture of how much fuel the generator uses.

Fuel consumption is determined first by engine size. The bigger the engine, the more fuel it uses just to keep itself running. Additional fuel is required to power the electrical load placed on the generator. Higher electrical loads increase the fuel consumed.

Look for a run-time specification that meets your needs. Refueling requires shutting off the generator and waiting 15 to 20 minutes for it to cool off before adding the fuel—which could translate into a real downer for that party you’re planning.


Automatic Home Standby Generators

Looking for backup home power? Consider an automatic standby generator that can power your essentials and conveniences.

The engines in most generators run continuously at a constant speed in order to produce the correct frequency—60 hertz in North America. When manufacturers skimp on engine size, it runs at its limit and uses all available power to keep running. This makes voltage and frequency regulation difficult to maintain while operating near maximum load.

Other features lacking in inexpensive engines are low-oil shutdown, low oil capacity, poor speed control, and a shorter maintenance interval.

Inverter Generators save fuel by changing engine speed to meet the requirements of the load and produce the 60 hertz output voltage electronically.


A short warranty period doesn’t speak well of the manufacturer’s confidence in it’s product. When a consumer buys a generator for backup power, they may not even get to use it during a short warranty period. By the time the generator is used for any extended period, the warranty is long since expired and there is little recourse for the purchaser.

Good generators from name-brand manufacturers come with a warranty that backs up the brand. One year is good starting point, and some manufacturers offer as much as three years on portable units.

The bottom line: Don’t be fooled by discount prices on off-brand products. Buy a name-brand generator from Norwall Power Systems. You might be surprised how affordable a good portable generator really is.

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Kohler Power Systems—Residential and Commercial Standby Generators

Kohler Power Systems broke into manufacturing generators right after World War I to address a growing need for power in rural areas where power lines were scarce, but electricity was needed. Previously, most generators provided enough current to charge a battery bank, but the Kohler Automatic Power & Light power plant supplied 110 volts of electricity and could start automatically when when power was needed and shut itself down when it was not.

Today, Norwall Power Systems sells modern Kohler standby generators for homes and businesses. Their standard 5-year limited warranty is applicable for grid-connected systems, or an 18-month limited warranty for off-grid systems.

RESA Air-Cooled Standby

Automatic Home Standby Generator

Automatic Home Standby Generator

The 14RESAL was rated by consumer reports in their Best Emergency Gear report for providing ample and especially smooth power. It provides up to 14 kilowatts (12 kW running on natural gas) of continuous power while running on propane. A larger 20kW model is also available. The standby generator units are available with or without an automatic transfer switch. With the optional OnCue Remote Monitoring System, you can monitor the generator from any Internet-enabled PC or laptop.

Need to power essentials in an emergency? Check out the 8.5RES with quiet operation and superior power quality.

RESA and RES generators from Kohler meet US EPA and California emissions requirements.

RESA Liquid-Cooled Generators

A 30 Kilowatt liquid-cooled Kohler standby generator

30RESA Liquid Cooled

If air-cooled standby isn’t quite enough, the 30kW RESA liquid-cooled standby generators can provide up to 10 kilowatts more power than their air-cooled siblings. These standby generators use GM 4-cylinder, 1.6 liter engines similar to those found in automobiles with a radiator and fan cooling system. They can run on either propane or natural gas.

These generators have a sound attenuating enclosure that helps keep noise levels near 68dB. The isochronous governor and digital voltage regulation allow the unit to provide exceptionally clean power.

38 Kilowatt and 48 Kilowatt RCL

A Kohler 48 kilowatt standby generator

Kohler 48kW Standby Generator

The RCL standby generators provide power for large residential homes and small businesses with 38 and 48 kilowatts of power. The 4-cylinder, 4.3 liter (38RCL) or 5.0 liter (48RCL) GM engines operate at just 1800 RPMs to extend engine life and reduce noise levels. Both models provide maximum power using either propane or natural gas.

These Kohler standby generators are among the quietest in the industry at 61dB while running at full speed, and 58dB while in exercise mode. That’s the level a normal conversation.


80 kilowatt ERESD liquid cooled standby generator.

80ERESD by Kohler

The next step in available standby power, the liquid-cooled 60 ERESB and 80 ERESD supply 60 kilowatts and 80 kilowatts respectively for large residential homes and small businesses. The GM 5.7 liter Vortec engines (turbocharged in the 80kW) can run on either propane or natural gas and provide full power using either fuel.

Noise levels run at about 64dB and 71dB at 23 feet for friendly operation that won’t keep the neighborhood awake—central air conditioning units make about 70dB of noise.

Kohler 100 ERESD and 125 or 150ERESC

Kohler 150 kilowatt standby generator.

Kohler 150ERESC Standby Generator

For liquid-cooled standby power to meet the needs of the largest luxury homes or larger small business operations, these 100kW, 125kW and 150kW standby generators from Kohler can supply plenty of power for the most demanding circumstances.

The GM engines run on either natural gas or LP gas—the 100kW uses a 5.7 liter engine, the 125 and 150 kilowatt models have 8.8 liter engines. Differences in power for the two fuels are significant: 80kW(NG) versus 100kW(LP) for the 100ERESD and 105kW(LP) versus 125kW(NG) for the 125ERESC. Expect the 150 ERESD to provide 134kW on LP gas, and 144kW on Natural gas.

Variable Speed DC Standby

VSG series generator in 24, 36, and48 volt models.

The VSG series for Off-Grid Applications

Alternative power systems need backup power too. The VSG series generators provide DC current to charge battery banks when power production drops from solar panels or wind turbines. They operate solely on propane (LP gas) and were designed specifically for off-grid homes, telecommunications, and other remote systems where grid power is unavailable.

Different models produce 24, 36, or 48 volts of electricity depending on the voltage requirements of the battery bank and can charge it directly or even supply power directly to the system. When batteries run low or cannot meet demand, the generator starts and runs automatically. The variable engine speed conserves fuel and only produces the current required at any given moment.

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Inverters: Electrical Power From Your Vehicle

A 750 watt inverter made by Generac.

750 Watt Generac Inverter

We drive around in vehicles that produce quite a bit of power. Most of the power is mechanical and is used to propel the vehicle in whatever direction we want to go. This is true on cars, RVs, boats, trucks, and more.

Some of the power produced in a vehicle is electrical, but even though a 12-volt battery can start a car, it won’t turn on your TV or let you plug in your laptop without a special adapter.

The current from a battery is 12-volts DC. The current in your home is 110 to 125 volts AC.

The two power types and voltages are not compatible. Adapters can lower voltage and convert AC to DC. We plug them into our wall sockets to charge cell phones and laptop batteries. An inverter is just the opposite—it plugs into a vehicle battery and converts DC to AC while increasing the voltage to 115 volts.

Battery Power

A fully charged 12-volt automobile battery has an output of about 12.7 volts. The amount of current it can produce in amperes varies by the battery and is largely dependent on the power requirements of the vehicle’s starter. The power from a vehicle battery is in constant use. It provides energy to make the spark that fires the spark plugs and powers lights, radios, and any other accessories in use. Without a means of recharging, the battery is gradually depleted until it can no longer produce enough electrical current to start the car or turn on the lights.

This is an important factor to remember: batteries have a limited amount of power available. Use too much without recharging and you will deplete the battery.

Generac Inverters

The inverters by Generac Power Systems include models that produce 100, 200, 400, and 750 watts of continuous power. Their peak, or surge rating, is the amount of power they can produce momentarily to help start a motor such as an air pump or electric fan. Surge watts are about double the continuous watts, but the inverter will only produce that power for a moment.

Turn your vehicle power into household power

Turn your vehicle power into household power

The power available from a 12-volt outlet such as a cigarette lighter or convenience outlet is limited. The 100-watt units can plug into it, larger units connect directly to the battery with a supplied battery cable. The battery connections make it possible to connect the inverter directly to a non-vehicle battery or group of batteries connected in parallel to use as a temporary power source.

Two important features (not available on 100-watt inverters) are a low battery alarm and low battery shutdown. They help prevent discharging the battery until it is dead—helpful for keeping your vehicle ready to go.

Available Power

How do you determine what size power inverter you need?

How do you determine what size power inverter you need? Sizing power inverters is relatively easy. Check out this Sample

Add up the power requirements (in watts) of the items you’d like to power with an inverter. Then choose the model that exceeds your maximum requirements. If you need 600 watts, then select the 750- watt inverter. Most electrical or electronic devices have a tag that will give the power required. Some supply a volt and amp rating—just multiply volts by amps to calculate watts.

Approximate power requirements:

  • Laptop – 90 watts
  • Desktop and LCD Monitor 600 watts
  • 75-watt light 100 watts
  • 32-inch LCD television 150 watts
  • 12-volt tool charger 250 watts
  • cell phone charger – 25 watts
  • slow cooker – 250 watts
  • Tablet computer – 30 watts

Battery Use

Remember that the battery has a limited supply of power. The bigger the battery (rated in amps,) the longer it can produce power. Several batteries connected in parallel can supply power much longer than a single battery. Eventually, the battery or batteries will require charging. You can do this by driving your vehicle or by connecting the batteries to a battery charger.

Inverters are useful for powering small appliances that you normally could not use without a house outlet to plug into or without purchasing a special adapter. You can take power on the road or use it at home in an emergency. If you need more power, consider a standby or portable generator.

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