A standby automatic backup generator is a great safety addition to any homeowner’s current abode. It ensures your home is protected immediately in case any power outages occur that take your house off the grid. It is also an amazing alternative to the convention portable generator by eliminating all the hassle involved with setting up a portable generator when the power goes off.
As eager as you may be to set up your new automatic generator right now, we can stress enough that the installation process is better left to a contracted professional. Specific codes must be met, and safety precautions taken, to guarantee that the generator works efficiently and reliably. Although you may not be able to set up the entire generator without the help of a professional, there are some preliminary measures you can take before your contracted plumber/electrician arrives to help him/her out! Here are a few steps you can take to prepare your generator for installation, as well as what happens once the contractor arrives:
Figure Out Where the Automatic Backup Generator Will Go
It is very easy to decide exactly where the generator should be set up. It will always be outside, due to carbon monoxide output. You’ll also want it as close to your main inlet/fuse box as possible. Ideally it will be in an area where a natural-gas line and a line-voltage cable can reach the gas and fuse box inside your house without too much threading and headache. Once you find a good spot with the easiest access to both places from the outside of your house, you’ll want to set up the generator around 5 feet away from any doors and windows. This is to prevent any risk of damage to the unit or water pooling in or around the unit. Once that sweet pot has been discovered, it’s time to begin preparing the land.
Tending to the Land
You are going to want to ensure that you have a pre-cast concrete pad and enough gravel to make a compacted bed. If you have both of these items, create the compacted gravel bad and set the pre-cast concrete pad on top of it so the bed is supporting the pad.
By doing this you’re keeping the generator out of the dirt and off the ground. In the event of any rainfall or bad conditions, the generator will be completely safe from any ground corrosion or rust exposure. Maintenance and preservation is key when owning your own automatic generator, and that all starts with the environment and specific placement of the generator itself.
Securing the Generator
Using four stainless-steel bolts, you’ll now want to fasten the generator to the concrete pad. This will ensure that even with decently strong storm-level winds, your generator will not be moving anytime soon. A loose or unfastened generator can mean serious generator issues down the line. Especially in severe weather conditions, high velocity winds will either make the generator rattle and shake, possible making internal parts within the generator shake loose. If these winds are strong enough, you may even be out of a generator altogether when it gets swept away with various other debris. Ensuring the generator is fastened securely will protect it from the elements in the long run.
Call Your Trusted Plumber
The DIY crowd emits a collective groan. We understand, you’ve bought your beautiful new automatic generator and you just want to set it up without having to rely on anyone else. Unless you can safely and securely connect a natural-gas line from your house to your generator, though, then this call is necessary. Most of the time your contractor will be able to knock this out of the way fairly quickly, as well as the next task on the list.
As we stated in the beginning of this article, everything before this step is a way for you to minimize the hourly that your contractor may charge by prepping as much as you can before the professionals arrive. Your safety and your generator’s efficiency are the top priorities in this situation though, and unless you can connect a natural-gas line confidently then a professional must be called.
Call Your Trusted Electrician
You are also going to need a line-voltage cable ran from your house to your generator. This is, like the last task, something better left to the professionals in order to ensure your safety. If you can confidently state that you are able to run a line-voltage cable by yourself with no problems, then you may be able to get through this task with no such help, but the majority of homeowners most likely cannot claim this confidently. You’ll also most likely need a transfer switch inside beside your electrical meter, which your contractor can take care of too!
Many contractors will be able to cover the entire generator installation process, but these few tips will help your contractor focus on the nitty gritty of the installation, and also help you save some cash if there is an hourly rate involved.
To Buy a Generator with Confidence, Do Your Research
An automatic backup generator is a big purchase for a homeowner or a business owner. They can be expensive, and there are multiple types and brands to choose from. For someone who isn’t ready, the process can be a bit overwhelming, especially since these are not inexpensive. There’s a lot riding on how this one machine runs, especially if the generator is part of an emergency system. But, it doesn’t have to be overwhelming or intimidating if you’ve done some research.
There are many companies that sell standby and portable generators, and there are many that offer service for emergency power systems. To avoid being overwhelmed, it can be helpful to take a couple of steps before you jump into a purchase. Knowledge and understanding of the various options may make it easier to make this big purchase.
Items to include in Your Automatic Backup Generator Research
It helps to know exactly what type of generator you’re looking for, what it does, and what it requires. Take these steps in your research and you’re sure to buy with certainty that you’re getting the system you need. Consider these things in your research into specific units:
- Compare the Uses. Not all generators are appropriate for the same uses. Because standby generators are good in some situations and portable generators are good for others, if you know exactly how you exp0ect to use it, you’ll have a good idea of what type of generator you should focus on.
- Compare the Appropriate Run Times. Not all generators can run for long periods of time. (Look at how long each generator type can run, and select a model that has enough power to run for the specific period of time you think you’ll need.
- Consider fuel types. This can sometimes raise the overall cost of a generator. Some models use more fuel than others, and some fuel (like diesel, for example) is more expensive than others. If you choose a generator that must be refilled often and needs expensive fuel, you should budget for increased costs.
- Consider availability of service professionals. The last thing you want is to have a problem and find out that a service professional cannot come out for an extended period of time. A company that installs and services generators that also has a large team of trained technicians to provide system service is a must.
Compare Automatic Backup Generator Brands
There are a variety of companies that manufacture and sell generators, and there’s no shortage of information available. The best place to start that research is the different generator manufacturers; you may want to talk with people you know who have the type of generator you’ve decided on as well.
- Look at the Generator Brands and Their Reputations. Depending on the size and style of your generator, there are any number of manufacturers to know. Each designs their generator motor with certain power and efficiency levels in mind. Knowing the power and capability of the engine is important, especially if you’re in an area where a standby generator may be required for extended use. Some questions you might want to consider include: Does warranty include mileage and travel labor? What does the warranty cover- does it include the engine, tanks and enclosure, and automatic transfer switch?
- Learn about the controls for your new generator. If the electronic controls aren’t easy to understand, you may have trouble when you need to use your generator. Get some training in your new generator’s controls when you do have the system installed if they seem complicated.
- Know something about the engine powering your generator. Cummins, Caterpillar, Kohler Generac and MTU are some of the big names in generator manufacturing. To ensure your comfort and confidence in your power source, it’d be good to ensure that you know a bit of the history of the company powering your generator. Knowing the answer to questions like “How long has this engine been used and in production?” can go a long way to relieving anxiety about a big purchase like this.
- Ask questions about the automatic backup generator if you have them. From reliability, to energy consumption, you’ll probably have questions. Don’t hesitate to ask, whether you’re asking the sales professional who is explaining the different units, or to do your own research.
It’s natural that you might feel like you’re a bit in over your head if you’re faced with the surprise need for a generator. But, with a little research and the confidence to ask questions, you should be able to find the perfect generator for your intended use.