How to Power Up When Power Goes Down
The Orange County Register recently reported that the Western Interconnection—which distributes electric power to California—is at an increased reliability risk due to increased supply-side shortages, wildfire threats, and extreme heat. So the chances of your power going out is all the more likely. And it’s not just because of storm or weather damage to the power lines; utilities are frequently resorting to rolling blackouts to deal with electricity shortages.
It’s no longer a question of if you will lose power, it’s when and for how long. And how often it is going to happen. Which is why you need to consider a generator and/or battery back-up system.
Let’s take a look at:
- The benefits of back-up power
- How a generator works
- How a battery back-up works
- Which is better
- Why you need a standby power specialist to ensure uninterrupted power
The Benefits of Back-Up Power
Obviously, back-up power keeps the lights on. But it’s not just a matter of convenience. It’s a matter of keeping your food properly refrigerated. It’s a matter of continuing to work from home with your internet on and your devices powered and protected from power spikes. It’s a matter of keeping your sump pump working so your basement doesn’t flood. It’s a matter of keeping medical support systems running uninterrupted, to preserve a family member’s health.
How a Generator Works
There are two kinds of generators, whole house and portable. A whole house generator is connected directly to your electrical system; it starts automatically following a power outage. When utility power returns, the generator shuts off. A whole house generator obviously requires a fuel source, which is typically natural gas.
A portable generator is, well, portable. It is also not as powerful as a whole house generator. It can, however, power a few key appliances or even whole rooms.
The fuel source for a portable generator is gasoline. You run electrical cords from a portable generator to run the appliances you need. Alternatively, a licensed electrician can connect a portable generator by a transfer switch to your electrical panel.
How Battery Back-Up Works
Home battery systems store energy from your electrical system; when power goes down, the battery kicks in. You tend to find battery back-up systems with solar installations. The most common type of battery systems use lithium-ion batteries, the same kind that power an electric car motor, and which have the advantages of being lightweight, having a long lifespan, and boasting high energy density.
Which Is Better?
Battery back-up systems are typically more expensive than generators. However, generators require a fuel source, which means you’ll spend money over time whenever you need your generator. Battery systems are also generally easier to install, and are a logical choice if you have solar panels. A battery back-up system combined with solar panels is the most environmentally friendly solution to ensure uninterrupted power.
Portable generators are perhaps less expensive and don’t require installation, unless you are connecting it to your electrical panel. But they are also noisy, and if you run out of gas, well, you’ve run out of power.
A whole house generator connected to a natural gas or liquid propane source offers greater reliability and longer-lasting power during an extensive utility outage. If you want to keep your HVAC running and your inside temperature at a certain level during an outage, a whole house generator is likely the best option. A whole house generator is not going to run out of gas like a portable generator will. No need to go outside (possibly still in the middle of a storm) to refill the gas tank on a portable generator, if you have a whole house generator.
An added advantage to a whole house generator is the ability to keep your HVAC system up and running, particularly during an extensive outage. Note that it is important for your HVAC professional to determine whether the generator can handle the running amps of the HVAC system while also running other appliances and devices in your home. If your electrician and/or certified home generator contractor says the start-up amps are too high, your HVAC professional can install a Soft Start Kit to reduce the amps.
Why You Need a Standby Generator Specialist
If you are looking to install a whole house generator or battery back-up system, or to connect a portable generator to your electrical panel, this is not something you could or should do yourself if you don’t have professional experience.
To begin with, you need to properly size the back-up solution to ensure what you want to run during a power outage will run. This involves calculating wattage, which is a little more involved than just adding up the wattage of various appliances, since many of these cycle on and off and draw more wattage cycling on. In addition, air conditioning systems are measured in tonnage or BTUs (British Thermal Units), which need translation into watts.
Why is this so important? A wattage estimate that is too small means the generator will overload, trying to supply more energy than it is capable of. This can easily burn out your generator as well as the connected appliances. Too high a wattage calculation means you will pay more money than necessary, not just for the generator, but the cost to operate it as well.
You’ll need a licensed electrician to connect a whole house generator or a portable generator to your electrical system. A whole house generator installation involves the most work, including site preparation for the generator and connection to the electrical panel. If you need a dedicated gas line for your whole house generator, a licensed plumber can install it.
Because Ongaro & Sons is a certified Generac Generator installer, staffed with plumbing, electrical, and HVAC technicians, we are your one-stop source for back-up power. And if you are interested in a battery system, we also offer battery back-up solutions.
Ongaro & Sons can help you make a decision about a generator or battery back-up solution that is right for your needs and your budget. A family-owned business in its fourth generation of operation, Ongaro & Sons also provides complete home central air conditioning services, plumbing, and electrical services.