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Generators for Power-Hungry Homeowners

Where will you be when the lights go out? Occasional brownouts or blackouts, and the possibility of Y2K power outages on January 1, 2000, are forcing both homeowners and home buyers to consider purchasing whole-house emergency generators.

Continuous electricity is easy to take for granted but just think of what happens when your power goes off. You're on Christmas vacation, for example, and an ice storm downs power lines in your area. Your home is dark, and the alarm and security system is not working--making you an easy target for a burglar. In the winter, your forced-air furnace also stops because it relies on electricity to power the fan. At home, you're huddling under blankets and worrying about the pipes bursting. Not to mention the sump pump dying, too, and water backing up in your basement.

Power outages are no problem with an automatic whole-house generator. Just hear that reassuring hum within a matter of seconds after the power goes off. Sitting near the foundation, it's as quiet and unobtrusive as a central air conditioner unit. The right generator will provide enough power for the entire home if you calculate your electricity needs. You'll need to add up the total wattage for all essential appliances that must stay on during a power emergency. 8 to 12 kilowatts should be sufficient.

Generator systems run on natural gas, propane or diesel fuel. Pick your fuel according to price and availability in your area. Natural gas-powered units are easy to maintain (one oil change per 100 hours of operation) and relatively cheap to run (about 13 cents per kilowatt-hour). Most generators resemble a motorcycle engine--air cooled with fins on the cylinder head. The major feature to look for is an automatic transfer switch (ATS). Make sure your unit has one. The ATS will automatically start the generator and disconnect you from the grid until power is restored. Other ATS features include electronics that: 1 - Start the generator weekly to keep it in prime operating condition, 2 - Keep output voltage at a safe, optimum level, and, 3 - Track total running time for maintenance purposes.

Source used to create this article include writer James Dulley.

Copyright © 2001, AHA, the American Homeowners Association, Stamford, Connecticut, USA All Rights Reserved.