With last Thursday’s strong wind storm knocking out power to much of Central Virginia, as well as up the Northeast corridor, many home owners are asking if having a whole house generator is the right choice for them. Memories of the 2012 derecho and recent hurricane activity also brings this to mind.
After major weather events, we have all heard the horror stories of carbon monoxide buildup leading to further tragedies from portable generators purchased at local hardware stores.
But many homeowners wonder if a whole house or a temporary generator is the better option. If you live outside the city limits, you may want to consider a whole house generator, but it’s better to go straight to the experts and ask them.
Ask an Expert
Here in Charlottesville, one of the main companies that sells only generators is Never Dark Whole House Generators, and they have made a commitment to only selling generators since 2005, according to their website.
They were one of the very first Elite dealers in the state, as recognized by the manufacturer. They are licensed electricians, but now focus only on generators, from sales, installation, service, as well as all factory warranty work. They also have two locations to serve the area.
ELITE means factory trained technicians on staff, as well as most parts in-stock. Anyone can sell you a generator, as seen at any Home Depot or Lowe’s store, but having access to service and warranty after the sale is key.
The company sells Generac Guardian series and Briggs & Stratton automatic standby generators, the top 2 brands in the US. Technicians meet with homeowners to customize a generator that best fits their needs, as well as budget.
Generators have made substantial gains with technology. NEVER DARK stays up to date with all the latest technology with the Smart transfer switches, load sharing, load shedding and modules.
This technology allows them to use smaller generators to power larger loads unheard of not long ago. NEVER DARK stocks all of these switches and modules so they can custom design your generator system.
Costs at Never Dark
$6,500 – $7,500 Essential Circuits INSTALLED
$8,000 – $8,500 Whole House 200amp INSTALLED
$9,500 – $10,500 Whole House 400amp INSTALLED
Questions to Ask
Ask if the company you want to work with will come out to your house to do a no obligation site survey to give you all your options from providing back-up power to the whole house, or to just essential circuits, such as water, heat/AC, refrigerator, lights, etc..
Also, ask if the installer has a time frame and a checklist on how to operate the system once done. A typical installation takes one day, according to Never Dark. Always ask if the company has gotten a county or city building permit for the installation.
What about a Portable Generator?
Costs can range from $429 to $899 and up for a portable generator. According to the FEMA website, please be careful while using them.
Be aware that generators can cause dangerous hazards such as carbon monoxide poisoning from the engine exhaust pipe, fire and electrocution.
Here are some safety tips:
* Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions on how to use the generator.
* Do not use a generator indoors or in partially enclosed spaces- including homes, garages, and crawl spaces – even those areas with partial ventilation.
* Do not use near open doors and windows. Using fans will not prevent carbon monoxide build-up in the home. D
* Be aware that carbon monoxide fumes emitted by gasoline, propane, diesel or gas engines can be fatal. As carbon monoxide is odorless people are not aware of its presence.
* Install carbon monoxide alarms inside your home to alert you to dangerous levels. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended placement.
* Always connect the generator to the appliances with heavy-duty extension cords.
Hooking up your generator directly into your home power supply could increase the voltage or could cause a surge to the outside power lines and potentially injure or electrocute an unaware utility lineman. It also bypasses some of the built-in household circuit protection devices. * Connecting the generator to your home could cause a surge in electricity that might result in injury or death to yourself or your family.
* Use a qualified electrician to install the appropriate equipment in accordance with local electrical codes, or ask your utility company to install an appropriate power transfer switch.
* Keep your generator outside and fuel your generator outside.
* Do not store fuel for your generator in your house. Gasoline, propane, kerosene, diesel and other flammable liquids should be stored outside of living areas in properly labeled, non-glass safety containers.
* Do not store fuel near a fuel-burning appliance, for example, a gas stove.
* If the fuel is spilled or the container is not sealed properly, invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and be ignited by the appliance’s pilot light or by arcs from electric switches.
* Before refueling the generator, turn it off and let it cool down. Gasoline or other flammable liquids spilled on hot engine parts could ignite, and invisible vapors from the fuel can travel along the ground and be ignited by the generator’s pilot light or by arcs from electric switches in the appliance.