Standby Generators

Question Marks

No one is a fan of the power going out in their home. It is never expected and when it does occur you are left without so many things. In today’s world it seems that everything takes power rather it be your phone, computers, television, refrigerator, furnace, and air conditioner. If you live in an area that is prone to power outages rather it be due to blizzards, high winds, or hurricanes then it may be worth looking at purchasing a standby generator whole home system.

These standby systems can power your entire home automatically at the first sign of your power going out. In most cases when the power does go out you will see a flicker of the lights for a second or two and then presto, your standby system is now on and providing power to your home. There are other options out there to provide your home with emergency power, but standby systems are going to be your most reliable and most efficient.

How Long Can They Run?

A common question on these standby systems though is how long can they run? Lets say that you live up north around one of the Great Lakes. While I live in Kansas now I grew up around Port Huron and know exactly how much snow that can happen in just a days time. In many cases this extreme snowfall can lead to power outages… sometimes for days at a time depending on how remote you are.

My grandfather has a home up by Bad Axe, Michigan and every year he loses power during the winter. Luckily, he has a wood furnace to warm his home, but what about his other appliances? He did not want to sit around and wait for the power company to make their way out so he opted for purchasing a standby generator system from Generac. One of the questions that he had before purchasing a standby system was how long it could run during these longer power outage events?

In theory a standby whole home generator can run indefinitely. To answer my grandfather’s question though we first need to understand what fuel type your standby system is. The length of a time a unit can run all depends on the fuel that the generator takes. Most standby systems have three different fuel choices to choose from. Diesel, Liquid Propane, and Natural Gas. I listed these from shortest lasting to longest.

Diesel standby units are typically the shortest lasting units due to the limitation of their fuel tank. You can only store so much diesel in your fuel tank before you run out. In most cases a diesel standby generator can last between twenty-four hours to seventy-two hours of constant running before your fuel supply runs out.

The next option, our middle of the road selection, is liquid propane or LP. Now an LP generator is again limited by its fuel tank BUT an LP fuel tank is typically much larger then a diesel tank. As an example, lets say you have a five-hundred gallon LP tank filled up to capacity at four-hundred gallons. With that amount of fuel on hand you can expect your generator to run for a solid week, or seven days. You may even go slightly over that amount. If you are in a situation with an extended power loss be sure to reach out to your local fuel supply company to arrange top-offs or refuels during the power outage.

For many of us out in the country diesel or LP are the only options that we have to choose from. Being rural is nice but often times you are limited. As an example, the third option to fuel your standby generator is natural gas. The only real downside here is that you have to have a natural gas line routed to your home. The good news is that if you do then your standby system can run indefinitely as the fuel is constantly being fed in from the city’s utility company. As long as you are willing to pay for the natural gas then you will never run out.

Oil

If you are going to be running your generator for an extended period of time then I need to mention to you the importance of oil. Just like with any engine oil is the lifeblood of your generator. Without oil your generator can overheat and even catch on fire. Oil cools the engine. Oil provides lubrication. Oil promotes a healthy life of your generator. Through extended use the engine will burn oil. It will happen.

If your generator is running for an extended period of time then the engine can overheat. When the engine overheats more oil is burnt. Most professionals recommend turning off the generator periodically to let it cool down. This should be done once every twenty-four hours. During this cool off period you can also check the oil level of your generator’s engine. This is vitally important. Without adequate oil you could seriously harm your standby system.

Do NOT put oil in the engine while the engine is still running… or even while the engine is still hot. It is always best to wait for it to cool down before adding oil. Also, when adding oil to the generator be sure not to overfill the system. This can cause a whole other host of problems. It is best to have just the right amounts of oil. Depending on how long the generator has ran you may also need to do a complete oil change. Manufacturers typically recommend oil changes after about two-hundred hours of operation.

Generator engines come in two different categories. There are the thirty-six-hundred rotations per minute and then the eighteen-hundred rotations per minute. The eighteen-hundred models run cooler and use less oil then their counterparts. If you are expecting long term power outages then it is recommended to go with the eighteen-hundred RPM unit over the thirty-six-hundred. Note though that the eighteen-hundred models are going to be more expensive.

Conclusion

As I stated previously in this article folks it is all going to depend on the fuel type of your standby system. If you have not already purchased a standby system yet then I recommend that you review all of your fuel options before purchasing. Personally, I am the biggest fan of liquid propane. With LP you are not reliant on the city’s natural gas supply and if you plan ahead you should have your LP tank completely full and ready for emergencies.

In fact, many folks have a separate LP tank installed JUST for their standby system. Their other LP tank would be used for their day to day activities such as using the oven, water heater, and furnace. In my opinion this is the smartest way to go about it. But, as always, ultimately the choice is up to you.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Having the power go out at your home or business is never a fun time. This holds especially true if the power is out for hours or even days at a time. In the best case scenario you are inconvenienced and in the worst case all of the food storage you have in your refrigerator or freezer spoils. Now most folks do not experience power losses that often and when they do it is only out for a few minutes or hours at a time. But, if you are one of the unlucky ones that has constant power outages for extended periods of time then it may be time to look for a solution.

There are two main solutions when it comes to generating power during an outage. The most commons is known as the portable generator. I won’t get into all of the details on these within this article but in short they give you temporary power for some of your appliances. Typically they cannot power your entire home. They also have to be manually setup each and every time your power goes out. This can be a hassle. Depending on the model you choose they can also be quite noisy and disruptive to your family or to your neighbors.

The other option to review is going with a standby generator. Standby generators can power your entire home and automatically turn on within a few seconds of your power going out. They are by far the easiest solution for power but they are also the most expensive. Typically you can spend anywhere from four to ten-thousand dollars on a standby generator and then you also have to pay for the installation which can cost just as much as the generator itself.

How Loud are Standby Systems?

A common question that we receive on standby generators is exactly how loud they are. Now, before I answer your question lets first look at the noise levels of a portable generator system. There is a wide range here but most often you will see portable systems between seventy to one-hundred decibels. That one-hundred decibel volume is equivalent of a lawn mower or motorcycle running nearby. It is loud and disruptive. The seventy decibel volume isn’t as bad as it is about the sound of being inside a car going down the highway. There is noise there, but it is not all encompassing.

In many neighborhoods there are ordinances when it comes to noise levels. These are put in place to prevent disruptive noises from taking over the peacefulness of the area. Each neighborhood is different but typically anything over seventy decibels is seen as disruptive and will not be able to be run. If you are not in a neighborhood but are within city limits then you should also check your city’s laws to ensure that you are compliant. If you are out in the country though with no nearby neighbors then the only thing you need to worry about is the comfort of you and your family. If you can stand the sound of a motorcycle nearby then by all means go with it.

Ok folks, so now that we have some basic knowledge on generator decibel levels let us look at standby systems. From my research I have found that standby systems typically range between sixty-five to eighty decibels. There are of course models exceeding that level and falling below. Generac, one of the most popular standby manufacturers out there, has a 6462 Guardian model that comes in at fifty-eight decibels. This is equivalent to a normal conversation happening nearby. It is very quiet. There are other standby models out there, like the Briggs & Stratton 40450, that have decibel levels at seventy-five.

One thing to keep in mind here is that the quieter the machine the more expensive it will be. A quiet generator is a much desired feature and in order to achieve it you are going to have to pay more. This is why we see the Generac model as the quietest and the Briggs & Stratton as one of the loudest. Generac is seen as a premium brand name in the generator world. While Briggs & Stratton is just fine as well, they are not the premium product.

Conclusion

In conclusion folks it really depends on what you want and what your local laws and ordinances allow. You could go with a very loud portable generator system and have it sound like a motorcycle is running nearby. Or, you could shell out the cash and go for the ultra quiet Generac standby model. My suggestion is to go with the middle of the road approach and find a model that is right around sixty-five to seventy decibels. This will still give you an overall quiet machine but will also save you some money.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Going through a power loss is never an enjoyable time. The good news is that in most situations the actual power loss only lasts a few hours before it flickers back on and everything goes back to normal. But, what do you do when your power is out for a day or days at a time? How do you cope? In some cases it is just an inconvenience as you cannot watch your favorite television show, movie, or play a game.

In other cases though it can get more serious such as a power loss event in the middle of summer. My family and I live in Kansas and the summers here can be quite brutal. Typically between July and August we will have weeks at a time where the high temperatures reach over one-hundred degrees and the lows are in the eighties. If your air conditioning is out due to a power loss then it is not only going to be uncomfortable but it could also be dangerous.

To cope with these power losses many folks turn to generators. There are two main types of generators: The portable and the standby whole home models. Portables offer a cheap quick fix option but they are dirty, heavy, dangerous, and have to be manually setup each and every time the power goes out. A standby whole home generator system is the exact opposite. Once the unit has been installed and is operating correctly there is no setup required. When the power does go out you will only notice a flicker of the lights before the standby unit comes on. Presto! You have power again.

The biggest problem with standby systems are their cost. In most cases you can expect to pay about four-thousand dollars all the way up to twelve-thousand dollars for the system. Then you also have to factor in the cost to install the standby generator. Typically the installation costs are about the same as the purchase cost. So, if you spent five-thousand dollars on a standby system then you can expect to pay another five-thousand dollars on the installation cost.

Are They Tax Deductible?

Now, let me first preface this section saying that I am by no means a tax expert. My findings below are what I have discovered through researching and reading several different sources on the matter. That being said, since standby systems are such a significant expense many folks wonder if they can qualify for tax breaks. After all, you could end up spending ten-thousand dollars or more on the system… it would be nice if you could write some of that expense off when you do your taxes.

So, lets get to the bad news first. In most cases standby systems are NOT tax deductible. You have to remember that a standby system is not like a wind or solar power system. Standby systems have an engine that burns through natural gas or liquid propane. This is not a clean climate friendly solution. Typically you see government tax credits going towards the more environmentally friendly solutions such as solar or wind power. There are not any government programs out there that offer tax credits for installing a standby system.

There is one catch, or loophole though, when it comes to tax credits on standby generators and that is medical expenses. If the standby system that you are installing will be powering medical equipment for you or someone in your family then you could receive a tax credit based on the difference between your the value your home raised and the total bill to purchase and install the generator.

Lets look at this a bit further. Most standby systems will raise your home’s value by about half the cost of the system/install. Again, if you spend ten-thousand dollars on the purchase and install of your system then you can expect to see your home’s value to raise by five-thousand dollars. The difference between that final ten-thousand dollar bill and your home’s raised value is five-thousand dollars. This is the amount of a tax credit that you could receive if you are powering medical equipment with the standby system.

The only other avenue I can see standby systems and tax credits working out is if you own a business and that business needs the standby system in order to function. Say for example you own a restaurant and you need your freezer and refrigerators to be constantly powered. A power loss could mean a loss of thousands of dollars of food. Purchasing a standby system for your business could be written off as a business expense. Before doing this though I would make certain that you can justify the purchase of the standby generator for your business. What repercussions are there if you lose power? How much of a loss is involved? Does the standby generator make sense?

Conclusion

Again, I am not a tax professional here and if you want to pursue this further I would recommend reaching out to an accountant or a tax professional before you decide to purchase your standby system. They will be able to tell you for certain on rather or not you can receive a tax credit or even a business deduction when it comes to the purchase and install of your standby generator.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Going through a power loss is never an enjoyable time. In most cases the power comes back on within a few hours or so, but in other more severe cases the power may be out for days at a time. These prolonged periods without power can lead to boredom but it can also lead to loss of refrigerated/frozen food as well as having your home’s temperature rise or fall to uncomfortable levels. I remember a time back when my oldest daughter was just an infant we had our power go out in the middle of July. We live in Kansas and July temperatures can routinely be over one-hundred degrees. We needed air conditioning and had taken to hunkering down in the basement to try and stay cool. Luckily, in our situation the power came back on after only a few hours.

It is when you face prolonged power outages that it makes sense to seriously look at purchasing a standby generator. Sure a portable generator can help you out as well but these systems cannot power your entire home, they are noisy, and have to be manually setup each and every time. One of the biggest downfalls though of using a portable generators is safety. As many of you know portable generators produce carbon monoxide when running. This is the same substance that your car burns when running.

It is imperative that portable generators never be placed in your home or even close to your home. This includes your garage, near your windows, or anywhere else nearby. Most professionals recommend placing portable units at least twenty feet away from your home with the exhaust chute pointed away. If the threat of carbon monoxide is not taken seriously enough then there can be dire consequences to you and your family.

But what about on standby generators? What is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when using a standby system? Over the past few months we have been writing article after article on standby generators and today’s topic is no different. What is the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when dealing with a standby generator system?

Standby Systems & Carbon Monoxide

The good news here folks is that the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from a standby generator is much much lower then that of a portable system. Now, I’m not going to lie to you and say that there is no risk at all. The standby system, just like the portable system, has an engine. This engine when ran produces carbon monoxide from the spent fuel. This is how your car works. There are a few main differences that set standby generators apart from portable generators.

As I said before, both of these systems will produce carbon monoxide… but some will produce more then others. For example, depending on the fuel your standby system is using it will most likely produce less carbon monoxide then a standard diesel or gasoline portable generator model. Typically a standby system will either use natural gas or propane. Both of these produce less carbon monoxide then a standard gasoline or diesel burn found with portable generators.

The most important difference though with standby systems is that they are, or should be, installed by professionals. These professionals do these installations frequently and know exactly how and how not to setup the systems. They will determine how close the unit is to your home, how close it is to the fuel lines, where the exhaust is blown to, and even where the wind is blowing so that the monoxide is blown away from your home.

If you were using a portable system then the chances are that you are NOT going to know all of this information. There are still so many folks today that set these portable systems up in their garages with the exhaust vent pointed outwards thinking that they are being safe. Worse yet are some people running generators in their closets INSIDE their home. All of this is a recipe for disaster. But, let’s say you have setup your portable system outside of your home and have everything plugged in. The unit is working but it is only ten feet away from the home, the window is open, and the wind is blowing. Monoxide can sneak into your home and begin to accumulate. With a standby system you can rest assured knowing that the unit was setup correctly and safely.

One last thing to mention here is that your standby systems will require regular maintenance. If this maintenance is not done then the amount of carbon monoxide it produces can increase. Remember, that carbon monoxide forms during incomplete combustion of the fuel. If your generator’s engine is not taken care of then it will become less efficient which will result in less fuel being used during the combustion process which will result in more monoxide forming. So, it is not only important to maintenance your system for its longevity but also for the safety of you and your family.

Conclusion

To answer the question in this article, yes, standby generators do produce carbon monoxide. The thing to remember that it is less then your standard portable system and that they are installed by professionals that know what and what not to do. As a safety precaution though I highly recommend having carbon monoxide detectors installed throughout your home to ensure that if it is getting in then you can recognize it and leave the home. It is always better to be safe then sorry.

Remember that while generators can be a lifesaver during a power loss they can also be quite dangerous. It is up to you to take the proper precautions to ensure that you and your family are safe. Lastly, please note that this article is intended for informational purposes only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any property damage or personal injuries that can occur when operating generators.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools

Having the power go out in your home is never an enjoyable time. At best you are without power for a few hours and have to find a way to entertain yourself without all of the wonders of technology. At worst your power is out for days, your house gets too cold/hot, and all of the food in your refrigerator and freezer spoil. Power losses can be expensive if they are not resolved right away. It can also be a hassle if your power goes out rather frequently.

A few years back my family and I lived on a farm on about twenty acres. I loved how peaceful it was. There were no neighbors for miles. But, there was a downside. In the spring and summer our power would go out frequently due to severe storms. We live in Kansas which is right in the heart of Tornado Alley. When these storms did occur and our power went out it could sometimes take at least a day sometimes more to get the power back on.

This was a huge inconvenience to our family. When these did occur we started using a portable generator to get us by, but after repeated instances of no power we began to look at standby generators. You see with a portable system you have to roll it out, fill it up with fuel, and then manually connect all of the cords required to power your home. It is not an easy process. But, with a standby system you do not have to do anything. It is all done for you automatically. When the power goes out you will only see a flash of lights and then bam the power is right back on.

How Much is Install?

Over the past few weeks I have been writing numerous articles on standby generators. One of the most common questions I see is exactly how much these units cost and how much to expect for installation. Throughout my research I have found that most folks say that the installation cost will be about the same as your purchase price. So, if you bought a five-thousand dollar standby generator then you can expect to pay about five-thousand dollars for installation as well.

Now, this rule may not hold as true as you start going up into the more expensive standby units. For example, if you bought a fifteen or twenty-thousand dollar system then you are not going to pay twenty-thousand dollars for install. It will be lower… but the cost will still be significant.

Installing these systems is not an easy feat and requires multiple people to come to your home. The first is a technician from the actual dealer that you bought the generator from. These guys should know generators front and backwards. When they come to your home they will determine the best spot to place your standby system. It should be located close to the circuit board but also close to the fuel supply rather that be a gas line or a propane line. Along with the technician you will also need a plumber to run the fuel lines correctly and safely. You may also need the county or city to come out and inspect the proposed placement to ensure that you are meeting code. Lastly, you may even need an electrician to help connect the automated transfer switch on your circuit board.

As you can see from above, there is a reason these installation costs can be so high. The good news here is that the dealer that you are going through to purchase your standby system should be very familiar with this process and may even have a list of contacts and names that they recommend to help get the job done quicker.  I cannot emphasize to you enough though that you should not try to install these units yourself. There are a lot of moving parts, a lot of considerations, and a lot of risk rather it be through working with electrical lines or fuel lines. It is best to leave this install to the experts and pay for installation cost.

Conclusion

When it comes to standby generators folks it is a matter of convenience. Do you want to pay for the hefty price to purchase and install a standby system to protect you and your family from power losses? Or, do you want to save the money and do the manual work of rolling out a portable unit every time your power goes out? Ultimately, the choice is yours. Do you choose money or convenience?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Investing in a standby generator for your home can be a big decision. They are not cheap but they can provide you and your family with security in that if your power does go out there will be nothing to worry about. Your standby unit will kick on automatically and your home can function just like it did before while on the grid. The fact that these standby systems are automatic AND that there is none of the manual setup that comes with portable generators is enough to sell many people on the idea.

The hesitation occurs when you really begin to look at the cost involved to purchase and install one of these systems. Typically a standby system can range between four all the way up to ten-thousand dollars depending on the size, brand, and features that you choose. Along with purchasing the actual unit you will also need to pay for the installation. In many cases the install costs just as much as the unit itself. So, if you purchase a five-thousand dollars standby system then you can expect to pay another five-thousand dollars for the installation.

This investment into your home begs the question, will you get your money back? If you purchase a standby system will it raise your home’s value? From my research I have found that in most cases a standby system WILL raise your home’s value… but by only half of your investment. So, using the example we just mentioned above on the ten-thousand dollar unit/install your home would see its value raise by only five-thousand dollars.

The remaining five-thousand dollars would be sunk cost. This is why I recommend only purchasing a standby system if you plan on staying in the home for a significant amount of time. If you are going to be selling in a year or two then a standby system may not be worth it. However, if you plan on staying in the home for five years, ten, or even longer then it will make sense to pay for the remaining difference.

In conclusion, do not purchase a standby system with the idea of raising your home’s value. Yes, it can raise the value slightly but you will not get all of your money back. Only purchase these systems if you suffer from frequent power losses AND you plan to stay in the home for years. Otherwise, you are just throwing money down the drain.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

If your home experiences power losses frequently then it may be time to look at purchasing a standby generator, or a whole home generator. These standby systems automatically detect when a power loss occurs and will switch your circuit board away from the power grid and over to the standby system within seconds of the power going out. In most cases you will just see a flicker of the lights as the switch occurs. After that it is smooth sailing and your home can function just like it did before when you were receiving power from the grid.

These standby systems are a great investment. A few years back my family and I lived quite a ways out in the country on a small farm of about twenty acres. It was absolutely beautiful and I miss it every day… but it was not perfect. I live in Kansas and during the spring and summer we can have some significant thunder storms. Since we were so far out and away from the city our power went out quite frequently. We also had the same problem in the winter with ice or blizzards. It became an occurrence we were all too familiar with.

We had a portable generator we could use for back up but it was a hassle. You had to roll it out in place. You had to fill it up with fuel. You had to hook up all of the extension cords and even then you still couldn’t power everything in your home. A standby system however could power our whole home. This is when my wife and I seriously started looking at purchasing a standby system. While these are the best option for power loss at your home they can be quite expensive as well.

You can expect to pay between four to ten thousand dollars for a standby system and THEN you have to pay for the installation. Typically the install is the same as the purchase price. So, if you purchased a five-thousand dollar system then you can expect to pay about five-thousand dollars for the install for a total cost of ten-thousand dollars. As I said before, standby systems are an investment. Only purchase these if you plan on staying in your home for a while and you do experience frequent power outages.

One of the questions we came across when researching standby systems is how long do they last? After all, I am not about to spend ten-thousand dollars on one if they are only going to last five or ten years. This ladies and gentlemen is where this article comes into play.

How Long Do They Last?

Before I give you the answer to this question we need to understand that how long your standby system lasts depends on two main variables. The first is how often are you running the generator? If you have a ton of power losses and are running it for thousands of hours per year then it is going to shorten the life span. The other important question here is maintenance. If you are performing proper maintenance on your generator then you can expect to truly achieve the longest lifespan. However, if you neglect maintenance and just ignore the system until you need it then you could significantly shorten the life span of your system. The other day I wrote an article on the maintenance required on standby generators which can be found by clicking here. Here is another article outside of ToughAssTools that provides many great tips on maintenance as well.

With all that being said the numbers I found when researching this topic stated that a standby system can last for about twenty-thousand to thirty-thousand operating hours. Now most folks said that the twenty to thirty thousand number equates to about a twenty to thirty year life span of the generator. But, as I said before, it all depends on how many hours you are operating the unit. For example, let’s say you are averaging about twelve-hundred hours of generator operating time per year. Let us also say that your generator will last around twenty-five thousand operating hours. Now it is just simple math of dividing twenty-five thousand by twelve-hundred to get us a number of twenty. So in this example your generator would last for twenty years.

I am sure that if you genuinely care of your generator and do not run it often you could see it last for thirty years. That number I gave above is a range. There are going to be exceptions. I see no reason why a generator that is sparingly used could last for thirty plus years. Again, take that same example above and instead of twelve-hundred hours a year call it seven-hundred. That math works out to about a thirty-five year life span.

Conclusion

All in all folks it really depends on how well you take care of your generator and how often you are running it. The numbers I gave you above were rough estimates. If you are serious about purchasing a standby generator I would make it a point to ask the longevity question to the dealer that you are working with. If the dealership is helpful you may even find that some brands last longer then others. Personally, I have always been a fan of the Generac brand. They are the most recognized and have the largest market share. That is NOT to discount the other brands out there though. Do you research and determine what is right for you and your family.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question Marks

Having the power go out in your home is never an enjoyable time. This is especially true if your home is prone to frequent power losses or if when you do receive a power loss it lasts for a day or more. Having no power in your home is not only an inconvenience but it can also cause all of the food in your refrigerator/freezer to spoil as well as cause the temperature in your home to rise or fall to dangerous levels.

A few years back my family and I lived on twenty acres way out in the country about an hour south of Kansas City. I loved how peaceful it was out there but it was prone to power losses during spring storms and winter blizzards. When the power did go out it was always a while before it was restored. This was just a fact of life when it came to living that far out from the city. As a solution to this problem we started looking into purchasing a standby generator.

Standby systems can provide your whole home with power the very moment your power goes out. It is all automated as well so the worst that you’ll see is a flicker of the lights for a moment when the power goes out and then the standby system kicks on and power is restored. These systems are by far the best solution when it comes powering your home during a power loss.

Over the past few weeks we have written numerous articles on these standby generators. Today we are going to take a look at exactly what kind of maintenance can be expected on your standby generator. Let’s take a look.

Maintenance Needs

A standby generator system can be very expensive to purchase and install. These systems can range from eight-thousand dollars all the way up to twenty-thousand dollars. They are a large investment for your home or business. It only makes sense that you want to protect this investment and insure that it will last for a very long time. This is why regular maintenance of your generator is essential. If your generator is taken care of correctly you can expect to see a lifespan of between ten-thousand to thirty-thousand hours of operating time. This would equate to around twenty to thirty year lifespan.

Now a standby generator is very similar to any other machine that you use commonly that has an engine. Think of your lawn mower, your car, or even your ATV. All of these have engines and all of these engines need routine maintenance. Generators are no different. Their engine is what creates the mechanical force that in turn is transferred to the alternator where the electrical energy is created.

Just like your vehicle, the more you use your generator the more maintenance you are going to need. This is why the maintenance plan for your system must be tailored towards you and your usage. There is not a one size fits all solution here. It is up to you to document how often your generator is used and make the determinations for maintenance based off of those operating times. The most important thing to watch and maintain on your generator is oil levels. All engines need adequate oil and all engines need their oil changed routinely. Just by doing this simple task you will add years to your generator’s lifespan.

Along with checking and changing the oil you should also be reviewing the air filter and fuel filters to ensure they are clean and if they need to be replaced. Again, this is a fairly simple task but it can make a significant difference in your generator’s performance.

Lastly, it is recommended that a load test for your generator is done weekly, or at least monthly. These tests involve your generator starting up with little or no load and then shutting off after a few minutes. Visually inspect the unit during these tests. Were there any alarms or indicators that went off? Did you see any leaks anywhere on the unit?  If so, then these are all red flags that should be looked after immediately.

What I mentioned above are just some of the basic maintenance needs on your generator. These are by no means everything that has to be done. The problem is with the more advanced needs your generator can get a bit more specific and it may make sense for you to have a professional review the system. Some of these maintenance needs are ensuring that the battery is charging and is working as intended, checking the battery cables and electrolyte levels, visually inspecting the drive belts, reviewing the coolant lines, and changing the spark plugs. For more specific details I recommend reading this article from ASNE.com on the topic.

Conclusion

Each generator is different and requires different needs. This is why it is also recommended to read and review your owner’s manual so that you are not missing any major steps in the maintenance process.  In many cases the original equipment manufacturer you bought the generator from is your best bet when it comes for maintenance questions and needs. Chances are these OEMS also offer their own maintenance protection plan which can cost anywhere between four-hundred to eight-hundred dollars a year. This plan will allow for scheduled maintenance visits to your property by a trained professional. They will do a visual inspection on your unit as well as changing the oil and filters if needed.

Having a professional review your system multiple times pear year is your best bet when it comes to generator maintenance. As we stated earlier in this article, standby generators are a large investment for your home and your family. It only makes sense to spend that little bit more every year so that you have a professional reviewing your needs. This will also help your case as well if your generator is still under warranty. By having the dealer catching and diagnosing problems chances are they will fall under the warranty policy.

Thanks for reading folks and I hope this article was helpful,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Having the power go out in your home is never a fun time. If it is out for just a few minutes, or even an hour or two, it is an inconvenience. The problem occurs when your power goes out for a day or multiple days at a time. This goes from being an inconvenience to a real hassle. A few years back I owned a small farm way out in the country about an hour south of the Kansas City area. It was extremely peaceful there and watching the snow fall was great… until our power went out.

As I am sure a lot of you know, when the power goes out when you are in the country it can sometimes take days for it to turn back on. In one particular instance our power was out for three days. Luckily, this outage occurred in winter and we were able to keep most of our food cold and keep the house warm by using our fireplace. If this had been summer though we would have been hot and miserable as well as losing all of the food in our refrigerator.

It was immediately after this power loss event that we began looking into standby generator systems. I knew that portable generators were an option as well, but I wanted an option that would provide our whole home with power and that would require little or no setup when the power went out. Standby generators were the solution. We had researched various models and but had ended up not purchasing and instead sold the home the next year.

The concept of standby generators has fascinated me ever since and that is why over the past few months I have been researching and writing article after article on the topic. In today’s article we are going to take a look at exactly how much these generators cost. What can you expect when purchasing? How much does install cost? Let’s take a look.

How Much do They Cost?

Let me first state that standby generators are NOT cheap. If you wish to purchase one for your home then you better plan on staying in your home for at least a few more years. While purchasing and installing a standby system can raise your home’s value it will ONLY raise it by about fifty percent of the money you spend on the system. SO, if you spend ten-thousand dollars then your home’s value will only increase by five-thousand dollars. If you do plan on purchasing one just be aware that you should stick around for a few more years so that you can enjoy the system.

To answer your question folks a typical standby generator can cost between four-thousand dollars to ten-thousand dollars. It all depends on exactly what size of standby system you need for your home or business. Standby systems are measured in kilowatts. The higher the number the more power that will be generated by your generator and the more expensive it will be. In order to determine exactly what size generator your home needs you will need to tally up the wattage of all of your appliances and electronics. If you cannot find the wattage of an appliance or electronic then you can take the amperage that it uses and multiply it by the volts. (If the appliance uses the standard plug-in at your home it uses one-hundred and ten volts.)

Once you have added up all of your wattage it is recommended to add another thirty percent to that number. This will give you some buffer room in case you forgot something or plan to add an additional appliance down the road. Standby systems can come in a variety of sizes but in most cases you will units start at around seven-and a half kilowatts and go all the way up to forty kilowatts. A standard twenty-five hundred square foot home can typically get by on a twenty-two and a half kilowatt system. But again, I am going to defer to your own sizing calculations to determine your generator’s size.

You should also understand that even though you have the size of generator that you need figured out the price can still vary significantly depending on brands and features. As an example, the twenty-two and a half kilowatt systems can range from four-thousand dollars all the way up to ten-thousand dollars. This is going to be a matter of preference. Research each brand and also research the additional features. Are they worth the extra cash, or are you ok with a standard system? I am personally a big fan of the Generac brand.

The last big thing to mention here when it comes to pricing your standby system is installation costs. A  lot of folks do not think of this but it is a real expense that can be just as expensive as the standby generator itself. This is why it is so important to budget the installation cost before purchasing a standby system. There is a lot that goes into installing one of these systems. You will need the help of an electrician to hook the unit to your home, a plumber or other professional to setup the fuel lines from your generator to your gas or propane line, and in some cases a county or city representative to come out to ensure the standby generator is compliant with code. These installs can be costly.

Conclusion

So, when you factor in the cost of the generator and the install you could be looking at a total purchase price ranging from eight-thousand dollars all the way to eighteen or twenty-thousand dollars. It truly depends on your sizing needs as well as the brands and features you wish to invest in. To a lot of folks these amounts may simply be too much… especially if you only experience power loss a few times a year.

There is another option out there though. If you wish to save a ton of money and do some manual work there are portable generators. Portable systems are what you typically see at camping sites or RV parks. They are a portable system that can generate power wherever you need it. The downside of these systems it that they are all manual. When I say that I mean that when the power does go out you have to roll out the generator from storage, fill it up with fuel, and then manually connect the appliances you want to power via extension cord.

As you can imagine this will require a lot of work to get setup each and every time that your power goes out. The bright side is that you can save thousands by opting for a portable system. Looking at some of the models on Amazon.com we can see that the cost on a larger portable system will be right around one-thousand dollars. Now this unit may not power your entire home but it will provide you enough power to run your refrigerator, freezer, and other electronics.

Ultimately though folks, the choice is yours. Do you want to spend the money and invest in a standby system and save yourself time each time your power goes out? Or, do you want to save thousands and invest the time it takes to setup a portable system each time? Time or money?

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com

Question

Having the power go out in your home is never an enjoyable time. I remember as a child when the power went out I would be upset that I couldn’t watch television or play my video games. Now as an adult with a home of my own I worry on how I am going to heat and or cool the home. What am I going to do with all of the food in the freezer and refrigerator? In my previous home, before we sold it last year, we would get power outages rather frequently. It was an older farmhouse on twenty acres. While it was peaceful it was prone to outages and since we were so far away from the city we were often the last ones to get our power restored.

After some time and frustration we decided to look into getting a standby generator system installed. As you know, standby systems are designed to power your entire home during a power loss. With a standby system installed you may not even notice that you had a power loss. In many cases all you’ll see is a slight flicker of the lights and then the circuit board in your home switches over to the standby system and everything goes back to normal.

If you are prone to power outages then I highly recommend you look into standby systems. The question in this article though is where exactly should you place a standby system? With a portable generator there is a lot of risk when it comes to placement. If you place it too close to your home then you risk carbon monoxide leaking into your home and harming your family. It is typically recommended to have portable systems at least twenty feet away from your home in an open area where the wind will blow the exhaust away.

But, where should standby systems be placed? Let’s take a look.

Placing Your Standby Generator

Luckily, standby generators are regarded as notably safer then a portable generator. Now do not get me wrong, standby systems can still be dangerous. Both types of generators produce carbon monoxide that can be harmful to your family. Both generators have combustion engines that burn through fuel just like your vehicle. These engines produce carbon monoxide. If the generator is too close to your home then that monoxide can leak into your home and slowly poison you and your family.

The placement of a standby generator has to be considered very carefully. Now throughout my research on this topic the commonality I found is that it is recommended that standby systems are placed at least five feet away from your home. They should also be somewhat near your circuit board as well as your gas or propane line for an easy fuel connection point. They should also NOT be near any kind of overhang, awning, or garage that could trap carbon monoxide. The generator should also be at least three feet away from any kind of flammable material. I would suggest at least ten feet though to be abundantly safe.

Conclusion

The good news here is that when purchasing a standby system it is recommended to have it professionally installed. A professional install assures you that you are having the absolute best location picked for your standby system. The installer will consider the points I mentioned above but will also consider other variables such as the typical direction of the wind, elevation, slope, etc. Installers also have to be familiar with local state, county, and city codes and ordinances when it comes to generators. This alone is worth the investment of an install as you can be assured that you will not have to redo anything.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

ToughAssTools.com