Standby Power: How to Pick the Perfect Standby Generator

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Y2K started the standby generator revolution. Then it snowballed. Just a few years ago, the thought of owning a standby generator seemed preposterous. Now, living without electricity is all too common. Electric Generators, an online emergency generator superstore, helps shed some light on how to pick the perfect standby generator.

The California Energy Crisis. The Ice Storm of 2001. The Great Northeast Blackout. Hurricanes Isabel, Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jean.

Just a few years ago, the thought of owning a standby generator seemed preposterous. Now, living without electricity is all too common.

"You shouldn't be worrying about how often the power goes down," says Jon Hoch, Founder of Electric Generators, an online emergency generator superstore.

"Instead, you should be worrying about what happens when the power goes out."

Without electricity, basements can flood. Security systems can falter. Businesses can fail. Just one power outage can result in thousands of dollars of damage, warns Hoch.

Standby Generators

Many homeowners and businesses simply cannot afford to ride out another power outage. Instead, they are installing standby generators in record numbers to protect their families and investments.

The concept is really simple. Standby generators are installed outside and operate just like a central air conditioner with two major differences.

1. Automatic Transfer Switches

Instead of using a thermostat, standby generators uses an automatic transfer switch to monitor your utility power. When it goes out, the automatic transfer switch turns on the generator - whether you're home or not - and automatically shuts it off when power is restored.

2. Engine Instead of Motor

Air conditioners run off electric motors, which obviously won't work during an outage. Standby generators have engines instead. The systems can be connected to your natural gas line and generate electricity as long as fuel is supplied.

Shopping Tips

So how do you pick the perfect standby generator? According to Hoch, it's extremely easy if you follow these tips:

1. Shop by Grade

Not all cars are the same. While a Yugo and a Lexus are both cars, they are barely comparable.

The same goes for standby generators. Some affordable brands are designed to restore electricity, and that's about it. Other more sophisticated brands include premium grade engines and rust-resistant aluminum enclosures, significantly reducing the noise and extending its lifespan.

Electric Generators Direct grades the quality of every standby generator into three categories - Economical, Premium Power, and Prime Power - helping to simplify your search. According to Hoch, the grade of the standby generator is extremely important.

Economical and Premium Power generators feature air-cooled engines, which are like lawnmower engines. They are specifically designed for occassional emergency power use.

"If you want a system to last decades instead of years, go with the premium grade. If all you care about is kilowatts, get an economical grade," recommends Hoch.

Prime Power generators feature liquid-cooled engines, which are more like automobile engines. They are designed to last much longer than air-cooled models. In addition, these durable machines can be used as either emergency back-up power systems or prime power generators.

2. Shop by Watts

Standby generators are rated by kilowatts (one thousand watts). The larger the kilowatts, the more electrical appliances it can power.

Yes, you can calculate your exact wattage needs through various online wattage calculators, like Power Protection's Home Wattage Wizard. According to Hoch, the service is nice, but not always necessary.

A basic home standby generator starts around 7 kilowatts. While it won't power an entire house, it will generate enough electricity to get you safely through the blackout. Home standby systems range from 7-15 kilowatts. Larger units are available, but they are usually used in light-commercial applications.

"Don't get too caught up in the kilowatts," says Hoch. "If you have enough money to power your whole house, go for it. If not, simply purchase as many kilowatts as you can afford."

One word of caution! Standby generators create enough juice to get every household appliance working -- except one. Central air conditioners need an enormous amount of energy (at least 15 kilowatts) just to get their motors and compressors operating.

If you absolutely need air conditioning, Hoch recommends one of two options. First, you can always buy a larger commercial standby generator. Another, less expensive, alternative is to simply purchase a home standby generator along with a cheap window air conditioner to run only during power outages.

About Electric Generators Direct

Electric Generators Direct ( is an online generator superstore owned and operated by Power Equipment Direct, Inc.

The company also owns and operates Pressure Washers Direct ( and Air Compressors Direct (

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Jon Hoch
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