Standby Power: How to Pick the Perfect Home Standby Generator

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Before Y2K, home standby generators were considered a luxury item. A dozen hurricanes later, they're quickly becoming as common as central air conditioners in Hurricane country. - an online generator superstore - offers some tips on how to pick the perfect standby generator.

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

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

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

Without electricity, basements can flood. Security systems can falter. Home-based 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 emergency 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 or propane tank 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:

Shop by Watts (

Standby generators are rated by kilowatts (one thousand watts). The larger the kilowatts, the more electrical appliances it can power. Home standby systems range from 7-25 kilowatts.

Yes, you can calculate your exact wattage needs through various wattage calculators. According to Hoch, the services are 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.

"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."

Central Air Conditioning

Standby generators can easily generate enough juice to get any individual household appliance working -- except one. Central air conditioners need a ton of energy just to get started.

For example, if you have a 4-ton central air conditioner, you'll need at least a 13 kilowatt standby generator. If you have a 5-ton unit, you'll need a 16 kilowatt generator.

"Another, less expensive, alternative is to simply buy a small standby generator along with a window air conditioner to run only during outages," suggests Hoch.

Shop by Style (

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. grades the quality of every standby generator into three categories - Home Standby, Residential/Commercial, and Commercial Grade - helping to simplify your search. According to Hoch, the grade of the standby generator is extremely important.

Residential-grade standby generators feature air-cooled engines, which are like lawnmower engines. They are specifically designed for occassional emergency power use.

Residential/commercial-grade standby generators feature liquid-cooled engines, which are more like automobile engines. They are designed to last much longer than air-cooled models. In addition, some models feature rust-resistant aluminum enclosures, which are ideal for coastal communities subject to salty air.

For recommendations on specific home standby generators, visit is an online generator superstore owned and operated by Power Equipment Direct, Inc. (

The company also maintains ( and (

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