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- Everything You Need to Know About Emergency Power Generators
Everything You Need to Know About Emergency Power Generators
Put a Lid On It
One of the necessary evils of a standby generator is the routine “exercise” mode. To ensure that the generator will provide immediate power during an outage, units are programmed to run themselves for a short amount of time on a regular schedule. While this mode provides peace of mind to the homeowner, it also means a regular interruption to the peace and quiet around the home. Generators are engines, and engines produce noise. The decibel (dB) level of a generator is another comparison point that manufacturers are addressing in newer models. Generac’s Quiet-Test® feature lowers the generator engine speed during the weekly test-run, reducing the noise to the level of an idling car. “The engine runs at two-thirds of the normal RPM,” says Thomas. “This reduces decibel levels, uses less fuel and means less emissions.”
Other solutions to the noise issue include improving the generator enclosure. “Our SoundVault® Enclosure bounces air and sound through a compartment,” says Betker, speaking to the sound attenuating characteristics of the Briggs & Stratton, GE-branded standby generators. The Enclosure, coupled with the automotive-style exhaust system and foam dampeners that are part of the Briggs & Stratton SoundShield® Technology, help reduce its GE-branded 10-45kW standby generators’ running sound level to 65dB.
To further minimize the effect that the frequent test runs have on the peace and quiet around the home, most standby generators enable the homeowner to set the time of the day that the generator will perform this function.
More for Less
“One of the biggest improvements in generators has been larger kilowatt developments,” says Dan Giampetroni, marketing manager for Kohler. “Today’s generators have more horsepower, so they can handle homes with large AC systems.” Kohler’s line of LP and natural gas-fueled standby generators range from smaller 8.5-kW systems to a whopping 125-kW system. But, as Giampetroni points out, “as the power has gone up, the prices have gone down.” Four years ago a 12-kW standby generator would have cost close to $4,400, not including the necessary transfer switch, which could have added another $1,000 or more, or installation costs. “Today an 18kW Kohler standby system has an MSRP of $4,769, which includes the transfer switch,” Giampetroni adds.
The increased affordability of the permanent generator systems could see more homeowners, especially elderly ones, considering this option over the less-convenient, less-powerful portable generators. A permanent standby generator that starts automatically during a power outage powers the home’s vital components and can be purchased for an affordable price can seem like a sensible investment for any home, but particularly for elderly homeowners who might find an interruption in power to be as much a safety and health concern as an inconvenience.
In addition to all the improvements in power output, sound attenuation and affordability, the modern generator is also getting a technological makeover. In today’s “smart home,” advanced controls and wiring connect the home’s subsystems (lighting, heating and cooling, security, etc.) to one another and to the Internet. The smart home can now add the generator to the list of Internet-ready devices. Some of Kohler’s newer models of standby generators have Ethernet ports to bring the generator online. According to Giampetroni, a connected generator, used in conjunction with Kohler’s OnCue Home Generator Management System software, can send an email or text message to the homeowner or installer when the generator comes on.
Homeowners away on vacation can access their generator online to run a diagnostics and check that the generator is prepared for an impending storm or outage. This kind of remote access feature adds additional assurance to homeowners that their generator will be ready to operate when needed.
Generac has also added a technological boost to their generator package. Rather than forcing the homeowner outside to check on the status of the permanent generator, Generac’s wireless remote monitor feeds real-time information from the generator to a small, battery-operated control device that can hang on the wall or be placed in some convenient location. From the device, homeowners can run a test on the generator or check to see if the unit needs maintenance.
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