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Back up Generators

Generators provide a very valuable service to a home's electrical service - they provide power when the utility company is unavailable to supply power.  This happens whenever a big storm comes through or the utility company has to perform repairs.  

In newer homes, where your main electrical service cables are fed through underground conduit, you may have less problems associated with power loss during storms.  Families in homes where their main feed to their electrical panel is supplied by overhead conductors may experience greater power loss.

But be aware that even though your home may be fed by underground service cables, somewhere, at some point, chances are high that they are above ground on a utility pole.

Generators are essential for families who are caring for the elderly, families caring for loved ones who are extremely sick, and homes with young children.  If you have someone who is under home hospice care, a generator could be the determining factor between life and death.

Generators are also great if you are running an at home business.  The last thing you need to worry about is your power being out for a few days.  The loss of revenue for your business could be great not to mention the total disruption power loss could cause to your company.


If you have decided a generator is the right choice for your home, there are a few questions you are going to have to answer:

Which type of generator do I want?

Generators come in two different types:  portable and stand-by.  A portable generator is the type of generator you will typically see on a hardware store aisle or at a construction site. It usually is on a set of wheels and is meant to be easily transportable from place to place.  A stand-by generator is a generator that is permanent.  In other words, like your outside air conditioning unit - it never moves.  The difference between the two is that typically stand-by generators are the better choice because of their ability to potentially power your whole home.  A portable generator is usually used as a place to get quick power for power tools on a construction site, for example. It is not standard for a portable generator to power your whole home but it is done all the time as a way to power up a few  essential outlets.

Which type of fuel do I want for my generator?

You basically have three options when it comes to fueling your generator - gas/diesel, propane or natural gas.  Both portable and stand by generators can accept all three fuel types. Usually portable generators use gasoline whereas stand by generators can consume all three fuel types.  The drawback of using a gasoline, diesel or propane generator is that you will be required to fill the generator every time it runs out of fuel.  Depending on the situation, you may even need to install an additional gas/diesel tank.  Natural gas generators are simple and efficient - simply supply a natural gas line to the generator and that's it.  No worrying about whether or not the fuel is running low. For propane generators, you will have to keep an eye on your fuel level also. A more in-depth analysis of the pros and cons of fuel type can be found here.

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Do I want my generator to turn on automatically during an outage?

The best case scenario when it comes to generator selection is to have an automatic transfer switch (ATS), a generator that has the capacity to feed your entire home, and runs off of natural gas. An ATS is a switch that automatically transfers power from normal, utility fed power to generator power. On the other hand, a manual transfer switch (MTS) is a switch that you have to manually turn over when power is lost.  The pros of an ATS is its ease of use and instant turnover of power.  The only con of an ATS is its cost. A manual transfer switch is cheaper but you lose power until you flip the switch.

Do I want a liquid cooled or air cooled generator?

If you purchase a generator that is under 22 kw, an air cooled generator is the cheaper option.  An air cooled generator uses the outside air to cool down your generator engine.  The problem with air cooled generators is that if they run for a long time, the engine could overheat.  Just like your automobile, if the engine overheats, it could possibly be the end of the engine. A liquid cooled generator uses radiator fluid (coolant) to keep the engine at normal operating temperature.  Liquid cooled generators are standard for generators operating over 22 kw.  The con of a liquid cooled generator is its cost.

Do I want my whole house to power up in the event of power loss or only certain receptacles, lights, and appliances? 


The larger the capacity of the generator the larger the cost. A 15 kw generator can power a small home. A 25 kw generator can produce enough power to supply electricity for a small to medium sized home or business. 30 kw and larger generators can run a medium to large sized home or business.

MKO Electric can help you decide which type of generator is best for your situation

There are other factors to decide upon when installing a generator.  MKO Electric can help you figure out the best solution for your need.  Call MKO Electric at 571-488-0978 or email us and we can come up with a plan to optimize your generator purchase. 

If you live in Arlington county, here is a reference on what to expect when it comes to installing a generator.

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