How Do Backup Generators Work?

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Last updatedLast updated: May 20, 2021
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Like solar, backup generators can provide your home with the power to run its appliances while you’re going through a power outage in your area. However, some of you are afraid to take the leap and get yourselves one of these generators because of the perceived complexity of the machine. While they do seem complicated from afar, we assure you they are not, and it’s quite easy to explain how they work. Maybe with this information, you can get the confidence to get one for your home. So, how do backup generators work? Find out below.

What is a standby generator?

A standby generator stands in as a backup power source in homes and institutions when there is a power outage. You can configure them to provide power to any number of appliances, including lights, refrigerators, TVs, computers and more.
Also, standby generators seem to be especially handy in institutions such as hospitals where power loss even for a few minutes could mean disastrous results for some patients.

Of course, you can get them in various sizes depending on your power needs, financial capabilities and the space you have for installation. Notably, these generators barely require any maintenance and will likely spend their whole lifespan in one place unless you decide to move them. Also, in contrast to their portable counterparts, they are installed with a permanent connection to your appliances so they won’t need to be plugged in every time there is an outage.

You have a variety of choices with regards to the fuel for your standby generator if you choose to get one. Natural gas, diesel, gasoline and propane are fairly common, and you can choose by figuring out which is more accessible to you. Preference might also come into play when choosing. Lastly, they seem to do well even in snowy and rainy conditions.

How Do Backup Generators Work?

The generator components

As you’ll undoubtedly find out the generator components are crucial to how Generac and other popular models of home generators work. A word of caution is that you should refrain from opening the generator if it isn’t working right. Leave that to professionals to prevent any disastrous accidents. Remember the machine produces electricity and may shock you.

Generator unit

The generator unit will be the big machine-like device you receive after purchase. For installation, please call a qualified technician as the device will need to be connected directly to the homes wiring system. You can relay your preferences to the technician, so they make sure all your preferred devices are connected to the generator as well.

Notably, the term “big” that we’ve used above is relative and will depend on the size of your home. That said, standby generators seem to come in various sizes. When the machine is turned on, it will burn through whatever fuel is in the tank and use it to power your home.

A wise standby generator owner will periodically check on the machine and the state of fuel. You don’t want the power outage to happen only to realize that you don’t have any fuel to power the device. An example of a generator unit is the Generac 7043 Standby Generator which most reviewers recommend since it works with sensitive electronics and appliances. The LED status indicators on the machine will also tell you if there’s a problem.

How Do Backup Generators Work?Automatic transfer switch

Also, it does you good to purchase a generator model with an automatic transfer switch. In most cases, the automatic transfer switch will also be coupled with a controller. The controller monitors the state of power in a home so it can detect a power outage. If there is one, it sends the information to the automatic transfer switch.

The switch then turns on the generator and connects it to the electrical load. By doing so, the generator starts to power your appliances. When power from your utility comes back on, the transfer switch is again notified. It shuts down the generator and hands over the electrical load to the power grid.

Notably, before you go picking any standby generator unit, you should know that not all of them have automatic transfer switches. Some of them work with manual switches instead. These will require that you manually turn the generator on when there is no power, then you can use the transfer switch provided to change generator power.

When power is back on, you’ll again need to switch to grid power before manually powering down the generator. As you can guess, this is not a very efficient use of your fuel. Another downside is that it could spell bad news for you if you’re on holiday and there’s food in the fridge. Since the generator power won’t kick in automatically, you’ll get back home to rotten food in the refrigerator.

Final thoughts

How do backup generators work? Hopefully, the information in the above writeup answers that for you. You don’t need to know about the intricacies of the machine unless you’re a qualified technician. They are generally safe to use unless you try to open them up with little know-how. In that case, you may be putting your life in danger.

Call a qualified professional for the installation and be sure to check their reviews and ratings. Also, keep the technician’s number. You’ll need it every two years for scheduled maintenance. Notably, reviewers and experts recommend having the Generac 6485 kit on hand for maintenance whenever you call the technician over. It contains essentials such as spark plugs, an oil filter, air filter, pre-cleaner and more.

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