There are several benefits to having a standby generator at home. Firstly, it’s a great way to provide backup power to your home in the event of a power outage.
Standby generators are there to provide an emergency power source and peace of mind, especially in areas with extreme weather conditions. Although we are fortunate enough in the UK to not suffer from too many natural disasters, power outages are not uncommon, especially during a winter storm.
You may want to consider a standby generator if you suffer from frequent power outages or your home relies heavily on the power supply and to lose power would be a real concern.
There are a few factors to consider when deciding if it’s a worthwhile investment to have a standby generator permanently installed at home. Throughout this article we look further into this and whether standby generators or portable generators are the better options to provide backup power to your home’s electrical system.
Deciding on whether you want a standby generator to become a permanent fixture at your home to supply power during a power outage requires some consideration. We look at the reasons why a standby generator may be the best choice and what your other options might be.
What are the reasons to having a standby generator at home?
There are several reasons you might be considering having a standby generator installed at home. The main purpose of a generator is to provide backup power during a power outage, but the type of generator you need depends on a few factors.
To be considering getting a standby generator permanently installed probably means you are worried about more than powering a few lights. If this is all you want the generator for, you may want to consider a portable generator, we’ll go into this in more detail further down in this article.
Whether it’s as extreme as a natural disaster or an interruption from the power grid, a standby generator will help ensure:
Keeping your home a safe environment
You don’t have to worry about the safety considerations of losing power, such as no lighting or essential appliances not working. Standby generators are often installed for safety reasons and provide peace of mind.
Hence, you can have peace of mind and avoid the risk of not being able to power medical equipment, such as a CPAP machine which could be essential to someone’s health.
You can still use your devices during a power outage
You’ll have power for a few days should the power outage last a significant amount of time, ensuring there is no interruption to your power needs.
Relying heavily on technology is highly prominent in todays society, so having power on standby can help you continue to have an uninterrupted power supply to your entire home. Meaning you won’t lose access to things like WIFI or other communication devices. A real consideration in the modern day where many work from home.
Furthermore, your essential equipment remains usable, for example, if you rely on a sump pump to draw water away from your home this may be especially needed during a storm and losing power could risk damage to your property if your sump pump is unusable.
Stay in comfort
Your HVAC system remains active. This may be your heating system or air conditioner that is essential to your health and comfort.
If any of the above is cause for concern then a standby generator may be the solution. If you are looking for a whole home generator to power your entire property, then whole house generators are essentially large standby generators that produce between 22-40 kilowatts of power.
If your power needs are much smaller you may want to consider a portable generator or even a portable power station. Portable power stations are portable units that can be used to power small appliances and personal electronic equipment.
A small generator that is easy to move about is often useful if you’re away from the house, for example on a camping trip.
Is there a difference between a standby generator and emergency generator?
An emergency generator is used for power sources required for life safety. This means anything fitted to the building for the purpose of saving a life. They have limited loads and should only be used as backup generators for life-saving items such as emergency lighting, smoke alarms, and alarm systems.
Usually essential in public places, such as a cinema or theatre, an emergency generator will provide electricity to exit signs should there be a power failure and people need to evacuate safely. At home, it’s more likely to be items such as fire alarms that are important.
With a standby generator, you can decide what you want it to power in your home. If you are only looking to power essential life-saving items such as alarms, then an emergency generator may be what you need.
How can I get a standby generator at home?
Standby generators run by being connected to the house’s main power supply so it can automatically kick in should the power fail. If your generator is over 5,000 watts you will need a transfer switch for safety reasons and to prevent surges and back feeding the grid.
Standby generators are fitted to a natural gas line or require a fuel supply. If you need fuel you may also need to consider storage for fuel so you have plenty handy to keep your generator running when needed. Standby generators are encased in weatherproof housing, which also helps keep them quieter than a portable generator for example.
Depending on the level of your needs will determine whether you need a whole house generator or a stationary generator. It would be wise to calculate your power usage before you buy a new generator so you can save money by buying one the right size.
Standby generators need to be fitted by a professional like Solent Power’s service and maintenance team. Generator installation will include connecting your generator to a natural gas supply if needed and connecting to your mains electricity. If your generator runs on fuel rather than being connected to a natural gas line, you’ll need to consider fuel storage as mentioned above.
The benefit of the natural gas supply means you don’t need to worry about this.
You will also need to get your generator serviced by a professional to ensure it’s fit for purpose and has a long lifespan. A new generator is quite an investment, once fitted and well-maintained, a standby generator will be a reliable source of power for your home.
If you are looking to use appliances and equipment outside, you can also use your generator for these, but you’ll need a generator extension cord as you can not plug directly into the generator.
Can I use a portable generator in place of a standby generator?
Portable generators are much smaller, and as the name suggests they are portable, whereas a standby generator does not move once installed. Portable generators have several advantages and may be a better fit for purpose depending on what you need a generator for.
What are the advantages of a portable generator?
- Portable generators are cheaper than standby generators.
- You’ll be able to set up your portable generator yourself and not need to rely on a professional.
- A portable generator can be moved. Should you want to use it elsewhere you’ll be able to move it to the desired location.
What are the disadvantages of a portable generator?
- A portable generator is not as powerful as a standby generator so may not be suitable for powering a whole house.
- Portable generators produce harmful carbon monoxide fumes, standby generators do too, but they are set up to divert the fumes away from your home. If you’re using a portable generator you need to make sure it is well ventilated.
- They tend to be louder than standby generators as they do not have the protective housing to muffle the noise.
- They will not automatically switch on if there if the electricity goes out unlike a standby generator, so you will need to set it up when it’s needed. In times of emergency, bad weather, or in darkness, this will be harder to do.
When you’re considering which generator is best you need to consider what you need it for.
You’ll need to take into account the demands that will be put on the generator and things like:
- the size of your property.
- How many lights, powered items, appliances, and equipment will you be running at once?
- Do you have space on the property to store it and any fuel source it may need?
- Is it essential for emergency use?
- And finally, what you’re willing to spend? This includes the initial outlay and ongoing essential maintenance.
Standby generators are a fantastic means of supplying electricity for your home. As long as they are installed and maintained well, they will offer reassurance that your home and family have a constant supply of power.
You won’t have to worry about being plunged into darkness, or being unable to use appliances and equipment.
This can be especially reassuring if you have essential life-saving equipment that relies on electricity.
Identifying whether you need a standby generator depends on a few factors, but if you’re looking for a generator that kicks in automatically, can power a whole house, and prevent emergency situations when essential items lose power, then a standby generator could be just what you need.
You will pay more upfront, including the cost of installation, but if you are having regular problems or cannot afford to be without electricity, the benefits will be worth it.
If you’re still unsure which generator is right for you and would like to discuss it further with a professional, we encourage you to contact us here at Solent Power, we’ll be happy to talk through what’s best for you and help you make the right decision.
How much does a standby generator cost?
A typical standby generator installation can cost approximately £2.50-£3.00 per kVA for three phase systems. This includes the generator, ATS, cabling and installation.
For example a 50kVA standby generator installation may cost around £12,500- £15,000.
Standby generators start from around £5000 for a 10kVA generator, but the larger the unit, the higher the price with 500kVA diesel generators costing around £50,000.
It is important to understand what size generator you will need, as this will determine the total generator installation cost.
How long can a generator run for during a power cut?
Silent diesel generators for home use have internal fuel tanks that are generally designed to run for 10-12 hours at 100% load.
It is unlikely that you will size your generator at 100% of your load, therefore you should expect it to run for the most part of a day before needing to top up the fuel.
Find out more about diesel generator running duration here.
What size generator do I need for my home?
Home generators will vary depending on the size of the home and the number of buildings or appliances you need to supply.
Small homes can supply most essentials with portable generators, but generators for large homes will be three phase and start from around 30-40kVA.
Please read our guide on sizing a generator.
Can my generator work automatically during a power cut?
By installing an ATS (Automatic transfer switch), you can have a fully automatic back up generator that starts and transfers power to your building during a power cut.
ATS Panels are installed close to your incoming mains fuses or consumer unit and a signal cable is ran out to your standby generator to give it a start command.
Are standby generators quiet?
Standby generators are housed inside weatherproof and soundproof enclosures, and these are acoustically insulated to reduce noise.
Typical noise values of a diesel generator are 68-78db.
You can install your generator a distance away from your home or buildaing which will reduce the impact of noise.