Emergency BackUp Generators FAQs

How do standby generators work?

Standby generators are connected to an automatic transfer switch which is connected to utility power. The transfer switch constantly monitors the presence of utility power. When utility power goes out, the transfer switch signals the generator to start and transfers the load previously supported by utility power to be served by the generator. When utility power is restored, the transfer switch sends a signal to your generator; the load supported by the generator switches back to utility power and the generator shuts down (after a brief cool-down).

The peace of mind of knowing that your generator takes care of everything automatically, whether you are home or not, is why many homeowners choose to install standby systems over portable generators.

backup-versus-standby-aWhat is the difference between a portable and a standby generator?

Portable generators are primarily gasoline powered and need to be kept inside when not in use. When you need to use the generator, you bring it outside and then manually make the connection to the inlet box and flip the transfer switch. You can then start the generator by either recoil or battery, whatever your generator is fitted with. The generator needs to be refilled with gasoline every few hours of continuous use; run-time will vary depending on wattage and the size of the fuel tank.

Standby generators are also known as automatic generators. Most commonly, residential generators are permanently connected directly into a propane or natural gas source. Standby generators are permanently installed on your property and will turn on and shut off automatically.

How close can a standby generator be to my house?

Building Code states that a standby generator needs be at least five feet away from any combustible structure and ten feet away from any (above ground) propane tanks.

How much propane do I need?

We recommend that you have at least 200-240 gallons of propane available to the generator. Residential units will use about 1 – 2 gallons of propane per hour while in use. In the event of an extended outage, 200 gallons will get you through a few days without relying on a propane company to come refill the tanks.

Do You Have Any Maintenance Tips?

WEEKLY EXERCISING CYCLE: Your generator will automatically exercise every week, on the same day of the week, at the same time of day. Please note that daylight savings time will change the exercise time by 1 hour. Your normal utility power will not be interrupted. This is simply an exercise period for the generator engine.

A great preventative measure is keeping an ear out to make sure your generator is exercising at that appointed time every week. If you haven’t heard the generator exercise in a while, you should call us and we will walk you through how to ensure that the generator is functional. If there is a problem, we’ll know before the power goes out and can potentially prevent an emergency call.

SNOW & VEGETATION: It is imperative that you make sure that the generator is shoveled out when more than 12 inches of snow has accumulated. Most residential generators are air-cooled and must be able to intake and exhaust air from either side of the generator to operate properly. This also pertains to overgrowth of vegetation during the summer months.

EXTENDED POWER OUTAGES: Generators that are running for long periods of time need to have the oil checked every 12 hours of run time.

What Do Our Service Agreements Involve?

Semi-annual or Annual Preventative Maintenance – a thorough check of your generator will be performed each time our expert generator technicians comes to your home. Liquid cooled generators require annual preventative maintenance.

Remote Monitoring – so we can have ears and eyes on your generator at all times. The remote monitoring system will alert us if the generator malfunctions or fails to exercise so we can catch a small problem early.

Call Alternative Electric Power today for more information.

Alternative Electric Power
755 W Chicago St,
Valparaiso, IN 46385
(219) 335-2772

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