Power failures due to extreme weather, high power usage, aging utilities, and other unpredictable events continue to increase nationwide. Any restaurant that has been forced to dispose of spoiled meat and produce can tell you how expensive even a short power outage can be.
In the winter of 06-07 parts of Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, and Missouri were without power for up to two weeks. In the meantime business and homeowners were forced to deal with frozen pipes, flooded basements, cold buildings, darkness, and lack of running water. Trying to find a portable generator to purchase or rent during this period became nearly impossible. Whether you are a business or homeowner a backup power source is a good investment, think of it as an insurance policy against discomfort and loss of profits.
There are two types of generators available that can be used as a source of power, portable or standby. In the event you are considering such a purchase I recommend doing your homework very carefully. The internet and any reputable generator dealer are great sources for this information. A licensed electrician should also be consulted and hired before any installation begins.
Portable generators are available from $500-$3500 and are the type you see on construction sites and campgrounds. These are normally powered by gasoline or diesel fuel and are easily transported with a pickup truck. Depending on your power needs an investment of around $1000 is enough to power a few essential items in the average home such as sump pump, well pump, deep freeze, refrigerator, television, forced air furnace (natural gas or propane), and a few lights. Due to the large amount of power required by central air conditioning units on startup even the most powerful portable generators are not enough to run central air. However a small window unit can be powered by some of the larger portable units.
Standby generators are available from $1500-$70,000+ and are the type used in homes to hospitals. These models usually require a small concrete pad for them to be mounted on and are wired into the buildings electrical panel with the use of a transfer switch. Normally powered by diesel fuel, natural gas, or propane these generators can be set to come on automatically upon the loss of power. Properly installed the transition from grid to backup power is a nearly seamless flickering of the lights and can be setup to run only a few essential circuits or the whole building including central air conditioning. Standby generators are always there, well standing by, in case they are needed and will even start themselves once a week or so to charge the battery and circulate fluids so they will be ready when required.
Caution should always be used around any generator and the manufacturers recommendations followed to the letter due to the obvious dangers posed by these devices. Under no circumstances should a generator be hooked to a buildings wiring system by the practice commonly known as back-feeding! This practice is extremely dangerous and is life threatening to people even miles away, not to mention being illegal in most localities. The use of a transfer switch and licensed electrician to install it is the only safe and proper way to go.