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Calling for backup

National Post logo National Post 2022-08-09 Mike Holmes
A standby generator can provide backup power to your entire home during a power outage, offering you peace of mind and potentially saving you thousands of dollars in possible damage. Michael on location of Holmes and Holmes, after the installation of a standby generator. © Provided by National Post A standby generator can provide backup power to your entire home during a power outage, offering you peace of mind and potentially saving you thousands of dollars in possible damage. Michael on location of Holmes and Holmes, after the installation of a standby generator.

I recently had a conversation with one of my product partners, and they mentioned that they’ve seen an increase in the number of standby generator purchases. Many homeowners are investing in standby or whole-home generators to protect their homes from power outages, especially with the increase in the number of storms we’ve seen recently.

Storms with heavy rain, lightning, and high winds can typically cause power outages as well as damaged roofs, siding, downed trees, and downed electrical power lines, to name a few.

Before making a purchase, you must first determine whether a backup generator is worthwhile for your situation. A backup generator may be worth the money if you live in an area where severe storms, flooding, or extended power outages are frequent, offering you peace of mind and potentially saving you thousands of dollars in possible damage.

Whole-home or standby generators are the best kind of generators for residential use. During power outages, standby generators provide adequate electricity for your appliances and HVAC systems. I also advise homeowners to install a whole-house surge protector, as well, which helps to protect your electronics and electrical equipment from voltage spikes or brown outs.

I use portable generators on our construction sites all the time, but they are also a great alternative to a standby generator. Even if you have no power, you still need an approved transfer device to prevent the backup power and utility power to be on at the same time and prevent a backfeed to the grid. You can still power up equipment directly from a generator using cords.

When purchasing a generator, you need to know how much power you will require and what electronics or appliances are essential to help you choose a device with the right size and voltage for your needs. You’ll also need to get an approved switch or transfer device and plugs and connector cords that are the right size, depending on what type of generator you purchase.

Hiring a licensed electrical contractor is important to help you determine your electric power needs. I’ve also heard about people buying second-hand generators online, due to the market shortages. However, it’s important to always check the certification mark and make sure it’s approved for use in Canada. You can find this information from your local electrical authority.

Units can range around $2,000 and go up depending on your needs and power (wattage). Installation costs vary and will be determined based on existing gas and electrical lines, plus an automatic transfer switch, but the average should range between $3,000 to $5,000.

When investing in a generator, portable or standby model, it is essential that it is used correctly. It’s crucial to understand the safety standards before installing any form of generator, whether it’s stand-alone or linked to the grid. Electricity is hazardous if not treated with the proper care.

When operated appropriately, standby generators can effectively act as a backup power supply and maintain your flow of electricity. However, they can create a fire risk, electrical shock or even backfeed if not connected properly or improperly used. Backfeed is essentially the potential to feed circuits from another direction, which could energize unintended equipment, overloading the circuit or creating a shock hazard to anyone working on the system. To connect a standby generator to your home’s electrical system, you will likely require a licensed electrical contracting business to perform the installation, as well as permits, so always check with your local electrical board before installation.

To avoid carbon monoxide emissions, never operate a generator indoors or in a garage. Even fans or open windows and doors will not protect you. Extension cords should be used appropriately with three prongs and should be grounded. Remember, extension cords should always be laid out flat to avoid overheating.

As I mentioned earlier, whole-home or standby generators require an automatic transfer switch that connects to your home, whether the house uses the power from the grid or the generator as its power source. When the power outage occurs, the switch will automatically transfer the load circuit to your generator, which will provide you with power until the grid is back up and running.

Standby generators, in my opinion, are a good choice, especially with today’s homes becoming more automated. We rely heavily on electricity, so it just makes sense, if you can, to protect your electronics and mechanics, and a whole-home generator will do just that.

Residents of the GTA can apply for Season 2 of Holmes Family Rescue at www.makeitright.ca

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