Installing a Home Generator for Emergency Power

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

During my time here at the house, I've had more than my share of power outages lasting from a couple of hours to a few days. And that got me thinking that maybe what I needed was a backup or stand by power system.
The big blackout of 2003.  The lights are slowly coming back on in New York and Connecticut. What caused the blackout this week?
I've had this portable generator on the road with me for years. And it's a good economical solution to a power outage.  This one has a sound dampening jacket around it.  So it runs really quietly.  I always use this outdoors away from any open windows.

And I never use it in a garage or basement. This will run about 7 hours on a tank of fuel.  So if I'm expecting a long outage, well I'd want to have an adequate supply on hand.  Now what I like about portable generators is their flexibility.

You can run power anywhere you can run an extension cord.  So I could use them to operate a light or a microwave.  What I can't do though is provide emergency power to a built in refrigerator or an exhaust fan using an extension cord.

Now that generator that I have outside produces 3000 watts of power.  That's enough to light 30 100 watt lightbulbs.  Now that sounds like a lot.  But if I were to operate the microwave, a toaster and say a hair dryer, I would have used up almost all of my power.

So I'm gonna install an automatic standby generator. What it's going to do is to provide me backup power 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As a matter of fact, it could cover me in a power blackout - even if I wasn't home.  My backup power system is a new super quiet model from Guardian called Quiet Source.

Installation is being done by Cannondale Generators, a local company that's put in some 2500 home generators around here.  Step one is to remove about 15 square feet of sod.  And compact the soil.  Next, stone dust is dumped on top.

Raked out, then tamped to provide a firm level surface.  This 11,000 watt unit weighs over 500 pounds and comes mounted on its own base. The trick is to slip it off the pallet and onto a couple of rollers, which are then removed.

The key to making a generator like this automatic is a power transfer switch which electrician Tony Doin and his crew are installing in my basement.  My electrical lines from the street will be connected to one side of the transfer switch. When power's lost, the transfer switch sends a signal to the generator to start.

Once up to speed, the generator begins sending power back to the transfer switch.  It relays power to 12 circuits over here in my main circuit breaker panel.  Now these are circuits that I've pre-selected like kitchen and basement lighting.

The boiler, the master bedroom lighting, the basement freezer and the kitchen refrigerator. Things that I know I'll need in a power outage and things that will make life more comfortable.  The gas line is run and pressure tested.

Then plumber Jim Morrisette makes the final connections. This generator uses natural gas, which means I won't have to worry about fuel storage.  It can also operate on propane. Well our generator's in and running.  And quite quietly I might add.

As a matter of fact, it sounds about like a central air conditioning compressor.  Now it's putting out 11,000 watts right now. That's about 95 amps.  Plenty of juice to run anything we want to operate during a power outage.

To put our new backup power system to the test, we decide to conduct a simulated power outage.  Our friend Josephine shuts off the main breaker in the basement.  And we do what we normally do, light the candles. Within seconds, the generator starts automatically.

When the power is restored, the generator will shut off automatically and we'll hardly have missed a beat.

A Backup Power Source will Keep Life Running Smoothly

If you are the victim of regular power outages you know the frustration that can accompany a few hours, or even days, without electricity. Aside from the inconvenience, it can also be expensive as freezers defrost and food starts to spoil. While a portable generator can help you shed some light on the subject during an outage, a backup, or emergency power system can keep your home running the way it should. With a variety of fuel sources available, the perfect model for your home isn't far away.

NOTE:  The generator installed in this video is manufactured by Generac.  To get a general idea of cost, check out this dealer site for prices on Generac and other brands.  Installation is additional and will vary depending on locale and individual dealer practices.

Set the Unit in Place
Step 1

Set the Unit in Place

You will need to ensure that you have a stable and level surface where you can place the unit. The area will need to be about 15 square feet. In this case, they are removing the sod, and then compacting the soil underneath. Once the soil has been compacted, stone dust is poured over the area and tamped to create the level, solid, surface. The unit can be slid into place using a pipes or some other sturdy cylinder as rollers.

Hook up the Transfer Switch
Step 2

Hook up the Transfer Switch

The transfer switch is the mechanism that tells your generator that the power has gone out, and that it needs to turn on. An electrician wires this switch into the most important circuits in your breaker box, (in this case twelve of them) to ensure that your kitchen, bedrooms, and whatever else you may deem necessary to keep running when the power from the electric company goes out.

Install the Fuel Source
Step 3

Install the Fuel Source

For this installation, the fuel source will be natural gas, which is piped right out of the house. Using natural gas for this application is convenient because it doesn't require any additional space for fuel storage. A plumber can install the few basic pipes needed to run the gas line from your houses natural gas source to the unit.