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How Do Generators Work?

Can you name one activity you do at home that doesn’t need electricity? Even hobbies like reading require turning on the light. That’s how dependent we are on power.

When the electricity at home goes out, everything comes to a halt. We feel unproductive, bored and helpless. That’s why many homeowners choose to have a standby generator installed. With a generator, your home will have electricity during a power outage, allowing your family to continue their daily routine.

If you’re interested in getting a generator for your home, here’s everything you need to know about this equipment. If you are ready to invest in a generator, contact a licensed electrician to install it.

How Do Generators Provide Your Home With Electricity?

Generators are complex appliances, but we’ll break them down so you’ll know how generators work. Standby generators wait until the electrical power supply to a home is disrupted. The generator system has an electronic controller and an automatic transfer switch. When power is lost, and the system monitors the electrical supply from your utility company, it triggers a series of commands to start after a pre-programmed delay to check if power is re-established.

Some generators, like those at dams, are massive. They use the power of water and turbines and convert it into enormous amounts of electricity. However, the generators we use at home are much smaller in comparison and use fuels like natural gas and propane to generate mechanical power.

Components of a Generator

Let’s take a closer look to answer the question, “How do generators work?” Here are their main components:

  • Engine: The engine provides the generator with energy. The engine’s power determines how much electricity the generator can supply.
  • Alternator: The alternator is where the mechanical energy changes into electric energy. The alternator has stationary and moving components that interact to produce an electromagnetic field, move the electrons and generate electricity.
  • Fuel system: The generator needs the fuel system to supply electricity. The system has a tank, pump, pipes and a filter. 
  • Voltage regulator: The voltage regulator controls the pressure of electricity the generator produces.
  • Lubrication system: Generators have many moving parts that need proper lubrication to work smoothly. The lubrication system takes care of that.
  • Exhaust and cooling system: The exhaust and cooling system eliminates the fumes during operation. Without it, the generator will overheat.
  • Control panel: The control panel manages all of the generator’s functions. Some can even shut off the generator when it senses a dip in power.
  • Battery charger. The charger ensures the generator’s battery is always ready, providing constant voltage.
  • Main assembly. The frame or main assembly is the generator’s exterior. It’s the structure that holds everything together.

The Benefits of Owning a Generator

Since power outages can last from a few hours to a couple days, generators offer countless benefits to homeowners, making them worth the investment. If you’re on the fence about getting one, here are the top reasons why you should invest in one.

They Provide Power During Emergencies

You never know when disaster will strike. But, when it does, your generator will be ready to supply your home with electricity. It will help you stay comfortable inside your home as you get things in order. You don’t have to leave the comfort of your home during dangerous weather conditions to seek heating or air conditioning.

They Can Help Prevent Damage During Extreme Weather

Extended power outages can lead to expensive damage to a home. In the summer, it can cause food in the refrigerator to spoil. In the winter, it can cause your pipes to freeze and burst.

If a power outage occurs during severe weather and the sump pump stops working, your home could get flooded. Aside from paying for repairs, you might have to pay to stay in a hotel during blackouts. Having a standby generator can prevent these unnecessary expenses.

They Enforce Home Security

Power outages aren’t just inconvenient. You lose the protection of your security cameras, alarms and automatic garage doors. A generator lets you have peace of mind, even when power outages hit at night.

They Protect Appliances

Homeowners may not know that their appliances take a hit when the power comes back on after an outage. The sudden surge in electricity can fry them if you leave them on. A generator can protect your appliances from these fluctuations, providing a steady flow of electricity during blackouts.

Standby generators aren’t just for comfort and convenience. If you want to equip your home with one, contact a licensed electrician to set it up for you.

a generator

How Far Should the Generator Be From the House?

One of the biggest concerns homeowners have with generators is placement. How far should the generator be from the house?

A generator installation requires a substantial modification of your home’s electrical system, so local codes, specifications from the generator manufacturer, the layout of your home and yard and proximity to natural gas lines if you choose that as the power source will all need to be considered. It’s important that the generator is installed as close to the gas supply as possible to minimize plumbing costs.

Local codes will dictate priorities like proximity to vents and fresh air supplies, while your neighbors need to be considered since installation can impact them with noise and exhaust fumes. A licensed electrician can determine the best spot for your generator.

Some generators can meet municipal codes that allow installation 18 inches from the home but might not meet all local codes. Since standby generators produce carbon monoxide, which can reach dangerous levels in minutes, it’s essential to trust a licensed electrician to install them.

How Do You Connect a Generator to Your House?

Installing a standby generator for their home is not something homeowners should do on their own. It is a complex process that must be left to the capable hands of licensed electricians and plumbers.

When a licensed electrician comes out to install your standby generator, it will likely take two full days. An electrician will unload the generator onto your property after receiving permits or approvals to comply with building codes. Standby generators weigh hundreds of pounds, so it’s not easy. They will then prep the generator base to ensure it’s level and to reduce noise levels. Next, they will install the generator pad, which your generator rests on. The last step is hooking up the generator along with the generator transfer switch.

The electrician will mount and secure the standby generator on the pad to get started. Once it’s in place, they will install a grounding rod to protect against electrical surges. Finally, they will connect the transfer switch and connect the fuel source.

A plumber has an important job in connecting a generator to your home. The plumber will make all of the gas connections, whether it’s natural gas or propane. Hiring a professional plumber with experience working with outdoor gas lines is essential. They will also take great care to install the generator as close to the gas supply as possible to minimize plumbing costs.

Having a whole-house generator can have many benefits. Not only are they dependable and convenient, there is easy upkeep and they are more versatile; they can power up all of the circuits in your home or just a few.

Trust the Professionals for Your Generator Troubles

How do generators work? How far away should they be from your home? A licensed electrician will identify the best spot to place the generator. That way, you can have a stable source of electricity when you need it the most.

ABC Can Install Your Home Generator

If you’re interested in having a standby generator in case of an emergency, ABC can deploy licensed electricians to help. Our experts can help with generator installation and help you decide which one is right for your home and needs. They can also help with any other electrical issues you may be having, like a short circuit.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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