How Does a Standby Generator Work?

By Tool Scout | Generator Advice

How Does a Standby Generator Work?

For those of you who don’t know, Generac (Generac Power Systems), is one of the most reliable and popular brand names when it comes to standby generators.

A standby generator like a Generac power generator will connect to your home’s natural gas lines, or if need be, it can also run on liquid propane.

These generators are then installed on the exterior of your home, generally on a concrete pad to ensure that they have a stable base.

This type of generator is on standby, which means that it is ready to kick into action at a moment’s notice via a transfer switch which automatically senses any interruption from the mains electrical power grid.

When your power goes out, whether due to equipment failure, severe weather, or anything else, a standby generator senses the loss of power in your home and restores power automatically. Standby generators can sense hazardous power disturbances within milliseconds occurring.

As you can see, a Generac standby generator is actually quite simple to understand. Simply put, when the power goes out, they act as a backup power source until grid power is restored back to a functioning state.

How Long Can You Run a Whole House Standby Generator?

In terms of the overall lifespan, your average standby generator can last for anywhere from 20 to 40 years. How long can a whole house generator last in a single go? If the power goes out for more than a few days, will a whole house generator get you through?

This depends on the fuel source which your particular generator is using. For example, if you have a model that uses liquid propane as fuel, a 500-gallon tank should last for about a week, running 24 hours a day. It all depends on the size of the fuel tank.

On the other hand, if you have a whole home generator that taps into your home’s supply of natural gas, it can run indefinitely, as long as it has a constant supply of said natural gas. Therefore, if you need a generator that can provide days or even weeks of power at a time, it’s the natural gas variety that you want to go for.

Something to keep in mind regarding a standby generator is that it will require a fully-functional battery, and if that battery does fail, you're back to holding candles in the dark like your ancestors. To prevent these sorts of problematic issues from occurring, it’s recommended to change any battery for your standby generator every 2 years.

How Does a Standby Generator Work to Power a House?

The mechanical functionality and electrical circuitry within a standby generator can most-certainly seem confusing. But in theory, generators are actually very simple pieces of equipment.

So, how exactly do they work?

Generators feature an automatic transfer switch, which is a mechanism that senses a phase imbalance or reduction in voltage, and in turn, automatically overrides the utility power. This device can tell when the utility power goes out and will then cause the generator to automatically turn on and start supplying the mains circuit in the home with power.

Generators use a specific fuel source, with most whole house generators using natural gas or propane. The generators use this fuel source to run a motor.

This motor is then connected to an alternator or an inverter, both of which convert the mechanical energy produced by the motor into electrical energy which then feeds into the circuits within your home.

Once the utility power reactivates and mains voltage power returns to normal, the automatic transfer switch initiates an automatic shutdown of the standby generator, thus reverting your home’s power supply back to utility power.

How to Hook Up a Portable Generator to a House

Portable generators home use are a popular option as they are a cost-effective means to assist with maintaining temporary power if an outage occurs until grip power returns.

One of the main problems with utilizing a portable home-generator vs a standby home-generator is that the switch from mains grip power to what your portable generator can provide requires some action on your part.

Firstly, you're going to need either an expansion cord to power the appliances that require power or you'll need an approved adapter to connect to your mains meter.

That said, before we get into a rudimentary explanation of how to connect a portable generator to your house, be sure to read the owner’s manual of your specific generator first. One big tip here is to never plug a generator into a wall socket as you could encounter electrical backfeeding.

Electrical backfeeding can have disastrous consequences to both your home circuitry, appliances, and those individuals who are potentially attempting to rectify the issue with the grid at the time of the outage.

Now, there are two main ways to hook up a portable generator to your home, either with extension and generator cords or via transfer switches.

Extension and Generator Cords 

  • Always follow the pre-start checklist for your specific generator.
  • Set the generator outside and ensure that it is placed at least 10 feet away from any openings.
  • Now you can connect the generator to indoor appliances using two methods.
  • Run a single generator cord from the generator to appliances.
  • Run a variety of extension cords to connect multiple appliances.
  • Start the generator – it should now supply power to the connected appliances.

Via Transfer Switches

Always follow the pre-start checklist for your specific generator.

  • Connect your portable generator to your home’s transfer switch using a generator cord.
  • Start the generator (outside, away from openings).
  • Flip the main breakers from “line” to “generator” power.
  • Now you can turn on specific circuits one at a time.

Conclusion

Standby generators are the perfect in home generators when you're looking for a permanent backup power solution. Standby generators will negate a troublesome power outage and assist with maintaining electrical power to your home without any interruption.

With the luxury of an automatic transfer switch equipped to a standby backup generator, any electrical power outage is instantaneously rectified. This is the major advantage a standby generator has over other generators for homes.

Unlike with a portable in home generator, you'll never have to stumble out into the night to manually start a portable generator.

Picking the right generators for home use can be a daunting task considering their price tag. But, if you make the right selection initially when choosing a backup generator, any potential power outage will be a non-issue.