Preparation is key when storm season comes around. Whether you’re in Queensland or over in Western Australia, cyclone season is a time of year every household and business needs to make sure they’re ready for the worst. Aside from making sure your property is clear and packing an emergency kit, another popular choice for most people is a backup generator. It’s not uncommon to lose power for several days during a bad storm or cyclone, so a backup generator is vital for keeping fridges powered and electronic devices (like radios and phones) running.
But there are a few things you need to know and consider when you’re buying and installing a backup generator for your home or business. First of all, you’ll need to know what kind of generator is right for your needs.
Which Generator is Right for Your Property?
There is a big range of generators on the market, and they are a common sight around work sites and construction yards, but they’re also very popular on domestic and commercial properties as a failsafe for when the power goes out. Of course there are some slight differences in the types of generators available.
In the majority of cases, most people will use a ‘backup generator’. Backup generators come in all shapes and sizes and there really isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. However, they do share some common points between them all.
First of all, they’re primarily for houses, small businesses and general use. For most properties, a generator under 10,000 watts (10kva) will be more than enough to get them through a power outage. Keeping in mind that these are a backup option, and not a primary power source.
They are also, generally, fairly portable and can be moved when required. This could be potentially life-saving if your property is flooding and the generator is going go underwater.
Large commercial or industrial properties will usually require bigger, more powerful generators. These tend to be fixed in a secure location and are almost never easy to move. Of course, the increased weight and size comes with extra power. Commercial generators start as small as 9000 watt (9kva), but quickly scale up. In fact, some of the largest stationary generators go up to 2475 kva.
Obviously these generators aren’t for most properties, and only particularly large businesses or industrial blocks will need a generator that large. But, it’s important to know what size generator you will need to power the essentials. An easy way to find out how much power you will need, is to check out your switch and look for it’s max rating. Generally, as long as your generator is able to output that much power, you will be fine. If you’re not sure, or not confident in finding this out yourself, contact a qualified electrician and they can find out for you.
Another factor to consider when deciding which generator is right for your needs is what you’ll need to power. While it’s nice to have the creature comforts, it might not be necessary to have your TV, air cons and computer constantly running. While things like the fridge, freezer and radio are often considered mandatory, make sure you consider whether something is necessary before plugging it in.
That said, with commercial businesses it will be a little simpler to make that decision, as you’ll just need to consider whether it will cost you more to run it or not to run it.
If you’ve decided to get a backup generator—whether it’s for cyclone season or just in case—there are some important safety considerations you will need to take into account when installing and using your generator.
First, and possibly most importantly, make sure you have a qualified electrician connect your generator to a change-over switch and an appropriate socket. If you connect a generator straight to the power grid without a change-over switch, you run the risk of ‘back-feeding’ which drastically increases the risk of electrocution for not only you and your family, but also for your neighbours and any workers who may be trying to restore power to the grid.
You’ll also want to make sure your generator is in an open, well-ventilated area, so none of the exhaust fumes build up inside your home or office. Of course, general electrical safety tips, like not overloading your generator, and ensuring cords and appliances are in good condition before plugging them in, still apply.
When to Call an Electrician
Knowing when to call an electrician is vital to ensuring a safe installation of your generator, and securing the safety of your family and neighbours. The absolute latest you can call an electrician when installing a backup generator is when it’s time to be installed. As a qualified electrician will need to connect it to a changeover switch.
But, if you’re ever unsure what size generator you need, what it can handle, or you just want to ensure all your appliances and cords are safe to use, call an electrician to get the advice you need.
Do you have a backup generator installed on your property? Leave us a comment below and tell us why you did or didn’t have one installed.