January 27, 2013

POPULAR MECHANICS: SHOULD YOU BUY A STANDBY GENERATOR? “Standby generators offer a steadfast solution to extended outages. Unlike portable generators, they’re installed permanently on a concrete pad in your yard and will provide uninterrupted backup for days. That’s because they’re connected directly to your home’s electrical panel and powered by an external fuel supply, such as natural gas, liquid propane, or diesel. Smaller, air-cooled essential-circuit units (below) are slightly larger than portable generators and can energize just a few circuits at a time. Larger, liquid-cooled whole-house systems will do just as their name suggests—they’ll comfortably power an entire home.”

If I were building my home from scratch today, I’d run everything off propane instead of natural gas, add a big propane-powered standby generator, and have a big underground propane tank. I’d be good for weeks off the grid if necessary. And, as Sandy — and some of PEPCO’s failings in the DC area — demonstrated, that can sometimes be necessary.