Author Archive

On-Site Generator Repair – What’s Involved?

generator repairThe benefits of standby generators over portable ones are many, including more power, a lack of extension cords and how easy they are to start and run. However, because standby generators are hardwired into the home (which is why you can do away with the extension cords), they are structurally more complex. This also means they have to be repaired onsite if anything goes wrong. When it comes to home standby generator repair, you’re better off calling a professional rather than attempting any repairs on your own.

Remote Monitoring

If you know very little about generator repair and maintenance, it makes sense to let the experts do the work. One way to simplify the process is to install a Remote Cellular Generator Monitor or RCGM. The RCGM connects to your standby generator and allows our company to monitor the functioning of your generator directly from our offices. The monitor sends “messages” every time the generator starts and stops, as well as when there are changes in the power level of your home. If the generator fails to start or stop or if you notice any other abnormality, call out a technician to deal with it immediately.

Initial Inspection

It’s hard to say what you can expect once the technician arrives, because much of it depends on what’s wrong with the generator. Chances are the technician will first do a quick inspection to see if there are any obvious problems, such as cracks on the outside of the box or anything else that might appear obviously broken.

Checking Connectivity

The next step a technician might take is to check that the generator hasn’t tripped or is off. This could be caused by something as simple as a blown fuse or a problem with cable or where the generator connects to the main house network. If all that seems in order, the next step is to check if there’s any voltage coming out of the generator.

Voltage Regulation

When the generator is off, you shouldn’t be able to detect any residual voltage. If there’s any (even as little as 5 Volts AC) residual voltage, this could signal a number of problems. The most obvious problem could be that the voltage regulator is not working properly. It could also be an issue with the rotor or the control board. A technician might need to open up the generator and check each issue separately to find out which one is causing the generator to malfunction.

Fixing the Problem

Once the issue has been detected, generator repair might take place right then and there or it could take a day or two. This depends on whether parts need to be replaced (and might need to be ordered) or how extensive the problem is. Sometimes the issue is simple, such as a tripped circuit, and can be fixed right away. In other cases, it might require a second visit with additional equipment. Or the service person might need to take a part away and return once it has been fixed.

Keep in mind that if you don’t have a Remote Cellular Generator Monitor, you will have to keep an eye on your generator and inform the repair service yourself if you notice any issues running it. Regular generator maintenance will help keep your unit in good running condition and prevent costly repairs.

 service

Posted in: All Posts, Generator Maintenance, Generator Repair

Leave a Comment (0) →

Can’t Afford a Generator? Look for a Generator Sale or a Pre-Owned Unit

generator saleWhen bad weather or any other type of disaster hits, one of the first things to go is your power supply. During an outage, you’ll often wish you had invested in a home generator to provide emergency power. It’s never too late, however, and with the end of the hurricane season in sight there’s every chance that you can look for a generator sale in your area and get a good deal.

Choosing a Generator

The first step is to determine what generator is right for your home. Choosing between portable generators and whole-home units sounds simple, especially when you consider the price, but there’s more to it than that. So before you rush off to the nearest generator sale and buy the cheapest equipment you can find, do some research to find out what you actually need.

What Size Generator Do I Need?

Generator size is based on the number of circuits you need to keep going during a power outage. This varies between households depending on:

  • size of the home
  • number of family members
  • climate
  • time of year when you’re most likely to need it
  • special needs such as healthcare

Generator sizes range from small portable units that can support only a couple of appliances or some lights, to large pieces of equipment that can run the home as well as the outbuildings on a large property.

Find a Generator Sale

Once you know what size you need, you can start looking around for the right-priced unit. Begin with your local generator dealer, because chances are he can give you a pretty good price based on your location and the distance the equipment has to be transported. If your installer doesn’t currently have a generator sale, ask when the next one is likely to be. You may find he gives you a good deal without you having to wait for a sale to come up.

Buy a Used Unit

It may be possible to purchase a pre-owned or low-hour used generator, if you know where to look for one. Here again your local installer may be able to advise you, because he is likely to be one of the first people homeowners turn to if they want to sell a used generator when they upgrade. You’ll need to ask some of the following questions before becoming involved in a private generator sale:

  • What are the age, hours and usage of the unit?
  • Who is the manufacturer and what is their reputation?
  • How well has the unit been maintained?
  • Are there signs of physical wear and tear on the unit?
  • How does it perform in a Load Test?
  • Who you are buying it from (broker vs distributor)?

When you have the answers to these issues, ask your installer to examine it the generator before committing yourself, to protect you against unforeseen circumstances. As long as it has been looked after and maintained regularly, it could be in excellent condition.

Choose A Generator

 

Posted in: All Posts, Buying a Generator

Leave a Comment (0) →

Why Generator Maintenance is Essential for Households with Young Children

Why Generator Maintenance is Essential for Households with Young ChildrenHouseholds with young children find a power outage particularly difficult to deal with. Babies and toddlers need a level of care that’s challenging enough under normal circumstances, and dealing with them during bad weather or other disruptions is even harder. Apart from calming the panic a violent storm could cause, it’s necessary to keep the home running as smoothly as possible.

Even if you have a home standby generator, you need to have regular generator maintenance done to be sure it will perform reliably when you need it to do so. Without emergency power that kicks in automatically when necessary, this is what you’ll end up facing:

Safety Concerns

This is the primary concern of parents with young children, and during a power outage people typically engage in a number of dangerous activities, including:

  • Setting up lighted candles in all the rooms, which can be knocked over without warning and cause a fire
  • Cooking and heating water on camping or propane stoves, which are a fire hazard if used indoors and doubly dangerous in the event of a fire started by a candle
  • Going to sleep without arming the alarm, making them vulnerable to intruders, smoke and fire
  • Leaving electrical appliances plugged in, which may succumb to an energy surge when the power comes back on

Installation of a home standby generator will help to avoid these dangerous situations, provided the unit you purchase is the right size for your home and you keep it in good condition with regular generator maintenance.

Family Food Issues

Keeping your family fed is vital, especially if you have babies and young children in the home. You’re limited with the items you can cook on a makeshift stove, and it’s not always possible to feed convenience meals or cold food. If you don’t have an emergency power supply you can tap into during a loss of power, make sure you keep foods such as breakfast cereals, canned fruit and baked beans in the pantry. Any of these can be eaten with little to no preparation, and if you turn it into an adventure meal you’re less likely to find your toddler refusing to eat.

Entertainment

We’re so accustomed to turning on the Cartoon Network to keep the kids quiet during busy periods such as meal preparation, that we probably don’t know what we’d do without it. When a power outage hits, television goes along with all the other electronic entertainment devices such as iPods, iPads, Wiis and Play Stations. Laptops might work for a while on battery power, but chances are your Intenet connection runs off the power so that will die. Without an emergency power source that gets regular generator maintenance, you’ll find yourself reinventing “parlour” games like charades, building blanket forts in the dining room and digging out coloring books and crayons.

Make sure you do regular generator maintenance to keep your home standby unit operating at peak performance, all year round.

service

Posted in: Emergency Power, Generator Maintenance, Home Generators, Power Outage

Leave a Comment (0) →

6 Essential Tasks on Your Generator Maintenance Checklist

generator maintenance checklistYour home standby generator is your lifeline during a power outage, and as such you need to make sure that it’s kept in peak condition year-round. The best way to do this is through a maintenance contract with a reputable installation contractor, but how do you know whether the work done is worth the cost?

Here’s our generator maintenance checklist of essential tasks, which will give you an idea of what is covered in annual servicing:

Task #1: Checking the overall condition

Your generator maintenance contractor generally begins with an overall check to see if there are any loose wires or connections, buttons that have become stuck or elements showing signs of corrosion. At the same time, he cleans out the area surrounding the unit to ensure that no garden debris can get into the unit and cause problems. He’ll repair any damaged parts or replace frayed wiring where necessary.

Task #2: Battery exam

Your home standby generator uses a 26R Wet Cell battery to start it. The battery needs to be checked regularly as does the smart battery charger. The technician tests these to make sure the battery is outputting the appropriate voltage and that it’s charging adequately, otherwise when the time comes for the generator to start up you may find it doesn’t happen.

If you live in a region where the temperature drops below the freezing mark, the contractor will recommend that he installs a cold weather kit for you. The kits come with a battery warmer and an oil filter heater that has its own thermostat build in to maintain the right battery and oil temperatures.

Task #3: Lube change

Just like a car engine, your generator’s engine needs a range of fluids to operate efficiently. The contractor typically changes the oil annually, whether you used your generator in the preceding year or not. He – or you – should be keeping a log book in which you record the date of each service and note when the oil is changed.

Task #4: Spark plugs

Your generator maintenance checklist includes regular spark plug examinations. It’s preferable to change the spark plugs each year to prevent ignition difficulties in your time of need, but at the very least you should ensure that they get a good cleaning during the annual checkup.

Task #5: Bolt security

Your contractor checks the bolts securing the generator and its cabinet in position, because these are inclined to loosen over time as a result of the vibration of the machinery. At the same time, he checks the gasket head and piston to see if it’s in good condition. If it’s worn or damaged in any way it’s scheduled for replacement as well.

Task #6: Air filter

Your generator needs a new air filter regularly too. Just as the air filter in a car engine picks up every speck of dust that passes through it, so does your generator. The technician will typically replace this each time he services the unit to keep it ready for the next time you need to use it.

Don’t risk needing expensive repairs to your home standby generator. Get yourself a generator maintenance contract that will keep it running in tip-top shape.

service

Posted in: Generator Maintenance, Home Generators

Leave a Comment (0) →

Get the Right Standby Generator Installation for Your Needs

Power outage, home standby generator, whole-home generator

A 48 kW whole-home generator will power an 8,000 sq. ft home.

If you’ve had occasion to use your home standby generator during any recent power outages, you might have discovered that it doesn’t do everything you want it to do. That’s probably because the unit you have is designed only to power your essential circuits, but hindsight being the perfect sight that it is, you likely now know much more about it than you did when you had the generator installed. So if you’re considering changing up your standby generator installation after hurricane season is done, here’s how to determine which power category is right for your requirements:

Basic Power Category

This category of emergency power comes from generators of between 8 kW and 11 kW in size. These generators typically power 10 to 12 circuits, which means you can run some lights, your refrigerator, television and a small appliance or two like a microwave. This is great for a small cottage or semi housing one or two people.

Additional Power

The next level of standby generator installation comes in sizes of 14kW and 17kW. These units make it possible for you to run one or two small AC units as well, but your number of circuits is still limited to 14 or 16. The great thing about these generators is that they can operate even in areas with low natural gas pressure. So if you thought you couldn’t install a generator for this reason, think again.

Whole-Home Power

Whole-home power starts with a 20 kW generator, which comes with all the bells and whistles, including:

  • Quiet-test exercise mode
  • An aluminum enclosure protected with RhinoCoat
  • A powerful Generac OHVI engine
  • An hour meter
  • A base fascia, and
  • A composite mounting pad

This size powers all your essential circuits, as well as some luxury items such as AC, your hot water heater and a well pump if you have one. It’s simple to convert from natural gas to LP if necessary, and the enclosure is corrosion-resistant and tough enough to withstand winds of up to 150 mph. So, why would you want to go any bigger? Well, it depends on the size of your home, that’s why.

Living Large

For homeowners with large holdings, you have the option of putting in a bigger whole-home generator or two or more smaller units. Jo from West Virginia upgraded from a 20 kW to the Generac QuietSource 48 kW in April 2013, and found it operates the entire home plus outbuildings and an enclosed swimming pool without difficulty. The unit gives the homeowner the peace of mind to go about routine activities without interruption, even during a power outage. This huge unit can operate an 8,000 sq foot home for up to 66 hours and starts up within 10 seconds of the power failure.

Don’t find yourself caught without sufficient power to supply your family’s requirements for safety, comfort, lighting and entertainment. Consult a professional generator installer to assess whether the unit you have or are considering will really serve your needs before you go ahead with the standby generator installation.

quote

 

Posted in: Power Outage, Standby Generator Installation

Leave a Comment (0) →

Protect Your Investment with Annual Generator Maintenance

generator maintenanceYour home standby generator could be a lifeline for your family during an extended power outage, but that’s only going to happen if it’s working at optimum efficiency. Just as any other motor requires upkeep, regular generator maintenance will keep your unit running smoothly and make sure it’s available when you want it. It will also help you to avoid the need for generator repair work.

Service Contracts

A service contract is your best option to keep your generator in peak condition. Most generator installers offer these agreements, which typically include doing annual preventive generator maintenance. This serves a dual purpose: it complies with the manufacturer’s requirements for warranty and keeps the generator dependable throughout the year. The servicing usually entails an oil change, new spark plugs and a clean air filter, and if there is any generator repair work to be done, it’s a good time to do it.

Monitoring Performance

Monitoring the performance of your unit complements scheduled generator maintenance and helps to ensure that if anything happens, your service professional can respond immediately. If your power supply is vital for the health and welfare of your family, the installation of a remote cellular generator monitor (RCGM) makes it possible to keep an eye on your unit 24/7. The monitor records:

  • The weekly exercise of the generator
  • All power outages
  • Any start failures

It then sends electronic reports to you, your service company and your property manager if applicable, and a technician can be sent out right away to conduct a generator repair and get it back online before the next time you need it.

Finding a Contractor

Finding a reliable generator maintenance contractor, as with any other type of technical expertise, requires you to exercise some caution and do your homework before signing on the dotted line. Ask family members and friends if they can recommend a contractor; research online and short-list three to four contractor in your area to consider. Ask each of them for a quotation for an annual service contract and compare not only the pricing, but check what is offered by each quote. Request contactable references and call at least one of them personally for feedback on the contractor they use. Protect your generator investment by ensuring that only factory-trained technicians work on it.

Switching Contractors

Generator maintenance contractors are a dime a dozen in the South Florida area, due to the high incidence of hurricanes and the corresponding number of installed home standby generators. If you have a maintenance agreement with a company and aren’t satisfied with the service you’re receiving, here’s a deal you can’t turn down: Alternate Power Solutions will take over your existing contract free of charge and honor the balance when you enter into a new annual maintenance agreement going forward. Don’t tolerate poor service – it’s simple to switch contractors and you could get not only better service, but a better price to boot.

service

 

Posted in: Generator Maintenance

Leave a Comment (0) →

How to Choose a Home Generator That’s Perfect for Your Needs

how to choose a home generator

You’ll need to choose the right home generator to continue life as normal during a power outage

Choosing a home standby generator to provide emergency power during an outage is an exact science. Generators come in a range of sizes and capabilities, and if you want to know how to choose a home generator for your particular needs, the first thing you have to do is determine what your requirements are going to be.

Questions to Ask

Ask yourself these questions to help identify the appliances you need to operate to carry on life as normal:

  • Do I have a security system or alarm that requires electricity, and how safe is my family without it?
  • What temperatures does my region typically get during potential outage seasons? (Tip: If these happen during summer, will you need to run A/C or is your home designed to make the most of natural airflow?)
  • How much perishable food do I usually have in stock, and will it outlast a one- or two-day (or week) power outage?
  • Does anyone in my household require refrigerated medication or the use of life-saving electrically-powered medical equipment?
  • Is my home prone to flooding during heavy rains if the sump pump is out of action due to the power outage?

Your answers to these questions (and others you may think of) will highlight the number of circuits you need to be able to operate in the event of a power failure that lasts longer than a couple hours.

Calculate Your Usage

Based on your responses to these questions, you can calculate the amount of power you’re going to need during a power outage. That will enable you decide how to choose a home generator that will supply enough power. Use the Consumer Reports free wattage calculator to determine how much emergency power you need to keep your home going for the duration of the outage. Remember to take account of the size of appliances such as AC – you may need more power to operate a 15,000 BTU AC than you do for a 5,000 BTU unit.

Select a Location

While you’re figuring out how to choose a home generator, don’t forget to think about where you’re going to put it. Location is an important aspect of your choice, because whole-home generators aren’t small items. You can’t install it in your basement out of the way, either; you need to have it located outdoors and comply with safety requirements to have it a certain distance away from the house. Generator emissions consist of carbon monoxide, which is responsible for the death of close to 100 Americans each year and thousands of emergency room visits. So your generator has to be far enough from the home to avoid affecting the air your family breathes. You may also want to enclose it in a cabinet or housing to soundproof it and protect it from the elements, so make sure you have enough space to accommodate the unit.

Choose Your Fuel

Most whole-home generators are powered by natural gas, although liquid propane is also an option. To run a large home’s emergency power on propane will require you to refuel the generator every few hours, which could be problematic during an outage lasting days or weeks. Get your home generator professional to help you determine how to choose a home generator and advise you on the best type to install for your purposes.

quote

Posted in: Emergency Power, Home Generators, Uncategorized

Leave a Comment (0) →

How Much Does Hurricane Season Really Cost Homeowners?

emergency power, power outageIn spite of predictions for an above-average 2013 hurricane season, it’s been relatively quiet so far. With three months left to go, however, South Florida could still be hit with a devastating storm. According to FEMA, late August and September are considered the high points of the hurricane season because of warm water temperatures that help fuel the storms. So while you’re counting your blessings that we’ve had nothing more than some wet weather so far, it might be good to consider what a major tropical storm or hurricane could cost a home without an emergency power supply.

Temporary Shelter

The U.S. Department of Human Services says that temporary accommodation for both people and pets are one of the biggest expenses during a power outage. Nearby hotel or motel rooms required at the last minute typically run at around $100 to $150 a night depending on the size, while kenneling for pets can run at $50 per pet per night. If the outage lasts for 3 to 5 days before power is restored, it could cost the average family of four with two pets around $1,500 just to have light, security, hot water and the ability to cook food. While some of this may be covered by insurance, the deductible is for your own account—as is the inconvenience. In addition, the hotel stay could be extended if there are damages to your home that need to be repaired before you can return.

Repairing Damages

Damages caused by the lack of emergency power are by far the highest expense, costing Americans some $150 billion a year according to Purdue University Energy Center’s Smart Grid initiative. Costs in this category range from around $3,000 to remove household mold caused by damp during the outage, to $20,000 or more in basement flood damage due to inoperable sump pump mechanisms. Once again some of this is covered by insurance, but you would do well to check the fine print on your policy to ensure that damages are covered if your sump pump isn’t working—for any reason.

Replacement Costs

When the refrigerator is off, your food spoils. When your AC isn’t working, the humidity gets into your closets and causes mold, which can damage your clothing and linen. Depending on the severity and duration of the power outage, you may find yourself having to replace significant quantities of these items. Insurance typically doesn’t cover much in the way of foodstuffs or personal effects, so you could be on your own with this aspect. If you have an emergency power source as a backup, however, you can ensure that none of these problems arise.

Healthcare Services

Health care is always the most critical issue during a power outage. If your household includes someone with disabilities, a patient who needs refrigerated medication or the use of electrical equipment such as a dialysis machine, an emergency power supply such as a home standby generator enables you to keep everything running smoothly. If you don’t have one, the costs involved in transporting a patient safely to temporary accommodation with the equipment he or she needs can be frightening—and these are mostly not covered by insurance.

Choose A Generator

Posted in: Emergency Power, Power Outage

Leave a Comment (0) →

Why Whole Home Generators Beat Portables

whole home generatorsWhen homeowners experience a power outage, it’s often the first time they stop to consider the option of installing an emergency power supply. Don’t be tempted by portable generators; sure, they are cheaper and take less work to install, but there are a number of reasons why whole home generators are a better bet than a portable one. Here are some of the main factors you should consider before making your choice:

Safety

The safety of home generators is a primary concern. With portable generators, there’s a degree of risk involved in the continual refueling needed to keep the generator going. Most portables use gasoline or propane to operate, and gasoline is particularly volatile during handling. Both Subaru and American Honda recently issued recalls for portable generators, due to a fire hazard caused by potential leaks in the fuel hoses.

In addition, regardless of the type of fuel used, portable generators produce colorless, odorless carbon monoxide gas. This can be lethal in high enough concentrations, particularly for someone with a compromised immune system. Whole home generators don’t require refueling or complex home operation, so your safety risks are minimized.

Cost Benefit

The cost of installing whole home generators is substantially higher than portables, we know that. There are a number of benefits, however, which we believe should be taken into account when you’re making your decision:

  • Investment value – by installing a whole-home generator you increase the resale value of your property by at least 75% of the installation cost over a five-year period.
  • You might save on labor charges for installation, but you’ll pay in the long term with the numer of personal hours you’ll have to put in to starting, refueling and maintaining the portable.
  • Calculate the cost of traveling to and from your nearest gas station multiplied by the number of trips you’ll have to make to get through a 7-day power outage.

When you consider these cost implications, the higher-priced whole-home generator becomes a much more attractive proposition.

Convenience

If your power outage lasts anything longer than a couple hours, you’re going to work as hard as the portable generator does to keep it running. The gas typically lasts around 4 to 5 hours in most models, which means to keep it operational you’ll need to come home in the middle of the work day and set your alarm to wake up at 3 am. If the weather is lousy, you’re refueling the generator in the dark on a cold, wet and windy night! Besides, even if you live near a gas station you’ll need a backup supply, because if the power outage affects the whole area the gas pumps may not be working. Whole-home generators use a natural gas installation so re-fueling isn’t required.

Efficacy

There’s only so many circuits that a portable generator can power, even if you buy a big one. And of course, the larger the equipment the more fuel it uses. That means you essentially have to choose between whether to run your AC or your refrigerator, and whether to cook or keep medication at the right temperature. You usually can’t do it all. A whole-home generator starts automatically and uses clean power, so there’s no fuss, no smell and no choosing between amenities.

For an assessment of your power requirements and an estimate to install a generator to power your home during an outage, contact us to request a quote today.

 

 

Posted in: Emergency Power, Generator Safety, Home Generators, Power Outage

Leave a Comment (0) →

3 Ways Installing a Whole-Home Generator is Tax Deductible

3 Ways Installing a Whole-Home Generator is Tax DeductibleInstalling a home standby generator has tons of advantages, but it doesn’t come cheap. Given that prices start at around $4,000 for a basic generator and go up to more than $20,000 for a whole-home generator, it’s not a purchase everyone can afford. However, there are ways to use the installation of emergency power to save on your taxes.

#1: Medical Expenses

A generator purchased for medical needs is tax deductible as a medical expense, provided you have a letter from your doctor to submit along with your tax return. For example, if your household includes any of the following needs you can install a standby generator and claim a portion of the cost under your return:

  • Kidney patients who need frequent use of dialysis machinery
  • Sleep apnea patients who require a C-Pap machine to be able to sleep
  • Patients with limited mobility who need the use of chairlifts to get around the home
  • Para- and quadriplegics who use specialised wheelchairs that have batteries requiring charging

According to Turbo Tax, you can claim against any medical and dental expenses for yourself, spouse or dependents that are primarily for the diagnosis, cure, relief, treatment, or prevention of disease and for the alleviation or prevention of physical or mental defect or illness.

So, if you spend $20,000 installing a generator that increases the value of your home by $15,000, the balance of $5,000 is deductible against medical costs using line 1040, after the 7.5% is covered.

#2: Capital Gains Tax

With the real estate market finally picking up, it’s time to start worrying again about capital gains tax. While it’s every homeowner’s wish to get a good price when you sell, if you do then you can lose out by paying capital gains tax on the profit you make. A home standby generator can help with this. If the installation of your generator boosts your resale value, you can recoup some of the cost by submitting your receipt when you file your taxes. This offsets some of the capital gains tax.

#3: Energy Tax

State governments are constantly trying to promote energy savings, and some generators qualify for renewable energy tax credits as long as they use natural gas. If you install a whole-home generator as part of a renovation project that includes insulation that makes your home more environmentally friendly, you may qualify for a grant or subsidy that is non-taxable, or for a tax credit under environmental projects.

Installing a whole-home generator may be a costly exercise, but if you need to purchase one anyway then it’s worth your while to investigate whether you can claim any tax breaks to offset the expense.

quote

Posted in: Home Generators

Leave a Comment (0) →
Page 2 of 4 1234