Posts Tagged home standby generator

What Size Generator is Needed for an Average Home in a Power Outage?

power outageWhether you’re new to South Florida or you’ve lived here for several years, you are vulnerable to power outages. These may develop as the result of a tropical storm or hurricane, or as the result of a higher-than-normal demand for power during a hot spell. Before you head to a generator outlet though, you need to know how to size a backup generator for home.

Call a Generator Outlet for Help

Don’t wait until a hurricane is whirling toward your South Florida community. Instead, prepare ahead of time, study the different generators available to help provide backup power, talk to the employees at several generator outlets and get a reliable estimate for the right-size emergency generator.

You know hurricane season begins in June and ends at the end of November every year. Of course, rogue storms do strike outside that hurricane season window, so you need to be ready for anything. As you’re thinking about the right kind of generator for your home’s electrical needs, learn how to choose a home generator.

Use a Generator Sizing Tool

Run a comparison. Several outlets, including Consumer Reports, advise homeowners to estimate how many watts they may use as they are looking for the right generator for their needs. Consumer Reports also suggest that you choose a generator model that is equal to the total wattage for which a generator will be providing backup power during the power outage that develops during and after a hurricane. As you are thinking about your choices, do remember that some of your appliances may “surge” when they first come on, so account for that.

Generac provides a tool that helps you determine the generator size you need for your home. By plugging in a few numbers and selecting the circuits needing power, you get an estimate. Follow Generac’s advice and have a professional look at your specific needs.

Look at Generac

As you learn how to size a backup generator for your home, look at what Generac has to offer to homeowners. You’ll see that the generators they have in stock will help to power your South Florida home after a large storm.  While other homeowners are struggling to keep their perishable foods on ice, you’ll be living in your home, comfortably waiting for municipal power to be restored. No matter what brand you ultimately choose to buy, you need to be able to rely on your emergency generator. If it is too small, you may not be able to use some of your electrical equipment. If you rely on a private water source, your sump pump may fail. As you think about how to choose a home generator, don’t forget about each appliance that relies on electrical power.

Different Sizes Do Matter

Size does matter. While you may be looking at your bank balance, smaller and less expensive isn’t better, according to Consumer Reports, especially if you need to power several electrical appliances.

  • Small portable runs your refrigerator, sump pump, some lights, your television and your microwave
  • Midsized portable/small stationary will run all of the previous plus a portable heater, heating system, a second pump, computer and several more lights
  • Large portable runs all of the previous plus a small water heater, electric range and central air conditioner
  • Large whole-home standby generator runs all of the above plus a washer and dryer

You’re equipped with some basic information. Start researching generators and generator outlets so you’re ready for hurricane season.

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Need Backup Power for a Big Family Event?

backup powerYou have a big family event coming up. At this point, it really doesn’t matter whether it’s a huge family reunion set in South Florida, or if it’s a destination wedding. You’re responsible for setting up activities and entertainment. You’ve secured entertainment for the kids in your family. You gave in to your son’s suggestion and hired a rock band – that needs electrical power for their mics and speakers. Clearly, you’re going to need a reliable source of backup power, because your mother suggested buying a bagful of power strips and extension cords!

Reasons to Choose a Home Generator

You are blessed with consistently good South Florida weather. Because hurricane season ends at the end of November, as long as you schedule your celebration at the right time of the year, you won’t have to worry about anything more than heat and humidity.

Because you’re planning so many outdoors events to make the most of Florida’s sunny weather, you’re thinking of sources of backup power to have energy running to all the electrical equipment you’ll be using. Don’t forget – your community or neighborhood can experience a power outage unexpectedly. It’s during these times that a home standby generator can help rescue your event from an unnecessary disaster.

Drawbacks to Extension Cords and Power Strips

Your mother might believe that her suggestion of setting up a series of extension cords and power strips is a good one. These items can be put to limited use because the National Electric Code forbids their use in certain circumstances.

Extension Cords can’t be used under the following circumstances:

º Where they are vulnerable to damage

º Extended through windows or doorways

º Placed in wall, ceiling or floor holes

º To substitute for fixed wiring

º For equipment that demands more than 15 amps

º Can’t be connected in a daisy-chain or piggy-back fashion to other cords or power strips

The use of power strips is also limited:

º All surge suppressors are power strips

º Not every power strip has surge suppression capability

You are probably beginning to realize that you need a more-reliable source of emergency power. You want everyone to have fun at your family event – nobody needs to be needlessly hurt. In the event of an unexpected power outage, you want to be sure that nothing electrical stops functioning, either inside or outside your party venue.

The Safety Risks

All surge protectors are power strips. Not every power strip is a surge protector. Should you have all those power strips and extension cords daisy-chained together, a power surge could short out the equipment being used. Not only that, the surge and resulting short out could result in a fire. If you’re relying on a power strip and extension cord to keep crock pots and electric frying pans powered, you need to know that power strips are not supposed to be used with anything that has a heating element.

If the price of a new commercial standby generator is beyond your family’s reach, a pre-owned generator or one available on sale could help you solve that problem.

Having a Safe Family Event

Now that your event is nearing, you need to have a reliable source of emergency power. The right-sized generator can fill your needs for this family event and, when everyone has had their fun and gone home, you have a generator available for the next hurricane and blackout.

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A Year After Sandy, Backup Power Generators Remain Popular

backup powerWhen Hurricane Sandy hit the Atlantic Coast in October 2012, it surprised a lot of people. People who were not prepared to deal with the aftermath of a powerful storm and the destruction it can bring.

Sandy’s devastating effects opened a lot of eyes to the importance of being prepared with an escape plan, backup power and emergency supplies.

In the past, backup power generators were something that only people in hurricane-prone states bought. Since Sandy, however, more and more homeowners are realizing the importance of generators everywhere, according to Generac’s (the leading maker of home standby generators) Chief Executive Aaron Jagdfeld.

Choosing the Right Option

When you’re thinking of a secondary source of power, your first reaction might be to go to solar paneling or other forms of green energy. While that’s a great option, solar systems are more expensive, more difficult to install and take more time to get up and running than standby generators. Plus, solar systems often require unsightly installations on your roof, which might not even be acceptable depending on the building codes in your city.

Standby generators, on the other hand, are located next to the house or in your basement, so they’re not an eyesore. They can also be up and running in just a few hours.

What Makes Standby Generators So Important

In an interview with National Geographic Daily News, Jagdfeld pointed out that Hurricane Sandy was a wakeup call for many when it comes to standby generators. He explained that more and more people rely on the electric grid for power without taking into consideration the increase in severe weather and the ever-aging population. Combined, these things could spell disaster, especially in many large cities and communities, where installing a standby generator has often been deemed unnecessary in the past.

Some Numbers

To give you a clearer idea of the impact of Hurricane Sandy, here are some stats:

  • Over 8 million homes lost power when Hurricane Sandy hit
  • By the time Thanksgiving rolled around almost a month later, 80,000 of those homes still didn’t have power restored
  • According to an article in Time, 10,000 people called their local True Value Hardware in New Jersey in the days before Sandy hit. The reason for the call? They were searching for an emergency generator.

Are Generators More Popular?

They certainly are. Generator sales went up 40 percent after Hurricane Sandy. That’s because more and more people are now very aware of the importance of having backup power, regardless of where they live.

In the past, people were more likely to go with portable generators, but standby units are now becoming more popular. Why? Well, for starters, standby generators don’t require gasoline, which might be difficult to obtain if you’re going through a major storm. After all, if there’s no power, gas pumps won’t work. On the other hand, standby generators run on either LP or natural gas, which can be easily stored in tanks so you don’t have to constantly refill the unit to keep it running.

While standby generators are more expensive than portable units, here’s something you might not know: many home insurance companies offer something known as a “loss mitigation credit” if you install a standby generator. This is a special discount offered to customers who own a unity, based on the fact that having backup power can reduce your losses and damages during and after a storm.

Regardless of whether you were affected by Hurricane Sandy or not, a standby generator can be a sound investment for the safety and the future of your home and your family.


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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.


Posted in: All Posts, Generator Maintenance, Generator Repair

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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.


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.


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

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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.


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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.



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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.


Posted in: Emergency Power, Home Generators, Uncategorized

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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.

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Gas Appliances Still Need Emergency Power During an Outage

Gas Appliances Still Need Emergency Power During an OutageChanging from electrical to gas appliances has a number of benefits, but it doesn’t mean you no longer need electricity. Many appliances may use natural gas for operating purposes, but they still require electrical power to manage certain features. This means that during a power outage, all the gas in the world isn’t going to help you unless you have a source of emergency power. Here are some of the gas appliances that use power:


Gas stoves are great. Not only are they trendy because all the celebrity chefs use them, but it’s much easier to control the temperature precisely than most electric stoves. Certain models need electricity to ignite, while others use a spark generated by a piezo crystal. However, if your gas stove has any of these features, you probably need power to operate them:

  • Oven light
  • Clock or timer
  • Rotating grill or plate
  • Fan-assisted oven

Of course, when you’re preparing food in an emergency you can probably use the stove without the benefit of these options, but if you want to be truly independent during a power outage, a home standby generator is the answer to providing all the conveniences you’re accustomed to.

Hot Water Heaters

Depending on the model you buy, your gas hot water heater may need emergency power to operate the pilot light. While many older models had a pilot light that could be ignited with a match, for safety purposes most modern versions have an electronic one.

Then there’s the thermocouple, which generates voltage to hold the gas valve open. Although it uses only the tiniest amount of power, it’s necessary for safe operation of the heater. Thermostats and timers also both operate using electricity, so in the event of a power outage your hot water may be useless without a home standby generator to keep it going.

Air Conditioning

Natural gas air conditioners aren’t new, and were popular during the 1940s and 1950s. New technology to make them safer and more efficient coupled with the threat of power outages is giving them a new lease on life. While you can operate a gas air conditioner without emergency power there’s no way to control the temperature without an electric thermostat, so it’s necessary to operate the unit manually by switching it on and off as needed. By connecting a gas air conditioner to your home standby generator, however, you can make sure that your home is cool and comfortable at all times.


While furnaces are seldom needed (or even installed!) in most homes in the South Florida area, this is another example of a gas appliance that requires emergency power to operate effectively. Igniting the furnace, operation of the thermostat and air blowers all require electricity, so in times of power outage it’s essential that you have back up power such as that provided by a home standby generator.


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