Posts Tagged power outage

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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Top 4 Most Devastating Florida Hurricanes in History

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Flood in the Belle Glade area after the 1928 storm. (Historical Society of Palm Beach)

Being prepared for a disaster by having a home standby generator can make a world of difference. For starters, a standby unit means you don’t have to rely on gas (which could be in short supply after a major natural disaster) and you don’t have to head outside to refill the unit during or after the storm.

Unfortunately, some of the worst Florida hurricanes to ever hit the region happened long ago, before emergency power systems, generators and other helpful devices were invented.

Here’s a breakdown of the five worst hurricanes in the history of Florida.

Key West, 1919

Although Key West has been struck by hurricanes numerous times, none have been as devastating as the one that landed there in 1919.The hurricane’s death toll could be as high as 800 (the exact numbers are unknown), with many of those deaths happening onboard ships that were sailing in the surrounding waters.

One of the reasons for the massive damage caused by this hurricane was how long the storm lasted. Although the strongest winds (110 mph) only lasted for a few hours, the storm lingered over South Florida for 38 hours. The sustained 39 mph winds made evacuation difficult and might have affected how many lives were lost in the storm.

After striking Florida, the storm then continued on to Corpus Christi, Texas, becoming the first hurricane ever to hit the city directly.

Okeechobee, 1928

The most devastating hurricane in the history of Florida, Okeechobee killed more than 2,000 people and destroyed over 6,000 homes. That’s in addition to 2,000 other people who died when the hurricane struck the Caribbean, especially the islands of Puerto Rico and Guadeloupe. In Florida, the hurricane was particularly devastating because it struck farther inland, taking residents by surprise.

Aside from the destruction brought over by the 125 mph winds, Okeechobee also caused massive floods.The rain that came with the storm caused the Lake Okeechobee dikes to crumble, inundating the surrounding area.

The Herbert Hoover Dike was constructed in the lake after the hurricane to help control the movement of the water and prevent a similar tragedy from ever happening again.

Labor Day, 1935

Known as the Labor Day Hurricane or the Florida Keys Hurricane, was a category 5 hurricane that struck the upper Florida Keys. The hurricane is still considered the “most intense landfalling U.S. hurricane,” with winds reaching 185 mph.

Over 400 people died during the storm, including 200 World War I veterans living in a local work camp. The hurricane derailed trains, washed away bridges, and completely destroyed the village of Islamorada. A storm surge almost 20 feet tall washed away entire area of the Florida Keys.

Andrew, 1992

Called “the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history,” Hurricane Andrew struck South Florida in August of 1992. It caused over $25 billion in damage and hit the state with winds as strong as 177 mph.

Andrew caused a relatively low number of fatalities: 23 people. However, it left over 175,000 homeless and almost 1.5 million people without electricity for days. The hurricane also caused massive natural destruction, knocking down over 70,000 trees in the Everglades. Floods and heavy rain caused additional damage and required massive evacuations.

While installing a home standby generator will not necessarily keep you safe when Florida hurricanes hit, it can still be a great ally during the storm’s aftermath. Keep in mind that in many cases, people return to their homes after the storm has passed but before electric power is restored. Having a home generator means you’ll be able to cook, have access to warm water and feel safer during a moment of crisis.

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5 Reasons Your Florida Business Needs a Commercial Generator for Backup Power

commercial generatorLiving and working in Florida, you and your employees face the reality of tropical storms and hurricanes that can lead to the loss of electrical power to your business and equipment. If you could find a way to keep your business operational during and after a major storm or other catastrophe, you would be able to protect much of your business – and much more. A commercial-grade generator may help you stay in business.

Ability to Maintain Customer Contact

If you have a commercial generator installed for your business, you’ll be able to resume contact with your customers on the first day you are allowed to get back into your office. While other businesses in your neighborhood and community are unable to open because they do not have generators, you’re calling customers to see how they made it through the storm. You’re also building valuable goodwill.

Keep Lighting and Security

A commercial generator is equipped with a transfer switch, which means that as soon as a major storm leads to a loss of electrical power, the switch senses that power has gone out. The generator kicks in, continuing to power your business’ lighting and security system, which helps to keep your business and everything within safe from looters.

Looters won’t target a business that still has its lights – and security – operational. Instead, they will target those companies that have gone dark after a power outage.

Avoid Loss of Electronic Data

Your business’ computers are vulnerable to power outages, especially when they don’t run on internal batteries. Data stored on the hard drives could be lost in the event of a major storm and resulting power outage.

Even if you have a regularly scheduled data backup, a loss of electricity can cause your computers to lose data that you, your employees and your business rely on to stay in operation.

Prevent Loss of Income

Unless you have a source of emergency power that doesn’t rely on the municipal power grid, your business can’t operate until electricity begins flowing through the lines again. For you and your business, this would force you to stay closed, losing thousands of dollars for every day you’re unable to open.

A generator that connects to your business’ electrical lines provides a reliable source of backup power. This enables you to open, keep your employees earning and, by allowing customers to come buy from you, helps you to bring in the money you need to keep your company operational.

A Commercial Generator Helps Increase Value to Customers

As a business owner in Florida, you know how much damage a hurricane or even a tropical storm can wreak on communities, individuals and businesses such as yours. Your customers are also aware of this.

It makes good business sense to invest in a source of backup power so you can continue providing services or products to loyal customers. When power lines are pulled down, other businesses will stay shuttered until damage has been repaired and power restored. Some of these businesses may never reopen.

Customers develop loyalty to a business as well as to a brand. When they are unable to visit the business to which they’ve developed positive feelings, they will eventually begin to think that the owner is shortsighted. Eventually, they will start visiting another establishment.

For so many reasons, having reliable emergency power available before a disaster strikes can save your business. Because Florida is right in the path of strong storms, a commercial generator makes good business sense.

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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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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:

Stoves

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.

Furnaces

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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