Powerful Home Improvements

It’s not something most of us ever think about until it’s too late and the lights go out. But people who live in remote areas, and often in not-so-remote areas, are installing standby generators in their home as protection against the dreaded blackout. How green with envy would your neighbours be when there’s a power cut and yours is the only house in the street still lit up?

“It’s actually a home improvement whose time has come,” says Lisa Gillett, Sales Director at Luton’s AJC Power Solutions. “more and more of us rely on modern technology and the internet at home, and with more energy-efficient appliances and low wattage lighting being commonplace, the size and cost of a standby generator has steadily been falling for quite some time.” At a certain point, the cost of providing your own power-cut insurance in the shape of a smart generator to protect freezer contents and allow uninterrupted recording of Coronation Street becomes quite attractive.

Generators are also smaller, quieter, cleaner and more reliable than they’ve ever been with units available now that could almost be mistaken for a being a domestic boiler – a long way from the smoking noisy thud-thud oily diesel generators we often think of.

So how do you go about getting a standby?

There are quite a few companies out there, and most electricians should be able to source and install a standby generator but it’s worthwhile considering beforehand what you might need and how it all works.

Power requirement.

How much power you need for a standby is the biggest single consideration – it determines how much space is going to be required for the generator, the type and amount of fuel it’s going to need, and how much noise, and how many fumes it’s going to make when it’s running.

When the lights go out, it’s not essential to be able to power everything in the house as if you were connected to the mains. We only need to provide enough power to run the things that are essential. What’s essential when it comes to working out your Watts will vary from house to house and only a proper survey by an electrician will provide an accurate figure, but as a rule to thumb if you take your monthly electricity bill and divide it by 10 you’ll end up with a figure which, in kilowatts won’t be a mile off from being a useful guide to allow you to specify what sort of size generator you’re going to need.

A quick survey of the Home Improvement Quotes office gives us an average monthly electricity bill of £45 – which by our rule of thumb would point to a 4.5kW standby generator. This is going to be something with a 10 or 12 horsepower engine. We’ve put together a little chart with some useful guideline statistics that might be useful. These represent typical silenced generators with long-running fuel tanks.

Generator
Size

kW

Running Time
(hrs)

Tank Size
(l)

Dims.
(cm L × H × W)

Weight
(kg)

2.2kVA

2

11

11

58 × 42 × 50

45

3kVA

2.5

8.5

11

58 × 42 × 50

50

4kVA

3

12

25

83 × 51 × 56

77

6kVA

5.5

10

25

83 × 51 × 56

105

7kVA

6.5

10

25

83 × 51 × 56

110

Silencing.

All generators have to comply with sound limiting legislation and if you live in a rural setting where power cuts are more prevalent, then a standard ‘open’ generator may be suitable for the job. For use in a built-up area though, particularly if you want to run the generator overnight, then you’re going to be wanting to specify a silenced generator. How quiet really does depend on your circumstances and environment.

Installation.

For your generator to provide power to your house ring-main and be properly earthed and, crucially, isolated from the national grid it needs a special installation by an electrician to give you a switch-over system to take your house off the national grid and make it self-sufficient. In many cases this can be as simple as a manual switch affair somewhere after your electricity meter. It’s possible to automate the process of course, and automatic mains failure start-on-demand systems, of the type used by businesses are available but do start adding to the cost and complexity of a backup system.

You’re going to need a suitable place to install a generator of course – and if there’s somewhere suitable near your electricity distribution ‘consumer unit’ then it’d make your electrician a very happy person. This also needs to be a suitable place to store some flammable liquids such as petrol or diesel of course, or even gas as generators will run very happily with a gas conversion. Some sort of enclosure to keep out the rain and elements and preferably the odd rodent would be helpful if you don’t choose a generator in its own enclosure.

It may seem like a lot of work, but then again what home improvement isn’t? A bit of forward planning when doing building work or construction can easily create the perfect space. After all if you have a suitable space for a barbecue then you most probably have space for a generator. Food for thought maybe?

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