Peace of Mind: Natural Gas Generators Keep the Heat On

Natural gas generator

Many homeowners are buying natural gas generators to ensure that when the grid goes down, the lights, the heat and refrigerator always stay on.

“When it comes to power outages, natural gas is an excellent fuel choice by virtue of its availability,” said Jacob VanWormer, associate product manager, Generac Power Systems. “As natural gas is utility-supplied, and because severe storms that knock out power rarely have a similar impact on the natural gas infrastructure, a home standby natural gas generator can keep the lights on for as long as necessary.”

Time after time, those with diesel or propane generators are left sitting in the dark when they run out of fuel. They are either unable to leave
the house due to weather conditions, local gas stations are closed or propane suppliers are out of product. In the vast majority of cases, however, the natural gas infrastructure will stand tall. Anyone wise enough to have a natural gas backup generator available can keep their home powered up until the electric utility has a chance to restore power.

Power Options

Homeowners have different preferences when it comes to exactly how much power they require during an outage. Generator representatives can provide advice on the various options. Some want only basic services and are happy to sacrifice certain appliances and devices. In that case, selected circuit backup provides essential coverage that protects only the most important circuits, such as lights, the heater, water heater, refrigerators/freezers and sump pumps.

Alternatively, whole-home backup power means the entire home is backed up all the time. Whenever there is an outage, the power stays on automatically. All devices, appliances and services are immediately available. However, that entails the purchase of a larger backup generator than one used for selected circuit backup.

VanWormer also mentioned a managed power option. This applies to those that want to back up their entire home without having to invest in a larger, costlier generator. With a power management system, the generator can work smarter, protecting all of a home’s circuits by turning off the most power-hungry appliances, such as air conditioning, if the power is needed elsewhere. Later, when generator capacity becomes available, those other appliances will operate automatically. This approach maximizes the use of the natural gas generator while containing costs.

“When choosing a home standby generator, it is important to understand there are many options available that can be tailored to meet any installation,” VanWormer said.

Fire and building codes typically require home standby generators to be installed 5 feet away from a structure. Some regions, however, allow certain types of generators to be positioned 18 inches away.

“A standby generator is one of the best investments a homeowner can make. They protect the home and keep the power on no matter what the weather is doing,” said Ed Del Grande, home improvement expert and TV host. “A transfer switch will automatically start the unit so it can power up your home in seconds whether you are home or away.”

Always Available

A standby generator’s average cost is typically between $3,500 and $4,500, according to VanWormer. There is an additional cost for installation, which varies by location and particular situation. There is a wide range of units and manufacturers to choose from.

The Kohler Generators 30 RCL is a 30 kW standby generator that can power the entire home during an outage. It features a liquid-cooled engine and noise-reduction technology to keep sound levels to a minimum. The generator keeps heating, air-conditioning, lights, refrigerators, sump pumps and security systems running in the event of a power outage. It can also be used to protect sensitive electronics, including smartphones, computers and entertainment systems, as it includes voltage and frequency regulation. “As people continue to build larger homes, we’ve seen an increased demand for a residential generator of this size,” said Melanie Tydrich, strategic marketing lead, Kohler Generators. Generac’s air-cooled 22kW Guardian Series natural gas backup generator includes Wi-Fi remote monitoring. This enables homeowners to monitor their generators at all times from anywhere in the world from a web-enabled mobile device or computer. this helps them to ensure their generators are ready to provide backup power even when they are not at home. The Guardian Series generator is wired directly into the home’s electrical system. There are no extension cords to be run during an outage, and the units turn on and off automatically, triggered by a failure in the electric grid.

“The generator will sense the loss of electricity and start supplying backup power in about 10 seconds, providing peace of mind and a seamless experience for the homeowner,” VanWormer said. “When electric power returns, the generator will go back to standby mode, ready to backup the home when the next outage occurs.”

Clean-Burning Generators

Some owners try to get by with diesel or gasoline generators. Both, however, are costlier, dirtier and may not do the job at the moment of most pressing need.

“Natural gas is a cleaner-burning fuel when compared to alternatives like diesel and gasoline,” said VanWormer. “Furthermore, its availability during an outage makes it superior to diesel or gasoline.”

How? When the grid is down, there is a very good chance that gas stations in the area will also be without power. During a serious weather event, the local transportation infrastructure is likely to be affected by downed trees and power lines. This makes a rip to the gas station or home store for refueling difficult or impossible.

Along with a relatively continuous flow of fuel, natural gas is cost effective and does not require any refilling, making backup power seamless and hassle free.

Peace of Mind was written by Drew Robb for Natural Living, a publication distributed by Southeast Gas and published by Energy Solutions Center.