Installing a natural gas standby backup generator is a fairly straightforward, but sometimes daunting task. Most people realize their need for some means of power backup when their utility power disappears for enough time to cause discomfort. Sometimes this happens after a flooded basement, or after a brown-out leaves them with no air conditioning in a Chicago heat wave.
“Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. – Theodore Roosevelt”
Backup Generator Sizing
First, figure out what size generator you need or want. If you want to power only essential items such as sump pumps and refrigerators, the size will be much smaller than a generator needed to power your entire home.
These smaller generators start at 7,000 watts, or 7kW. If you like to have air conditioning in a power outage, then you would look at a generator usually close to a 20kW.
All sizes of backup generators work with a transfer switch. This is an electronic monitor that will switch power from the utility to the generator, while telling the generator to start. Transfer switches can be part of a sub panel (mini breaker panel) powered by the generator. Alternatively, they can be whole house transfer switches, which transfer the entire existing breaker panel to the generator’s power.
Backup Generator Placement
When you install a standby backup generator, the placement will determine the amount of work to complete the installation.
The most ideal location for generator placement is between the electric meter and the gas meter. If both meters are on the same side of the house, the generator can go somewhere between the two. This allows the shortest run of both gas and electric.
The further the gas or electric has to run, the trickier the install. If electric has to run far, it starts to experience voltage drop. This will affect the electrical loads in your home.
To counteract this, the electrical wire must be up-sized to lessen the resistance through the wire. If gas must run far, the size of the pipe must be up-sized. This happens because the gas utility company provides gas pressure at 5-7 inches of water column after the meter. That pressure experiences friction the farther it travels, and loses pressure by the time it reaches the generator.
Often the gas meter provided by the utility company must be up-sized to allow sufficient gas to allow enough gas flow in the event of all gas appliances running simultaneously. The lot line of your home further affects your generator’s placement, as well as the distance from the proposed location to operable windows.
The generator usually needs to be at least 5 feet from your lot line, and at least 18 inches from the side of your home. According to manufacturer specifications and local ordinances, the generator must be 5 feet from any window or door.
Backup Generator Installation
After the details come together, the installation moves forward. You get your backup generator delivery and set it on its decided location.
The pad where the generator sits should be one of two things: either a concrete pad, or a pad built of landscape timbers, filled with gravel. The pad with gravel works better for residential generators as the generator can be re-leveled easily, after years of settling. The generator is usually between 400 and 500 pounds.
Once the backup generator is set, the transfer switch is installed. This process varies according to the style of transfer switch. Conductors and control wires are then run from the generator to the transfer switch, usually in separate conduits. The gas then runs straight from the gas meter, if possible, to the generator. Install a shut-off and drip tee before the generator for emergency stop and maintenance.
The final step is the process of activation. This is different for all generators. Once this finishes, the generator will patiently await the next power outage, test running itself every week to ensure its reliable operation upon the call of duty.
Learn more about all the generators supplied and installed by OneStop Pro.