Life Uninterurpted

Filed in Construction by on April 17, 2014

Lightning-House (1)Have you ever lived through a power outage? We’re not taking about living without the coffee maker in the morning, skipping the evening news or even having to take a cold shower. We’re taking about living without power through a multi-day outage where cooling or heating your home, depending on the season, becomes an issue along with the ability to run critical home systems such as sump and well pumps where the safety of your home and its occupants comes into questions.

Keeping the television, computer and lights on during a power outage aren’t the only reasons to consider a generator, but they are some of the first things we thinking about when the lights start to flicker during a storm. Many of life’s necessities within our homes rely on electricity.

Generators come in many forms from portable gasoline powered models to standby devices that are hardwired to your home’s electrical panel.


Portable generators are less expensive and require no installation and can be up and running in a few minutes…provided you have gasoline available, can find the extension cords – they must be around here somewhere – and don’t mind going out in the rain or snow to get things set up.


Standby generators are installed just outside the home and are hardwired to a transformer panel, permanently connecting the home’s electrical panel and utility lines. Standby generators also require an LP or natural gas connection as a source of fuel. Professional installation is required. Licensed gas installers and electricians will ensure that the appropriate safety measures, and permits if necessary, are in place.


Even a few years ago, the thought of installing a standby generator in a residential setting may have seemed a luxury only afforded by the rich and famous. In the past few years, several national-headline-grabbing events such as hurricanes and devastating tornadoes have made us even more aware of the impact that days without electricity can have on the safety and well-being of our families and homes…even hundreds of miles from the hearts of these events, the availability of electricity has been impacted.


Dan Zierden of Cullen’s Home Center in Fergus Falls says that today’s home standby generators can be installed very close to the house – as close as 18 inches and “they are very inconspicuous. They look like an air conditioner.” Zierden says that they carry several models by Kansas City-based Milbank that power the home’s entire electrical panel eliminating the need for homeowners to have to decide which appliances and home systems they might need during an outage and have those specific circuits wired to the generator. “You don’t really know what’s going to be important until you’ve experienced it,” says Zierden. “It’s the difference between selecting the circuits that are important versus simply choosing to power your whole house.”


milbank home generators

“Safety and security for your family and home,” are some of the biggest benefits of home standby generators notes Jim Pederson, Energy Solutions Manager for Milbank. The Milbank Home Standby Generators come in various capacities and are rated using KW (kilowatt) output from 8KW to 62KW with the higher end models capable of powering extra large-sized luxury homes.


Pederson says, “anywhere you’ve got trees and overhead power lines, you’ve got the potential for an outage.” Lake home and rural homeowners may be more reliant on things like wells and sump pumps and being “outside the city” may mean those locations are a lower priority for power restoration crews. Since the standby generator units are installed with an automatic transfer switch (ATS), the transfer from utility to the backup source is automatic. The ATS also prevents “backfeeding” of power in utility lines.


Entire homes can be powered with smaller units because of Milbank’s ATS. Milbank’s ATS is an smart switch that uses patented power management technology to sense the electricity being used in the home and to delay a few minutes, if necessary, the startup of a larger system, such as an air conditioner while other devices, such as multiple appliances, are in use. thereby protecting against power overload. Pederson notes that this is a differentiating capability of their units. The whole electrical system of the home is intelligently managed by the ATS.


Milbank is in their fifth year of production of these units and has seen a 35% annual growth in the home standby generator sector. The units do require maintenance after each 100 hours of use and perform a weekly self-test lasting about twenty minutes. The data from the self-test is reported back to the homeowner via a wired or wireless report display. “Peace of mind comes in so many forms,” says Pederson who says the self-test is just one way of ensuring that the power will be on when you need it – whether you are at home or away.


The installation of a standby generator enables homeowners “to live your life as you normally would,” says Zierden. “But the time to think about it is not when you’re sitting in the dark,” he concludes.


by Jan Ellis, editor of Lake and Home Magazine who writes from her home in Fergus Falls. 



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