How Generators Work

A wide variety of things can cause a power outage. Natural disasters, storms, problems with the grid or simple things like a car accident hitting a pole or a branch falling on the wrong wire. Serious things like tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, lightning, ice storms and blizzards can shut down grid power for hours, days or even weeks at a time. Remember the power loss after Hurricane Sandy. Places in NJ were out of power for weeks.

We are all dependent on electricity to power just about everything we own. Even a power outage of more than a few minutes can be pretty annoying. As the duration of a power failure stretches beyond an hour, there are more severe problems that can cause things to get expensive or dangerous:

  • During the winter, a power failure can disable your home’s heating system. The house will eventually become so cold you’ll have to leave. In addition, frozen pipes can cause thousands of dollars in damage if they burst.
  • A power failure means that refrigerators and freezers stop running. In the summer, frozen food melts and can make a real mess.
  • If you have a medical condition that requires special equipment, a power failure can create a life or death situation.
  • If you live in a rural area with a private well, a power failure cuts off your water supply.
  • No electricity will shut off most home security systems.
  • If you have an electric stove you won’t be cooking anything during an outage.

­It’s easy to buy a backup home generator to avoid all of these problems. You may be wondering how generators work. We’ll explain all this below.

How generators work NJ home backup generator on the side of a home

Home Backup Generator and Goals

To generate normal 120-volt power on an emergency basis, you have a few options:

  • You can buy an engine powered generator. The engine can burn gasoline, diesel or propane. Usually these generators are portable, not permanent unit.
  • You can buy an inverter and power it from your automobile battery or with a home battery system powered by solar panels.
  • You can buy a permanent home backup generator which runs on natural or lp gas. This is a permanent unit that resembles an outdoor air condition. It can be elevated just like an air conditioner to make sure it runs during a flood.

To decide which alternative is best for you, you need to decide what your goals are during a power failure.

  • A very minimal set of creature comforts – maybe a few lights so you don’t have to burn candles, charging a cell phone, power an emergency radio and operate a fan or TV.
    You can do this with a small gas generator or with a small inverter that plugs into your car’s lighter socket if you have a large battery like in a truck or SUV.
  • Operate a microwave oven, a TV, some lights and my computer so I can eat and get some work done.
    You can do this with a small 1000-watt generator and plug things into it with an extension cord. This can be a large portable gas unit.
  • Keep a refrigerator and/or freezer running, with some lights and small appliances, TV, computer, charging the cell phone.
    You can do this with a 2,500- to 3,500-watt generator and plug things into it with extension cords. This is either a very large portable gas generator or a small home backup generator running on Natural Gas or LP.
  • Power everything in your home just as if you had grid electricity with minimal interruption in power.
    You can do this with a 5,000-watt generator hard wired into your home’s circuit panel. These are about the size of an outside air conditioner and run on Natural Gas or LP. They run non stop night and day and supply constant power for everything in your home. The size of this unit is determined by the amount of power you need to use all your things.

Understanding Your Power Needs

In order to choose the right home backup generator and size it properly, you need to understand something about the power requirements of the devices you plan to use.The basic unit of power measurement is the watt, and with most electric devices there are two wattage ratings that are important to understand: steady-state wattage and surge wattage. A normal 60-watt light bulb requires 60 watts to turn it on and a steady 60 watts to keep it lit. A ceiling fan motor generally requires around 150 watts to get it started and 75 watts to keep it running. That extra wattage to start the motor is called the surge wattage. This is typical of almost anything in the home with an electric motor.

When you meet with your Hughes representative they’ll go over all this with you and help determine the best size home generator for your needs and budget.

Before the power goes out

A home backup generator system consists of two main products: a generator unit and an automatic transfer switch. The two work together to ensure when power is lost, it’s only for a matter of seconds before backup power kicks in.

Your automatic transfer switch monitors the electricity coming from the grid. It’s working 24/7 to protect your home.

A Hughes home generator system and automatic transfer switch are professionally installed into your home’s existing wiring. The system detects when grid power stops flowing to your home during an outage. Within seconds, the automatic transfer switch transfers your home’s electrical circuits and appliances to backup power. Once the generator system senses utility power is back online, your home is automatically transferred back to grid power and the generator is shut down until it’s needed again.

NJ backup home generator with transfer sitch elevated to prevent flooding

Choose Between Natural Gas & Liquid Propane Generators

Standby generator systems operate on either natural gas or liquid propane vapor. Both natural gas and propane generators provide a seamless transition from utility to backup power. If your home already utilizes one fuel or the other, it makes sense to use what’s already available.

1. Grid Power is Lost

Perhaps it’s a storm, equipment failure, a car accident, or something as simple as a branch falling on a wire. In any case, the electricity you depend on is suddenly gone and you have no idea when it will be back.

Within seconds, your generator knows the grid has gone down and prepares to restore your home’s power.

Within a few seconds it’s generating electricity. This is all automatic so even if your not home the power comes on making sure critical things like refrigeration or a home security system keeps working.

The automatic transfer switch sends generator power to your home. And it will continue doing so until utility power returns.

Millions In The Dark

As Hurricane Sandy tore through the Northeast millions were left without power. Power outages stretched from Indiana to Northern Maine, leaving homes without power in some of the most populated areas of the country. At the blackouts peak nearly 9 millions home were left in the dark.

The diagram shows the peak power outages and outages after 1 week. As you can see all of NJ was hit with some amount of power loss. NJ is one of the most populated states in the country and with some of the worst utility lines in the country. Power outages are a constant problem and the government isn’t fixing it any time soon.

Protect your home and family with backup power and never be left without electricity again.

NJ Homes without power after Sandy diagram