Power outages can occur at any time, and the only way to protect your home and ensure you still have electricity during a blackout is with a home generator. Also known as a backup or standby generator, these units are wired directly into a building’s electrical system so that the most important systems and appliances can still be used in the event of a blackout.
Most home generators are designed to power things like your heating and air conditioning, security system, refrigerator, water heater and lighting. However, if you choose a large enough unit, it should be able to power everything in your home. The fact that long-term power outages can be such a serious issue means that a home generator is definitely a great investment, and here is a full overview of exactly how these units work.
How a Home Generator Produces Electricity
In essence, a generator isn’t all that different from the engine in your car. A home generator uses a large internal motor that burns either natural gas or propane to create mechanical energy, and this mechanical energy is then converted into electricity. Most home generators run on natural gas since this is typically quite a bit cheaper and also more convenient. If your home doesn’t have natural gas, you most likely already have a large propane tank used for heating and hot water that can also be used to power a home generator.
As with a car, the generator uses a battery to start its motor. The motor works to spin a rotor shaft, and at the end of this shaft is something known as an armature coil that essentially consists of tightly coiled copper wires encased in a metal housing. The motor spins this armature coil inside of a magnetic field, and this magnetic field excites the electrons in the copper which produces electricity.
How the Automatic Transfer Switch and Generator Controller Work
A home generator is wired into your home’s main electrical panel via something known as an automatic transfer switch (ATS). The ATS is what signals the generator to turn on and off when needed, and it does this by sensing the electrical current flowing into your home. If the ATS senses that electricity isn’t flowing to your home due to an outage, it will then send an electrical signal to the generator controller.
Once the generator controller receives this signal, it then turns on the unit’s engine so the generator can start producing power. As soon as the generator is running, the controller sends a signal back to the ATS. The ATS then activates and both isolates your home from the electrical grid and switches so that the generator is then supplying electricity to the home. This entire process typically only takes a few seconds so that your power will be restored almost immediately.
While the generator is running, the ATS is still constantly measuring whether electricity is flowing through the grid. As soon as it detects that the power is back on, it will send a signal to the generator controller for the unit to shut off at the same time as it switches your home back to running on normal power.
The generator controller is also what works to run the unit’s exercise cycle every week or month. Whenever the set time comes for this cycle, the generator will turn on and usually run for 20 minutes or so to both ensure that the motor stays lubricated and that the unit is working properly. However, the controller doesn’t signal the ATS to activate during this exercise cycle, which means your home will continue to be powered normally.
During this exercise cycle, the controller will constantly monitor the oil pressure, engine temperature, and all other important details to be certain that the generator is working as it should and doesn’t need any repairs or maintenance. If the controller does detect any issues, it will automatically shut the unit down and show an error code or alert on its display so that you know you need to have your generator serviced. It is also a good idea to visually inspect the generator during this exercise cycle so you can spot any issues like oil leaks, excessive exhaust, or unusual noises.
Chesapeake’s Home Generator Experts
At Simmons Heating & Cooling, our team specializes in installing and servicing home generators, and we can help you determine what size of unit is needed to power your home. We carry a range of different generators from Generac, which is by far the most trusted name in the industry, and our team will ensure your new generator is installed properly and continues to work as it should for many years to come. If you need any heating, cooling, or water heater service, we can help with that as well. Contact us today if you have any questions about home generators or want to schedule a consultation or service call.