The Scoop on Natural Gas Generators
The recent power outages in the DC area have many people thinking about generators. Nothing’s worse than being without air conditioning during a terrible heat wave.
Next time that happens, you might want some back up. A natural gas generator will allow you to keep the essentials running in a sticky situation.
Health and security are prime reasons to invest. If you have essential health equipment like an oxygen machine that you can’t afford to do without, a generator could be a lifesaver. Home security systems are electric, so as soon as your power goes, your burglar alarms do, too. A generator can also keep your refrigerator going so you don’t lose all your food.
What should you consider? You’ll need both a permit and a trained contractor. The contractor should be licensed in both electric and natural gas. Make sure this person can provide service and maintenance, as well as installation.
Maintenance is key to ensure that the generator actually works in the unpredictable emergency situation you bought it for. Bill Wheelbarger, owner of Argent Heating & Cooling, emphasizes generators’ maintenance needs. “Basically it's a little car engine,” he says. “There's an oil filter, a spark plug, an air filter. All those things need to be serviced and changed periodically.”
The trickiest part of deciding what generator to buy is figuring out what you’ll want it to run. What you plan to put on it determines the size of the generator, as well as the size of the budget. Logically, the bigger they are, the more expensive they are. A gas furnace could fit on a small generator. If you want to make sure your air conditioning stays on, you’ll need a medium-sized generator. If you want your house to continue functioning as if the power’s still on, you’re looking at a big machine and a big bill.
“Part of the discussion I have with customers is I try to get a feel for what they want on it, “ says Wheelbarger. “Do they want their whole house on it, or do they just want to be able to live in the house?”
Most residential generators are 10-20 kilowatts (KW), with various sizes in between. A 10 KW generator could cover usually up to eight circuits; for example, light circuits, your refrigerators, and maybe a furnace. Keeping the air conditioning running will require a 17 or 20 KW generator.