Deciding on the type of generator is the next step – manual or automatic.
Manual Generator Panel System / Manual Generator Systems
There are two types of manual systems. A generator essential circuit’s panel and the Generlink. These manual systems require a little work.
In a power outage, the generator essential circuits panel powers the:
- water pump & sewage pump
- fridge & freezer & microwave
- a couple of plugs in the kitchen for the kettle and toaster
- some lights and plugs for getting around
- and, of course, the television.
The generator essential circuit’s panel has two large circuit breakers (the generator panels’ power supply) that are mechanically linked to one another, which means if one of the breakers is on the other cannot be turned on unless the other is off. One breaker is the Utility or Hydro power side and the other is the Generator power side.
When the power goes off, we switch this breaker from Utility to Generator. Next, we go outside and start up our portable generator, plugging it into the receptacle outside. We are up and running. We can now get by comfortably until hydro is restored, when we simply reverse the process.
The Generlink (http://www.generlink.com/about_generlink.cfm) is a device which is easy to install and operate. The Generlink is an electronic collar that fits on the meter base and the hydro meter plugs into it. During a power outage we plug our generator into a special receptacle on the Generlink.
This now provides power for the whole home so we need to be conscious of our power usage as most portable generators are not made to handle the electrical load of an entire house. So during an outage we should go down to the electrical panel and turn off things that we don’t really need that may draw a lot of electricity. A good example would be the hot water tank. A hot water tank is basically a big thermos. It can go a long time without becoming cold. When it does turn it back on for an hour or so until it’s heated up and turn it off again.
When hydro is restored an LED on the Generlink will light up. Now we can unplug the generator and get back to business.
Automatic Generator Panel System / Automatic Generator Systems
Automatic generator systems take all the guess work out of it. The power fails; the generator senses no power and then starts up. The generator’s automatic transfer switch (ATS) switches to generator power and, depending on the system, either the whole home is on the generator system or an essential circuit’s panel will be powered by the generator.
When power is restored, the generator senses power is back on and turns off. The ATS switches to Utility power and life is back to normal.
So now that we know the basics how do we choose?
- The manual generator systems are cheaper, but require the homeowner to do a little work to get things back up and running.
- If you are a full time resident and a little handy I would recommend the manual generator systems.
- The automatic generator systems are more expensive but do not require any work by the homeowner.
- If you are not comfortable starting up a generator, and switching some breakers perhaps automatic is worth considering.
Personally, in terms of the manual generator systems, I prefer the generator essential circuit’s panel over the Generlink. This is a personal opinion as the Generlink is relatively new on the market and hasn’t been around long enough. Although I’ve installed a few and customers have given me a positive response, my chief concern is that if something ever happens to the Generlink and it needs replacing, it’s about a thousand dollar fix.
If you’re a cottager an automatic generator system has lots of benefits. Most importantly that it will work even when you are not there. So it just saved all the items in the freezer and fridge you stocked up on last weekend (the beer will still be fine regardless of which system you choose). If it happens to be winter the water line and plumbing won’t freeze up causing major damage to your new cottage as the generator will keep the cottage at its set temperature.
A few years ago I decided to only install manual generator systems due to the changing technology. Automatic generator systems are a very complicated piece of equipment. The electrical connections are rather basic and straight forward. The problem is if the generator system fails due to an electronic or the engine issue, a generator technician needs to be called in to troubleshoot the problem. The generator also needs annual maintenance by a certified generator technician.
Now when I am asked about automatic generator systems I recommend the person that I believe is best qualified for the job -- Roger Edwards of Edwards Electric Generators. http://www.edwardsgenerators.com/ Where I turned away from generators to focus on residential and cottage work, Roger turned away from that to focus on generators. I have been lucky enough to work with Roger on a few projects over the years and find him to be very knowledgeable and professional in his field.
Remember, whatever system you choose it must be inspected. This is a system that is directly connected to your electrical panel and not a job to be taken lightly. A reputable electrical contractor will take out a permit with the Electrical Safety Authority www.esasafe.com and gladly show you the Certificate of Inspection.
P.O. Box 238 Dwight, Ontario. P0A 1H0
ESA Provincial Master Electrical Contractor License # 7001742