Question: I now have the budget to install a standby generator system at my home. I've read about standby generators in your past articles, and now that I'm ready to go forward I'd like some final tips. What basic information and system features should I keep in mind when I meet with my contractor? -- John, Connecticut.
Answer: I can tell when hurricane season has arrived by all the questions I receive about generators. For those new to the discussion, a standby generator is a backup electrical-power system installed directly to a home.
It is not a portable generator that needs to be set up for every event -- standby generators turn on automatically when the power shuts off. Remember, because it is a home system, it must be professionally installed by a licensed contractor.
With that in mind, here are my three basic tips when meeting with a standby-generator dealer:
1. Choose your fuel type. Most residential standby generators run on natural or propane gas. If you have natural gas in your home, it's important that you point that out to your dealer.
2. Engine quality. Although it's for residential use, look for a generator with a reliable commercial-grade engine that can handle heavy loads and power up quickly, and carries an extended multiyear warranty.
3. Appearance. The standby generator itself is installed outside your home, so look for a unit with an attractive, clean-looking shell that's corrosion-resistant.
Bottom line: A good-looking and powerful unit will "generate" a lot of conversation from your neighbors!
(Master plumber Ed Del Grande is the author of "Ed Del Grande's House Call," the host of TV and Internet shows, and a LEED green associate. Visit eddelgrande.com or write eadelg(at)cs.com. Always consult local contractors and codes.)