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Generators for your Central Heating

During the winter, losing access to your source of heat can be dangerous. This is especially true for the elderly or the infirm. If you’re using a heat pump or electric furnace, a power grid outage can be terrible news. But you shouldn’t forget that a propane or natural gas furnace still uses electricity. The blower fan for your furnace is what cycles the heated air throughout your home. Without electricity, your heating will stay at a standstill.

So an electrical outage is bad news for heating. It’s also terrible news for any emergency medical equipment you may have in your home, for the food in your fridge, and that novel you’ve been writing for three hours and haven’t hit save on (really, just hit CTRL+S every few minutes). It doesn’t have to be that way. You can easily pick up a battery backup for your computer, but what about the other equipment? That’s where a backup generator comes into play. An automatic standby generator may be the best choice for you, depending on urgency.

Generators, the 411

Electric generators come in many shapes, sizes, and configurations. If you’ve looked into them before and feel a little lost, that’s ok. We’re here to unpack what they’re all about and how they work.


A portable gasoline generator

The physical sizes of generators vary. Some are as small as a pet carrier, while others can be the size of a Buick. Portable generators are nice because they can be stored and hidden away until needed. They’re great for emergencies but they are usually not powerful enough to power your heating system for any meaningful amount of time. Stationary generators can be powerful enough to run your furnace fan, a full AC-unit, a clothes dryer, and a Jacuzzi bathtub all at the same time.

Fuel sources are important because you need to know how many days of power you have on your fuel supply. Typical gasoline generators use between 8 and 22 gallons of gas each day. A propane generator will average 6 20-pound cylinders per day of use. Of course, for a stationary generator, installing a large storage tank is not a bad way to go. A 250-gallon tank can last up to 2 weeks with rationing.

We do need to point out that installing a stationary generator is very complicated. You should always get a licensed electrician to install a permanent backup generator. This is because the generator is hooked up to the main electrical grid as well as your home. The standby generator has to be able to recognize when a major grid outage is present. Effectively handling your home’s power load (as well as deactivating unnecessary electrical circuits during an outage to preserve power) requires careful and professional installation. Standby generators also monitor the grid for a power activation signal and must be capable of handing over power load back to the grid properly.

Generator Power Sizes

There are two ways to select the generator for your home, by power need or by cost. Each generator comes with two costs attached to it, the installation and the operation cost. Installations are expensive, often reaching thousands of dollars for the purchase and installation of a new unit. Many people purchase based on initial cost, fortunately, the initial cost reflects the operation cost as well. The more powerful your generator, the more fuel it consumes on a daily basis, leading to higher energy costs over the long-run. A 7 Kw generator will burn more fuel during operation than a 22 Kw generator will.

If you aren’t as concerned with cost, then it’s better to analyze how much power you need from your generator. We can help you decide how much is needed for running your furnace or heat pump but if you really want to know how much power your house will need, a licensed electrician is the way to go. If you need to run just the blower fan for your furnace and keep your refrigerator and lights on, a 7Kw generator will be fine. For heat pumps (or AC units in general), upgrade to about 17 Kw.

If you have any further questions on how to make sure your furnace is working when the lights aren’t, talk to the licensed, trained technicians at Cassel Home Comfort. Give us a call at (217) 866-1596. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to answer any questions you might have.