Should You Buy A Generator For Your Home?

Should you buy a standby generator for your home? Well, the answer to that is “it depends”. To some extent it may be a matter of choice. For instance, for some people, suffering from a blackout on one occasion may be sufficient reason to get a generator.

However, if you live in an area where power outages are frequent (i.e., more than three a year) or they last for several hours, then investing in a standby generator is more a matter of necessity rather than simple convenience.

Generators are available in a range of different sizes and can be powered by diesel, propane, or LPG. Whether diesel generators will be available for much longer in the UK remains to be seen. One option is to buy a generator that is big enough to power the whole of your home, and if you can afford it you might want to do just that. However, another option, which is more affordable, is to buy one that powers your most essential electric circuits. You would need an experienced electrician to calculate the anticipated electrical loads of your home in order that he could recommend the correct size.

You will also need a transfer switch to transfer the power supply from the mains to the generator and back again when the mains power is restored. This can either be a manual transfer switch or an automatic one.

The disadvantage of a manual transfer switch is that someone has to be on the premises in order to transfer from one to the other. It rather depends on what sort of equipment you need to power. If there is always someone at home, it is not so much of an issue, but if you need to be able to switch to the generator instantly at any time, then an automatic transfer switch is the answer.

This will detect the fact that the mains supply has gone down and send a signal to the generator to start up. When the generator has started it sends a signal back to the automatic transfer switch which will then switch over to the generator. When the power is restored, the automatic transfer switch will transfer back to the mains and switch the generator off.

Certainly, an automatic transfer switch is more expensive to install than a manual one, but once you have it, you have no worries.

Why An Automatic Changeover Switch Is Best For Use With Your Generator

More people today are investing in a standby generator for their homes because of the possibility of power cuts. If you live out in the sticks somewhere, you may find that you have power outages on a regular basis, and this can range from being a minor inconvenience to something far more serious, depending upon what sort of equipment you have and use that requires electric power.

For instance, you might have a family member dependent upon a power wheelchair, a ventilator, or communication devices that rely upon electric power, so if you are unable to charge them it can be a serious issue. OK, if the power goes down for a couple of hours it may not be too serious a matter, but if it goes down for a day or even more, then it is a big issue. Even if you only have a power outage three or four times a year,that is three or four times too many.

This is why more people are buying generators so that they can always have a supply of electricity, no matter what. However, when you have a generator, it is a legal requirement that you also have a transfer, or changeover, switch. You can install either a manual or an automatic changeover switch.

An automatic changeover switch is always preferable because - believe it or not – when the power goes down your system will automatically start the generator and so you will only be without power for a matter of a few seconds until the generator kicks in. If you have a manual changeover switch it means that somebody has to manually switch from the mains power to the generator. That may be OK if someone is on the premises and can do that, but if you are away from home for a couple of days and you have something such as a tropical fish tank, those fish are, unfortunately, not going to last until you get home.

With an automatic transfer switch, you have no such worries. You can have an automatic transfer panel with mains detection or without. If it has mains detection, it will detect the power failure and send a signal to the generator telling it to start. Once the generator has started, it will send a signal back to the automatic transfer switch to tell it that it is ready, and the transfer switch will then disconnect from the mains and connect to the generator.

Manual Changeover Switch -V- Automatic. What’s The Difference?

If you have an emergency generator the good thing is that every time there is a power blackout you can start up your generator and, literally, switch the lights back on.

The way that your generator is turned on can be either manual or automatic and it can be done using a changeover switch, also known as a transfer switch. In fact, it is a legal requirement that if you have a standby generator, you have to have a changeover switch.

This is for two main reasons. It separates the power from the two different sources. You can either have power from the mains or you can have power from the generator, but not both, at the same time.

If you did not have a changeover switch and you started your generator and then the mains came back on again while the generator was running it would almost certainly burn your generator out. The other way around, it prevents the generator feeding power back into the mains when electricity workers are trying to restore the power, which could endanger their lives.

What’s The Difference?

So, what is the difference between a manual changeover switch and an automatic one? Well. think of it as of the gearbox in your car. It can either be manual or automatic. If you have a manual gearbox, every time you want to change gear you have to depress the clutch, shift the gear lever, and let the clutch out again. If you have an automatic gearbox, it does all that for you.

A manual changeover switch means that you have to switch over by hand. You also have to start the generator, which is probably in the garden, and it could be pouring with rain! In fact, it very likely would be, because the power often goes down as the result of a storm.

An automatic changeover switch detects that the mains power has gone down, switches over, and starts the generator automatically.

You are far better off with an automatic changeover switch because there is no time delay. When the power goes down you will be back up and running in seconds. You don’t get wet in the pouring rain. It also works when you are away from home. If nobody is at home and you need the power on and have a manual switch, that power is going to stay off until you return.

There is only one advantage to having a manual switch and that is that it is cheaper to purchase. That aside, there is no contest.

Do You Need A Standby Generator?

The answer to that question is “it depends”. A emergency generator is not a cheap item, but if you have a power blackout it will kick in within seconds and bring power back into your home.

To some extent, whether or not you need an emergency generator is a matter of personal opinion. For some people, even suffering a single power outage can justify the expense, but if you live in an area where there are frequent blackouts or out in the country in a remote area, then a standby generator is more of a must. 

There is also the fact that we are heading towards the use of electric vehicles becoming far more common. While that may be a good thing for the environment, it also means that a lot more people will be charging up batteries. So, you could see a huge surge in the amount of power required at the end of the working day when people get home and plug in their car to charge it. That may well lead to more and more power outages.

What Is The Best Type Of Generator?

So, what is the best emergency power source in the UK? Well, there are two types of generator, those powered by diesel, or they can be powered by natural gas or LPG. They can also be air cooled or liquid cooled. Air cooled are generally less expensive, and smaller, but they are also louder than liquid cooled generators.

You also need to consider the size of generator that you require. A common mistake is to buy the biggest that you can in order to power the whole of the home. In many cases, it would be more sensible and less expensive to buy a generator that produces sufficient power to run the essential circuits in your home – lighting, heating, cooker, water heater, security system if you have one, and the TV and laptop. Also, your electric vehicle if you have one, so that you are not trapped at home.

When you are looking for the best emergency power source in the UK you need to calculate the anticipated electrical load, and you really need an experienced electrician in order to do this. You want a generator that will provide you with the power that you require, but you need to consider the expense involved since there is no point in having a generator that is too large.

Reasons Why You May Wish To Consider A Standby Generator

An emergency power source in the UK is an independent source of electrical power that can provide security and safety to important electrical systems and apparatus in the event of the mains supply failing for one reason or another. A standby power system can include batteries, a power generator, and so on, and they are there to protect life and property in the event of the mains power supply being broken. 

Places such as hospitals rely on a constant supply of power in order to provide medical support to patients and to be able to continue an operation if, for instance, the mains power supply fails in the middle of the procedure. Other places which rely on a constant supply of electrical power include scientific laboratories, computer systems, telecoms, radio and TV stations, and many more.

We also want a constant supply of electricity in our homes. This may not be a situation which is life-threatening, but it can be a nuisance if electric power goes down in the middle of cooking a meal or even just watching a programme on the TV.


More Homeowners Are Considering Installation Of A Standby Generator

This is why more and more homeowners are considering the installation of a standby generator so that everything can run as usual even if the mains power is not available. For instance, a homeowner may also be a lover of tropical fish, and these could be lost if mains power is not available for several hours and the water in the tank goes too cold. An emergency power source in the UK in the form of a standby generator can kick in almost instantly when the mains power goes down, especially if an automatic transfer switch is in operation.

Indeed, a transfer switch is a legal requirement if you have a standby generator because there could be danger to electricity supply employees endeavouring to restore power, and there is also a risk to the generator if there is no transfer switch.

Mains power can be lost for a number of reasons, often because of downed lines as a result of poor weather. However, there may also be a malfunction at a sub-station, planned downtime for repairs, or even a grid-wide failure.

Emergency backup can include batteries, and some larger buildings have a gas turbine, but this can take between five and thirty minutes to achieve full power. So, a standby diesel generator is the most common form of backup in the event of mains failure. 

Importance of an Automatic Transfer Switch

If you have a standby generator at your home so that you can still generate electricity when the power fails, then the law requires you to have a transfer switch. This is the case in every country when installing a generator at a property with a mains supply. It can either be a manual transfer switch in the UK or an automatic transfer switch. It doesn’t matter which, but you must have one or the other.

The reason is actually quite simple. When you have a transfer switch it will prevent the generator from back feeding the mains when it has gone down which would put the lives of electricity workers in danger while they are attempting to restore power. It is also good for your generator because it stops mains power from coming into contact with it, which would almost certainly burn out your generator.

One advantage of a manual transfer switch in the UK is that it is cheaper to buy and install than an automatic transfer switch. However, it means that you have to switch it over manually, obviously, which means that there will be a delay in the power supply to your home or business premises.


Somebody Needs To Be On The Premises

Not only that, but it also means that somebody needs to be on the premises at the time the mains goes down. In some instances, this may not be much of a problem, but could cause issues if you need a constant supply of power. With an automatic transfer panel, the generator will start up automatically whether you are there or not.

Automatic transfer switches come in a variety of designs, but typically a mains failure relay is fitted in an electrical enclosure, with two contactors. These are electrically and mechanically interlocked so that they cannot both be closed at the same time. The contactors need electric power in order to close.

The mechanical interlock should stop both contactors closing at the same time, but the electrical interlock provides extra protection. A normally closed contact is fitted to each contactor and when the contactor is energised, they open. If you have two contactors, A and B, the circuit to close contactor A is wired through the auxiliary of B. Therefore, when B is closed, it is not possible to energize A. The same is true for B, which is wired through the auxiliary of A. This provides the electrical interlock.

What happens is that when the mains fails, the ATS will send a signal to the generator and when it is up to full power the ATS will open the mains contactor and close the generator contactor. When the mains returns, the generator contactor is opened and the mains contactor is closed. This means that there will always be a short break in the power supply when changing over.

Do You Need A Standby Generator For Your Home?

Should you invest in a standby generator in the UK? Well, the fact is that we do have power outages in various areas from time to time, and these are likely to increase over the next few years as we switch over to electric cars. The electricity grid at the moment is just about managing, but as more and more people plug in to charge their cars there can well be more failures.

Furthermore, it is possible that electric vehicle owners may allow a third party to charge their cars for them if this provides them with benefits. All well and good, but if a third-party operator is managing a large number of charging points and charges too many vehicles too quickly it is very possible the electricity grid would not be able to respond fast enough. This is just one of the reasons that you might want to buy a new generator in the UK to deal with these power outages.

To some extent, whether or not you want to buy a new generator in the UK is a matter of personal preference. For some people, even suffering from a single blackout is enough to justify buying a generator, but more often it is the likelihood of suffering from blackouts by which the need is determined. If you live in an area where they occur more frequently, or they go on for a long period when they do, then buying a standby generator makes a lot of sense.

When connected to an automatic transfer switch, your standby generator will kick in straight away and so you would only be without power for a matter of some seconds.

Generators are available in many sizes and can be powered by diesel, natural gas or LPG. Generators can also be air-cooled or liquid-cooled. Air-cooled generators are less expensive, but they are also louder than liquid-cooled, and this may not be a good idea if you live in a tight-knit community.

Your generator also needs to be well-maintained. They can run for many hours just like cars and so need to be maintained in the same way. You need to check the engine oil daily, and if it is running non-stop for several days, as happened during the Great Storm of October 1987, the oil needs to be changed after about ten days along with the filter.

Calculating the size of generator that you need for your home needs to be done by a professional, so if you are in the market for one, talk to us at Blades Power Generation.

Why Must You Have A Transfer Switch If You Have A Generator

If you want to buy an automatic transfer switch in the UK, Blades Power Generation is the place to come. We can supply a very wide range of automatic transfer switches ranging from 25 amp to 2,500 amp so there is bound to be the perfect ATS for your requirements.

A transfer switch, either manual or automatic, is a legal requirement in every country when you install a diesel generator in any premises with a mains electricity supply. When the mains supply fails, the transfer switch is used to start the generator to take over where the mains left off. The purpose of an automatic transfer switch is to do the job automatically, which is much quicker than doing it by hand.

Now in some situations, a delay in restoring power to a building may not be very important. If you are at home watching Coronation Street, you may miss a little of it while someone goes to start the generator with a manual switch. However, in a hospital, a delay in restoring power could be a catastrophe and a matter of life and death.

The reason that a transfer switch is required by law is that it will prevent the mains power from coming into contact with the generator which would probably burn out if that happened, but more importantly, when the power is restored from the mains it prevents the generator from back feeding the mains when it has failed, which could endanger the lives of electricity workers trying to restore power.

When you want to buy an automatic transfer switch in the UK you should know that there are two types – those with mains detection and those without.

An automatic transfer switch with mains detection will monitor the mains supply and when it detects a failure will send a signal to the generator to start. When the generator is ready it will send a signal to the ATS informing it of this and the ATS will then switch to the generator.

If the ATS does not have mains detection, the system needs mains detection built into it somewhere else, normally the generator. When the generator detects a mains failure it will send a signal to the ATS telling it to disconnect from the mains and will then startup. When the generator is ready to connect it will send a signal to the ATS telling it to switch over.

The Difference Between A Manual And Automatic Power Changeover Switch

Most of us don’t think about our electricity supply at all. For most people it is just “there” and when we want to have light, we just press a switch and that is as far as it goes. However, the fact is that power outages can and do occur. Again, in many situations that are just a nuisance, but hardly life-threatening.

However, for other people in different situations, a continuous supply of electricity is essential, and so they will invest in a standby generator running on diesel in order to provide an alternative source of power if or when there is an outage.

Now, what is known as the load – the building where the power goes to – cannot be connected to both the mains supply and the generator at the same time. If the mains supply came into contact with the generator, the generator would almost certainly burn out, and the other way around - if the generator back-fed into the mains – it would endanger the lives of electricity supply workers.

So, in order to prevent this from happening, when installing a generator at premises with mains supply, it is a legal requirement to install a transfer switch. This can either be an automatic changeover switch or a manual changeover switch. Both do exactly the same job, but an automatic switch does it faster and reduces the power outage length.

An automatic changeover switch can come in one of two types, either with built-in mains power detection or without. One with built-in mains detection monitors the mains supply and when it detects a mains power failure it will disconnect from the mains and send a signal to the generator to start up. When the generator has fired up it sends an “available” signal to the automatic transfer switch which will then switch to the generator supply.

If the automatic transfer switch does not have mains detection built-in, this must be built in elsewhere, usually in the generator. In this case, the generator will detect the mains failure and start-up, at the same time sending a signal to the automatic changeover switch to disconnect from the mains supply and transfer to the generator.

Of course, if you have a manual changeover switch this means that someone has to physically go to it and switch it over to the generator. Obviously, that means that it will take longer for power to be restored. Indeed, if nobody is on the premises the power outage will continue until someone returns and switches to the generator, or the mains supply is restored, whichever is soonest.

What Do You Do When The Lights Go Out?

Yes, we know that may seem a bit of a strange question. If you live in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, or even Plymouth, it probably doesn’t happen very often.

And yet, there are plenty of places, even in the UK, where power cuts occur quite often. And this doesn’t have to happen just because the electricity company is at fault. It may be generating away quite happily as always, but unfortunately, there is a storm. The storm brings a large oak tree down. That oak tree falls across a power line which just happens to be the one that brings the power into your home. Or your office. Or your retail store. Or your factory. Or – enter your own choice here.

Power cuts happen quite often, and the result may be that you miss out on the middle of East Enders and have to dine by candlelight.

(By the way. Do you have any candles? Just asking. But what if you don’t?).

And what if the dinner is only halfway through cooking and the cooker gets switched off? The candles won’t matter because you won’t have any dinner anyway.

Ah well, you can always send out for a takeaway. Except that you can’t, because their power line is the same one that supplies you.

Trust me. I know. Back in the day – in the Great Storm of 1987 – exactly that happened to me. And my home was without power for – wait for it – THIRTEEN DAYS! In the middle of Autumn and just when winter was approaching with darker evenings.

But in those days, we never thought about those possibilities. I had recently moved into the countryside – still in Kent, so not exactly out in the wilds – and I learned those power outages were a regular occurrence. But what I didn’t have was an emergency generator.

This is why I recommend everyone to have an emergency generator, and today you can buy generator switchgear in the UK from Blades Power Generation.

That means that when that power cut strikes – for whatever reason – you will be without electricity. For about ten seconds.

As soon as the power goes down, the emergency generator kicks in and the lights will be back on again. Bang! Just like that. Along with your dinner.

If you want to buy generator switchgear in the UK, head over to Bladespower Generation and check out all the possibilities.