Preparing for a Power Outage


Thoughts on Emergency Generators in Northern Virginia

Hurricanes, tornadoes, heat waves, blizzards, ice storms… Northern Virginia residents know that any of these things can strike in a typical year, which makes preparing for a power outage a top priority any time. Don’t wait until disaster strikes to consider installing an emergency generator (for safety reasons, this requires the services of a professional residential electrician). If you already have an emergency generator, make sure to keep it well maintained so that it will be safe to use and ready in the event that the power goes out. Preparing for a power outage is particularly important for families who run a home office, or who have other special needs requiring a steady flow of electricity, at least to the home’s critical electrical functions.

Preparing for a Power Outage: Installing an Emergency Generator:

Our Northern Virginia residential electricians can discuss your emergency generator options with you. Understanding your family’s needs will help us find the right fit for your home. There are generally two types: portable generators or standby generators. Portable generators are operated by a manual transfer switch and are usually gas-powered. Portable generators provide enough electricity to power well pumps, septic systems, refrigerators, gas hot water heaters, circulation fans for gas furnaces and ignition power for gas kitchen appliances. A standby generator is permanently installed to your house, usually runs on natural gas or propane and requires an automatic transfer switch. Standby generators can usually power more appliances than a portable generator.

Keeping Your Emergency Generator Ready for a Power Outage:

Maintaining your portable or standby generator between emergencies is critical so that it functions well and safely when the power goes out. Here are some general tips to remember:

  • Learn how your emergency generator works! Preparing for a power outage is as much about knowing what to do as having the right equipment. During your emergency generator installation, we will show you how the whole system works. Take notes if you need to. You will need to know how to turn it on, how to refuel and oil it, where you can get those resources (especially in an emergency), and how the connection to your house works.
  • Be careful when fueling or adding oil to the emergency generator, especially if you have been running it during an emergency already. These things are flammable and dangerous if handled improperly!
  • Run your emergency generator once a month for a few minutes. This keeps the system working smoothly and alerts you to any problems. Make sure to have sufficient fuel at the ready. If the system is idle for months at a time, you may need to add special fuel additives.
  • Understand the switch. Emergency generators have three positions: “Off,” “Generator Power” and “Line Power”. Only a professional Northern Virginia residential electrician should install an emergency generator because if the switches are improperly installed, someone could get hurt or killed.
  • Think ventilation during installation. Generators should never be installed in an enclosed space because they generate carbon monoxide gas, which can kill.

Preparing for a Power Outage: Don’t Forget…

Of course, it’s always a good idea to keep a stock of fresh batteries, flashlights, a solar or battery-powered emergency radio and a 72-hour kit ready, including a 3-day to two-week supply of fresh water (at least one gallon per person in your family—more if you have family members with special needs, or if you have pets) ready too. Preparing for a power outage or any type of emergency is the smart thing for everyone to do today! Call our Northern Virginia residential electricians for emergency generator installation or maintenance at 703-494-3989