Winter is coming. And this year, the wind and rain is predicted by NOAA to be more severe than ever. With a La Niña winter predicted, above average precipitation and below average temperatures are coming our way. Plan now for the possibility of extended power outages during the winter storm season with a new generator for your home. But, what kind should you get?

Dwayne Boggs
Dwayne Boggs has been inspecting homes throughout Pierce County for 13 years. ©SouthSoundTalk

Generators have become a strong selling point, says Dwayne Boggs of Boggs Inspection Service, for home buyers. Dwayne and his team of four trained inspectors check electrical panels and generator set-ups routinely during their full-service home inspections. In the event that there might be issues,  Boggs’ inspectors suggest home owners contact a licensed electrical contractor, like Joe Mathis of Rigid Electric, to take a look.

For over 10 years, Joe has been an electrician in the Thurston County area. Just over a year ago, he started his own company, Rigid Electric. Joe offers full electrical services including temporary power installations, LED retrofits, panel upgrades, full wiring of new residential and commercial construction or remodels and installation of generators and transfer switches.

joe mathis rigid electric
Joe is an electrical contractor in the South Sound with more than 10 years of experience. Photo courtesy: Joe Mathis

When looking ahead to storm season and thinking about a generator, Joe says, “Call sooner rather than later, before an emergency happens. Once the power is out, everyone is already busy.”

Portable Gas-Powered Generator

The smallest and most affordable generators are small, gas-powered models you can store in your garage. Economical as they are, they only offer 120 volts of single-phase power which is delivered directly to appliances, lights or heaters via a heavy-duty extension cord. “This option will keep your fridge or freezer cold during an outage, but will typically only run one or two circuits at a time,” says Joe.

Costs range from $400 up to $1000+. Add in the cost of heavy duty cords and fuel, too. An electrician’s assistance is not needed for this generator, making is a simple “plug and go” option.

 

Home generator
The largest type of generator is big enough to power your entire home or small business and will automatically turn on when the power goes out. Photo courtesy: Rigid Electric

Mid-Range Portable Generator with Transfer Switch

 

To take your power to the next level, look for a mid-range, gas-powered model. These are still portable – stored in the garage and wheeled outside for use – but plug directly into your panel. “You still have to go outside in the storm and plug it in and fuel it up,” says Joe, “but it offers a lot more power during an outage.”

You’ll need a “generator ready” panel, which can be converted easily by an electrician, ensuring the power goes from your generator to your home, only, not backfeeding up the line to the street where a linesman might be shocked during repair. “It runs about $250 to have your panel cover converted,” Joe shares. He also suggests having an electrician install an outlet on an exterior wall, wired properly for the your generator, making it easy to plug in quickly when the storm hits.

“When we have an outage,” says Joe, who has this type in his home, “we can select the loads we want to run, typically the propane heat, fridge and freezers, a few lights and the TV.” He notes, too, that propane or natural gas appliances need very little electricity to run and can typically all be handled – water heater, stove, furnace – by this style generator.

Generator
This mid-sized generator can be plugged directly into your electrical panel after necessary modifications are made, and can run several circuits in your home.

“The beauty of doing a generator breaker in the panel is you can select which breakers you want to run at any given time and then make the switch as needed,” he says. A 5000 amp generator will give you 20 amps while a 6500 watt model provides a full 30 amps, offering more selection on more circuits.

Whole House Automatic Generator

For a worry free storm season, choose a whole house automatic generator. This style automatically switches on when the power goes out. Fueled by propane or natural gas, they are reliable, easy and nearly free from maintenance.

“Once the power goes out,” says Joe, “the auto transfer switch senses the outage, sends a signal to the generator and it starts up. After a few minutes, once it’s voltage gets past a certain level, it automatically powers everything in your home. Once power is restored, the panel sends a shutdown signal to the generator and it switches off.”

This style also includes an exercise timer. This feature starts the generator about once a month and it runs for about 10 minutes. This keeps the system in working order. “Once the installation is done,” says Joe, “there is very little maintenance.”

This convenience comes at a cost. “You can likely get a base model for around $5000,” he says, but it goes up from there. With the cost of professional installation plus a gas line hook up, concrete pad and weatherproof cover, you can easily spend $10,000 on the entire system. But, the piece of mind, especially for those living rurally who rely on power to run their well, is priceless. And, you’ll still be able to watch the Seahawks game no matter the weather.

Rigid Electric
Joe says that no matter which generator is right for you, plan to have it installed and ready now instead of waiting for a big storm. Photo courtesy: Joe Mathis

As winter approaches, do your research. Joe advises you talk to local tradesmen and get bids from a few local companies. “See who is the best fit for you,” he says.  And, if that fit might be Joe Mathis himself, you can reach him by phone at 360-999-8993, or email Rigid Electric at rigidelectricllc@gmail.com. You can also find them on Facebook.

And, if you are in need of a home inspection – with our without a generator – give the team at Boggs Inspection Services a call at 360-480-9602. They are ready, no matter the weather.

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