11/11/2021 Standby Generators #445

An emergency source of power, like a stand-by generator, is important during winter storms for farms with critical equipment or for heating homes. Ken Hellevang, NDSU Extension agricultural engineer, joins this week’s Sound Ag Advice to talk about how to pick out the right generator for your needs and how to stay safe when using one.

Speaker 1: Kelli Anderson, NDSU Agriculture Communication Specialist
Speaker 2: Ken Hellevang, NDSU Extension Agricultural Engineer

Kelli: This is Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension. I'm Kelli Anderson, and I'm joined this week by Ken Hellevang, NDSU Extension agricultural engineer. Now an emergency source of power is really important during a winter storm for farms with critical equipment, and for homes for sump pumps. And for heating, particularly in areas that may experience a power outage. So Ken, why is a standby or backup generator so important?

Ken: Well, so much of our comfort and almost survival today is dependent on that electrical power. Particularly when we're looking at our heating systems, we need to have an electrical power supply in order to run the fan and on the furnace. It's important just to keep the house from freezing. It may be important if we're looking at sump pumps, or any kind of pumps that would be related to the home food safety, keeping the food refrigerated. And then if we're on a farm setting, we're looking at livestock ventilation systems. So there's a whole multitude of things that require electricity that we rely on, on a day to day basis that we need to think about.

Kelli: So if someone was wanting to go buy a backup generator, what are some things they might be looking for in a good generator, or some things to take into consideration when buying a generator?

Ken: Well, first and foremost, they need to decide what it is that they need to operate, we may need to cycle lights in different parts of, let's say, a farmstead, or pumps and part of our heating system, just because of the size of generator that would be required to run everything, what we encourage people to do is to look at the electrical requirement, the voltage, the amps or watts that the various pieces of equipment are going to be using, decide what needs to operate at that time. And then size the generator based on the electrical loading, that we expect that generator to power.

Kelli: What are some safety measures that people should take into account when running a backup generator?

Ken: Well, there's two critical points that we talked about. One is carbon monoxide, any engine that we're running is going to be producing carbon monoxide as well as carbon dioxide. That is a health risk. And sometimes people think, well, we'll run the generator in the garage. But even with the generator in the garage, that carbon monoxide may come into the home or into the barn and cause problems both for people and for animals. So the standby generator needs to be outdoors so that we're not getting an accumulation of the carbon monoxide. The other one is from an electrical safety standpoint, if we're running parts of the system, we want to disconnect from the rural electric or power utility may be providing to the home so that we're not what we call back feeding electricity from the generator onto the power line, and then also selecting which circuits were going to energize. And that typically needs to be done by an electrician in advance so that when we hook up that standby generator, we know what is being powered and where that electricity is going to go.

Kelli: If people would like to learn more about standby generators, where can they go for more information?

Ken: Well, I encourage people to go to our website, do a search for NDSU Extension Service, standby generators. We have written material, but we also have a video on our YouTube video that goes through all of the different steps that a person needs to consider related to voltage, sizing, power quality, those would be the first options for people to look for additional information.

Kelli: Our guest today has been Ken Hellevang, NDSU Extension agricultural engineer. This has been Sound Ag Advice, a weekly feature presented by NDSU Extension.

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