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  • Mike Cecchini

Planning for Back-up Power

What is the best electric panel configuration to service a house during a power outage?

By Chuck Bickford | Excerpted from

Planning for back-up power generation
Planning for back-up power generation. Image: Generac Power Systems

In this recent Q&A thread, orange cat asks, “If you wanted to outlast a winter or summer storm that knocks the power out in an all-electric house (heated/cooled with an air-to-air heat pump, plus resistance-based hot-water radiant heat), what would you put on a back-up panel?”

He plans to have a small propane, dual-fuel portable generator that could supply the critical needs of the house for up to three days. He knows that he would need to supply the refrigerator, stove, sump pump, and some lights, as well as air-conditioning during summertime outages, but would like other suggestions.

His electrician wants to finalize the electric panel. He then adds that he could get a larger generator, but he doesn’t want to store large quantities of fuel, and doesn’t want a gas line. Finally, he wonders where the optimal point is between adequate performance and a manageable fuel demand.

In a nutshell, his question, and the subject of this Spotlight, is: What’s the most efficient and sensible generator set-up to power his house for a few days?

Priorities and special considerations

The first response comes from gusfhb, who suggests that an internet connection should be on the list. He then adds that a 240 volt such as an A/C unit will require a lot of power. His well pump needs an 8kW generator to start, but without A/C, he can power the rest of his house.

Eric_U suggests that the conversation should be about “amps rather than watts.” He’s buying a 200 amp Champion standby propane generator, assuming that “it wasn’t worth saving $800 or whatever to have to pick and choose half the house.” His house is also all-electric, and he suggests researching the power consumption of anything heat-related.

(To read the article in its entirety you must be a member of Green Building Advisor.)

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