Ask Our Experts: What is a Whole-Home Emergency Standby Generator?

August 11, 2014 | 6:00 pm

generatorQuestion for Our Experts:

What is a whole-home emergency standby generator? I assume that it will keep the lights on when the power goes out – but how does it work?  Why is it special?

Our Experts’ Answer:

The Short Answer

As the name implies, a “whole-home emergency standby generator,” is capable of powering your entire home (versus the handful of circuits that a portable generator might cover) during power outages and is always on standby – meaning that it automatically turns on and off to seamlessly power your home when the utility power supply is cut off.  Many homeowners in South Central PA have installed whole-home emergency standby generators as another layer of protection for their families and properties as wicked weather and routine brown-outs are on the rise in our area.  They’ve found professionally-installed standby generators to be much more convenient and reliable than their portable counterparts from the hardware store.

The Detailed Answer

Great question! As the name implies, a “whole-home emergency standby generator,” is potentially capable of powering your entire home (versus the handful of circuits that a portable generator might cover), is used during emergencies (like during a power outage) rather than 24/7, and is always on standby – meaning that it automatically turns on and off to seamlessly power your home when the utility power supply is cut off.  That being said, this question is best answered by breaking it down into several short components, which we examine here:

SEAMLESS FUNCTIONALITY. Most homeowners will admit that, while useful, portable generators are a hassle.  They require significant time, effort, and know-how to set up and operate if the power does go out.  Indeed, some homeowners might just have gotten a portable generator hooked up by the time the power comes back on!  Whole-home emergency standby generators eliminate much of this frustration.  First, they’re hardwired into your home’s existing electrical system – requiring virtually no installation or operation effort from the homeowner.  Second, they include sensors that monitor the power level being supplied by your utility company.  If the utility power goes out, your whole-home emergency standby generator will automatically turn on, quickly restoring power to your home.  Then, when the utility power is back up-and-running, your standby generator will automatically turn off.  In essence, your home never lost power and you never needed to lift a finger!

24/7 AVAILABILITY.  Portable generators can only be used when the homeowner is actually home, as it may not be safe to start a portable generator and then leave the home while it’s running.  Whole-home emergency standby generators protect your home 24 / 7, even if you’re asleep or away!  Many standby generator owners have come home to a cool building in the middle of summer, working refrigerators keeping their food frozen, and a garage door that actually opens – all after they’d been away for hours or days!

LIFE AND PROPERTY PROTECTION. Do you have a home security system?  An internet connection or landline telephone that relies upon a cable or DSL modem?  A sump pump that needs to run during storms to keep your basement dry?  Electronic medical equipment in the home?  Perhaps one or more of these systems include battery backups – but how many hours will they last?  What good is any of this equipment if it’s rendered inoperable without power?  Whole-home emergency standby generators add another layer of protection to your life and property.  Never be caught off-guard!

SIZES, BRAND NAMES, AND OPTIONAL FEATURES. Whole-home emergency standby generators come in all shapes and sizes.  As the name implies, many of them are designed to handle the power requirements on an entire building.  If desired, however, you can “scale-down” your emergency standby generator to cover only specified circuits within your home (for example, kitchen appliances and bathroom lights, but not your air conditioner).  In short, standby generators can be “sized” to fit your unique needs and budget.  As for brand names, Tuckey Mechanical Services can sell, install, and service most leading brands, including GenerAC and Eaton.  Some models come equipped with advanced optional features, including Smartphone-compatible controls and alerts.  No matter the final proposal, rest assured that the system we recommend for you will reliably serve your home within your specified budget.

FUEL TYPES. Whole-home emergency standby generators require at least one of three potential sources of fuel: natural gas, propane, or diesel.  Most homeowners with natural gas connections available at their homes will find that natural gas-powered generators are often the most cost-effective and convenient setup for their scenario.  Diesel-fueled generators tend to be larger, designed to power very large homes or office and industrial buildings. Propane is an acceptable alternative for most homeowners who do not have natural gas connections available on their properties.

MAINTENANCE. Though no two units are exactly the same, standby generators in general are remarkably low-maintenance pieces of equipment. We recommend at least one preventive maintenance visit per year by a trained electrician like those on the Tuckey Mechanical Services team.  We’re happy to provide this service for our customers to ensure they’re never caught off guard by a power outage!  Additionally, standby generator owners should ensure that leaves, snow, branches, and other debris are kept clear of the immediate vicinity around the generator – this ensures it can operate efficiently year-round.

The Bottom Line

Whole-home emergency standby generators help keep your home safe during power outages by automatically turning on and off to provide seamless power 24/7/365.  Many different options exist to accommodate most budgets – we’d love to explore the options with you!

To learn more, visit our website at  To request further program information, place a service call, or sign-up for a PM agreement, contact us at (717) 524-1136 or

(Product Photo is Courtesy of our friends at Eaton)

DISCLAIMER: This article is provided as a reference guide only. A qualified, professional contractor like the Tuckey Companies should handle all interior design, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, remodeling, metal fabrication, and restoration projects. Information presented here is of a general nature that may not be applicable in all situations. Tips, articles, and accompanying information do not represent an official recommendation of the Tuckey Companies.

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