What Is a Standby Generator?

Malcolm Tatum

A standby generator is a device that helps to provide an ongoing flow of electrical power in the event that the main source of power is disrupted for any period of time. Businesses frequently make use of these types of temporary power sources to make sure that essential tasks are not interrupted due to some sort of power failure during severe weather or a breakdown of the local power company. A number of different standby generator options are on the market today, with some being driven by battery power while others rely on some type of fuel source such as gasoline to keep the generator up and running.

Standby generators typically run on gasoline.
Standby generators typically run on gasoline.

While the design of a standby generator will vary somewhat based on the fuel source and the amount of power that must be generated in order to manage those essential tasks, many are connected directly into the electrical system for the building. Sensors allow the generator to pull a small amount of power from the main power source when not in use, making it possible to run periodic diagnostics to make sure the device is in working order. With these models, those sensors also detect when there is an interruption in the main power source and automatically activate. This creates a situation in which essential systems either remain completely unaffected by the power outage or experience a loss of power for no more than a few seconds. Once the main power source is restored, the standby generator deactivates and returns to a monitoring mode.

A gas-powered motor is often used to turn generators, creating electricity when a main power source is lost, such as during a wind storm.
A gas-powered motor is often used to turn generators, creating electricity when a main power source is lost, such as during a wind storm.

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An alternative to this type of standby generator is a manually operated gasoline generator that can be stored for use on an as-needed basis. With this solution, the generator is supplied with fuel and then activated, normally using methods similar to starting a simple lawn mower. A power cable attached to the generator is plugged into a special outlet in the building’s wiring, allowing the generated electricity to flow into the wiring and to various areas in the building. As long as the supply of gasoline is maintained, the generator can provide a steady supply of power for an appreciable period of time.

While a standby generator does create an equitable level of backup power in the event of a problem with the local power grid, devices of this type are usually not designed to supply the same level of power to a facility. This means that non-essential functions may be shut down during the outage. For example, a call center may shut down air conditioning, lights in administration offices, and computer workstations that are not necessary to the process of managing inbound calls from customers. Conserving the energy created by the generator is especially important if the device relies on battery power to supply electrical current to those core functions.

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