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Backup power

During a power outage you can be sure your heat, refrigerator and security system will continue to run - along with your lights and home electronics.

Natural gas generators either installed permanently or with a "quick connect" cable, provide electricity during a power outage. But what they really provide is peace of mind.

Types of generators

Standby/home generators

Home generators connect to the wiring of your home, providing power for your whole house if your electricity is interrupted.

These generators can produce 100 kW, and are ideal for long blackouts.

You can find an auto start option on many models, usually starting in 10 to 30 seconds. Because it is connected to a constant fuel source, a home natural gas generator can run for extended, even unending, periods of time.

Like all natural gas appliances, you will need a licensed gas contractor to install the fuel line and the transfer switch. The generator itself is housed outdoors on a cement base, and can take about a day to install. This work involves 220 volt wiring, so use a qualified electrician to do the work.

Portable generators

Portable generators have lower power output (500 to 7,500 W), though they can provide long-term power when fuelled by natural gas. They do not include an auto start option.

Portable generators can be moved from place to place (useful for storage) if a "quick connect" is used. However, they must never be used indoors due to danger of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning

Never use a portable generator indoors, including inside a garage or other enclosed or partially enclosed area.

Only operate portable generators outdoors, and at a location where the exhaust cannot enter into your home or other buildings through doors or windows.

Using the generator

Home generators are piped directly to your home's source of natural gas and wired to your home's electrical panel. All generators must accommodate the peak power load, or the highest amount of power used (usually at start up) of all the devices attached to the generator. For example, some older furnace fan motors take a lot of power to start.

Tip - Appliances with "slow start" options and energy efficiency considerations take less power to start and run. They won't demand as much energy from your generator, especially if you lose power often.


Some generators require a manual start - you have to flip a switch to transfer your home or appliance to the generator, and then start the unit with a button.

  • You can also purchase generators that start automatically. If your electric power drops below a certain level (usually 10 per cent below normal) the generator transfers power and starts on its own.
  • Start-up takes 10 to 20 seconds - the system waits to prevent turning on and off needlessly during very brief or very minor power fluctuations. Once the power comes back on (and stays on) the generator transfers everything back to normal Power and shuts down.


  • Permanently installed natural gas generators should last you a long time. The engines have an operating life of 1,500 to 3,000 hours. Depending upon the number and duration of power outages, a generator could last for decades.
  • Take advantage of annual service options (which usually cost $200 to $250) for changing the oil and air filter, checking the starter battery, and testing the system.
  • You can also choose generators that run (without transferring power) for a few minutes on a regular schedule to circulate oil and recharge the generator starting battery.
  • Regular maintenance is key to the safe operation of backup power units.

Useful features that will make your generator easier to use and longer lasting

  • manufacturer's warranty - it's different for each model, but 2 to 5 years is average
  • an LED panel that lets you know the status of the generator, or if the start fails
  • a "self-diagnostic" feature to alert you to any problems
  • a voltage regulator that deals with surges that could damage electronics such as computers

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