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ASK THE EXPERT: Is a standby generator right for me?

Question: What is a standby generator and what are the benefits of having one?

Answer by Mike Gimbel, Director of

Residential Operations, Ellingson Plumbing, Heating, A/C & Electrical

A standby generator is a unit installed on your property that is set up in the event of a power outage to automatically start and provide power to your home. This allows peace of mind of knowing, when the power is out from the utility, that your home will be warm or cool depending on the season. You won’t have a freeze up during the winter, and your sump pump will continue to run in the spring. Appliances like refrigerators and freezers or medical equipment will continue to operate seamlessly.

John, a Kohler certified installer, setting up a 12kW standby generator for a customer in the Lake Reno area. Contributed photo

Standby generators are set up to be permanently installed with an automatic transfer switch while portable generators are operated manually and run on unleaded gas. Portable generators require going outside to start the unit, plugging it into a receptacle on the house, transferring the power from the generator to the panel, and refueling every few hours. A portable generator cannot handle loads that a standby generator can, and the operator will need to make sure to shut loads off that would overload the portable unit.

Kohler standby generators run on LP or natural gas. They are field convertible, so if a generator is installed on an LP system and natural gas becomes available the fuel source can be changed.

A whole home can run on a standby generator. When looking at making the investment of a standby generator you’ll decide which loads you want to have available to run when the utility power is not available. The number of items that you want to be able to use when the power is out will determine what size generator is needed. Kohler standby generators can also be set up to handle only essential loads.

The loads put on a generator can vary by the homeowner’s needs or wants along with current electrical system installation. The most common loads we see for generators are sump pumps, furnaces, refrigerators, freezers, lights, garage door openers, wifi routers, AC/heat pumps, and medical equipment.

While generators work great for residential applications they can also work great for farm sites, sheds, off-grid applications, small businesses, server rooms and more.

Each situation is a little different, but generally, installation is easy to do and can be done in less than a day or two.

Kohler generators have a five-year warranty from the date of installation, versus the date of manufacture, when installed by a factory-certified dealer. This warranty covers the first two years parts and labor and parts only for the final three years.

Kohler recommends yearly maintenance on standby generators. The engine in a generator is no different than your vehicle or riding lawn mower. They require regular oil changes and maintenance. The units run weekly or bi-weekly for 20 minutes to make sure the system is ready to run when the power goes out. Checking oil levels monthly is also recommended. Ellingson Plumbing, Heating, A/C & Electrical offers scheduled maintenance for standby generators, ensuring your system will be ready to protect your home.

Best of all, Kohler standby generators can be monitored conveniently whether you’re home or away with the OnCue® Generator Management System. This allows you, a family member or Ellingsons to get real-time updates, alerts or any alarms needing attention from a mobile device or computer. Contact Mike Gimbel for a free in-home estimate on a turnkey system including installation, electrical, gas piping, service, and warranty and take advantage of a free one-time OnCue setup now through June 30, 2018.

Find Out More

Ellingson Plumbing, Heating, A/C & Electrical offers 24-hour service for residential, commercial, and ag customers. Visit, call 800-595-8645 or stop by 2510 S Broadway St., Alexandria, MN.

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