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Ask an expert: 7 most common questions about automatic home generators

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(BPT) - Do you know how much a power outage costs? When the power goes out, it affects more than just your ability to watch TV or read with the lights on. Food and medicine in your refrigerator and freezer can go bad. Your basement may flood if the sump pump goes out, and you may need to relocate to a hotel for your family's safety and comfort. If any home systems fail, you may be looking at costly repairs.

An easy way to protect your home and avoid power outage-related costs is to invest in an automatic home generator. To help you understand the benefits of owning your own automatic home generator, Kohler expert Melanie Tydrich offers the following seven most commonly asked questions.

1. What is an automatic home generator? How is it different from a portable generator?

An automatic home generator provides backup power when you need it and stands by when you don't. Like an air conditioning unit, the generator is permanently installed outside your house. When the power goes out, it turns on. The unit shuts off when the main utility power is restored.

Portable generators are useful when you don't have utility power available, like camping, tailgating or at a work site. However, you'll need to refuel them regularly, so you'll have to remember to safely store fresh fuel in your home. Also, you'll have to operate them outside, which means running outdoor-rated extension cords.

2. How does an automatic home generator work?

Your generator runs on your home's existing natural gas or liquid propane system, which makes it incredibly convenient. When the power goes out or drops below an acceptable level (brownout), your automatic transfer switch (ATS) signals the generator to start. In just 10 seconds, the ATS transfers your power from the utility grid to the generator. It powers your home until utility power is restored, then transfers power back to the grid.

3. What can it power?

A home standby generator can power corded items like electronics, cell phones, refrigerators and freezers. More importantly, it can power products hardwired to your home, such as central air and heating systems, sump pumps and lights. Security systems and even garage doors are sometimes difficult to operate when you don't have power.

4. Do you need to be home to operate the generator?

You don’t need to be home to operate the generator. An automatic home generator is just that, automatic. This completely hands-off unit turns on during a power outage and turns off automatically.

5. What features should a quality home generator have?

Because your automatic generator will power your home during a power outage, you'll want a durable and reliable engine. Generators from Kohler, for example, are equipped with heavy-duty, commercial-grade engines that fire up quickly and can handle heavy electrical loads.

Even though generators are working hard to supply power to your home and appliances, you don't have to settle for a noisy model. Look for a generator that has been designed and built to operate with minimal noise. Remote monitoring via an app is also a helpful feature to have because you can see the status of your generator when you aren't home and a power outage hits.

6. What size generator do I need?

The right size generator for your home depends on your power needs. Kohler has a handy Generator Selector tool to get a ballpark cost. However, if you're serious about buying one, you'll want to receive a detailed estimate from your local Kohler Generators dealer. These professionals will analyze your home's electrical load and specify and install your generator system.

7. Is installing an automatic home generator a DIY project?

Installing an automatic home generator isn't a project you'll want to do yourself. Because it requires working with gas and electrical connections, you'll want to hire a qualified professional who can make sure it's installed properly.

Automatic home generators aren't a luxury. They are an investment in keeping your family safe and secure during a power outage. They give you the ability to live life uninterrupted because they can power anything in a home, from lights and HVAC to appliances and tech. These generators provide peace of mind — and more importantly — they provide resilience for you, your family and your community. To learn more and find a dealer, visit KohlerGenerators.com.