This week is the two year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, one of the most destructive natural disasters in our country’s history. This devastating hurricane ultimately resulted in an estimated $65 billion dollars in damage, and left 7.9 million U.S. households without power in the immediate aftermath.
The Farmer’s Almanac is predicting a particularly brutal winter this year, and if you were affected by Hurricane Sandy – or know anyone who was – you have probably considered purchasing a generator; if you haven’t already done so. Even if you were fortunate enough to live in an area not affected by Hurricane Sandy, you have most likely experienced a power outage at some point, and thus realize how critical utility power is.
Believing simply owning a generator is enough to sufficiently and reliably get you through any storm or power outage is one of the most common misconceptions consumers have. A generator without the proper setup and support peripherals can actually cause significant damage to your expensive electronics.
Generators are notorious for producing, “dirty power.” A common indication that you are receiving dirty power is dim or oscillating lights in your home or business. Dirty power can potentially damage your electronic equipment, resulting in a reduced lifespan if you are lucky, and inoperable equipment if you are unlucky. The more devices you have plugged in to your generator, the greater the load, which results in more frequent and more consequential power fluctuations.
The right model and size UPS will effectively combat dirty power by providing automatic voltage regulation (AVR), frequency regulation and on battery operation. Any UPS with AVR functionality will be able to effectively prevent line voltage distortions such as spikes, notches, dips, and swells, as well as distortions caused by operating inexpensive or improperly sized generators. However, for complete protection when using a generator, double-conversion or on-line UPS designs are recommended to help combat frequency variations that other topologies may struggle to resolve.
A UPS is a necessary support peripheral for any generator producing dirty power; but an automatic transfer switch (ATS) can improve the convenience and efficiency of your generator in ways a UPS cannot. An ATS is designed to automatically turn on / off the associated equipment – in this case a generator – based on the voltage it is or is not receiving. This allows your generator to automatically turn on when the power goes out, and turn off when the power is restored. More advanced transfer switched will allow the user to configure which loads are most important, and drop or ‘shed’ specific loads once the available power drops to a certain level predetermined by you, the user. This functionality allows users to make sure the more critical loads – heat, refrigerators, phones etc. – remain powered at the expense of less critical applications.
On the two year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy there is no denying how valuable a commodity a generator can be; but it is important to recognize that the generator may be putting your equipment at risk. However, with the proper support peripherals you can be assured that your equipment will remain safe, protected and operable during any impending power disruption.