Shining light on backup power

Posted on Dec 22 2023 in Energy
Jake Taylor

Many homeowners have considered adding battery storage or a backup generator to provide power when the electricity goes out. Such an addition can be a major investment, costing thousands of dollars.

If you have thought about purchasing a backup power source, there are a few questions that you should consider.

Why do you want a backup power system?

This is the first question your electric co-op’s energy advisor will ask. If you are concerned that your home is losing power frequently, co-op employees can research the issue and come up with potential fixes, which may save you from spending any money. Sometimes there may be issues that require an electrician to repair them — which will resolve your issue without the need for a more expensive purchase.

What do you want to power?

Backup battery systems or generators that power an entire home are much more expensive than a smaller backup to power critical systems, such as heating and cooling, refrigerators and a few appliances. The type of heating in the home also can make a huge difference; electric resistance heat requires much more electricity compared to a natural gas or propane furnace.

You need to understand prior to purchase what your backup power source will be able to do. Your co-op’s energy advisor can provide insight on the energy needed to power certain appliances and systems.

Is a contractor needed to install the system?

Some big-box stores sell gas-powered generators that many homeowners can use with minimal help. For larger whole-home backup generators and battery systems, a contractor may be needed to properly install them. For a project that requires a contractor, seek multiple bids.

It’s also important to consider what each contractor is offering. Question each salesperson’s assumptions. Will a contractor provide a walkthrough on setup or support after installation? A good contractor should be willing to answer questions even after service is completed.

When you purchase a backup power system, be sure to follow your electric co-op’s interconnection rules when setting it up to ensure safe operation. This will prevent damage to your home and the energy grid and keep your co-op’s linemen safe.

By knowing the right questions and considerations, you can be sure that the backup power system you purchase will meet your needs. Be sure to contact your local electric cooperative before you purchase a system to make sure that the dollars you spend make sense.

JAKE TAYLOR is energy advisor at LaGrange County REMC.