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Electric Generators and Solar Electric Systems

What is an Electric Generator?

There are a variety of options when it comes to generator size, features, and fuel type.

An electric generator is necessary in most off-grid power systems and can also be a real life-saver during emergency power outages. Portable generators are versatile and commonly used for construction sites, camping/recreation, mobile businesses such as food trucks, small backup power systems and anywhere else a portable power source is required.

  • Portable generators
    • Affordable
    • Plug-N-Play operation, no installation required
    • Wide range of generator sizes available
    • Operates on commonly available fuels such as gasoline and diesel.
  • Home standby generators
    • Designed for adding emergency backup power to protect against utility outages
    • Automatically turns on during a blackout to energize either a portion or the entire home
    • Reliable and durable for long service life if maintained properly
    • Advanced system monitoring options available
    • Operates on household natural gas or propane fuels, no refueling
    • Enclosed design offers quiet operation
    • Fully automatic start/stop and exercise cycles
    • Automatically switches from grid to generator power
  • Home off-grid generators
    • Heavy-duty full home generators warrantied for demanding off-grid use
    • Built for high reliability and durability
    • Used as a supplemental charging source for off-grid solar systems during overcast winter months or at night/morning
    • Operates on natural gas or propane

How do I know if I will need one?

If you are living off-grid, then at some point you are most likely to need an electric generator to augment another power source, or it can even be your only power source. Generators are also incredibly useful to have in emergency situations, whether it's a home generator that keeps your home running when the grid goes down, or a portable generator that you can take to wherever electricity is needed, or even commercial generators that keep businesses going or save lives in hospitals. Have a look at the line of Kohler electric generators we carry, including both home generators and portable generators.

How have generators improved in the last few years?

  • Electric start and programmable autostart make firing up your generator a breeze.
  • Remote Controls for your generator let you monitor, program and remotely operate your generator.
  • Electric generators can now run on natural gas or propane and not just gasoline or diesel.
  • Modern generators are much quieter than they used to be.

Generator upkeep

  • Keep in mind that generators have small engines.
  • Run your generator the optimal number of times per month, per manufacturer recommendations.
  • Change the oil regularly.
  • Make sure there's good airflow so that the engine doesn't overheat.
  • In extremely cold weather, spring for the add-ons that will enable your generator to start.
kolhler electric start generator

Electric Generator FAQ

What kind of electric generator should I be looking for?

  • Portable generators are a cost-effective and quick solution for smaller backup power and off-grid installations. Size is limited and also fuel availability is a major determining factor. Portable generators generally run on gasoline or diesel.
  • Home Standby generators are ideal for automatic home backup power and these larger generators will typically be able to power most or all of a household depending on power demand. These generators use household natural gas or propane which eliminates frequent refueling.
  • Off-grid generators are for homes not connected to the utility power grid. These models have a warranty for off-grid use. Typically off-grid generators are used as a supplemental power source to charge batteries when solar, wind and/or hydro power is inadequate. Some homes may be powered completely by a generator or generator with inverter and battery bank.

How many appliances they can support?

This is based on the cumulative wattage of each appliance being powered. Kohler has a calculator (generator selector) which allows you to select a bunch of appliances and estimate their power consumption to help determine how many kilowatts (kW) of generator power is required.

For standby home backup generators in most households, typically a 14kW model will be adequate for backing up critical loads and a 20kW model will be adequate for backing up the entire house. For an off-grid home generator we recommend something around twice the wattage of the inverter/charger being used.

What's a transfer switch and why would I need one with my generator?

Transfer switches are needed for a home standby generator to separate your household electrical system from the power grid while you are generating your power. If the transfer switch was not installed this power could potentially feed into the utility lines which could be a hazard to lineworkers.

What do I need to run my generator in extremely cold weather?

A fuel regulator heater and a carburetor heater. You also need to increase the duration of exercise cycles in winter months (to melt and evaporate any water in the system and keep it from freezing when the motor stops). You should also shovel any snow away from the air intake area and exhaust area.

Can I get a Tax Credit when I buy a generator with my solar package?

We are not tax accountants by any means, but we believe a taxpayer may claim a credit of 30% of qualified expenditures for a system that serves a dwelling unit located in the United States that is owned and used as a residence by the taxpayer. Expenditures with respect to the equipment are treated as made when the installation is completed. If the installation is at a new home, the "placed in service" date is the date of occupancy by the homeowner. Expenditures include labor costs for on-site preparation, assembly or original system installation, and for piping or wiring to interconnect a system to the home. So it all depends on what constitutes a system. The specific IRS tax form for this is Form 5695 and here are the instructions for Form 5695..