Integrating Backup Power with Your Automation System

generac house generatorWith every passing month there are more and more systems that integrate with today’s home automation systems.  Everything from audio/video and climate control to lighting and security.  But what happens when the power goes out?  Well now you can integrate your homes backup generator system into your smart home to monitor all the diagnostics of the associated equipment.

In addition these systems can send out alerts to your smartphone or tablet when power is disrupted or spikes occur.

A New Type of Energy Management

For over a decade control systems like Control4 and Crestron have allowed the integration of solar panels and other energy devices into your system to monitor your home’s efficiency.

Industrial generator companies have now created interfaces with apps and other API’s to allow these same systems to monitor a host of readings coming from your backup power system.

While most generators are essentially an engine combined with an alternator to generate electricity, the control panels included with newer models can relay all of the important information to your control system so that you can stay informed about your homes backup systems.

Items they monitor might include:

  • Voltage from utility company
  • Recent self-test run by the generator
  • Oil or fuel information including scheduled oil changes
  • Service needs

Choosing a Standby Generator for Your Smart Home

There are literally hundreds of options to choose from when looking at standby generators for your home.  They range from the very basic and lower power models that supply only the essential services to higher powered models that can power your entire home and all it’s electronics.  We’ve highlighted some important buying tips below.  You can also reference this handy buyers guide from The Tool Report for standby generator reviews for your home.

How Much Power Do You Need?

One of the first things you should determine is how much power you need.  Generators are rated by kilowatts (kW).  There are portable models that can be used as standby’s that start as low as 6kW.  Then there are larger, permanently installed models that go up to as much as 35kW.  These can EASILY power a large home and all of it’s electrical systems.

You just have to decide what level of functionality you want if the power service from your utility were to be interrupted.  Most larger homes with large electrical systems, home theaters, lighting control, and automation require at least 25kW.  But the larger the house, the bigger the generator you’ll need.

Features to Look for In a Standby Generator

One of the most important considerations when buying a backup generator for your home is the cleanliness of the power it produces.  Electronics such as home automation equipment, high end AV gear, and computers are very sensitive to the voltage with which they are powered.

In generator speak this is generally expressed in total harmonic distortion (THD).  The lower this number, the better.  Generally anything under 5% is considered pretty clean.  In fact, many times the power you get from a high quality generator will be cleaner than what you get from your power company on a regular basis.

Companies like Generac pride themselves on providing units that can supply your home with abundant an clean power during blackouts, storms, or any other type of disaster.

Fuel Source for Your Generator

Another important consideration for your backup power is the type of fuel your generator will use.  Generally they run on natural gas, liquid propane, or diesel.  Both diesel and liquid propane require on-site storage tanks.  These can be either below or above-ground.

Natural gas offers the advantage of not needing a storage tank. But in areas that are prone to earthquakes it’s important to consider that your NG service might get knocked out at the same time as the power, so having a propane tank makes more sense in these areas.

Final Thoughts

Once you’ve selected the backup system that can adequately power your home you need to ensure that it can properly integrate with your particular control system.  You can check with both the generator manufacturer and your home automation systems website to ensure compatibility.