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  1. #1
    jackt0402's Avatar
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    Default Emergency Generators

    Today, I had a question from a realtor about inspection of emergency generator systems. Do you have, or do you know of anyone who provides training for inspection of generators? If not, how would you recommend we handle the issue when get to a house with a system?

    Regards,
    Jack Trendel

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  2. #2
    Ron Bibler's Avatar
    Ron Bibler Guest

    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    Quote Originally Posted by jackt0402 View Post
    Today, I had a question from a realtor about inspection of emergency generator systems. Do you have, or do you know of anyone who provides training for inspection of generators? If not, how would you recommend we handle the issue when get to a house with a system?

    Regards,
    Jack Trendel

    I would inspect the connection only. they need a small engine generator repair company to inspect the generator and its components.
    (check the oil/ filters and so on.)

    Best

    Ron


  3. #3
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    Quote Originally Posted by jackt0402 View Post
    Today, I had a question from a realtor about inspection of emergency generator systems. Do you have, or do you know of anyone who provides training for inspection of generators? If not, how would you recommend we handle the issue when get to a house with a system?

    Regards,
    Jack Trendel
    Whoever installs them can also inspect them. Find out the brand and who is the local installer/seller and give them a call. I had a house last year that had a huge whole house generator. It was a 4 cylinder engine that ran on natural gas. I did not do a thing to it and said so in my report. I did provide the buyer with the name of two companies that installs and works on generators.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  4. #4
    James Duffin's Avatar
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    All I do is check to make sure that the generator power and PCO power are interlocked so they both can't energize the house at the same time. This can be either a manual interlock or an automatic transfer switch.


  5. #5
    Doug Connolly's Avatar
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    By turning off the main breaker you can see if the automatic transfer switch turns the generator on and powers up whatever sub-panel the generator is supplying. You'll then have to reset all the clocks in the house.


  6. #6
    Ken Bates's Avatar
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    There's a bit of expert knowledge to understand. I learned some of it and had some exposure to emergency generator systems when I worked for an electrical contractor. But most brains will get rusty on the subject due to minimal exposure to these systems.

    One thing you can do is just see how the generator is venting.

    I prefer to listen to baroque classical music rather than news on the radio or tv but I happened to be curious about news and weather today and heard a sound bite from the local station regarding the death of a family in a very upscale community nearby. For some reason, they were using an emergency generator and died from the CO emitted by it.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    Quote Originally Posted by James Duffin View Post
    All I do is check to make sure that the generator power and PCO power are interlocked so they both can't energize the house at the same time. This can be either a manual interlock or an automatic transfer switch.
    Same here.... the actual generator I don't do anything with. Basically, you just want to make sure there's something to prevent power from being backfed from the generator to the poco to prevent an injury to their linesman. I usually see a metal clip of sorts that shuts off the main breaker when the generator breaker is on.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Bates View Post

    I prefer to listen to baroque classical music rather than news on the radio or tv but I happened to be curious about news and weather today and heard a sound bite from the local station regarding the death of a family in a very upscale community nearby. For some reason, they were using an emergency generator and died from the CO emitted by it.
    Happened around here too. It was some high school kids in a camper truck.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    If it is a whole house optional standby generator, which is what is being discussed, then it will have (99.99% probability of it) an "exercise" switch which will turn the generator on and allow the generator to run without having to shut the house power down, the generator never powers the house, it just starts up and runs as though it was powering the house, waiting for the transfer switch to switch over to the generator.

    Typically, the minimum time you want to let the generator run is 7 minutes, I prefer 15 minutes. The 7 minutes is because that is what the main manufacturers state as the minimum exercise time to allow the engine to come up to full operating temperature and prevent/reduce the risk of condensation forming in the engine should you only run it long enough to see if it starts up and then shut it down. That will allow condensation to form inside the engine and it can, and will, be corrosive to the internal surfaces of the engine.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  10. #10
    Frank D'Angelo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    Hello. This is my very first post here, as I am new to the Home Inspecting field. I have mentored under an excellent ASHI Home Inspector for well over a year now, and I have also attended the ASHI school, etc. I have been lurking here for awhile.

    I realize I am a newbie, and have much to learn. I have been in the trades for years, and when I built my home, I installed a Generac whole house system. I can only add that my unit comes on automatically once a week and runs for about 10 minutes without going "offline" from my electric supplier.

    As a newbie Home Inspector, I personally would be hesitant to check a whole house generator out. I believe doing this would fall beyond the ASHI standards. My concern would be that if in attempting to check it, if the unit did not work, etc, I may be blamed for it. Who knows if there is an engine problem, etc? I would not want to have to replace a $5000 unit because I was the last one who touched it, as the current homeowner might say, "Gee, it worked perfect the other day.....YOU must have broken it". As wisely stated above, there are good authorized dealers of every major brand out there.......I'd let them check it. My report would suggest just that. I also realize that with more experience, one becomes more comfortable with doing more.

    Lastly, I have learned a lot from reading the many spirited posts here, and hope to continue to do so. Thank you.

    Respectfully, Frank D.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank D'Angelo View Post
    As a newbie Home Inspector, I personally would be hesitant to check a whole house generator out. I believe doing this would fall beyond the ASHI standards. My concern would be that if in attempting to check it, if the unit did not work, etc, I may be blamed for it. Who knows if there is an engine problem, etc? I would not want to have to replace a $5000 unit because I was the last one who touched it, as the current homeowner might say, "Gee, it worked perfect the other day.....YOU must have broken it".

    Frank,

    First, welcome aboard for the fun.

    Now let the fun begin ...

    So, for that very same reason you would NOT inspect a $5,000 heating or cooling system, right?

    Or inspect a $5,000 (better make that $10,000 or more) roof system, right?

    Or ... you get the picture - at what price level will you inspect anything - $50?

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  12. #12
    Frank D'Angelo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    Frank,

    First, welcome aboard for the fun.

    Now let the fun begin ...

    So, for that very same reason you would NOT inspect a $5,000 heating or cooling system, right?

    Or inspect a $5,000 (better make that $10,000 or more) roof system, right?

    Or ... you get the picture - at what price level will you inspect anything - $50?
    Thank you for the welcome. Perhaps I was too quick to post my first post. I understand your point. I of course would inspect and insure the proper working of an HVAC system.......as it would be expected according to normal Inspection standards.

    I personally am comfortable with these generators, since I have installed my own, and have assisted with a few other installations in the past. I guess my quick first impression was that I would be hesitant simply because I believe it falls beyond normal ASHI standards of Practice......although I should check that for sure before assuming.

    I might be grasping at straws here, but my thinking here is that I would (here is that bad word again), ASSUME, that a HVAC system usually works because it is needed more, and that in turning it on, it is rare that one would cause damage in testing it. With a generator, being run by an engine, attempting to start it if something internally is wrong could be detrimental. There could be an internal problem with the unit, or it could have not been installed correctly, and the seller/homeowner did not want to fix it, because he did not really "need" it, as it is more for emergencies.

    Well, I just read my post so far, and it may sound a bit weak. I guess I've been taught that there is an increased risk whenever you venture outside of the standards.....but I do see your point. Perhaps I should stop swimming in quicksand here......

    Frank


  13. #13
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    Post Re: Emergency Generators

    I exclude specialty systems like this. I recommend that they get inspected by contractors that install them and/or have home owners demonstrate how they operate. They are beyond the scope of my inspections.


  14. #14
    Bob Winchester's Avatar
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    The biggest thing for a home inspection of a generator is the correct connection to the electrical system and there are several ways to do this. There must be a mechanical interlock to assure the generator can not back feed into the utility system when it runs. IF the generator feeds a whole house transfer switch it must be done so it complies with the electrical code in the jurisdiction where it is located. If a transfer switch is installed between the meter and the service disconnect it must be checked to be sure the transfer switch is rated as a service disconnect and the feed to the old service disconnect is now a 4 wire feeder with the old service disconnect being treated like a sub panel. This means grounding and grounded are separated and all the bare and white conductors are attached where they belong. If it is connected correctly and verified to be so the important part is done. Let a generator company make sure it works or if the homeowner is home let him show you that it works. Let them start the generator and then verify 120/240 volt power is being produced.


  15. #15
    Chuck Forman's Avatar
    Chuck Forman Guest

    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    I was in the emergency generator business for 8 years. Do yourself, and your client, a favor and recommend that it be inspected by a licensed, insured, generator company or at the very least a licensed, insured, electrical contractor that is versed in these systems. There are some simple tests that can be performed to make certain the unit will start, and transfer power, but there a also a multitude of items that can go wrong in the process. You do not want to place yourself in a situation where you are being sued for replacement of this unit, or worse, rewiring of a home because something was not correct during start up. Just my HO.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank D'Angelo View Post
    I guess my quick first impression was that I would be hesitant simply because I believe it falls beyond normal ASHI standards of Practice......although I should check that for sure before assuming.
    Standby generators DO fall outside the ASHI standards, but then so does most of everything else you will be looking at and checking.

    There could be an internal problem with the unit, ...
    You mean like the internal parts of the compressor, the coils, the reversing valve (when present), the fan motors, etc.?

    or it could have not been installed correctly, and the seller/homeowner did not want to fix it, because he did not really "need" it, as it is more for emergencies.
    So ... just because something is present but is not "needed" it does not need to be inspected? You mean like a/c systems are not "needed", only "heat" is "needed".

    I guess I've been taught that there is an increased risk whenever you venture outside of the standards.....

    Frank,

    There is increased risk whenever you DO NOT venture outside the standards.

    If you try to strictly adhere to the ASHI standards (or any MINIMUM standard, which is what standards are - MINIMUM) then all you are providing is a MINIMUM service to your clients, and your clients expect and deserve more than MINIMUM.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

  17. #17
    Frank D'Angelo's Avatar
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    All good points Jerry. Understood.
    It is also good to know others here have interesting opinions as to how, when and if you should check them.
    The bottom line is that every inspection is unique, and I strive to do the best I can, giving the client the best inspection I can......a quality product I can be proud of.

    I also enjoy this forum and learn a lot from it.

    Frank


  18. #18
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    Default Re: Emergency Generators

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank D'Angelo View Post
    The bottom line is that every inspection is unique, and I strive to do the best I can, giving the client the best inspection I can......a quality product I can be proud of.

    Frank,

    Excellent!

    Use the standards as a good contractor should use the codes ... when you wake up in the morning look at the standards (your code) and say to yourself 'No way am I going to do that little.', then get out and do your best doing a quality inspection.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
    Construction Litigation Consultants, LLC ( www.ConstructionLitigationConsultants.com )
    www.AskCodeMan.com

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