Backup Power Getting Smarter, Smaller Thanks to New Technology


MILWAUKEE (March 1, 2011)-In October of 2010, the Electric Power Research Institute reported that in 2009, 500,000 people on average were affected by power outages on a daily basis. With staggering numbers like those, more and more homeowners are looking for backup power solutions. While portable generators offer immediate power in emergency outage situations, they require the user to refuel every six to eight hours, and have other limitations. A more permanent solution is a home standby generator and automatic transfer switch that utilizes either natural gas or liquid propane for a seamless, automatic transition to backup power.


Traditionally, standby generators have powered only select circuits, or have been very large and more costly. But now, a key breakthrough in power management allows electrical contractors to offer homeowners a less costly way to provide whole house backup power when utility power goes out.

In the past, generators were created to power just a few essential appliances. As people demanded access to more appliances, generators got bigger, and so did the price tag. For budget-conscious consumers, and those with smaller yards, they were left with little choice: purchase a smaller backup generator that limited what could be powered in an outage.

Homeowners now have a backup solution that meets their needs and their budget. Home Generator Systems by GE feature the patented Symphony II Power Management System™ — breakthrough technology that gives homeowners the flexibility they need in a power outage with a smaller, smarter generator.

Smarter Technology = More Flexibility

With generators that power only the essentials, which can be only 50% of a home's total power needs, homeowners are forced to decide in advance of an outage what items they can power. Often times, this meant limiting their choices to only 16 selected circuits. And because appliances such as a central air conditioner, electric oven or electric clothes dryer require a large amount of power to start up, homeowners needed to assign more than one circuit to power each of these high wattage items, reducing the total number of items powered.

An alternative to select circuits is a larger, more costly, whole house generator that can handle the startup needs of high wattage appliances. However, this isn't very efficient because power requirements are reduced dramatically once high wattage appliances are running; so, there isn't a need for those extra kilowatts of power. Generators that offer too little or too much power have left consumers with few choices, and little flexibility.

GE Generator Systems, with Symphony II Power Management, manage the startup requirements of those high demand appliances, resulting in a 'right-sized' generator that is smaller, more fuel-efficient and more affordable. Through intelligent engineering, Home Generator Systems by GE feature control modules that make installing a generator even easier and offer greater flexibility.

Symphony II control modules use a home's existing wiring and can be installed at any point between an appliance and the electrical panel. As a result, installation is easier for the electrician and more affordable for the homeowner. Although most homes may only utilize two of the modules to power their high wattage appliances, the GE Generator System can support up to eight modules, providing homeowners with the flexibility to add modules as their needs change.

A Seamless Power Transition

It's the job of a permanently installed generator to sense when utility power goes out so it can turn on and provide consumers with a reliable backup power solution. GE Generator Systems and Symphony II Power Management extend that seamless transition, automatically managing high wattage power loads exactly when, and where, homeowners need it.

During installation, the electrician works with the homeowner to prioritize high-wattage appliances. When a power outage occurs, the system provides power to all non-managed items first. The Symphony II Power Management system determines remaining, available power, turning on high wattage items one at a time. Because the homeowner has assigned priorities to the managed, high-wattage items, the system will deliver power to high priority item should need more power, Symphony II will automatically turn off the lowest priority item until enough power once again becomes available.

For example, a homeowner could set the air conditioner as priority one, and the dryer as priority eight. The homeowner begins to turn on the items that have been assigned Priorities one through seven. So what happens when the homeowner turns on the dryer, which is priority eight? Because the power management system recognizes that the power needs of the eight items are approaching the generator's capacity, the power management system turns off the dryer. As soon as one of the items labeled priority on through seven turns off and capacity becomes available, the Symphony turns on the dryer.

The Symphony II power management system continues to manage power throughout the home, providing the homeowner with access to high-wattage items that would have previously required a much larger generator or going without.

And just like all automatic standby generators, when Symphony II senses utility power is restored, it automatically shuts down the standby generator and returns to utility power, monitoring for the next power interruption.

Smaller Generators, Whole-House Power

New to the market this month is the 13kw* Generator System by GE, featuring the Symphony II Power Management System. The sleek new design with removable panels gives technicians easy access for fast and affordable services calls and routine maintenance. Plus, the new 13kw* unit is NFPA 37 compliant, so as long as the exhaust is placed at least five feet away from open doors, windows or vents, the unit itself can be placed closer to structures than most other models — providing both electricians and home-owners even greater flexibility when determining placement on the property.

With new technology and a new design, GE Generator Systems, featuring Symphony II Power Management, provide electricians with backup power solutions that meet the ever-evolving demands of homeowners.