Our company does electrical and general contracting in Northern California. In 1999, customers started asking us to install standby generators because they were concerned that the upcoming Y2K event would lead to widespread power outages. We installed several units that year, found we liked doing it, and have since come to specialize in installing and maintaining standby power systems in homes and businesses.

A standby generator is permanently wired to the building's electrical system. If the utility power goes down, an electronic control mechanism starts the generator and, after about 25 seconds, signals a transfer switch to disconnect the building from the grid and connect it to generator power. When the utility power comes back on, the transfer...

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