Natural Gas Leaks, Odors or Emergencies

Natural Gas Keeps the Power on When the Electricity Fails- Gas Generators Provide Safe Alternative Source of Electricity for Homes and Small Businesses When the Power Goes Out

April 16, 2002

Natural gas-powered generators can serve as an alternative source of electricity to keep homes and small businesses up and running during a power outage.

While the majority of customers are not usually without power for more than four hours, depending on the severity of the damage, it can take much longer for power to be completely restored.

In addition to posing serious inconveniences, power outages can be very costly and even life threatening. High winds and lightning are the most common causes of outages. Tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, lightning, ice storms, blizzards and traffic accidents also can contribute to power outages. Any of these events can sever power lines, disable transformers or short-circuit breakers causing all customers on a damaged circuit to lose power.

In 1998, Hurricane Bonnie left over 650,000 customers without power. Officials estimated that over 85 percent of the population was left in the dark and some lived without power for days.

What is a standby natural gas generator and how can it help?
A natural gas generator is a backup power system that detects a drop in line voltage or complete outage, protecting homeowners against a brown-out or immediately restoring power to the home. Backup generators can be especially beneficial for people who work from home, have electrical-powered medical equipment or live in areas where weather events are frequent.

Generally located in the homeowner's yard, a generator can restore power to several appliances at once, or to the entire home. Homeowners should decide which appliances are considered necessities in the event of an outage and can consult with a generator professional to decide on the needs of their backup system. Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) units are typically the largest electrical loads and require a larger generator to operate them.

Guy Bunch, president of Womble Generator Service, Inc. in Suffolk, Va., said, "We are seeing a trend of more architects and general contractors making an emergency generator system standard in new homes. This demand has enabled manufacturers to make residential and light commercial generators more attractive from a cost perspective, particularly in new construction. Pre-wiring and installing a generator system during new construction saves the homeowner 20-25 percent over retro fitting after close."

Natural gas generators versus gasoline-powered models
Gasoline-powered generators are less expensive than natural gas generators but are typically smaller in size, manually started and have less capacity to power as many appliances or systems as a natural gas standby generator. Appliances are connected with extension cords directly to portable gasoline-powered generators. This can pose an electrical safety hazard and put homeowners and their families at serious risk of injury if the generator's maximum wattage allowance is exceeded. Because it is powered by gasoline, the generator must be operated in a well-ventilated area and must be turned off while residents are sleeping or away from home.

Advantages of natural gas generators

  • Natural gas generators are safer because they do not require fuel to be stored on the property; they are supplied from the same line that delivers natural gas to other appliances.
  • They cost 40-50 percent less per hour to run than gasoline-powered models.
  • Compared to gasoline-powered generators, natural gas generators can operate safely while people are asleep or away from home because they are connected directly to the property's gas line.
  • Natural gas generators are clean burning and environmentally friendly.
  • Natural gas generators are equipped with an automatic transfer switch that instantaneously turns on and operates only for the duration of the power outage.
  • They have a weatherproof sound-attenuated enclosure that provides added sound reduction and safety.
  • Natural gas generators are very durable and can last for over 20 years if properly maintained.
Availability and Cost
Depending on the size, a turnkey installed standby natural gas generator can cost between $5,000-$9,000. The average size is 11 kilowatts and is capable of running a gas furnace/air unit, stove, refrigerator and a few other small appliances. Once a generator is purchased, a qualified professional is recommended for installation.

Natural gas generators can be purchased through home improvement retailers or Virginia Natural Gas' Gas AdvantageTM program. For information , please visit and click on the "gas products and appliances" or call 1-800-427-8876 to speak to a Gas AdvantageTM representative.