Myths

There are plenty of reasons why Matt Risinger’s clients choose to install standby generators.

Some of the Austin, Texas, builder’s clients are moving from a hurricane-prone region like Florida or the South, where they’ve had problems with power outages in the past. Some are from Austin’s burgeoning high-tech scene and they’re looking for the latest technologies to feature in their home. Some are luxury buyers who want to avoid the aggravation of an outage or even keep their entertainment systems running in a storm.

No matter their inspiration, Risinger, CEO and chief builder of Risinger & Co., ensures they’re thrilled with their decision by installing a permanent standby generator fueled by propane or natural gas. The custom builder and whole-home remodeler has gained a massive following on his YouTube channel, where he highlights building science and craftsmanship tips on his own projects and homes across the globe. He’s also gained a reputation for building high-performance homes for his high-end clients, which is one reason he helps them understand the lifestyle benefits of a permanent standby system.

In this video series, Risinger steps into the lab to debunk four myths about standby generators, showing how builders can use propane to provide safety and peace of mind even when the power grid goes down.

Myth 1: Power outages won’t affect my home

While many power outages are caused by natural disasters or storm damage, Risinger believes the biggest threat in the future may come from an overloaded power grid. “Brownouts are something that people don’t think about very often,” Risinger says. With a swelling population in Texas, an overstressed power grid could cause outages at particularly inconvenient times. “When it’s a brownout and it’s 106 degrees out, your house gets real uncomfortable, real fast. If you’re the only one that’s got their A/C hooked up to a backup generator, that only has to happen once and you are just loving the fact that you put a generator in.”

Plus, it’s more than the lights that are affected in an outage. There’s the risk of spoiled food, damaged electronics, and lots of stress. With a standby generator, builders can help their clients control what comforts they have available during an outage. “Like, ‘Hey, let’s make sure that home theater room is connected to my backup power because if the power is down, I want to be able to watch a movie or be able to hang out with my family,’” Risinger says.

Myth 2: Generators require gasoline and lots of setup time

Homeowners interested in backup power might think their only option is to keep a portable unit and some gas containers in their shed. But a permanent standby unit offers an alternative with much less hassle. “The typical buyer from mid-price all the way through luxury is way more interested in a standalone unit that’s hooked up to natural gas or propane,” Risinger says. In fact, he occasionally has clients who want to install the electrical panel and gas lines for a standby generator even if they don’t buy one right away so that the installation is faster and less expensive if they choose to purchase it down the road.

Portable gasoline-fueled units can be a challenge, Risinger adds. “The hard part is making sure your gas is fresh, and do you have enough storage to make it through?” Propane, on the other hand, doesn’t deteriorate while stored in the tank, and with the right-size propane storage, a standby generator can provide enough electricity to power a home for days or weeks without refueling.

Myth 3: Generators are dirty and noisy

If your client has encountered only a roaring, smelly portable generator in the past, you can set their mind at ease about today’s permanent standby units. “With the generators I’ve installed in the last 5–10 years, I’ve never once had a noise complaint,” Risinger says, even when the units cycle on for monthly exercise.

Standby generators also feature high-tech options like remote monitoring, which allows homeowners or service technicians to check the status of the unit from their phones. Being able to check their fuel levels is a particularly nice feature for homeowners who use propane, helping them to ensure they’re prepared if they’re out of town or a big storm is coming. “That’s a huge service,” Risinger says.

Myth 4: Renewable energy can replace standby power

As a high-performance builder, Risinger has plenty of experience with renewable energy sources such as solar panels. But even with battery storage systems improving, he knows renewable energy systems are no replacement for a standby generator.

“Here in Austin, we get a lot of tech executives who are like ‘Hey, I’m interested in solar, and I’m interested in backup power because I want the cool tech on my house,’” Risinger says. “It’s interesting how a lot of times it goes hand in hand.”

While some people think of battery storage systems as being the nighttime backup when the solar panels aren’t active, batteries alone aren’t enough to provide backup during an extended outage, Risinger says. “No matter how expensive your battery pack is, if you have a cloudy day or you have storms, it ain’t taking you through. You’re going to run out.” With solar power becoming more popular, Risinger sees a big market of customers who want to install both the solar system and a standby generator backup.

Another strategy: having key home systems like water heating or space heating fueled by propane to reduce the electrical load on the solar-powered system. Risinger often installs both a heat pump and a gas furnace, for example, so that the home can run on electricity or propane depending on what’s available and most efficient.

Watch Risinger debunk all four of these generator myths in the video below. It’s a great video to share if your clients have questions or concerns about how standby power will work in their home.