Will your home survive a natural disaster? September is National Preparedness Month, and along with making an emergency plan to keep your family safe, it’s important to make your home a safe haven in all kinds of weather.
Whether your region is prone to extreme heat, wildfires, floods, twisters or hurricanes, nature’s fury can overwhelm the electrical grid, leaving you in the dark. Without electricity, the most basic functions we rely on at home—refrigeration, cooking, hot water, heating and cooling—can be interrupted unless you have a backup plan.
If you live in a place that’s prone to long power outages, consider how you can keep essential appliances like refrigerators and stoves running. Solar panels are a climate-friendly approach to energy independence. Depending on the size of your solar installation and whether you have battery backup, you can sail right through power interruptions without a hitch.
Sense Solar can tell you how much solar energy you’re producing in real time and how much energy you’re using. An analysis of Sense homes with solar showed that most homeowners use less than half of their solar power directly. To use more of your solar power during a blackout, shift activities that use energy, like doing laundry or running a dishwasher, to times when your solar panels are producing the most electricity. You’ll need to rely on battery backup for power when the sun isn’t shining. Standby generators can restore at least part of a home’s electricity.
You can use the Sense Home Energy Monitor to figure out how much electricity you use on a day-to-day basis to keep essential appliances working in your home. With this data, you can decide on the size and type of generator you’ll purchase. If you’re considering a standby generator, do your research before choosing and installing one.
Flex add-on sensors for the Sense Home Energy Monitor can be used to track a standby generator, up to two 240V or 120V/240V dedicated circuits, a solar installation or a 400A panel (see more details here). The Sense app will tell you if your standby generator is turned on (or off), monitor how long it’s running and find out how much energy your home is using while on generator power. When you’re away from home, an alert in the Sense app will tell you if the generator has switched on automatically due to power failure.
If you get a standby generator, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s safety guidelines during power outages.
Carbon monoxide poisoning is a deadly risk while operating home generators, so consult a safety checklist before using the generator for the first time. The good news is you can now choose a generator with automatic shutoff. A built-in carbon monoxide sensor turns off the engine if carbon monoxide gas builds up to dangerous levels.
Remember these safety tips for generators and other alternatives during outages:
Always run generators outside the home, at least 20 feet away from windows.
The same rule applies to using your backyard grill to cook — always keep it outside.
Make sure you have carbon monoxide detectors with battery backup on every level of your home and check that the batteries are working.
Don’t use a gas oven or stove to heat your home.
How Flex add-on sensors work
Here are some facts to know about using Flex add-on sensors with Sense to track a backup generator.
Flex add-on sensors are plugged into the middle port in the Sense home energy monitor.
An electrician should handle the installation because it requires opening the electrical cabinet and exposing the live mains. If your electrician is installing your generator or a Sense Home Energy Monitor, it will be easy for them to install the Flex sensors at the same time. (For more details, check out the Sense installation guide.)
You can add Flex sensors if your generator is powering the main panel or a sub-panel. Flex sensors don’t currently support setups where the generator feeds directly into a breaker in the electrical panel.
You must have a standby generator with an automatic or manual transfer switch in order to monitor your generator using Sense. See supported configurations in our install guide here, and if you have questions about compatibility, reach out to Sense customer support.
When you install Flex add-on sensors with your generator, be sure to set a notification in the Sense app in the Settings menu, then in Notifications, to alert you when the generator turns on or off. You’re likely to know if the power is out when you’re home, but a Sense notification can alert you when you’re away from home.