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Expert Tips on Backup Generators: An Interview with Alan McCaa of McCaa Electric

By Alan McCaa

Please tell us a little bit about your company and the services you offer.

We are a full-service electrical contractor. We are involved in residential, commercial and agricultural electrical services. This includes everything from new residential construction of tract and custom homes, service, repair of electrical issues in homes, small tenant improvements in commercial applications, commercial remodels, upgrades, service and repairs. And then a variety of agricultural service and repairs.

About 75% of our business is service, repair and upgrades and 25% is new construction. Currently we are building a tract of 60 houses for Florsheim Homes in Bakersfield, CA. We provide electrical service and repair for Old Republic Home Warranty as well as Home Buyers Warranty which, in our opinion, are simply the two best home warranty services available. We maintain approximately 60 shopping centers in Kern County and have a wonderful relationship with the local city and county building departments to help expedite your permitting processes.

However, we take pride in finding solutions for our customers. In fact, our motto is "Quality - Service - Solutions." Our focus is to get you the right solution for your issue or application. We constantly undergo training in the latest technologies and are lighting experts. We are LED specialists and we're one of the first companies that were involved in the use of LEDs in Bakersfield. Our LED retrofitting services carry a minimum of 5-year and up to 15-year warranties which include parts and labor.

Can you briefly explain why more people are deciding to buy backup generators for their homes?

More and more people are deciding to go with automatic backup generators simply because everything we do today involves some sort of electricity. More and more phone services are run through cable routers, which are run off electricity. With the use of the Internet, many have home offices that they prefer to work from. The security factor is of critical concern to most. Without power, you lose access to your security alarms, phone service, TV service, security cameras, lights, food welfare and more. Homeowners simply do not feel comfortable knowing that they are slaves to an outdated and worn electrical grid and prefer that in an emergency, they maintain control of their life and homes welfare.

Additionally, the old method of dragging out a portable generator, running extension cords all over your house simply isn't efficient. Depending on how accessible these items are, if you even have them, it could take an hour or so to assemble and then what happens if you are low on fuel or have none at all? The automatic standby generator is simply the most efficient way of powering your home when needed.

Is there an easy way to calculate how much power or watts you'll need your generator to produce?

Yes. In general we need to know just a few details. Those details include:

1) Square footage of your home?
2) How many air conditioners are on the home?
3) Do you have a solar system or are you planning on a solar system in the near future?
4) In the loss of the utility power, do you want to backup your entire home (to operate as if there was no loss at all) or are you mainly interested in backing up just a few important circuits such as your air conditioner, refrigerator, a few lights and outlets and a security system?
5) Are you on natural gas or propane? If natural gas, are you interested in setting up a dedicated propane tank that would allow you to run your generator, if the public infrastructure was done say due to an earthquake?

What are some of the basic options that homeowners will need to decide on?

In addition to a few of the basics above, we have options such as remote monitoring and notification services. This would allow the generator, after a self test and diagnosis, to inform you of any issues via email and/or text message.

If you have a solar system, we have a system we've designed that disconnects the solar while the generator is in use, thus avoiding any damage to the generator and/or solar system due to back feeding power where it should be. If you have a home in the mountains or in an area where power is not accessible, we can provide complete off-grid solutions with a generator backup. In addition to the generator, which restores power in 7-10 seconds, do we need to accommodate any critical electronics with battery backup so they have absolutely no disruption at all?

What are a few safety considerations that people in Southern California should keep in mind?

Without a doubt, all of us Californians know that we have earthquakes to worry about. The biggest concern is that in a large earthquake or some other large natural disaster where the public infrastructure is damaged, what are your plans for your home? With an automatic backup generator, we can make sure that your home has power restored within seconds and also design a system that is not dependent on the public infrastructure in an emergency.

Security, as previously mentioned, is another serious concern. Did you know that the average home, can lose all outside communication, security cameras and access to authorities with the simple shutting off of your main breaker on your electrical panel. In many new homes these electrical panels are accessible from the street. With a backup generator, if this were to happen, within 7-10 seconds, it has restored power to the home and connection with the outside world if needed.

Do you have any tips on maintenance or use once you've got your generator installed and ready to run in your home?

Yes, this is often the forgotten expense. Just like your automobile, our backup generators need a regular service call. Generally this is once per year at minimum and usually no more than twice if it's in an extremely dusty environment. Oil changes and air filter changes are the most common needs. They generally start up weekly and run for approximately 10 minutes and go through several diagnostic changes to make sure everything is functioning properly. However, it is important that a good service technician be called once per year to do a more in-depth inspection to make sure that everything will be operational in the event that an emergency occurs.

What's the best way for people to contact your company?

Our office phone number is 661-589-8335. Our email is mccaaelectric@gmail.com.

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