Smart Way to Create a Backup Generator

Gayathri Vijayakumar is an Engineer for Steven Winter Associates Building Systems who lives in New Haven, CT. She has taken a unique precaution against future electrical power outages by connecting her Toyota Prius car to her home’s power system. Gayathri took a special inverter and connected it to her hybrid car, which created a generator. This DIY system works by connecting the inverter to a transfer switch and starting the vehicle, generating enough electricity (1600 Watts) to run the critical circuits in her house, including pre-selected lights, refrigerator, and the electric ignition to the tankless gas water heater.

Generator to ignite Tankless heater

The innovative lady bought the inverter from ConVerdant Vehicles because it was less expensive than a standard gas generator. Moreover, it provides electricity by using half the fuel, and is much quieter. “We were not prepared for our first power outage in Connecticut, but we were able to use the gas stove for cooking and our gas fireplace kept the first floor at well over 70F. Being without a fridge and hot water was a challenge though. Now that we have the Prius, at $4/gallon of gas, generating electricity through the inverter is still more than twice as expensive as buying it from the utility. But in a power outage situation, being able to provide basic power for three days on one tank of gas is pretty amazing” said Gayathri. Mother Nature is showing us that even though it is critical to focus on energy-efficient building designs and renewable systems, we must include storm resiliency as another component of designing truly sustainable buildings.

This story first appeared in the August 2013 edition of WinterGreen, a monthly publication from the Steven Winter Associates.

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