Affordable Climate Control on Generators During Power Outages with the Micro-Air EasyStart

HVAC Soft Starter For Extended Power Outages

Product Information: EasyStart Home Soft Starter
Customer Information: You can email our customer Ernie with any questions you may have about this Case Study at:

Micro-Air Dealer Web Store

Previous Page
Executive Summary

Severe weather conditions cause power outages that may last for days or weeks --- or even months in some cases. That crisis provides the opportunity to optimize the use of EasyStart™ for HVAC. Florida’s hurricane season historically runs from June 1 to November 30 and causes concerns over the risk of utility power loss.

This Case Study highlights the power solution needed to run AC that was discovered by Ernie Betancourt, a retired IBM electrical engineer. He experienced weather related power loss many times --- once after Hurricane Irma he suffered a 21-day power outage. Living year-long in the heat of Fort Myers, Florida , his home falls within the swath of storms all too regularly wreaking devastation on Florida’s power grid. Most affordable, smaller, portable fossil fuel generators can power some lights, your internet and TV and probably a refrigerator. But to power a larger working system, like an HVAC unit of 24,000 to 72,000 BTUs typically requires a much larger, heavier, louder, fuel guzzling and more expensive permanent standby generator—unless you install an EasyStart 368 on your AC unit.

It may seem a little counterintuitive, but an AC unit requires a lot more power to START than to RUN its compressor motor. So, a larger generator is needed for just the millisecond of a start every time the AC unit hits temperature set point. For comparison purposes, think of the power problem as if it were a revolving door. When it is at rest, the door requires a big push to start it while the power to keep it moving requires little effort. The same is true for all of the common AC compressor motors.

Without an EasyStart™, Ernie Betancourt could not start his 48,000 BTU AC unit with his current 7000 watt propane-powered generator. (Note: there is an additional 15% loss of power (approx.) when running a motor on propane vs. gasoline and at elevation, an even greater power loss). Only a permanent generator of about 14,000 watts could do that for him WITHOUT EasyStart. In addition, some costly re-wiring and an electrician would be needed to accomplish the connections needed, including an upgrade to 50-amp service.

Ernie searched, studied, and became familiar with soft starters and the sophistication of the EasyStart soft start device from Micro-Air. He found the Company article "Selecting a Generator" using EasyStart and made his decision to include the device in his preparedness plan. He learned that the EasyStarts are designed to reduce the power inrush start requirement by 65% to 75%, while reducing the cost needed for a standby generator for power in an emergency. With EasyStart, he could use an affordable standby generator on wheels versus an expensive permanent one installed on a pad at his home.

What appealed to him particularly about EasyStart was how smart it was in its ability to study the first five (5) starts of an AC unit and reduce the amount of power needed to start the compressor motor of his AC. It also offered on-the-spot Bluetooth diagnostics via its smartphone app and deeper dive diagnostics by download and email to the Company’s engineers. He was also attracted by how the softer, smoother, ramped starts were easy on his AC compressor motor and most likely to extend the life of his AC unit. At the same time, it offered the economy of savings: $2,000 to $5,000 over the cost of a permanent generator of the right size, right out of the box. No longer would Ernie need to sweat through a power outage in the wake of a storm, pay for a hotel room with AC, or travel out-of-state to stay with relatives while the power was out.

Customer Background

The customer is a retired electrical engineer with a background strong enough to analyze the simple data needing consideration for this project. His AC unit is a 4-ton (48,000 BTU) Daikin AC scroll compressor unit (Model DX18TC0481AB) that came with a data label showing an RLA of 21.2 and an LRA of 104. (LRA [locked rotor amps] is the starting current flow problem that EasyStart solves, while RLA [rated load amps] is the draw/operating load of the AC. See the article "Selecting a Generator"). Ernie found that, to start and continuously run an AC unit with this data label’s RLA, a permanent standby generator of 14,000 watts was needed without an EasyStart 368 added to the start circuit.

Customer Goals and Expectations

  1. Reduce LRA from 104 by 65-75% down to around 36 amps.
  2. Start and run Home HVAC in a power emergency on the limited power source of a 7000 watt gasoline or propane generator, while leaving enough power remaining from the generator for the running of some lights and light appliances.
  3. Save on the cost of a larger generator. ($374.00 for EasyStart saved him $2,000 to $5,000).
  4. Save on the cost of rewiring to change from 30-amp to 50-amp service.
  5. Save on the cost of an electrician to install a permanent standby generator.
  6. Avoid the loud sound/noise of a larger generator.
  7. Save on fuel. Smaller motors require less fuel.
  8. Extend the life of the AC unit with softer, smoother, ramped starts of the AC compressor motor.
  9. Quiet the start-cycle of his AC unit on every start.

The Challenge

Education: Understanding the problem and finding the solution. Learning the advantages of a smart EasyStart soft starter over a factory-installed starter or brute force hard start.

Sizing: Matching the EasyStart 368 model to his particular size of AC unit and finding the portable standby generator needed.

Installation: The 4-wire install is simple and can be performed by just about anyone but the homeowner chose to use Sunset Air and Home Services of Fort Myers, FL as his professional installer.

Support: Micro-Air provides a myriad of online resources ranging from videos to wiring diagrams and manuals. The Company supports its products with full-time installation techs during business hours, a support ticket system with prompt responses, and a team of engineers, all of whom participate in refining EasyStart.

Cost: $374 vs. $5,000. Cost feasibility was an overwhelming factor favoring the customer’s selection of EasyStart for his needs. A much larger generator would run up to $5,000.00 more. The EasyStart was $374.00 and theoretically saved the homeowner up to $8,000.00 in costs by his own estimate: generator, higher amperage wiring, electrician, fuel costs/savings. His actual out of pocket savings on generator cost versus a Generac 14,000w permanent generator alone was $3370.00.

The Solution

Betancourt found that EasyStart "is the solution needed to start AC with emergency power." Using the EasyStart Model Selector for determining the correct model soft stater for any air conditioner, Ernie was led to the EasyStart 368-X72-BLUE model. He called the technical documentation and literature of the Company “awesome” and complimented the responsiveness of the entire Micro-Air team.

Having determined that the EasyStart 368-X72-BLUE soft starter was the perfect solution for reducing overall starting amperage of his system, he was even happier to come into the Bluetooth diagnostics that the unit offers, and was delighted to learn that the starter has surge protector functionality built into it. The EasyStart monitors incoming current to protect the AC unit’s compressor from high power surges and low power brownouts at the time those power anomalies occur. Either condition might cause a catastrophic failure to a compressor motor. The added value of voltage protection was "a pleasant surprise."

With the above information, the customer determined that he could use a less expensive Champion 7000w dual fuel generator (then already in his possession). At 2023 prices, the cost of the same/similar generator was $1424.00 at Batteries Plus. A 14,000 watt Generac standby generator cost researched at the same time amounted to $4797.00 at Home Depot. His savings on the price point was $3370.00 on the generator cost alone in 2023. And now he is prepared for the next power emergency.

A new outdoor generator outlet box was installed along with an internal interlock switch. An interlock switch was installed in the electrical box to ensure that the generator circuit breaker and the main power circuit breaker cannot be turned on at the same time, permitting power management.

The Results

An initial test was performed, and the Bluetooth module showed a fault. EasyStart’s Bluetooth app reveals more than “fault” as it directs you to the precise fault involved, in this case the overcurrent fault showed on the smartphone app. With analysis of the app, the EasyStart Bluetooth manual and a phone call with one of the Micro-Air team’s help techs, it became clear that the overcurrent fault was related to a wiring problem that the installer on site was able to change without a return visit. He was able to share live data with our tech support group via Facetime and was able to complete the installation with their help.

The Compressor LRA was 104 out of the factory per the unit’s data label. Due to the unit’s age, the LRA at the time of installation was actually a bit higher. The amperage needed to kick on the compressor AFTER EasyStart installation was 40.5 according to the EEP file downloaded and emailed to Micro-Air. Since LRA is a process and subject to environmental factors, starting amperage can range a few amps higher and lower during each of the learning starts. The data from those starts is used by the smart device to optimize the amount of power needed.

The test was conducted by turning off the main breaker in the home, connecting the portable generator externally, utilizing the interlock switch for safety, and then finally powering up the generator outside. After ensuring that everything was running safely and as expected, the test was deemed successful, and the generator was disconnected from the main power system.

The 7000w generator tested with the EasyStart on the AC unit worked. Lamp by lamp, device by device, the homeowner put the generator under full load with all of the items needed during a power emergency and it powered his home completely.

After installation and the five learning starts, Micro-Air recommends peace-of-mind testing of the generator intended for use in an emergency. Reasons: to test generator sizing, check generator settings, check the power cable length/distance and gauge, to test performance based on elevation and fuel type, for power management testing. There is a chance of wiring an EasyStart so that it works on utility power but not on the intended generator. The Company calls the generator test “the sixth start.”

The customer highlighted that the project was a cost-effective solution for leveraging a portable generator during power outages. His own estimate on total savings, in addition to the $3400 savings on a generator of the needed size, was about $8,000.00.

The last remaining item to note was the start-up noise of the compressor motor. The customer’s air conditioner was previously mounted to the home due to building codes and flood zone restrictions. Attached as it was, the sound of starts on this older AC unit were noticeable every time the AC thermostat reached temperature set point. But following EasyStart installation, the unit startup was no longer audible. EasyStart touts its ability to quiet starts due to the gentle ramp-up of the compressor with the EasyStart installed. Softer and smoother, ramped starts amount to muted starts for the homeowner and quiet.


EasyStart soft starter inside electrical cover for home instalaltion   Home air conditioner with EasyStart soft starter   Home air conditioner nameplate information for EasyStart soft starter install

All Content Copyright © Micro-Air, LLC. All Rights Reserved.