How to Choose the Right Generator for Your Home

Portable-Gasoline-Generator-800W-Emergency-Home-Back-Up-Power-Camping-power-generator-2-stroke-engineFor the most part, we are an energy-addicted society that doesn’t think twice about having accessible power available at every turn. Having a portable generator is a great investment for being prepared in an emergency power outage and also for dialing up the quality of a tailgate party with video and audio on a sumptuous widescreen TV.

Thankfully both emergency preparedness and party improvement via a portable generator are less expensive than you might think. While generators start at around $200, there are a wide range of options available at vastly different price points. Here’s a guide to picking the portable generator that best suits your household’s needs at a price you can live with.

Discern the Proper Wattage

The size of the generator you need can be easily determined by what you intend to supply power to. For a tailgate party where you’re running a video system and perhaps some warming trays, you could get by with a generator that produces 1,000 watts. However, if you hope to run your household via generator during a power failure, you’ll need considerably more current. Check out this wattage


How to Choose the Right Emergency Home Power Generator

SS_Mar2015_IYN10_adf84___ContentBefore deciding on an emergency home generator, you have to ask yourself just exactly what you want it to do. Will it be used to power the furnace, the lights, and several major appliances during a blackout or the furnace and lights only? Knowing what you will need to operate during a power outage will help you determine the amount of wattage you’ll need – you can ask your local generator dealer to help you here. Alternately, make a list of the appliances you intend to use when the power is out then check the label on each appliance (or the Manual or the manufacturer’s website) to find the amount of both the continuous and the surge wattage each appliance needs. Total the wattage in both columns. Here are a few examples:

Now ask yourself whether you need a generator that is portable or stationary. For the purposes stated above, a portable generator will require a transfer switch which can cost as little as $75 and upwards into the hundreds depending on amperage. The beauty of a portable generator is that it’s portable and costs


How to Buy the Right Backup Generator for Your Disaster & Budget

181187-425x300-Home-GeneratorThe most common backup generator in the United States is the portable type powered by a small gas engine. Yet, there’s more to using one of these than wheeling it outside and firing it up. The key to using a generator safely is preparedness. Size it adequately, plan where and how you’ll use it, then test run the machine.

It takes a lot of calculation to properly size a home generator, and you’ll need to talk to a dealer to be sure you’ve got it right. In a nutshell, though, the machine’s wattage has to be slightly larger than all simultaneous loads. First, tally the running watts of the appliances and devices you will use at the same time. Now add the startup wattage of the largest motor—operated load liable to come on line with the other loads. Motor wattage is three to five times greater at startup than it is running at steady state, and your largest startup load will usually come from a furnace fan or a well pump. (That assumes you won’t be running an air conditioner during a power outage.) Wattage


Buying a Portable Emergency Generator

If you live in an area where power outages are rare but sometimes do occur, a portable emergency generator may be all the investment you need. It can keep the freezer and refrigerator running or enable you to turn on some lights and run a microwave and a computer so you can survive for days without any serious losses.

Choose a generator made specifically for household use rather than a worksite or camping generator. Consider how much power and what sorts of plugs you will need. Also consider the quality of the machine and how easy it will be to start and maintain.

Generator Considerations

Here are the features you should consider when making a choice:

Amount of power a generator will deliver
Generators are sized according to the number of watts of electrical power they deliver. In addition to the power a generator supplies while in constant running mode, a generator also should supply short bursts of “surge” power, which is needed for a few seconds to start up a large appliance such as a refrigerator or a clothes dryer.

A small generator delivers 3,000 to 4,000 watts, which is enough to supply a medium-sized refrigerator, a few appliances, a TV, and some lights.


How to Safely Operate a Backup Generator

Backup generators can provide an emergency power supply, enabling you to keep important equipment running during a power outage. It’s important to make sure generators are properly installed and operated to prevent health and safety risks for you and our crews.

Before installing or operating a generator, review the following sections for important safety information:

  • Safely Installing a Generator
  • How to Properly Operate a Generator
  • Electrical and Fire Hazards
  • Warning Signs of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Safely Installing a Generator

Before installing your backup generator, follow all instructions in the manufacturer’s written documentation, such as an operating manual, and all local building codes, especially regarding placement of the unit and safe electrical connections. Not following these precautions may result in hazardous conditions, including the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning or electrocution.

In addition, never connect a generator directly to your home’s electrical system without a proper isolation device, a switch that disconnects your house from our power lines while your generator is operating, and vice versa. This applies to both portable generators and stationary units.

To have an isolation device installed, contact a qualified electrician. Unless our lines are positively isolated from your home, operating a generator connected into your home’s wiring system could start a fire and/or electrocute a service crew member


Emergency Generators Great Source for Backup Power

A good emergency generator makes your home blackout proof. It’s relatively inexpensive insurance against complete loss of household power. Plus, portable units are convenient when you need electricity beyond the reach of an extension cord.

All generators combine an internal combustion engine with electrical

components to create electricity for powering appliances and tools. Choosing an emergency generator involves several key decisions. How much power do you really need? How often do you expect to use it? Will it be for emergency backup power? For tools? Both? What level of quality makes sense? What kind of fuel? How will you get the power from the generator to items in your home?

More Power to You

The first thing to consider is generator output. What size is right for your situation? This sounds simpler than it really is because not all items on your wish list are going to be used all the time or at the same time. Also, some appliances (such as furnace fans, sump pumps, washing machines and refrigerators) require more start-up power than their specified ratings.

Generator output is measured in watts, a unit of power derived by multiplying electrical flow rate (amps) by electrical pressure (volts). One typical household outlet, for example, delivers


Choosing Between an Inverter and a Generator

An engine-powered generator is an easy way to supply your house with emergency power. They are relatively inexpensive (typical price for a 5,000-watt generator ranges between $600 and $1,200), produce clean, 120- or 240-volt sine-wave power, and consume only about a gallon of gas every two hours or so (at 1,000-watt output). You can also purchase generators that run off of diesel fuel or propane.

The disadvantages of engine-powered generators include:

  • Fuel storage
  • Noise (especially the less-expensive models)
  • Engine maintenance

Fuel storage can be a nuisance — gasoline cannot be stored for more than a month or so unless you use a fuel stabilizing chemical, and even then the shelf-life is relatively short. You need to rotate your inventory on a regular basis to avoid problems.

Here at the Brain household we have a 5,000-watt generator. We are able to run just about everything in the house — including the well pump, water heater and refrigerator — with the generator. The only thing we cannot run is the heat pump, so we have gas logs as a backup heat source. We do stagger our usage, but that is not a big problem for us. For example, we will run the refrigerator for an hour and then