Generators come in various models and with various characteristics, so choosing the best one for your home and lifestyle will require both time and effort.
Types of generators
There are two main types of generators: portable and standby, or stationary.
Portable generators are, true to their name, very small and convenient to put away when not in use. They can be moved around the home, which will especially be useful if you're going to buy one that's only powerful enough for certain appliances or areas of your home. However, because of their size, portable generators can only operate for limited periods. You'll have to refuel them several times if you're going to use them for a whole day. You'll also have to manually connect your electrical loads to the generator each time. You can get a portable generator for lower than $500, but they are not recommended as long-term sources of backup power.
Standby generators, or stationary generators, on the other hand, are big machines capable of creating much more power than portable generators. They are permanently connected to a fuel source and to your home's electric wiring, so you won't have to go through the hassle of rolling one out of the garage and filing it up with fuel every time you need to use it. Additionally, most standby generators have automatic systems that allow them to kick in and start producing power once they sense an outage. Standby generators are much more expensive than portable ones though, and those with high wattage output can cost several thousands of dollars.
If you are on a tight budget and just want your generator to provide you with power for a couple of hours at a time, portable generators are the more practical choice. However, if you experience frequent power outage in your area and want the most mileage out of your generator, then a standby generator is recommended.
Types of fuel
There are many different types of fuel that generators can use, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), also called propane. Make sure the fuel needed by the generator you're considering will be accessible to you and your home.
In general, portable generators require gasoline and diesel fills, while standby generators need to be hooked up to a natural gas line or an LPG tank.
If you're going to hook up your generator to a gas line, make sure the pressure the generator requires is met by your gas line's standards. Most residential gas lines have a pressure of 0.20 to 0.25 psi (pounds per square inch), so if the generator you want requires a higher pressure, you should first contact your utility company to check if they can increase your gas line's pressure.
As a safety precaution, remember to keep your generator at least 10 feet away from your home if you are using a gasoline-powered model, because carbon monoxide poisoning is a serious danger if the fumes of the generator find their way into your home. Make sure you have a safe and secure location for your generator nearby, such as a tool shed.
Wattage is the most important factor in choosing a generator for your home.
You need to check your home's simultaneous load-that is, the electricity used by all the appliances and other electrical devices if they are turned on at the same time. The wattage of appliances and electrical devices can be seen on stickers or plates installed at the bottom or at the back.
Then check motor wattage. Motors require three to five times their wattage during start-up. Appliances with motors includes furnace fans, well pumps, and air conditioners. Take their wattage and multiply the total by five.
Now that you have your electric wattage and your motor wattage, simply add them to get a number. That number should be the minimum wattage of the generator you're going to buy.
There are two types of generators: portable and standby.
Portable generators are convenient to move and can be bought for less than $500, but are not recommended as long-term sources of backup power because of their limited time of operation and lower wattage output.
Standby generators are generators permanently installed into your home's electrical wiring system and connected to an external fuel source such as a natural gas line. They are recommended for households that experience frequent power outages.
There are different types of fuel for generators, including gasoline, diesel, natural gas, and liquefied petroleum gas. Make sure that the fuel will be accessible to you at all times.
You'll have to calculate the simultaneous load of your home-the total wattage that your home uses up with all the electrical appliances and motors running-to know what wattage you need from your generator.