Generators come in a wide range of size, wattage and prices but don’t let the numbers put you off.
When it comes to portable generators, you have five different styles to choose from depending on your needs. These are:
- Solar/Battery – forget needing extra fuel, you could select a generator that powers itself. They create no noise or fumes making them perfect for most prepper needs.
- Recreational Inverter Generator – these are basically the replacement to the old and noisy “camping generators.” Although these were fairly expensive when they first started hitting the market, their prices have now dropped significantly recently.
- Emergency Generators – these feature larger and more powerful engines than the recreational generators and are designed to restore power to mission-critical appliances like refrigerators, sump pumps, televisions, and lights. These have good-sized tanks that are designed to run for hours without interruption.
- Semi-Pro Generators – these have high-quality engines and durable components, semi-pro generators are easily capable of restoring power to a home from a blackout.
- Professional Generators – these heavy-duty generators are built in limited quantities for professionals who understand that quality does not come cheap.
Aside from the styles of portable generators listed above, you also have standby generators that come with a hefty price tag to match.
So how do you choose the right generator? Read on as we try to explain.
How to Choose the Right Generator
You can’t just head out and purchase any old generator and expect it to do what you want. You need to sit down and crunch some numbers to determine the size that you need.
Every appliance that you have in the home should have a label that clearly states the wattage. Add these numbers up for all appliances that you want to be able to use during a power outage.
- Take a walk around the home making a list of everything you want to power during an outage.
- Check each appliance for a label on that contains information such as wattage, model number and the year it was made.
- Write down the item and how much wattage it uses.
- Once completed, add together the items’ wattages, then multiply that number by 1.5 (appliances need the extra power to start up).
- The figure that you end up with is the minimum wattage needed for your generator.
It really is that simple.
Portable or Standby Generator?
The cheapest option in terms of generators is to go for a portable backup generator in the yard with an extension cord. If choosing this option, make sure that you keep your generator at least 10 ft. from your house to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
The biggest downside to these is that you need to run extension cords everywhere that you want power and you can only plug in a certain amount of things at the same time. You also have to start and maintain the generator.
During a power outage, place your generator on a flat surface outdoors that is at least 10 ft. from the house.
You need to make sure that you use the correct extension cords as they must be at least 14 gauge to carry enough power and always start the generator before plugging them in.
If you don’t want to be running extension cords everywhere, you can still use a portable generator by having a manual transfer switch subpanel installed off your main circuit panel and install a dedicated inlet to power the subpanel. With this, you can power entire circuits in the house instead of individual appliances. You will still however, be limited in what you can power.
Standby generators are a lot more expensive than the portable ones but they automatically turn on when the power goes out without you actually needing to do anything. These do need to be professionally installed. When the power is restored, the transfer switch shuts off the generator. Instead of needing to store extra fuel, these connect to your home’s fuel supply.
Below you will find some further considerations that you should take into account before choosing a generator.
- Noise level – check the decibel levels and ensure that the generator muffler is of good quality.
- Fuel tank capacity and litres per hour of usage – you want a generator that is fuel efficient, but also one that holds a decent amount of fuel.
- Electric remote start – if you don’t want to have to keep going out to turn your generator on, look for one that has an electric remote start.