Home Energy Savings | April 28, 2017

How to buy a generator

Power outages are a fact of life. While we’re living in a world that is increasingly dependent upon the delivery of energy resources, power outages can also create a shockwave of inconvenience—and even chaos—if we aren’t equipped to handle them. Though most short-term power outages can be handled without causing more than a minor inconvenience, homeowners may want to consider having an electric generator in place for long-term power outages.

How to choose the right size generator for your home

An electric generator is a major purchase, so you should do ample research before trying to decide which type of generator may be best for you. We’re here to help you understand how to shop for a generator and make you aware of important generator safety issues so that you can make the right choice for your home. Here are some points to consider:

  • Portable vs. standby generator – decide which of these types of generators is best for your home and budget.
  • Determine your energy needs and what generator sizes will power the essentials in your home. (Consult our generator sizing chart below for reference)
  • Consider the energy source as you’re sizing a generator for your home. Whatever generator you choose, you will need to have ample fuel and a place to store it safely.
  • Analyze the placement needs of the electrical generator you’re considering and decide what the safest options will be to protect your property.
  • Consult a professional when installing an electric generator that requires any changes to your home’s electrical wiring.


Portable vs. Standby Generators

The first thing to think about as you investigate the types of generators available are the pros and cons of a portable vs. standby generator. A portable electric generator can be used in an emergency power outage situation, but these types of generators also can be used when camping or where power is needed on the go. When sizing a generator, consider the various situations where you might make use of the device. Standby generators are permanent systems that are wired into your home and are easily switched on to maintain energy connection in a power outage.

Here are some important things to consider when deciding between a portable vs. standby generator.

Portable generator pros and cons:

  • Pro: Is generally less expensive
  • Pro: Doesn’t require professional installation
  • Con: Can be loud
  • Con: Requires fuel that must be manually refilled
  • Con: Can only power a few essential electrical devices

Stationary generator pros and cons:

  • Pro: Produces enough power to allow normal levels of power usage
  • Pro: Connects to existing natural gas line of home
  • Pro: Automatically switches on during a power outage
  • Con: Is generally more expensive
  • Con: Requires professional installation and maintenance

Sizing a generator

As you learn how to shop for a generator, you need to figure out what generator size is best for your needs. Sizing a generator can be tricky. Using our generator sizing chart can help you to sort out just how much or how little power you will need to operate your home’s essentials in a power outage. You will need to make a list of essential appliances, their wattage and how much electricity it takes for these items to start up to help determine the generator size that is best for your home. Once you have completed the assessment of your needs, the generator sizing chart below can help you determine what type of electric generator you should purchase.


Generator safety

Sizing a generator is an important part of understanding how to shop for a generator, but there is another crucial point to consider – generator safety. Ensuring that you take proper care when using a generator to power your home is important since electrical generators can be hazardous if not used properly. Here are a few generator safety tips to follow:

  • Be sure to place a portable generator at least 15 feet from any structure.
  • Generators should only be used in well-ventilated areas to protect from carbon monoxide output.
  • Generators should be kept dry and operate only on dry surfaces to prevent electrocution.
  • When refilling a generator, be sure to let it cool down completely to avoid starting a fire. Store fuel in a safe place, away from sparks or flames.
  • Only use approved, heavy duty extension cords to power your appliances. Do not overload the generator with more wattage draw than it can manage.

The most important thing to remember about selecting the right type of generator is to plan ahead. Prevent installation issues by purchasing and installing a generator long before you’re in need of one. Shopping shortly before a storm or during a power outage may mean the stores don’t carry the generator size you need or may not give you enough time to have the generator safely installed in your home.

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