Best Electric Generator for Power Outages

Best Electric Generator for Power Outages

Severe weather can come unexpectedly, leaving you and your family without power for several hours or days. Planning ahead for these extreme conditions with an electric generator can help keep power your essential electric devices and appliances. The size and type of generator will depend on how many items that you want to keep power to. 

We will walk you through the different types and styles of generators, so that you can be prepared in case of a power outage at your home. 

Choosing the right generator before the power goes out in your home 

There are essentially three ways to keep electricity running to your home, in case of a power outage. 

1. Portable Generator

These generators can have either gas, diesel or propane for fuel. Their smaller size allows them to be moved around fairly easily, depending on the size. 


    • Portable size
    • Has a large range of sizes and prices to choose
    • Most budget friendly
    • Can be used for camping, hunting, construction sites and RV's
    • Has options for different fuel types
    • Can be stored easily
    • Have to have many cords ran to it
    • Needs refueled periodically
    • Noisy

    2. Standby Generator
    Standby generators are larger in size and are permanently attached to your home. They are ideal for areas that experience frequent and long term power outages. A licensed plumber can attach the generator to the natural gas line or propane line that runs to your home. Since the gas or propane line is attached to the home, it will have a constant fuel supply. This means that there is no need to refuel it, which will tremendously help during severe storm conditions. Instead of stringing out electrical cords from the generator to the house, the standby generator will have all of the wiring directly connected to the homes existing breaker panel box.  A licensed electrician is recommended to connect the wiring from the generator, through a transfer switch, to the main breaker panel in your home. Standby generators are available in larger sizes to power all of your home, instead of a few devices.
      • Larger wattage ratings
      • Can power most or all of your home
      • No cords to string out
      • Can quickly or automatically turn on when there's a power outage
      • No need to refuel
      • Quieter than portable generators
      • Stays outside
      • No need to store it
        • Higher cost
        • Requires licensed professionals to install
        • Not portable

        3. Portable Power Station
        Even though a Portable Power Station isn't considered a generator, it can provide a clean power supply. They require no fuel to operate and depending on the size, can operate several devices and appliances for extended durations. The zero carbon monoxide emissions allows them to be used indoors. One of the drawbacks to Power Stations is that once they low on power, they require a power source to recharge them. This is usually done with solar panels, when there is no other power supply available. They are very eco friendly for our planet and are very quiet while operating. 
          • Environmentally friendly
          • Zero carbon monoxide
          • Can be used indoors
          • Portable
          • Budget friendly
          • No fossil fuels to operate
          • Can be used for camping, hunting, construction sites and RV's
            • Has to be recharged when its power runs low
            • Difficult to recharge during severe storms and power outages


          How to determine the size of generator that is needed

          Before choosing a generator to backup your home during a power outage, there are some calculations that need to be made to ensure that the generator is large enough for you needs. To determine right size generator for your home, recreation or work, you need to know your power wattage that will be used. Generators are sized and rated by power output, as measured in Watts. Depending on what are wanting to operate with your generator will determine how you calculate the watt ratings. Starting watts and running watts are the two types of ratings to consider. Starting watts are extra watts needed to start an electric motor, such as a refrigerator or circular saw. Running watts, or rated watts, is a continuous wattage that is needed to keep the item running. 

          To determine your wattage requirements:

          1. Make a list as to what you'll need during a power outage, in an RV or at a jobsite. Select the items that you would like to operate at the same time. 
          2. Make a list of the running watts and starting watts for each item. You can find these ratings in the owners manuals or the data plate on the appliance. 
          3. Add together the RUNNING WATTS of all of the items (that don't require starting watts) that you want to operate at the same time. Multiply this number by 1.5. This is the minimal size of generator that is required.
          4. If you have some appliance that require STARTING WATTS, then will have to figure in an additional step when making your calculations. Add together all of the RUNNING WATTS of the devices that you want to operate at the same time. Find the device with highest STARTING WATT rating and add that number to your total RUNNING WATTS. Multiply this number by 1.5. This is the minimal size of generator that is required. 
          Now that you have determined the wattage for your requirements, you can comparison shop a variety of different types, brands and models of electric generators to fit your needs.


          Electric Generator Safety

          SAFETY FIRST:

          While a portable generator can be a lifesaver, it can also be dangerous if you don't take precautions. People tend to buy generators during major storms. In a rush to get it up and running, they might skip over critical safety steps while setting it up. Dozens of people die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning related to generators. We don't want you or anyone relying on a generator to be one of those people.

          Here's some safety tips for setting up your generator:

          • Always operate a generator outside at least 10 from your home with the exhaust pointing away from the house.
          • Never store the fuel can next to the generator. The slightest spark could cause a fire. 
          • Don't cover or lean anything against the generator while it is running. The exhaust gets hot and may catch combustable materials on fire.
          • Don't operate a generator near a door or window
          • NEVER operate a generator inside of a house, building, garage, carport or awning.
          • Install a carbon monoxide detector in your home prior to using a portable generator. It will detect you if carbon monoxide from the generator exhaust gets inside your home and reaches unsafe levels. 


          Connections from a generator to your home

          1. Portable Generator

          Before attaching cords to a portable generator, make sure that it is on solid level ground. Move fuel cans at least 20 feet from the generator and follow the safety guidelines that were listed previously.  

          • Extension cords

          Running extension cords from your portable generator to your home is the least expensive way to get backup power to your home during an outage. Make sure that the extension cord is at least a 14 gauge and is rated to handle the wattage of the device/appliance that you are operating. Hooking up too many devices/appliances to a single extension cord may trip the breaker on the generator or may damage the device/appliance. 

          • Sub panel
          A sub panel is smaller service/breaker panel that his added to the main service panel on your home or other buildings on the property. It allows backup power to be distributed to specific areas of your home. The sub panel is recommended to be installed by a licensed electrician and is generally located next to the main service/breaker panel inside of your home. To get backup power to the sub panel from a portable generator, a licensed electrician can install an outlet on the exterior of the home. This will all you to connect a heavy duty twist lock extension cord from the portable generator to your home.  While this type of connection requires more expense for the initial setup, it is the quickest way to hook up a portable generator. It only requires one cord and dedicated existing outlets can be used inside of the home. 
          • Transfer Switch

          When using a sub panel, a transfer switch is also installed to prevent electricity to feed back into the main power lines that supply the home. It is used for the safety of the utility workers. Without a transfer switch, a portable generator can enough electricity to injure or kill a utility worker that is trying to fix a damaged power line several miles away. A transfer switch is easy to operate. When there is a power outage, simply flip the switch from UTILITY position to GENERATOR position before connecting and starting the generator. After the main utility power has become restored, then flip the switch back to UTILITY position and unhook the generator. 


          2. Standby Generator

          Since a standby generator is not portable, it is recommended to decide on a location that is at least 5 feet from any doors or windows. Set the generator on a pre-cast concrete pad that is supported by a compacted bed of rock. Secure the generator to the pad with 4 stainless steel bolts. 

          • Sub panel with transfer switch
          If there are a few specific areas of the home that need backup power during an outage,  then a sub panel and transfer switch should be installed. In some cases, a standby generator is large enough to provide backup power to the entire home. In these circumstances, a sub panel is not required and a transfer switch will be the only item that will need to be installed. We recommend that all electrical work is performed by a licensed electrician.
          • Natural Gas/Propane
          Standby generators are connected to the main natural gas or propane line that supplies your home. Having the constant source of fuel allows the generator to operate for long periods without the constant hassle of refueling. The standby generator will automatically switch on when there is an outage. It  will also test itself automatically by turning on every two weeks for 20 minutes. Each time time the generator kicks on for testing, it will send an update signal to the homeowner via internet. 

          3. Portable Power Station

          Connections to a portable power station can done quickly. They don't require any fossil fuel to operate, so you can operate them inside of the home without the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. 

          • Direct connect
          Having the ability to operate the Power Station inside of the home allows you to plug your device/appliance directly into the Power Station outlets without the having to drag out extension cords. 
          • Extension Cords
          If there are several different rooms that requires backup power, you can set the Power Station in a central location in your home and run extension cords in different directions. You are able to use shorter extension cords, due to the Power Station being inside of the home and not located outside, such as a portable generator. 
          • Sup Panel with a Transfer Switch
          For backup power with the larger wattage Power Stations, you can have a sub panel and a transfer switch installed and operate it like a portable generator. An advantage of a large Power Station, is that you can mount it in the garage next to the sub panel and have specific outlets operating during an outage. 


          Make a plan

          Severe storms can be frightening and very stressful when the power goes out. Climate changes have been producing stronger storms, which is causing more power outages and overloads on the power grid. The uncertainty of the longevity of an outage can take an emotional toll on you. Using these guidelines will help you prepare for the worse and give you a better piece of mind.