Portable Generator Buying Guide
WHEN ARE GENERATORS USED?
You may have had times when unforgiving nature has left you without power in your home. Don't be left in the dark. A home generator will ensure that you have power during unexpected circumstances and give you family the comforts that they need. It can keep your food cold, your kitchen cooking, and your computers and phones charged. Power outages tied to extreme weather are making generators more essential by the day. They can be directly wired into your homes breaker panel with a transfer switch by a licensed electrician and in some cases can turn on automatically when main power is lost. Portable generators are not limited to home use. They can be used while camping and enjoying the outdoors, powering your RV off of the grid, or operating your tools at the jobsite.
While a 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.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT SIZE GENERATOR:
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 and 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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 and this will be the minimum size generator that you'll need. It is a good idea to get the generator that has a slightly higher rating than what your total running watts are.
- 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. This will determine the minimal wattage requirement. Again, it is always a good idea to get the generator with a slightly higher rating than what you calculate. Having a larger generator will put less strain on it and will allow it to have a longer lifespan.
Now that you have determined the wattage for your requirements, you can comparison shop a variety of different brands and models to fit your needs.
WHEN SHOPPING FOR A PORTABLE GENERATOR, CONSIDER THESE STEPS:
- WATTAGE: Determine the watts that will be required. Shop for a generator that is larger than what is required.
- PORTABILITY: The small generators are easy to carry. Some of the larger portable generators can get heavy. They have handles and hard puncture resistant tires for transporting over uneven terrain.
- OUTLETS: Make sure that your generator has enough outlets and the right type(s) of outlets. Some generators will operate 120V and 240V outlets. If you plan on running a higher watt item, such as an air conditioner or an RV trailer, then look for a generator with a 30 amp or 50 amp locking-type outlet.
- RUN TIME: It is best to look for a generator that could run for long periods at half load. Longer run-times will require less refuel periods. A generator that can run for 10 hours at half load will allow you to to sleep longer during power outages and recreation, and will allow you to work longer days on jobsites without having to stop to refuel.