If you live in the US, then surely, you have lived through power outages that may have been caused by a hurricane, snowstorm, or some other weather event. In such an event, you surely do know that a backup generator can prove to be very helpful.
But, which generator will match your requirements best? Well, we shall help you with it but before that let us discover an answer to a question likely running in most minds now.
Do You Need A Generator At All?
Yes, most likely you do need a generator. You need it even more if you live in a relatively rural area and may have to experience power outages for a longer duration. Even if you reside in an urban area, a generator yet will prove helpful if your electrical grid is not reliable or you experience frequent outages.
People in America usually experience at least 1 – 5 power outages each year. Among these, a few may last just for some minutes and to a maximum of an hour. But, in some cases, the blackout lasts for days and even weeks.
It is true that power outages, at times, can simply be rolling blackouts planned so that the electrical grid can match the power needs at peak times. But, power outages can also be a result of accidents, like animals causing damage to the infrastructure or people accidentally driving into an electricity pole.
Heavy snow, storm, and other weather conditions can even result in blackouts. Depending on the place you live in, wind storms, flooding, hurricanes, snowstorms, or even wildfires can cause a power outage.
So, basically, no matter where you live, you may experience power outages, and in the worst cases, it may continue for weeks. In such situations, you definitely do need a generator. But do not wait for a blackout to happen, as then many others like you will head to the store in search of a generator. And then, chances are, you might not find the one that matches your needs best. So, get one now, and you shall have nothing to worry about later.
What Type Of Generator Should You Get?
There are basically two kinds of generators –standby and portable. The portable ones are perfect for emergencies. They are ideal for those people who want to take their devices on the road. It is also good for those who may have to move their generator around their property. On the other hand, standby generators are in-built and shall be wired into your house.
Let us now get to learn a bit more about both these types of generators.
Whenever you experience a power outage a standby generator can quickly be turned on to compensate for the power loss. They simply help replace the electricity that you draw from your grid.
A standby generator, generally, shall produce power enough to meet the usual requirements of your home. You can run them on diesel or propane or even connect them to the natural gas line present in your home.
Standby generators will switch on automatically when there is a power outage. So, if you live in an area where blackouts are common, then a standby generator can prove to be a good choice.
There is just one thing that can bother some people and that is a standby generator is expensive compared to the portable one. Also, you need to get it professionally installed and even invest in its maintenance.
Portable generators are very user-friendly and most models also have wheels which make things a lot more convenient for you. You do not need to get them professionally installed, and they are also more economical compared to the standby generators. Furthermore, they can be moved around with ease and thus is a great choice for travelers or anyone who feels they will need to move their generator frequently.
Now, the problem with portable generators is that they can be loud. Also, they are not very powerful and thus can meet the power requirements of only a few items, and not your entire home.
Since most portable generators cannot be hooked up to the natural gas line you will have to refuel it manually. Running it thus can be more expensive when compared to the standby generators that can run off natural gas.
In case, you are using a portable generator, you will have to store a good amount of gasoline/diesel. If you will not use the generator often then you may have to add some fuel stabilizer to the gasoline.
Propane can be stored easily and more safely compared to gasoline and it even burns more cleanly. But it is also less efficient. Diesel, on the other hand, has the problem of significant price fluctuation. It is not easy to store diesel safely, and it even generates more air pollutants.
Yet, if you need a generator for emergency purposes, and may want to carry it to different places, then the portable one makes a wise choice. But, if you experience frequent blackouts in the place you live and are interested in something that can meet the power needs of almost your entire home then a standby generator will prove to be more worthwhile.
Most generators now come with inverter technology, and just some cheap models lack this innovation. Those generators that have an inverter are comparatively more energy efficient, last longer, and have low maintenance costs.
The inverter technology also helps prevent the normal fluctuations that happen when there is a change in the power requirements. The fluctuation is known as harmonic distortion, and it may harm your sensitive electronic equipment.
So, if you want to use a portable generator to power your television, computers, and any other expensive electronic gadgets, then go for the one that comes with inverter technology. Else, make sure to use extension cords that have surge protection, and unplug your electronic appliances to prevent damage when the mains power gets restored.
What Size Generator Will Be Ideal?
To get the best generator for your requirements you need to consider the size of its machine. This is going to be different for portable and standby generators, keeping in mind your requirements.
Sizing of standby generators
To calculate the minimum wattage needed for a standby generator, you have to find out the total running watts and then add the maximum additional starting watts that you will need to draw to be able to power each of your selected appliances together.
This will ensure your generator does not get overworked when various appliances are used together, and when the energy requirements are maximum. Usually, the wattage will be listed on the electrical cords of most devices. Or, you can find them mentioned in the user manual.
If you plan to get a generator just for emergency needs, then you must use it to power essential items only like cooking, heating, and communication gadgets. In case you are getting a generator to power all things in your house, then you must include things like your blender, television, computer, refrigerator, and so on.
Basically, if you have a 1 – 2 bedroom home, with 1 bathroom and a 3-ton AC, then a 10 kW generator will be perfectly fine. In case you have a 3-4 bedroom house, you should ideally opt for a 15kW generator. And, if your house has 5 bedrooms or more and you have a 5-ton AC then you must go for a 20kW generator.
If you do not plan to run your AC then smaller generators will work fine, and even a generator of 7,000 – 10,000 W will then be fit for a bigger home. It will also be a good idea to get a 7,000W generator to meet most of the needs of your home. And, you can invest in a separate smaller generator just to power your heating or AC unit.
When you do these calculations, do think about ways to control the use of energy. This will help minimize your electricity bills. Also, since there will be less usage of carbon-based fuel, you will not even be harming the environment much.
Sizing of portable generator
If you are interested in a portable generator to help you during occasional blackouts then you will not need something as powerful as a 20 kW standby generator. Just a small generator that provides 3-4 kW can power your TV, a computer, some lighting, a medium-sized refrigerator, and some other appliances.
If you desire to run a freezer, your window air conditioner, and some other appliances, then too you can do just fine with a 5-6 kW portable generator.
To Conclude –
Both standby and portable generators have their own share of pros and cons. It is your needs that will help you decide which among these makes a better choice.
Do not make a hasty purchase. Instead, sit down, and carefully make a list of all your requirements. Remember, you do not just need to select a standby or a portable generator, but you also have to select the right size. And once you have your list ready, then selecting the right type and the ideal size, both will be super easy.