Generator Buying Guide – How to Choose

Generators are one of life’s essentials that give you the best value for your money. Luxury and comfort are life’s main goals these days, next to the otherworldly things. And with so natural disasters disrupting grid connections in every nook and cranny of the world, having a generator on standby is an absolute must-do.

Buying a generator doesn’t involve a meagre amount, but being the only lighted house with a fully-operational electrical system in the seam of an uneventful power outage, can make paying a substantial amount for a generator worth it.

Here is an all-encompassing generator buying guide that will lead you ending up with the most suitable generator for your needs and lifestyle.

Determine How Much Power You Need

This is also referred to as the size of the generator. When we say size, it doesn’t mean the generator’s physical dimensions but it’s simply how much power it can supply. However, figuring this out might not be that simple and this should be intricately done to avoid getting the wrong-sized generator.

Let’s get to know starting wattage and running wattage. A starting wattage is the amount of wattage required by an appliance to start, while the running wattage is the amount of wattage required to run continuously. A starting wattage is usually three to four times higher than the running wattage and this is the first step in choosing the correct generator size.

The second step is to list down all the appliances you want to be powered up in the event of blackouts or brownouts. Then, get the wattage information by looking at each appliance’s manual. If this option isn’t possible, you can always check an ID plate or a sticker located on the appliance itself. It’s usually at the back of the appliance in the upper left or right corners. Lastly, add up all the starting wattage and the total number should give you an idea of how much power you’d need from a generator. A pro tip is to add a couple more watts to the total in case new useful appliances are added in the future.

Here are some wattage ballpark figures on the most common survival appliances:

Lights: 60 to 300 watts
Cellphone Chargers: 10 to 15 watts
Laptop Computers: 20 to 25 watts
Computers: 60 to 300 watts
Refrigerator: 600 watts
Sump Pump: 750 to 1,500 watts
Portable Heater: 1,500 watts
Television Sets: 50 to 240 watts
Air Conditioners: 1,000 to 1,500 watts

Choose the Generator Type

The search for the best generator solely depends on its usage. The type of generator should be in parallel with your lifestyle and most especially – your budget. Let’s narrow down the main features of three of the most run-of-the-mill generator types today.

1. Standby Generators

Standby generators are permanently installed in the house by pro electricians. Since these are typically the most powerful generators, these also give off louder noises while it’s operating. The purpose of hiring an experienced electrician is to make sure you adhere to the city’s regulations and permits, noise restrictions if any and proper generator storage for safety.

If you want to experience full comfort in times of electrical faults, these are the right generators for you. These can even power your entire house and appliances simultaneously. When the power goes out, these beasts turn on automatically and can run for days on end depending on the load and the fuel type.

Wattage: 5,000 to 2,000
Price: $3,000 to $6,000

2. Portable Generators

As the name suggests, portable generators aren’t rigidly installed in the house but can be carried anywhere even during your camping adventures. What it doesn’t have in power, it makes up for the inconvenience. But since you can put it anywhere, it’s very important to practice safety measure when using these types of generators. One such measure is to never use it too close to the house or your RV when camping, these types typically run on gasoline or diesel and emit harmful carbon monoxide fumes that can kill a person or risk health issues.

Also, protecting from natural elements like rain, snow, or dust must be taken into consideration since you can store these generators anywhere. Make sure they are covered properly to prolong their lifespan.

Wattage: 3,000 to 8,500
Price: $400 to $1,000

3. Inverter Generators

These are more portable than portable generators with a striking difference in noise and weight. These types are more compact and lightweight hence, more expensive than the portable generators. They are great inventions with much quieter engines and exhaust systems which in turn, also create less harmful emissions.

In terms of power, since these generators are relatively smaller physically; its power is also lesser. These are perfect for camping or running a few major survival commodities.

Wattage: 2,000 to 4,000
Price: $500 to $4,000

Choose the Fuel Type

This is a fairly important part of choosing a generator. The fuel type should depend on five factors: accessibility, affordability, storage safety, shelf life, and environmental impact. Below are five of the commonplace fuel types used by generator owners and its pros and cons:

Gasoline

Pros

• Highly accessible since gas stations are prevalent anywhere
• The most typically-used fuel type in generators which makes it easier to choose a generator

Cons

• Gasoline is highly flammable and isn’t advisable to store in prolonged periods and in huge quantities
• Has a shorter shelf life

Diesel

Pros

• More fuel-efficient than gasoline because it has 14 percent more power per volume than its gasoline counterpart
• May require less maintenance than gasoline
• Least flammable

Cons

• Diesel-powered generators are louder due to the powerful compression response and ignition
• Can’t be stored for too long, even longer than gasoline

Propane

Pros

• Considered as a clean fuel which burns cleaner emissions
• Safe to store indefinitely and find effortlessly as well

Cons

• Highly flammable than gasoline
• Tends to eat up around 20 percent more than gasoline and diesel which means it’ll end up as more expensive

Natural Gas

Pros

• The best power backup option as its supply is unlimited
• The cleanest burning fuel out of the other three

Cons

• More highly flammable than gasoline
• Some areas do not have an endless supply of natural gas
• The initial price of natural gas-powered generators are higher

Solar

Pros

• The cleanest source of energy
• You will end up not paying anything for the running cost because most of the energy is from the sun

Cons

• If you want to power the entire house, you might need to invest in full-fledged roof solar panels
• The upfront fees for installation are extremely high

Look for Additional Features

Additional features will likely add up to the initial generator costs. Be that as it may, these features bring more benefits to the owners and the generator itself in the long run. The topmost concern you should think about is how you can start a generator. Think of a scenario in which you’re trying to pull-start your generator in the middle of the night, drenched in rain, trembling to the cold breeze. Not the best experience, right? An automatic start feature might come in handy in a time like this. You don’t have to break a sweat in starting your generator. An electric start feature which requires you to easily push a button is also a hassle-free alternative.

A fuel gauge is also convenient to know if your generator is running low and needs refueling. Always remember to let the engine cool off, say 15 minutes or so, before refueling. Some generators also come with a shutoff attribute when oil is below the minimum levels. Totally depleting the oil in your oil compartment is detrimental to the generator’s engine.

You can also look for multiple outlets that come with your generators. More than four outlets allow the generator to balance the load in each outlet. Though it’s not entirely recommended to always gain power directly from the generators, these might be well and good when you’re the avid camper.

Install A Transfer Switch

A transfer switch delivers a safe, secure, and appropriate way for generators to exercise their power to your circuit panel. Those circuits are isolated and a transfer switch eradicates back-feeding possibilities. Back-feeding can potentially endanger people, damage appliances, and destruct the generator as well.

In your breaker box, install a transfer switch and connect your generator to the transfer switch. Depending on the size of the generator, most of the smaller-sized ones can’t power all appliances simultaneously; a transfer switch manually transfers every load one at a time if the need arises.

Final Thoughts

Buying a generator doesn’t have to be a daunting task. If you consider these factors in choosing the best one; you’ll end up living in utmost comfort than most people in your neighbourhood who haven’t decided on getting one themselves. A generator is also a great investment especially when you’re planning to sell your house in the future as it adds value to your home. Sometimes, a return on investment is given back break-evenly or maybe even more in some cases. Remember to choose wisely by choosing brands with a good and solid reputation in the industry.