When shopping for a generator, there are many factors to consider to make sure you get a model that will meet your needs. Here is a guide to help you in your decision process:
1. Determine your Power Needs:
Before you start shopping, figure out what your power needs are. What items are crucial to power during an outage? This could include a refrigerator, lights, medical equipment, etc. This can be calculated roughly by adding up the wattages of the appliances you intend to run.
2. Choose between Portable or Standby Generators:
- Portable Generators: As the name implies, these can be moved around and are typically less expensive. They’re suitable for powering a few essential appliances, like a fridge, lights, and chargers.
- Standby Generators: These are permanently installed and can automatically switch on during a power cut. They can power a whole house and are more expensive.
3. Fuel Type:
Generators can run on various fuels, each with its pros and cons:
- Gasoline: It’s widely available and relatively cheap but has a short shelf life and is highly flammable.
- Diesel: More energy-efficient than gasoline, has a long shelf life, but is more expensive.
- Propane: Has a long shelf life and cleaner emissions, but it’s less efficient and more expensive than gasoline and diesel.
- Natural Gas: Ideal for standby generators, it’s a cleaner-burning fuel but requires a gas connection.
4. Generator Size:
This is directly related to the power output, often measured in watts. The size you need will depend on the number of appliances you wish to power and their total wattage. A small portable generator could provide 3000-4000 watts, enough for a few essentials, while larger standby generators could power a whole house.
Consider the features you may need. These might include:
- Electric Start: Much easier than pull-start models.
- Inverter Technology: Provides clean power that’s safe for sensitive electronics.
- Multiple Outlets: Allows you to distribute the load, especially useful for portable generators.
- Fuel Gauge: Allows you to check fuel levels at a glance.
- Automatic CO Shutoff: A newer feature that shuts down the generator if harmful levels of carbon monoxide are detected.
6. Noise Levels:
Generators can be noisy. If you live in a densely populated area, noise might be a concern for you and your neighbors. Check the noise level (measured in decibels) before purchasing.
Consider your budget. While you might not want to spend too much, remember that a cheaper, underpowered, or unreliable generator may end up costing more in the long run.
8. Brand Reputation and Warranty:
Go for a reputable brand that offers a good warranty. Look for reviews and customer feedback before buying. Brands like Generac, Honda, and Yamaha are generally well-regarded in the generator industry.
9. Local Codes and Regulations:
Before you install a generator, especially a standby generator, check your local codes and regulations. Some areas have restrictions on the installation of generators, or may require a permit or professional installation.
10. Maintenance and Availability of Service:
Consider how often the generator needs servicing and how easy it is to get parts or repairs. A generator is a long-term investment and should be maintained properly to ensure its reliability when you need it most.
Remember, safety is of utmost importance when using generators. Always use generators outdoors and away from windows, doors, and vents that could allow CO to come indoors.