Which Home Generator Is Right for You?

A house with lights on at night

The telltale flash, a floor-shaking boom, and darkness. Thunderstorms are often the culprit, but power outages can be caused by a variety of problems, from transformer malfunctions to a squirrel chewing through the wrong wire. With so many ways your power can be cut, it’s important to be prepared in the event of a power outage. And unless you want to find fun things to do in the dark, you’d better have a generator ready.

Types of generators

From having fuel on hand to keeping an extension cord ready, there are plenty of considerations once you’ve got a generator. But first, you need to know how to choose the right generator.

Recreational generator

A recreational generator is mostly for leisure activities such as camping or tailgating. Small and highly portable, these generators are limited in the scope of power they can provide. Even still, a recreational generator can produce up to 2,000 watts over an 8-hour runtime, and in the event of a blackout, it can power essential appliances such as refrigerators. Most power outages are relatively brief, so even the smallest generators can be sufficient to save your perishables.

Small portable generator

Even sizing up just a little can provide a lot more power. A small portable generator can produce up to 3,500 watts over an 18-hour runtime. This extra wattage allows you to keep key appliances running with enough power left over for some lights and other essentials.

As a more efficient option, you can also use a portable inverter generator. Portable inverter generators are typically about the same size and can produce the same electric current as a standard portable generator, however, they can alternate the strength of that current depending on how much power is being used. This saves fuel and creates a safer power source for electronics like computers.1

Large portable generator

Larger portable generators can be connected to your breaker panel. Producing up to 7,500 watts, these larger models can usually power most of your essential appliances and lights. Some of the more expensive large portable generators can produce even higher wattage, so determining exactly how much power you need is important before making your purchase.

Standby backup generator

Among home generators for power outages, there is a range of choices that can power some to all of your key appliances. But what about a generator that can power everything? If you want a generator to power the whole house, a standby backup generator is your best bet. These generators are installed outside, usually right next to the home, and can produce up to 20,000 watts indefinitely. Provided you’ve got sufficient fuel (most backup generators run on natural gas or propane), your home’s electrical system will operate completely normally until power returns.

Choosing the right size generator for your home

The size of the generator you need depends on the home and individual appliances within it that you’re preparing to keep active should a power outage occur. Everything that you need to provide power to has a set number of watts that it requires to run (running watts). Some appliances such as refrigerators also require a certain number of watts to turn on and start running normally (startup watts). By adding the running watts of every item you want to power with the startup watts required for the appliances that need them, you can determine the number of watts your generator will need to produce, and thus the size of generator you need.

Once you know how to pick a generator, and you’ve got the right one in hand, ensuring you’re well-stocked with fuel and other generator necessities like extension cords is important. Home insurance can protect you and your home from a variety of situations. Discover these home insurance resources to determine what kind of homeowners insurance is right for you.

1 https://www.norwall.com/power-expert/generators-and-inverters-whats-the-difference/, Accessed July 2021.

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