Buyer’s Guide to Backup Generators
Don’t find yourself out in the cold this winter, installing a backup generator can ensure that you have heat, lights, and water – even if the power’s out. So what types of generators are there, and which will work best for you?
Before you buy, you should know:
- Your Wattage Needs – how much power will you need to use for your “essential” items, the things that you’ll want to make sure you can power with your backup generator.
- Generator Type – you will need to decide whether you’re interested in a standby generator system (one that runs on natural gas, and automatically comes on when the power goes out) or a portable generator (one that typically runs on gasoline, and you manually turn it on when the power goes out). The right type for you will fit your budget, power needs, and preferred level of convenience.
- Determine Electrical Issues – find your electrical service panel and gas line, and have these inspected so that you’re aware (and can fix) any potential problems before you buy a generator. You will need a transfer switch professionally installed if you are going to use a portable generator.
- Compare Products – check out the generators of your preferred type, and compare their features (power load, run time, price, accessories and included items) to find one that best fits your budget and needs
- Think about Additional Costs – determine whether there will be any add-on costs for necessary accessories (for example, a cover to protect the unit from the elements if you plan to leave it outside), and what type of installation cost you are looking at for having a qualified professional install the appropriate wiring, switches, etc.
- Set Your Budget – generators can come in a wide range of price points, and can meet your very specific needs. Knowing the amount you can afford to spend can help you to determine what type of backup generator you’d like, as well as which specific model will work for you.
Generators come in several different varieties – the most common being standby and portable. A qualified electrician can help you to determine which type will work better for your needs and can help you to get the wiring in place to effectively support the model you choose. If you opt for a portable model, remember that it needs to run outdoors – and not near any windows, vents, or crawl spaces.