AAHH!! Is that how you feel when it comes time for any home improvement decisions? Don't worry, that's why we are here! We can breakdown generators and help start to point you in the right direction.
So now, let's break it down.
Portable vs. Standby
When it comes to the cost, many people will opt to go with a portable generator. This is good option if you are only wanting a handful of absolute necessities powered in an outage, and for a short period of time. Some things to be aware of with portables are they are manual operation, so you must be home to start it up. While standby generators can be hooked right up to your natural gas or propane line, portable generators run on gasoline. The typical tank holds 3-6 gallons, so if your outage lasts too long, you may be out in the storm to refill. Because of these factors, portable generators require close monitoring.
Standby generators on the other hand, are very hands off. They are wired into a transfer switch that will automatically turn the generator on when a loss of power is detected. This is a good option if you are wanting to power most to all of your home. If you live in heavily wooded or more rural areas, this is a good option as power may not return as quickly to those areas. If noise level is of concern, standby generators are your quieter option. They are enclosed in a sound deadening shell to reduce noise.
Remember when I mentioned home value? When you purchase a standby generator, typical home seller's will recoup around 50% of the cost! They can also last over 15 years, especially when you keep up on annual maintenance (stay tuned, that post is just around the corner!)
One last thing to consider is clean power. Now a days a lot of newer gas furnaces and other household appliances contain very sensitive circuit boards which cannot function properly with "dirty power". If this incompatible relationship exists, the portable generator you purchased was for nothing.
Time to Choose!
So now that you have a better idea of the value a generator can bring, lets take a look at choosing the right size for your needs.
The first thing to consider is just how many circuits you want to run at the same time. This is called the load. The load is so important when it comes to selecting the size of your generator. If you select one that is too small, you could put excessive stress on your generator that can damage it or the appliances and electronics wired to it. Under-sizing your generator is actually the most common mistake homeowners make when purchasing a generator.
Another thing to think about is the item in your home that uses the most electricity to start. You may not plan to run that AC unit. If this were to kick on unexpectedly, it could cause a surge in your electrical system. So another option to consider is a whole home surge protector right on your panel. More about this later. ;)
This size is good for the bare minimum. Keep your food from spoiling, your house from flooding and some heat running . Your fridge and freezer, sump pump and furnace will use the bulk of the circuits at 4000 watts. Staying in this size group can also get you some minimal lighting, a small tv and a microwave.
This group is sits right in the middle of necessity while adding a little extra comfort. These generators can handle larger loads to include your well pump, electric hot water heater, and larger central AC unit on top of the mentioned above. When you get a bit closer to 13,000 watts you may even be able to a video game or computer for the kiddoes.
Think of the list of working circuits from your first two options. Now add multiple small kitchen appliances. Coffee makers, toasters, electric griddle. Just keep in mind that each of these will be an additional 1000-1500 watts. So still make sure to keep their use to a minimum so you don't overload the system.
Think back to the other day when I mentioned medical equipment, or a home business. This group of standby generators would be your best bet. This size can keep everything mentioned running, along with a number of higher voltage appliances. Once the transfer switch switches on with these, most people in the house won't even notice the power is actually out.
Now that you have a better idea of what is out there, take a moment to create a list of exactly what a power outage means to you and your family. What are your needs? Do you have specific wants that you just cannot live without? Keep in mind the emergency of a lengthy outage. It is so crucial to have a good idea of how much of your home you want running. An electrician can also help you calculate just what you need to help you find the correct size. So for now, just get that list going and we can help with the rest!