When you are in the market for a generator, the choices are often overwhelming. You want to make sure you are choosing a generator that fits your budget, but will also fit the needs of your household and integrate easily with your other energy sources.
Choose The Right Type
Making the choice between a portable and standby generator can be difficult and will primarily depend on your needs and budget. If you live in areas that are susceptible to hurricanes or blizzards, a portable generator may not be enough for your needs. Since the power can be out for several days or weeks after a severe weather event, it may be difficult to find a constant supply of fuel for a portable generator. Standby generators are ideal for areas prone to severe weather since they are designed to be used for longer periods.
Additionally, if anyone in your household has serious medical problems and must rely on breathing assistance or dialysis, you will need an alternate energy source. Before choosing a generator, you will need to determine which medical devices can be used with a generator. For many households, especially those with gas cooking appliances and a low risk of threatening weather, a standby generator may not be worth the costs. Even when the power goes out, you can continue to use a gas stove to boil water or cook food. A simple portable generator is enough to refrigerate food or power small electronics.
Pick A Fuel Source
Stand-by generators usually require natural gas or propane for fuel, but diesel is another option. If you already use natural gas or propane in your home, you will likely want your standby generator to use the same fuel source. Installing gas lines can substantially increase your installation costs. If you choose propane, you have to consider delivery. Since a standby generator will require more propane than a portable generator, you will likely need to schedule periodic deliveries to keep your generator ready.
You also have to consider the accessibility of propane in emergency situations. If your power is out for an extended time due to weather events, poor road conditions, fallen trees, and downed electrical lines can make it impossible to receive a propane delivery. Unless the weather event or a construction crew causes a break in a gas line, you will receive a steady supply of natural gas without problems.
For portable generators, purchase a generator with dual fuel capabilities. Many models are able to use both gas and propane, which can make obtaining fuel easier when severe weather is expected. Since there will be an increase in the number of people filling up their cars before a storm, you may run into problems with empty gas pumps before and after a storm.
Buy The Right Size
Before you go shopping, you need to seriously consider which appliances you have that must be connected to the generator. For most people a refrigerator and/or deep freezer is the major concern, because it will need a constant supply of power to keep food at the appropriate temperature. Other concerns may be cooking appliances that will not require as much power, because they will not be consuming power continuously. Lastly, think about electronics and how they are used in your home. For example, you should make a list of how many computers and mobile devices may need a constant supply of power for work. Other electronic devices that are mostly used for entertainment should be the least important on your list of power consumption.
Although standby generators are designed to provide power to the entire house, you want to minimize energy consumption, especially if you will purchase a standby generator that uses propane. Since you may be without power for an unknown amount of time, you want to preserve as much fuel as possible for essential appliances. If you choose a portable generator, you will be extremely limited in the number of appliances you can connect to the generator and how long it will supply power.
Having a generator available is comforting when severe weather threatens or someone in your household has serious medical needs. Before making the investment in any type of generator, make sure you understand your available options and what will best fit the needs of your household. For more information on what type of generator to purchase, contact an electrician for advice.