Power outages can last for a few hours if there is a technical snag or even a few days and weeks if it is caused due to inclement weather. Irrespective of the reason for the outage it causes a lot of inconvenience to the homes that face power cuts. Most people consider buying a backup power source like a generator only after they have experienced a blackout or after they have no electricity and that makes them vulnerable to hasty decisions and purchase a device that is not right for them. So it is necessary to know how to choose a generator that is suitable for your home before making this investment.
The most important consideration to make while choosing a generator for your home is, based on the frequency of power outages. Some of them are as below:
Frequent power cuts: If you experience frequent and long power cuts, look for a backup source that runs all the appliances at home. This device is also useful if you live in an area that experiences frequent and prolonged power outages due to wildfire, storms, etc. The power generator that you purchase should connect to the breaker panel of your home so that even high power consumers like heaters, air conditioners, etc can work. Some of the generators for prolonged outages are:
- Large inverters
- Home standby
- Portable generators
Occasional outage: If there are occasional power cuts but they last longer than a few hours you would not want to invest in a machine that is permanently installed to your home circuit. There are many backup sources that can be hooked and unhooked as and when needed. So, if there is an occasional power outage you can invest in a large inverter or a portable generator that can be stored in a garage and used when there is an outage. It is also relatively inexpensive when compared to stationary units.
Rare outage: If the location you live in, has a rare power cut and you want to invest in a machine just to be on the safer side, you can consider purchasing a midsized inverter or a recreational inverter. These are compact and have enough power to run an AC or a fridge and can be kept at the back of a car trunk.
Types of generators
There are four types of generators that are commonly used for the home:
Home standby generators: These are permanently installed and run on fuel and they help to resume power immediately after an outage as it is connected to the home circuit breaker panel.
- Are the most expensive type of generator and installation has to be done by a professional which adds to the cost of the device.
- Is capable of providing the most power when compared to other types and can produce approximately 5k Watts to 20k Watts which runs all home appliances.
- Mostly runs on propane which helps in more power supply and is less risky to store when compared to gasoline.
Portable generators: These are backup power sources that can power homes but unlike a home standby generator it cannot run all the appliances but only a few items. It has the following features:
- It is portable and need not be installed
- Comes in a gas or propane fuel choices
- These are less expensive when compared to home standby generators
- Can run a TV, refrigerator or air-conditioners
- Due to its portability, it can be used in remote sites.
Inverter generators: It produces AC power with the help of an engine which is connected to the generator. The AC is converted into DC with the help of a rectifier.
- Is the most energy-efficient and the engine speed gets adjusted as per power needs
- Provides constant power to an appliance
- Uses advanced technology to generate power
- It is very light-weight and can fit into the back of a car.
Portable power stations: These are battery-powered backup sources that get charged from an electrical outlet.
- The most recent power source which does not need gasoline or propane as fuel
- Is more expensive than portable generators
- Eco-friendly in every way and is noise-proof
- Cannot run many appliances and does not run for long
- It is portable and does not need to be started as it runs on battery.
Determine your power needs
It is essential to know what appliances you want to run when there is an outage. Sometimes people will want to run only important devices like AC’s or heaters while others will want to have their entire house powered. For safe and proper use of generators, it is essential to determine the power needs. To determine this list out all the appliances that you want to run during power cuts.
- List all the appliances that you wish to run during a power cut
- Note down the Watts mentioned in the appliances needed to run it, noting the appliance that needs the highest starting Watts
- Sum all the Watts and the number that comes up is the number of watts the generator needs.
An automatic transfer switch is an essential addition to the generator as it helps it to start automatically in case of a power cut. This switch continuously senses the main power and if it is cut off, the switch detects it and starts the generator engine after disconnecting from the mains power, which enables off grid living without any hassle. It is crucial to get the right switch installed as it has to work along with the main panel to restore power. The switch should have the same amp power as the main breaker.
Generators can be noisy
Most generators even to this day are quite noisy which a disturbance is for your neighbors. The noiseless ones are more expensive and it is best to check the noise it generates on full-load before purchase. If you are living in a populated place it is recommended that you buy a quiet device.
Other features to consider
- Alternative fuel capacity
- Low-fuel gauge
- Electric start
- Low-oil shutoff
- Multiple outlets
- Automatic voltage regulation
Pick a generator for your home before a power outage happens and not when the incident happens as that will give you enough time to research and invest your money on a worthy device.