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How to Decide Which Home Backup Generator is Right for You

Power outages are fun for about the first ten minutes — when it still feels like you’re camping! But as soon as someone wants to eat, open the fridge, or use the computer, that’s when everything goes downhill. Outages are especially dangerous during the summer and winter when extreme temperatures can threaten the safety of your family members. If you’re done being at the mercy of inclement weather, a generator is what you need.

Home backup generators, in any variety, help restore power to some or all of the electric appliances in your home. They can be a lifesaver in major, long-term power outages, and they can save you a lot of money in spoiled food for less severe outage conditions. If you’re considering purchasing a generator, you’ll want to do a little bit of research first. As you probably know, generators most often come with a hefty price tag, so you’ll want to make sure you get the perfect option for your home before you make a final decision.

When it comes to deciding on a generator, the first step is determining what type of generator you’d like. There are two types, a portable emergency generator, and a home standby generator.

The Home Standby Generator

The home standby generator is the Cadillac of generators. Totally hands-free, these powerful machines hook up directly to your natural gas or propane, and switch on as soon as they sense a dip in the power coming to your home. That means you don’t have to turn them on, and you don’t have to refuel them. If you’re looking for ultimate comfort and safety when it comes to a power outage, then you need a home standby generator. They require very little maintenance, no work on your part, and can power your entire home throughout a lengthy outage, so long as you have gas to fuel them.

The drawback of a home standby generator is cost. Depending on the size, these machines will cost thousands of dollars, with a good average price tag of around $7,000. Part of their great cost is the price of installation. Since they connect directly to your home’s circuit, they require professional installation to ensure they function efficiently and safely. That said, after your initial expense, your home will experience less than a few seconds of outage before the standby generator kicks on, and you’re back to living in luxury.

The Portable Emergency Generator

The more common generator type, a portable emergency generator comes in smaller sizes, and at a smaller price. These generators can power the essentials in your home, but you’ll have to gas them up in the event of a power outage — they won’t turn on by themselves. Running anywhere from $500 to a few thousand dollars, the price largely depends on the size generator you need.

Which Portable Emergency Generator is Right For Me?

Portable emergency generators come in a range of different sizes, all based on how much wattage you’ll need. Your wattage is the amount of power each appliance you’re hoping to power uses to run.

To determine your wattage, first, make a list of all the things you’d like to power in the event of an outage. A few lamps, a microwave, and the refrigerator are essentials, but what about your computer or television? Once you know what you’d like to power, go around to each appliance and check to see what wattage they use. You’ll find it on a small silver sticker, or written on the back or bottom of most appliances. Add the wattages up, multiply that number by 1.5, and you’ll have the minimum wattage generator you’re looking for. It’s important to remember to multiply by 1.5 because your appliances need the extra wattage to power on.

Setting Up and Using your Portable Emergency Generator

Once you’ve found the right size portable emergency generator for you, you’re all set for the next power outage. When the power goes out, simply wheel your generator at least 10 feet from the house, plug in the necessary appliances (using appropriately graded extension cords), fill ‘er up with gasoline, and you’re good to go! Remember that you’ll need to refuel every so often, between 7 and 10 hours depending on the generator and the amount of power you’re pulling.

Portable Emergency Generator Considerations

Generators, even portable emergency ones, are powerful electrical appliances. Take great care to follow all manufacturer instructions when in use.

  • Do not plug your generator directly into a circuit. While this might seem like an easy fix to you, the electricity can run back up the powerline, which is very dangerous for your neighbors and can be fatal to electricity servicemen working on the lines.
  • Ensure your generators is always at least 10 feet from the house. More people die of carbon monoxide poisoning from generators than from the power outage conditions themselves.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors to ensure your home is safe while using your portable emergency generator.
  • Do not refuel while the machine is hot or running. Fuel overflows can cause explosions and fire.

In the end, the type of generator you choose depends on how much energy your home needs in the event of an outage, and how much you’re willing to spend to maintain electricity throughout your home. Both options have pros and cons, so the choice will really come down to your particular situation.

If you’re expecting a bad winter and are looking to protect your home from inclement weather, make sure your homeowner’s policy is up to snuff. If you are interested in better coverage, for the right price, talk to the experts at Doyle & Ogden. We have partnerships with all the top-rated insurance providers in the area and will work to find you the policy that best suits you, and your home. Give us a call at 616-949-9000 or request your personalized quote online today!

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