Choosing the Right Generator for Your Home

Choosing the Right Generator for Your Home

Choosing the Right Generator for Your Home

Feb 8, 2024

Generators are a great way to ensure you keep power during a power outage and to bring power where it may not be available otherwise. There are three main types of generators to consider: home backup generators, also known as standby generators, portable generators and inverter generators. 

Standby Generators

These generators are powered by natural gas or propane and are hooked up to your home so that they turn on automatically when the power goes out. This is a great option if you live in a location with regular power outages during severe weather. Most standby generators are powerful enough to keep your whole home running smoothly during the outage. 

In addition to the generator itself, you will have to install either an automatic transfer switch and a subpanel to ensure the system will kick on when it's needed or a manual transfer switch. If installing an automatic, the transfer switch monitors your power supply, and if the power is cut, it turns the generator on for you. When power is restored, it shuts off the generator automatically. If you don't have a home supply of natural gas or propane, you will need to look into a propane tank or source of gas as well. When installing a manual transfer switch, you will need to manually turn the generator on in the event of an outage. 

Standby generators range from $5,000 for a 7,000-watt unit to more than $15,000 for a 30,000-watt unit. Larger units and most standbys will likely need to be special ordered through the manufacturer or specialty store. 

Portable Generator

Portable generators are smaller and simpler to set up and use than a standby unit. These are gas powered units that you can then plug in extension cords to connect the appliances most important to keep running during an outage, i.e. refrigerator, heater, etc. These will need to be set up at least 10 feet from your home to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning, so you will need to be sure you have enough footage on your extension cords to reach your appliances. The extension cords will need to be at least 14 gauge to carry adequate power. Be sure to not overload the generator, or you could blow a fuse or damage the motor. 

Portable backup generators can range from $500 for a 3,250-watt unit to $1,500 for a 10,000-watt unit. There are various start-up methods, including a pull-start, electric key or wheel. You'll need to remember to feed the portable generator with gas and gauge your refill based on the size of the reserve - some generators run only a few hours and others can run up to 10 hours. 

Rather than running an extension cord to your portable generator, you could consider having an electrician install a manual transfer switch subpanel off your main panel. This option would allow you to run full circuits off your panel, rather than individual appliances. During a power outage, this would involve running a cord from the backup generator to the inlet and flipping the manual transfer switch. 

Inverter Generator

Inverter generators are similar to portable generators, but they are quieter, more efficient and cleaner in power. An inverter generator only ramps up as high as it needs to in order to run your plugged-in appliances. Traditional inverters run at full capacity at all times, so these are much more energy efficient. This means you won't need to gas it up as often. They tend to be cleaner in power too, which means that they offer consistent voltage and quality power. The average cost on these ranges from $400 - $2000, depending on size. 

How to Choose Which Size is Right For You

The first step is to decide what you need or want to run in the event of an outage. It's a great idea to walk through the home and write down all of your necessities. Running wattage will be listed on each appliance (sometimes inside the door, sometimes on the back). Take each running wattage and multiply by 4. This will account for the starting wattage needed to kick the appliance on. Add up all the appliances you want to use. That will guide you to the minimum wattage generator for your needs. Be sure to leave some wiggle room in the size of your generator, ensuring your power needs are no more than 90% of its capacity.

Other considerations when choosing a generator include: price of the unit and storage of the unit (where can you fit it).

General Wattage Requirements 

Microwave: 600-1200 watts

Refrigerator: 700-1200 watts

Freezer: 500-1200 watts

Washing machine: 1200 watts

Sump Pump: 1500 watts

TV: 300 watts

Laptop: 250 watts

Electric Furnace: 5000-25000

Central AC: 2000-4000

Call us today for a free estimate on hooking up your generator to your existing system. Whether you are interested in a manual or automatic transfer switch, we can provide you with various options to suit your needs.