10 Tips for Choosing the Best Portable Generator for Your Home
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Keeping the lights on, heaters humming, and electronics charged during a power outage is critical for most homeowners. In fact, the need for backup power in the event of an outage is one of the top three concerns of homebuyers according to a recent report by HomeAdvisor. With so many different generator types, fuel sources, sizes, and features available as well as varying price points and needs – finding the perfect generator for your home can be tricky. However, with the right information and preparation you can confidently choose the best portable generator for your home!
What's the difference between a portable and an in-home generator?
Although both are designed to supply backup power when there's a power outage at home, the main difference between portable and in-home generators is the location of the unit and fuel source. Portable generators are designed to supply power outside the home and run on fuel, while in-home generators are placed in an indoor garage, basement, or utility room and are often wired directly to the home's electricity. Portable generators are great for supplying power to outdoor tools, gardening equipment, or lighting. Additionally, they're ideal if you want the option of moving the generator to different areas of the home or want the utility to run it directly outdoors. If you're looking to provide power to one room of the home, such as the kitchen or a recreational room, an in-home generator is a better option.
Decide on a generator type
There are three main generator types on the market – and they each have their own benefits and drawbacks. Before choosing the best portable generator for your home, you'll want to decide which type is best for your needs. - Standby generators - Standby generators are designed to be permanently connected to your home's main electrical panel. They're often installed during a home's construction and can be wired to the home's gas line, electric service, or even solar panels. In the event of a power outage, standby generators instantly kick on and provide electricity to the home without any manual intervention. - Portable generators - These generators can be transported from one place to another and are most commonly fueled by gasoline, propane, or natural gas. Portable generators are commonly used for outdoor events, construction sites, or power outages. They can be an excellent temporary source of power for a home if you prefer not to permanently modify your home's electrical system. - In-home generators - In-home generators are placed in a garage, utility room, or basement and wired directly to the home's electrical system. They can be a useful source of backup power if you're interested in having an indoor generator or want the option to power a unique part of your home such as an alarm system.
Select a fuel type
While each generator type has its own benefits, they also come with various fuel options and have varying costs associated with them. You'll most likely want to select a generator that runs on a fuel source you already have in your home or can easily acquire during a power outage. - Gasoline - This fuel source is the most common among portable and in-home generators. Gasoline-powered generators can be powered by gasoline from either an above-ground or underground storage tank. It's important to note that gasoline-powered generators also have a potential risk of carbon monoxide poisoning and require exhaust systems. - Propane - This fuel source is commonly used for portable generators due to its ease of storage, transportability, and relatively low cost. Propane-powered generators need to be installed with a tank or connected to a nearby source of fuel. It's important to note that if your home's generator runs on propane, you'll need to stock up on extra fuel during a power outage. - Natural gas - This fuel source is great for homeowners who already have a natural gas source nearby. Natural gas-powered generators need to be wired directly to a home's natural gas line and have a special generator that runs on this fuel source.
Determine your wattage needs
Before you select the best portable generator for your home, you'll want to determine your wattage needs for critical appliances. This will help you select the appropriate generator size for your needs. Here are a few appliances that you'll need to account for. - Lights - Most standard lights require about 10 watts each. - Small appliances - Small appliances like a television, hair dryer, or coffee maker use anywhere between 1,500 and 5,500 watts. - Major appliances - Major appliances like a water heater, furnace, or refrigerator use between 5,000 and 15,000 watts or higher. You can also use an online wattage calculator to determine your wattage needs for other appliances.
Selecting the best battery size
If you're selecting a portable generator as the best solution for your home backup power needs, you'll want to make sure you have the correct battery size for your generator. You'll need to select a battery that can handle all of the appliances you plan to run on the generator, plus a little extra to account for any inefficiencies of the generator and other power losses. - Amp Hours (Ah) - This is a measure of the amount of power a battery can store and discharge. The larger the Ah rating, the longer your battery will last. - Volts - This is the amount of electrical pressure that gets a current flowing through a piece of equipment. - Watt Hours (Wh) - This is the amount of energy a battery can provide. The larger the Wh rating, the longer your battery will last. - MEG Hours (MEG) - This is an estimate of how long it takes for a battery to lose 10% of its charge. The larger the MEG rating, the longer your battery will last.
Finding the right RPM
RPMs, or revolutions per minute, refer to the speed at which your generator's engine is spinning. You'll want to match your generator's RPM with the RPM of any equipment you plan to connect to it. For example, most air conditioners require a generator that runs at 3600 RPM. Most homeowners prefer a generator that runs at 3600 RPM for running air conditioners during a power outage. If your generator is significantly lower or higher than 3600 RPM, you may need to install a governor to change the RPM. If you don't match the RPM of your generator with the RPM of your air conditioner, it can cause damage to both the generator and your air conditioner.
Choosing the best portable generator for your home is critical to keeping the lights on during an outage. While there are many factors to consider when selecting the best generator, it's important to first decide what type of generator you need (standby or portable) and then select the fuel type, generator size, and RPM based on your needs. Keeping these factors in mind will help you find the best generator for your home and keep the lights on during an outage.