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What to Look for in a Generator: A Comprehensive Guide

What to Look for in a Generator: A Comprehensive Guide


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You’d think that purchasing a generator is a simple process: most models have fairly standard features, after all. You want it to run on gas, have a certain capacity (measured in watts), and ideally come with some kind of electronic monitoring system to keep you safe. This should be an easy purchase, right? Wrong. Generators can be surprisingly complex. There are tons of different types of generators out there, and each one has its own set of pros and cons. To find the best one for your needs, you need to understand exactly what makes one model better than another in different situations. This guide will explain everything you need to know when purchasing a generator during an emergency or natural disaster.

How to Choose a Generator

There are a lot of different factors to consider when purchasing a generator. It’s important to take all of them into account to find the right model for your needs. Here are some of the most important factors when purchasing a generator:

Environmental Factors: Location and Usage

You’re going to run into two environmental factors when purchasing a generator: noise and fuel. The location of your generator and how often you’re going to use it will dictate which one is more important for you. If you’re going to be using your generator in an urban setting, fuel might be more important than noise. Running a gas generator in a city is a bad idea for a number of reasons. Gas-powered generators produce emissions that can cause environmental damage and health issues. The noise from a gas generator is also very disruptive. People who live in urban areas are unlikely to allow you to run a gas generator in their neighborhood. If you’re using your generator in a rural setting, noise is probably an issue. Rural residents are likely used to the sound of barking dogs, crowing roosters, and the occasional far-off tractor or airplane. You might also have fewer neighbors to disturb compared to an urban environment.

Wattage and Horsepower

The first thing you should look for when purchasing a generator is the wattage. If a generator has a high enough wattage rating, you can use it for just about any residential electrical appliance. The only thing you won’t be able to power with a low wattage generator is your central air conditioner. Generators are rated based on continuous wattage, not intermittent wattage. This means that if you try to run an appliance with a wattage rating that is higher than the generator’s continuous wattage, you risk damaging the generator. You also want to choose a generator with enough horsepower. The horsepower rating of a generator is measured at less than full load. If you’re using a large amount of appliances at the same time, that can put a significant strain on your generator. If you’re not careful, you could cause your generator to trip the circuit breaker or even burn out.

Electronic Monitoring and Automatic Shut-off

These two features are only available on certain types of generators. If you’re looking for a portable generator for emergency backup, you may want to choose a model with electronic monitoring and automatic shut-off. This kind of generator comes equipped with a spark sensor and a circuit breaker to protect you from electrical hazards like fires and electrocution. Electronic monitoring systems are great for indoor generators. However, if you plan to use your generator outdoors, you may want to steer clear of these features. Generators with electronic monitoring systems are often equipped with circuit breakers that trip when they sense a problem. If you’re using your generator outdoors, a circuit breaker may trip if a nearby branch falls on the wire or if a ground fault occurs. In those situations, you won’t be able to reset the circuit breaker without assistance.

Run Time and Fuel Capacity

The run time and fuel capacity of a generator are going to be important if you plan to use your generator for long periods of time. You’ll want to maintain a certain level of redundancy when you’re using a generator. You don’t want to run it for too long, though, or you’ll risk burning it out or causing a fire. Make sure you’re aware of how long your generator can safely run before you turn it off. For natural-gas-powered generators, you can find this information in the owner’s manual. For gasoline-powered generators, you’ll want to look at the fuel capacity of the generator. You want to make sure that you have enough fuel to run the generator for the amount of time you need it. It’s also a good idea to choose a generator with a fuel tank that’s easy to access while the generator is running. This makes it easier to refill the tank without causing an accident.

Continuous vs. Intermittent Operation

Some generators are built to operate continuously, while others are suitable for intermittent operation. Continuous operation means that you can’t turn off the generator unless you want to risk damaging it. This is true for many portable generators that use an internal combustion engine. Intermittent operation means that you can shut off the generator whenever you need to. You may even have the option of scheduling the generator to turn on and off automatically. This type of generator is often found in large commercial buildings.


There are a lot of different factors to consider when purchasing a generator. It’s important to take all of them into account to find the right model for your needs. It’s also important to put these factors into context. It’s easy to get so wrapped up in the numbers that you lose sight of what matters in real-world conditions. For example, a generator rated at 10,000 watts can obviously be more powerful than one rated at 5,000 watts. However, the 10,000-watt generator may not be able to power as many appliances or run as long as the 5,000-watt model. Generators are complicated machines. There are a lot of different factors to consider, and each one can have a significant impact on your generator’s performance. When you’re purchasing a generator, it’s important to understand how each of these factors can affect your generator’s performance.

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