Quick Guide On What To Look For When Buying a Generator?

The lights are out…What will you do next?

Generators are the best solution to an electric breakdown, and they are a reliable source of backup to keep things running safely. However, the wrong kind can end up damaging more than the blackout itself. 

Here is the ultimate guide to help you buy a generator that perfectly matches your needs.

Get What Works Best For You

Generators come in variable sizes, often measured in power they output(watts). Determining the ideal size for your needs may take forever if you are not equipped with the proper knowledge. 

But let us help!

Every appliance requires a certain amount of power to work efficiently.

Essentially, you need to total the wattage required by all the electronic devices, including the starting and running wattage. You can find all the important information on the back of these devices. 

Remember, the devices to be considered during a blackout/emergency should be necessary and valuable.

1. CHOOSING THE PERFECT GENERATOR SIZE

The most common power of a generator is 5000 watts. However, different sizes are used for various purposes, and one of them can be yours. 

1. 1000 Watts – The Portability King

This is an image of a 1000-watts generator manufactured by Honda.
Image source: powerequipment.honda.com

These generators have a limited capacity and are not ideal for heavy-duty work. While they may run smaller wattage devices, it is advised not to rely on smaller generators for continuous usage.

These 1000 watts generators come in handy when in desperate need of portability, as they are smaller devices that provide power on the go!

2. 3000 Watts – Camping Made Better

This is an image of a 3000-watts generator manufactured by Honda.
Image source: powerequipment.honda.com

Heaters for a warm night, refrigerators for cold drinks, and microwaves for fresh food, these generators are your perfect camping buddies! 

For an upcoming camping trip or a road trip in an RV, a generator with 3000 watts power outage is perfect for you.

They support fundamental household electronics, such as refrigerators, microwaves, fans, television, etc., improving your experience on the road. 

3. 5000 to 7000 Watts – Newest Member Of Your House

This is an image of a 7000-watts generator manufactured by Champion Global Power Equipment.
Image source: campingworld.com

With the ability to run almost every house appliance, 5000 to 7000 watts generators are often used as the power source during electric dim-outs. Those on a budget opt for the smaller device. 

It is advisable not to plug every heavy electronic device at once as it can overload the backup source; however, it will still run smoothly for a long time. 

4. Industrial Generators – The Big Bad Boy 

This is an image of an industrial generator manufactured by CAT.
Image source: cat.com

Ranging from 10kW to 1000kW, industrial generators have a huge variety. The purchase of an ideal industrial power source relies on several factors, first and foremost, the wattage needed. 

Smaller businesses would normally depend on a generator with tens of thousands of wattage, while a large manufacturing factory takes up to a million watts for single use.  

2. Pick the Right Fuel Type

It is imperative to be aware of the fuel you need for your generator and how it fits your lifestyle. While several fuels support generators, we narrowed it down to the three most common ones for households:

GASOLINE GENERATORS

Gasoline is best used for offsite mobile generators with a short shelf life and a high flammability risk, ideal for small jobs.

DIESEL GENERATORS 

Diesel is deemed to be the most efficient fuel, especially for consumers with big houses. Generators running on said fuel have a low consumption rate, making it cost-effective in the long run.

LPG (LIQUID PROPANE GAS) GENERATORS

Also known as Natural gas, LPG has an extended shelf-life making it ideal for emergency uses. It allows easy refueling and is environmentally friendly due to the lack of harmful emissions.

COMPARISON OF GENERATORS GASOLINE vs. DIESEL vs. LPG

FEATURESGASOLINEDIESELLPG/NATURAL GAS
EfficiencyLow Very highHigh
PortabilityHighLowLow
Purchase costLowHighHigh
Fuel ConsumptionHigh(regular refuels)LowLow
AvailabilityEasyDifficultNon-renewable source
Shelf-lifeLowHighVery high
SafetyFlammableNegligible risksExplosive (if leaked)
OdorOdorlessPungent smellOdorless
Fuel Comparison Table

How Will You Store the Fuel?

Generator maintenance includes having robust fuel tanks that store the fuel for long periods.

It may seem like going for the largest is the right choice; however, knowing what suits your energy liquid is necessary too.

The three types of generator tanks include:

  1. Sub-base tanks
  2. Underground tanks
  3. Above-ground tanks

Your choice should factor in the regularity of power outages and the size of your generator. 

4. Things To Consider Before Making The Final Decision

Determining the size and fuel of your generator is the hard part but you are not done yet.

You need to decide on the specifications and necessary features that perform vital roles in supplying energy according to your needs.

1. Electric Start – Ideal for Beginners

Starting an engine can be trickier than you think. Ensuring your generator is up and ready to go is easier when you just have to press a button.

After checking your generator is prepared for the power load, you turn it on with just a push. 

This is different from a manual start. The generator needs a kick start by repeatedly pulling on a metal cord to get the device running.

Electric start generator costs more than the manual but is often preferred by beginners due to lack of complexity. 

A popular option for consumers that travel a lot is an automatic start generator that turns from a backup to the primary source in case of a blackout by itself.

This helps individuals that need to travel back and forth without worrying about their electronics. 

2. Why Carbon Monoxide Detectors are a Must?

Generators release dangerous amounts of carbon monoxide while operating. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that can lead to fatality by poisoning in no time. 

To ensure health safety, you should always opt for generators with built-in carbon monoxide detectors that shut off the device when exposed to excessive hazardous gas levels.

A CO safety label accompanies most generators. 

There is no way to avoid the build-up of carbon monoxide around the engine, and it is suitably safe to shut the generator down every once in a while to prevent risks.

It is possible to be more cautious by opting for low CO engines; however, these options may not be available for your region.

3. Automatic CO Shut-off – A Necessary Precaution

Modern generators are manufactured to consist of this precautionary feature. Upon detecting certain amounts of CO, the generator is programmed to initiate a shutdown process to prevent build-up in the surroundings. 

This saves you the trouble of manually turning the device off every time the detectors beep in an alert. 

Always remember to use generators outdoors to prevent suffocation and unfortunate mishaps. 

4. Safe Lives with a Transfer Switch

A transfer switch is a device that allows your generator to be connected to your house circuit grid using a cord. It automatically switches the backup source to the main during a power outage. 

There are other ways to connect a generator to your house; however, they are deemed to be highly unsafe.

Several countries require a transfer switch during the installation of a generator by law to prevent deaths by electrocution, fire, etc. 

5. Mufflers – No More Dreadful Uproars

Generators are infamous for their noisiness, and they tend to disturb the neighborhood and ruin a good night’s sleep.

This nuisance can easily be avoided with an efficient muffler (or silencer). It is uncommon to have an inbuilt noise deflector in generators. 

This is why it is recommended to externally install a silencer, which usually aids a lot in noise cancellation and brings you peace at night. 

6. Total Harmonic Distortion – Less Is More!

Electronics can suffer from damage due to harmonic distortion. The “Total Harmonic Distortion or THD is a measurement for generators defining how prone to destruction the devices are. 

THD below 5 or 6% is considered stable and ideal for sensitive electronics like a standby generator. 

You can ask your contractor about the total harmonic distortion and what is best suited for your appliances.

Just remember, Higher The THD value, Greater The Potential Damage.

Extra Features – Because It’s All About Convenience

While we have mentioned all the necessities in a generator, we figured you would want to enhance your experience with a few optional features you won’t be able to resist.

1. MULTIPLE OUTLETS: 

Generators usually support 120 V and 220V outlets. However, the quantity of one each can be limiting.

Hence, while buying your generator, make sure you have at least four outlets to allow an even distribution of power and support of more than two appliances at once. 

2. FUEL GAUGE:

Fuel gauge allows you to keep track of the fuel running in the generator.

It comes in handy in emergencies or natural disasters, where the power outage lasts longer than expected. It prepares you and aids in rationing the electrical supply.

An additional feature lookout might include the generator shutting down if oil reaches low levels, which prevents engine damage and ensures a longer lifespan for your device.

3. GENERATOR CLOSURE:

Most generators are exposed to extreme weather conditions: rains, sandstorms, winds, etc.

Numerous models of generators are accompanied by built-in protective layers that withstand challenging environments. Remember, it is always good to be safe than sorry for a few bucks.

4. PORTABILITY: 

A portable generator is quite heavy and weighs around 40 – 50 pounds, and traveling tools accompany not all.

Hence, you can attach external equipment such as wheel kits, handlebars, etc., to allow portability on the generator for camping and trip usage. 

5. CIRCUIT BREAKER:

A generator circuit breaker allows to reduce the stress on the device in case of an overload and prevents a short fuse fire from occurring, resulting in costly damage. 

6. ELECTRONIC FUEL INJECTION

Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) is a feature opted for by most responsible adults concerned about environmental safety. EFI provides better fuel efficiency, up to 25%, and reduces harmful emissions from the carburetor

Key Takeaway Points

It can be daunting to go through the huge marketplace of generators, especially if you are new to the machinery.

Given the complexity of the device, it is likely that you will end up wasting your savings on the wrong generators. Moreover, it could also cost you human lives if the installation is not safe. 

However, it only takes quick surfing through the net to low-key become an expert.  

These are a few key points to remember before you set out to buy your ideal generator:

The total voltage:  deciding the perfect generator 

The appropriate fuel:   fit for your budget and environment

The preferred starting:  according to your experience

CO detection:  imperative for the safety of your family

Transfer switch: allows a secure connection

Mufflers:  enables soundless days and nights

THD: keeps your electronics safe

And with the completion of this article, you are now ready to make a wise decision for your home. 

Happy Shopping!

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