Tips on choosing the right generator

Don't get caught in the dark if a storm or other disruption knocks out your power. You can protect your home and your family with a backup generator. Read on for tips on how to pick out the right one for your house.

Why Do I Need A Generator?

Blackouts are unpredictable. Of course, you can have family fun in a power outage, but if the lights stay off for an extended period of time it can mean trouble. If you rely on electric heat and the power doesn't come back on promptly in cold weather, your pipes could freeze and your home could even become too cold for human habitation. In the summer, you can end up sweltering with no air conditioning while all the food in your refrigerator spoils. Smart homeowners are prepared to keep their electrical systems up and running no matter how long it takes the utility company to restore power.

What Are My Options?

You can buy a small portable generator if you just need to keep a few appliances functioning. Plug your equipment into the portable generator directly, or a special connection to your circuit box can be installed to allow you to plug into your wall outlets as normal. Be careful not to overload the generator, or you can cause it to short out. 

A standby generator is the best option if you want to keep your whole house online. Standby generators run off your gas connection (or you can attach a propane tank) and they turn on automatically when the power goes out. Standby generators are simpler to use once they are installed because you don't need to worry about cords or even turning it on yourself. However, they can cost $10,000 or more.

You should choose the size and power of your generator based on how much electricity you will need in an emergency. Adding up the wattage of all the equipment and appliances you want to keep online will give you a baseline to use as a guide. Portable generators range in capacity from 1,000 watts to around 17,500 watts, while heavy duty standby generators can handle up to 30,000 watts and above.

Safety First

If you get a portable generator, never run it inside. Find a level surface at least ten feet from your house, and connect properly-rated extension cords to the appliances you want to run. Because most portable generators burn gasoline, placing one too close to your home can put you at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Don't forget to inspect the extension cords for any fraying or damage and ensure they are rated for outdoor use.

Never modify an extension cord or plug your portable generator directly into a wall outlet. This will send electricity back through your circuit box and onto the grid, creating a danger to utility workers fixing the wires.

Choosing the right generator, not to mention properly installing it, can be tricky. Call an expert electrician to help you purchase and set up your new generator so you know that the lights will stay on the next time the power goes down.

Call local Mister Sparky® for generator advice or assistance. We're always here to help!

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