Getting a generator for your home might not be the first thing in your mind right now, especially if we’re not expecting severe weather events anytime soon.
But did you know that the best time to buy a generator is early fall and early spring? In fact, it’s the most ideal to go generator shopping when you don’t necessarily need one. This allows you to check all the options and take into consideration the generator installation process. You can also avoid panic buying and be prepared even before a hurricane or a winter storm hits.
In this article, we will cover the following:
• Reasons why you need a generator
• Types of home generators
• Things to consider before making a purchase
• Generator safety and maintenance tips
We will also discuss proper maintenance and answer questions such as, “Do I need the help of an electrician near me to install a home generator?”
Reasons Why You Need A Generator For Your Home
Lightning, hurricanes, scorching temperatures, and other natural causes can cause power outages. Unfortunately, according to an analysis, the United States endures the most blackouts than any other developed country in the world.
• Frequent power outages
Did you know that power interruptions in the U.S. have been steadily increasing for the past decade? An article by Tara Energy, an electric utility company based in Houston, reported that power outages in the U.S. in 2020 were 73% higher than in 2019.
The top reasons for these outages were extreme weather events, natural disasters, damage from animals, shortfalls in electrical supply, and issues with the country’s “aging” electrical grid. As these are the realities that millions of Americans face, it is a good idea to get a generator installed. In fact, if you live in an area that regularly experiences blackouts or brownouts, having a home generator may already be a necessity.
• Comfort and Safety
In case of power interruptions, a home generator can provide an electric supply for essential appliances and electronics in your home. In addition, a whole house or standby generator will keep your security devices to continue running, keeping you safe from break-ins or thefts.
• Backup power for Home Appliances
Who would forget the winter storm in Texas in February this year? The said event caused widespread blackouts in the “energy-rich” state for over 2 weeks and took the lives of at least 237 people. With a generator in place, you will be prepared for these kinds of emergencies. The last thing you want is to scramble to find a generator to power your heater or entire home during these extreme weather events.
Type of Home Generators
You might be overwhelmed when you go shopping for generators with so many options to choose from. To keep it simple, remember that there are three main types of generators:
Portable Generators – This type of generator is less expensive (costs around $500 to $1,500), but it is smaller and can only power a few electronics. The supply that a portable generator can provide is limited; however, it can power essential appliances, like refrigerators or a stove, until electricity is restored.
Some important things to remember about portable generators:
• Portable generators range from 3 to 8.5kW
• Uses gasoline, propane, or natural gas to run
• Professional installation isn’t required for portable generators and they could work anywhere on the property
Standby Generators – Also called whole house generators, this type of generator supplies the entire home during a power interruption. Generators of this kind run anywhere from $5,000 to $15,000. Although they are significantly more expensive than portable generators, they provide most, if not all, the electrical needs of a home.
Other things to note about standby generators:
• Capacity can range from 5kW to 20kW
• Stand by generators uses an automatic transfer switch that detects an outage, which automatically starts the generator preventing a power interruption
• Runs on propane or natural gas
• Compared to a portable generator, a standby generator is quieter than portable models
• Requires the help of a licensed electrician for proper installation
Inverter Generators – This type of generator is pretty much like a portable generator that only provides power supply to specific appliances. They cost more than the portable types but run quieter. Inverter generators are also found to be more efficient as their engine throttles up and down to meet the demand instead of running in full power at all times.
Important Things to Know About Generators
If you’re all set and have decided to purchase a home generator, it’s important to put into consideration the following items below so that you’ll buy the right one for your needs.
1. What appliances or devices do you want to backup during a power interruption?
Answering this question will help you determine what type of generator and capacity you will need for your home.
For example, if you want backup power for your whole house, you may want to consider a generator with a 20kW or above rating, but expect that it will also come with a higher price tag. Otherwise, if you’re fine powering a couple of lights, your fridge, and a couple of gadgets, then a 5kW to 10kW generator might work for you.
2. Are you allowed to use generators where you live?
Of course, it’s a no-brainer a generator is a necessity if you live in an area that experiences regular power outages. However, do note that generators, particularly portable ones, can be noisy, which could cause an issue with your homeowner’s association. Make sure to check regulations first before your purchase.
3. Is fuel source readily available?
A generator needs fuel to run, and during a power interruption, you want to make sure that you have sufficient supply to last for a long period. Generators are powered either by gasoline, diesel, propane, or natural gas. If these fuels are not easily accessible in your location, you may want to look at generators that use solar energy.
Other things to keep in mind when buying a generator are features and options that are available for you:
• Portable generators have pull-cord or push-button starters
• Some models can run either on propane or natural gas, although there are dual-fuel conversion kits so you can convert your generator to propane or natural gas
• Check if the model has a fuel gauge to easily check how much gas the generator has
• It is common for standby or portable generators to have low-oil shut off features that (from its name) shuts off the generator when the oil level runs low to prevent engine damage
• Some portable generators have removable consoles so you can plug in appliances directly to them instead of using extension cords to get the power inside your home
• Other generators will require you to purchase wheels separately, which could cost around $150
Home Generator Maintenance and Safety Tips
Generators are good to have so you can have backup power in times of emergency. However, you could easily overlook proper maintenance and fail to observe safety measures when running it. As useful as generators are, improper use can lead to injuries and even fatality.
1. Generators (even portable ones) should be operated at least 20 feet away from your house or windows/doors. Never run a generator indoors or in an enclosed space, and also make sure that the exhaust should be directed away from the house. Doing this will prevent possible carbon monoxide poisoning. Note that portable generators emit carbon monoxide that is equal to the emission of 450 cars. And the CPSC reported from 2005 to 2017, over 900 people died of CO poisoning while using portable generators.
2. Never run a generator in the rain. A generator that gets wet when running can explode or can cause electrocution. To protect it from moisture, you can purchase a specially made tent for generators that keeps it dry but still well-ventilated.
3. Turn off and wait for the gas-powered generator to cool down before refueling as fuel spilled on the hot areas of the generator can ignite. This safety measure also prevents the risk of getting burnt when refueling.
4. If you are going to stock fuel because you’re expecting to use your generator for longer periods, make sure that the gas is stored in an ANSI-approved container placed in a cool, well-ventilated area. Also, make sure to use a fuel stabilizer to protect the fuel from deteriorating for up to 2 years.
5. Make sure to check the oil before each use and change the oil every 100 hours of operation. (It’s recommended to change the oil after the first 20 hours of use for a new generator)
6. Clear the generator’s air filter every 100 hours or when necessary.
7. Blow off with an air duster and wipe with a clean rug any dust or dirt that could affect the performance of the generator. Never use a pressure washer to clean the generator.
8. Look out for leaks, damaged or loose parts, and never skip to conduct an annual inspection.
9. For added safety, opt for generators that have CO safety technologies. These models will switch off the machine when carbon monoxide levels are too high.
10. If you’re not expecting to use the generator for about a month, make sure to take steps to protect the engine and also cover it with a protective cover in a dry place.
Is DIY Generator Installation a Good Idea?
In terms of cost savings, you may think that a DIY approach is a good idea. However, before you make a final decision, do consider that installing a standby generator involves electrical connections and some plumbing connections (if you’re connecting it to the gas line). With these critical works involved, it’s better to entrust the installation to a professional, such as an electrician. These experts will not only ensure proper installation but can also help you get local permits and find the ideal location for your generator.
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