When the power goes out, a portable generator can keep you and your house comfortable, your refrigerator and microwave working and your computer and phones charging. But buying a generator can be a challenging process.
You can take control by doing your research and being informed and organized. Lowes and Home Depot offer several models in store and online to meet your needs. Below is a simple guide to use in choosing a generator.
The time to purchase a generator is when you don’t need one! If you are without power and need to buy one quickly, you will have to buy whatever the store has. That may mean a generator too small or one that is much larger than you need.
Portable generator sales peak around major storms. Many buyers shop when the power’s out, choosing a generator that looks like it will do the job, but have no idea if they got the right one.
What Will You Use Your Generator For?
Storm and Emergency Power:
If you’re buying a generator for emergency power, you will need to decide what electronics and appliances you are going to power up. For most homeowners that means a microwave, refrigerator, tv, radio and computer.
If you need to back up your entire house, a portable generator may not be your best option.
A whole house standby generator will offer the best solution.
Leisure, Camping & Recreation:
A smaller inverter generator is ideal for tailgating and camping. As a general rule of thumb, inverter generators are less expensive and relatively quiet and are safe for electronics. Most inverter generators can only offer about 3000 watts of power.
Work or Jobsite:
Portable generators for the jobsite are invaluable because they offer mobility and supply power for tools. Look for generators with longer running time and higher watts to cover your needs.
Home Depot Generator Brands
Lowes Generator Brands
- Generac, Champion Power, Dewalt, Kohler, Powermate and Westinghouse
What To Look For When Buying A Portable Generator
- Plan to spend about $600-$800 for a new generator.
- Look for a generator rated at 3,000 to 5,000 watts.
- Generators are heavy so look for a model with wheels.
- Fuel gauge and low oil shut-off feature.
- Large fuel tank- A generator will use 12 to 20 gallons per 24 hours use.
- Battery powered electric start
Note: A battery powered electric start is a nice feature to have, but is usually only offered on higher watt models. Most models with an electric start have a starting price of around $1200, but will have wattage output from 5000 to 8500 watts.
Both Lowes and Home Depot have electric start models around $850. Lowes sells the Powermate 5,500 watt generator and Home Depot has the Sportsman 7,500 watt generator.
When choosing your generator, it’s also important to consider the number of outlets and the included cables. The outlets will let you know what types of things you can plug into your generator. Look for models that have four 120 volt outlets. If you need to power your RV with your generator, you will want to make sure if comes with a 120-Volt RV Outlet.
Generators are typically sold by wattage. How much they put out determines how many lights and appliances you can run at once. Figure on about 5,000 watts to cover the basics.
The risk from carbon monoxide poisoning is not to be taken lightly. Always follow directions included with your generator and they must always be used outdoors. Never start a generator inside your home or any building. A good rule of thumb is to keep a portable generator at least 10 ft. away from your house. Make sure the generator’s distance from the house meets both the manufacturer’s specifications and the requirements of building and zoning codes in your area.
Some common uses of a generator are a refrigerator (1,200 watts), chest style freezer (1000 watts), electric heater (1,500 watts), portable fan (100 watts), window air conditioner (1,000 watts), TV (200 watts) and computers (60 to 300 watts). A 5000 watt generator will take care of most homeowner needs in the event of a power outage.
Anyone who has wished they had electricity when no power was available can appreciate the value of having a portable electric generator available for use. Everyone has different reasons for purchasing a generator and getting the right generator is important for peace of mind.
Whether the generator is a backup power supply to use in the event of an emergency or is used occasionally for convenience or recreation, portable electrical power is available at a reasonable price and in a number of different models and styles.
By Victoria Stone