A generator can help keep your house warm in the winter or cool in the summer when sudden power cuts happen; it can keep your food cold, your kitchen cooking, and your computers and phones charged. People are more likely to purchase generators during big hurricanes, as they are more likely to make a hasty decision—without a plan for what to do with it once they get it home. Working by flashlight and in a hurry to get the power up and running, they could overlook important safety precautions during the setup. Every year, people die from carbon monoxide released into the atmosphere which further aggravates poisoning of the atmosphere caused by generators. We don't want you, or someone else who relies on a home generator, to be one of those who suffer due to this.
Know your power priorities:
Generators are marketed based on their wattage performance. How many lights and appliances you can run at once is dictated by the amount of power they deliver; the quality and consistency of that power decides how well they'll run. In a typical house, about 5,000 watts should suffice to cover the essentials.
Pick a type:
There are four options available to you. Home backup generators are permanently installed, operate on natural gas or propane, and switch on automatically when the power goes out. Portable and inverter generators are both portable and come in a range of sizes. Others are best for carrying to a tailgate, while others should be held on your property as a backup power source. Portable power stations, on the other hand, are large batteries that store electricity for when you need it, and are the only choice for someone who lives in an apartment and can't operate a generator safely outside.
- Home standby generators:
- These are the most expensive units and should be built by a professional (so factor in labour costs). An expert electrician may assist with town or municipal licences, noise limits, and proper placement.
- When the power goes out, these begin automatically and usually have more power than the other four options.
- They perform a self-diagnosis and notify you when routine maintenance is needed. Some even do it to you or your dealer via email or text.
- You may use propane, which is less dangerous to store than the gasoline used in the other versions, or natural gas, which offers an endless supply of electricity.
- They have a power spectrum of 5,000 to 20,000 watts.
- Portable generators:
- These generators are less expensive than home backup generators.
- They usually run on fuel, which you'll have to keep on hand in large quantities. For long-term storage, you'll need to add a stabiliser to your fuel.
- Portable generators can be used anywhere in or around your house, but not in an enclosed space. Carbon monoxide levels in these models can easily reach lethal levels. Always hold a portable generator, as well as other appliances like a central air conditioner condenser or window air conditioner, at least 20 feet away from your house and direct the exhaust away from your house or any other building, including your neighbours' house.
- If it's raining, cover your generator with a canopy made specifically for your model.
- Electric starting is available on many of these models. However, the battery required for electric start may not be included.
- The models we looked at ranged in power from 3,000 to 8,500 watts.
- Inverter generators:
- These models are typically more expensive than conventional portable generators with comparable performance because their engines are more complex.
- Since they throttle up and down to match demand rather than running at maximum power all of the time, inverter generators are much quieter than their traditional counterparts. They also have more advanced exhaust systems that help to reduce noise.
- They run more smoothly and emit less pollutants, but you should also take the same safety measures as you would with a portable generator.
- The models we looked at ranged in power from 1,500 to 6,500 watts.
- Portable power station:
- These devices don't run on gas or propane; instead, they're powered by a battery that can be charged by plugging them into an outlet or, in some cases, a solar panel (you might also see them called "solar generators").
- Portable power stations are a newer product on the market, and they are usually more expensive than portable gas generators.
- If you're worried about noise, keep in mind that these devices are incredibly quiet because they don't have an engine.
- Since they don't emit any gasoline or carbon monoxide, they can be used indoors.
- You won't be able to power as many appliances or operate them for as long as portable generators because they don't produce as much power and you can't keep them going without recharging them with electricity or solar power.
- There's no need to start because there's nothing to start—imagine these power stations as a big battery pack for your devices.
- The models we looked at ranged in power from 1,200 to 1,500 watts.
- Automatic CO Shutoff: If a built-in CO sensor senses levels of the deadly gas rising to certain levels, this vital safety feature automatically shuts down a generator's engine. To be included on our list of CR recommended generators, a portable generator must have this function and pass CR's safety tests. Models with this technology are available from more brands than ever before, including industry heavyweights like Generac, Honda, and Ryobi. In reality, we have over a dozen generators with a CO safety shut off in our scores. "CO Guard," "CO Protect," "CO Detect," "CO Shield," or "CO Sense" are examples of marketing terminology.
- Low CO Engine: Additional safety features are being used by brands like Ryobi and Echo to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Automatic start: When the power goes out, the generator kicks in—all without you having to do anything. This is useful if you drive often or work far away from home and need to get somewhere fast in an emergency.
- Electric start: This push-button alternative to the hassle of pulling-starting the engine is available on many portable models. Auto starting is available on stationary models.
- Alternative fuel capacity: The majority of portable models are gasoline-only, but some come with a propane tank or natural-gas line, and some can be converted with kits.
- Fuel gauge: You can appreciate the ability to see how much fuel is left in your portable generator at a glance, particularly during long blackouts.
- Low oil shutoff: The generator shuts down if the oil level falls below a certain threshold, preventing engine damage. It's normally only seen on stationary generators, but it's becoming more common on portables.
- Multiple outlets: Four or more allows you to get the most out of the wattage by spreading the load, but we suggest using these only in a pinch at home or at a campsite.
- Removable console: This connects to the generator and allows you to plug in appliances without having to run (possibly dangerous) extension cords outside.
Hence we have covered the basic information on generators and their types. We have given a detailed buyer’s guide so we hope that it makes it easier for you to select an appropriate generator for your house.