Thinking about buying a generator? There are lots of options to choose from, but it’s not actually too difficult to figure out what you need to keep your home running in case of a prolonged power outage. Here are some guidelines for how big a generator you should look for and what kind might fit your needs and budget best.
How Many Watts Do I Need?
In simple terms, how much generator your house needs depends on how much you want or need to be able to run at the same time. You need to measure this in watts. You can buy backup generators from about 2,500 watts all the way up to 20,000 watts.
The more watts, the more appliances you can run, but the more fuel you’ll need to keep it going. Take some time to add up the power load of things you’ll need to use if the power goes out to get the best number for your home (numbers in watts from Consumer Reports).
Some things that may need to run for the duration of an outage:
● refrigerator (~700W)
● laptop (~200W)
● 5-10 lights (~250W)
● smartphone charger (~20W)
● home security system (~100W)
● air conditioner (~1,000W)
● gas or propane furnace (~800W)
If the power will be out for a while and you need to add to the load even for a short time, you’ll either need to turn everything else off or make sure you get a generator large enough to handle the extra wattage:
● well pump (~1,250W)
● sump pump (~900W)
● 8-inch burner on an electric range (~2,000W)
● dishwasher (~1,500W)
● Toaster oven (~1,200W)
● hair dryer (~1,200W)
● washing machine (~1,200W)
● space heater (~1,500W)
● coffee maker (~1,000W)
These numbers are averages, so you’ll want to check with your specific appliances to make sure you’re within range. While it may be tempting to get the largest generator you can afford, keep in mind that you’ll need to keep enough fuel on hand to run it, so strike the best balance between how often you’ll use it, how much power you’ll need, and how much fuel is advisable and safe to store.
What Kind of Generator Do You Want?
There are a few different types of generator you’ll find when shopping.
● Home standby generators are permanent and start automatically if the power goes out. They run off propane or natural gas. If outages are common where you live, one of these may be worth the investment. Keep in mind that they should be installed by an expert, so you’ll need to factor in that cost when looking at the price. You can expect to spend between $3,000 and $6,000 for the generator itself.
● Portable generators are more affordable than the standby variety, but they run off a gasoline engine and are typically quite loud. You must use these and any other gas generator outdoors in an open space that is at least 20 feet away from your home to avoid the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Expect to spend around $400 to $1,000.
● Inverter generators are quieter than portable units. They also produce fewer fumes, but you’ll still need to follow the same safety precautions and use them away from your home in an open space. Expect to spend $500 to $4,000.
People die every year from carbon monoxide poisoning caused by generators. Some newer models come with a sensor and will turn off automatically if the carbon monoxide levels get too high in the area around the generator. Other models offer features like a fuel gauge, low-oil shutoff, and electrical start instead of a pull cable.
In the end, how much generator you need depends on how much power your home requires, how often you’re likely to lose power, and how convenient you want the generator to be. No matter what, be sure you set up and test the generator before a power outage so that you know it’s set up safely and will work when you need it. You’ll be grateful you don’t have to figure it out in the middle of a storm!
We’d love to hear from you. What kind of generator do you use? Do you recommend it?