Three questions to ask when considering a generator
Power outages can happen in any season: Ice, snow, wind, heavy rains, and flooding are all common causes. And while an outage is usually just a minor inconvenience when it lasts for a few hours, it can be a major problem if it drags on for a few days.
That’s why so many people have generators now; portable ones offer an affordable way to keep a few household necessities running, and larger standby models can provide enough power to make life seem normal (or close to it).
But it’s not quite as simple as heading to the home-improvement store and picking one up. There are a few questions you should ask to determine what generator is best for you.
- How much power do you want? Many portable generators are designed to run vital appliances such as refrigerators, along with charging devices, powering lights, TVs, etc. But larger portable generators might even be able to keep your furnace or central AC going. You’ll need to check the power requirements of your HVAC components, and you’ll need to check your budget, too—those big power capabilities come with a bigger price tag. Standby generators, which are permanently installed, typically have much higher generating capacity than portable ones. (And yes, the cost for those is higher, too.) You can find calculators on the web to help you determine which size is best for you.
- What kind of fuel does it use? Gasoline-powered portable generators are common—but will you be able to count on your gas when you need it? Gasoline deteriorates over time, which means you can’t just store your emergency fuel in cans forever. You’ll need to replace it every so often. Diesel is more stable, and there are some generators that use it, but we think the best bet for portables is propane (or dual-fuel models that run on either propane or gasoline). It doesn’t go bad, and large external tanks are available. For standby generators, propane or natural gas are the top choices.
- How often will you use it? You can’t always predict when you’re going to need a generator, obviously—but if you’re in an area where the power goes out regularly, or for extended periods, a standby generator might be best. These are convenient, because they kick in automatically, and typically provide more power, as noted above. They do require professional help to install, however, particularly for connecting it to your home’s power system. If you only expect to need your generator on rare occasions, a cost-effective portable model might be the best solution for you.
Even though you don’t need a professional electrician’s help to use a portable generator, you might consider having a transfer switch installed to connect it directly to your home’s power system. This is what standby generators utilize; the switch allows you to use outlets in your home instead of running several extension cords straight from the generator to devices and appliances. It’s also necessary if you’re hoping to have a portable generator power your HVAC system.
Need help figuring out which generator is right for you?
We’ve helped many clients with generators—and getting yours installed before you need it is much better than the alternative. Give us a call today at (206) 434-6915 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about keeping your home powered up!