How to choose the best home generator

If it feels like extreme weather events are becoming more common, it's not just your imagination. Research shows that over the past two decades, extreme weather events have become more frequent and are causing more destruction than ever before. This poses a risk to aging infrastructure, including energy grids.

Much of the U.S. power grid was built in the 1960s and 1970s, before extreme weather events became common. North American Electric Reliability Corp. recently warned that much of the country is at increased risk of power outages during extreme weather events.

If you're looking for a way to keep your home's electricity on during a power outage, a home generator may be right for you. However, which one is right for you depends on your home and needs.

Factors to consider when purchasing a home generator

There are many factors to consider when purchasing an entire home generator. First and foremost, you should consider whether a generator is suitable for your situation. Next, you need to consider the required capacity, fuel type, and additional features, keeping in mind the appropriate budget.

Is it necessary at all?

First and foremost, you need to ask yourself this basic question. “Do I need it?” In reality, depending on your situation, you may not need a home generator, or a home generator may not be suitable.

If you live in an apartment complex in a densely populated city, you are unlikely to need this much electricity, and you may encounter difficulties just installing it. You're also less likely to experience extended power outages if you live in a densely populated or affluent area. Research suggests that rural, suburban, and low-income areas are statistically more likely to experience extended power outages.

Power important devices like cell phones and small appliances if you live in a small space or don't need to power your entire home and just need access to the space and appliances you need Consider a portable generator or home power station that can. .

Determining the required wattage

Determining how many watts you need to keep your home powered in the event of a power grid outage is an important consideration.

One practical method is to simply add up the wattage of the appliances you want to access during a power outage. You will need to adjust your usage to avoid exceeding capacity, but this will save you both initial costs and fuel.

A reputable generator dealer or installer can also help you determine the size you need. It's probably best to talk to multiple people and compare answers.

Determining the optimal fuel

Home generators typically use three main fuel options: natural gas, propane, and diesel. Each fuel type has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Natural gas generators are popular due to the convenience of having a continuous supply of fuel from the electrical grid. It burns cleaner and requires less maintenance compared to other options. However, storms can disrupt gas lines and affect generator functionality.

Propane generators offer flexibility as they can use portable propane tanks or connect to larger fixed tanks. Propane has a longer shelf life than gasoline, but it may not be as readily available as natural gas, and prices can fluctuate. Propane tanks should be monitored and refilled to ensure you have the fuel you need to survive an extended power outage.

Diesel generators are often more fuel efficient than gas generators and can provide reliable power over long periods of time. However, diesel generators typically require more maintenance, and the fuel can degrade over time. Storage of diesel fuel also requires care to prevent contamination.

Gasoline- or diesel-powered generators typically “need to be refueled every 12 to 16 hours, depending on machine load,” says Direct Energy founder and former president, now OhmConnect Energy. explains Don Whaley, an advisor to . “Homeowners who choose this option should have enough fuel on hand to survive a multi-day power outage.”

A woman connects a portable solar panel to a portable battery.

Depending on their size and number, batteries can power devices, appliances, or parts of your home.

Amri Photo/Getty Images

Batteries connected to solar panels do not need to be supplied with fuel to provide power. Solar cells are also expensive, so the initial cost is a big factor for most people.

Keep your budget in mind

Although generators have many benefits, the reality is that budget will be one of the biggest determining factors in most people's decisions. Home Advisor estimates that the cost of a whole-house generator he estimates ranges from $5,000 to $25,000. This expense and fuel costs will be the limiting factor for many households.

If cost is an important factor, Whaley suggests choosing a cheaper, smaller option like a portable generator. “Small generators will run refrigerators, lights, televisions, computers and Wi-Fi routers,” he said. However, there are trade-offs. [small generators] Central air conditioning or heating is not available, so when consumers choose smaller units, they must consider heating and cooling their homes in extreme weather conditions. ”

Home generators and safety

Home generators ensure safety by keeping critical home systems functioning, but they are not without risks. The potential for carbon monoxide emissions means there is a possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause headaches, dizziness, and even loss of consciousness and death.

To combat this, many modern generators are equipped with a CO shutoff switch that automatically turns off the unit if elevated levels are detected. These are essential to keep yourself and others in your home safe. It is also necessary to ensure proper ventilation of the device. Generators should be located away from windows, doors, and vents to prevent exhaust fumes from entering your home.

Home generator options

There are many reliable brands of home generators, most with the latest safety features and flexibility in terms of capacity and fuel source, making it easy to find the best option for you and your home. can. Below are his three option suggestions to get started. However, CNET has not reviewed or tested any of them.

  • Generac Guardian Wi-Fi Enabled Standby Generator: A modern generator with a capacity of 22 kilowatts that can power most homes. Built-in safety features and silent mode. Operates on natural gas or propane.
  • Honda EB10000: Whole-house backup power option with electric start and fuel-efficient power. It has an advanced carbon monoxide detection system that will shut down if levels get too high. Easy to install and runs on gasoline or natural gas.
  • Briggs & Stratton PowerProtect DX 22kW Home Standby Generator: A commercial-grade generator that can be used to keep your entire home powered during a power outage. Provides liquid propane and natural gas connections with protection against corrosion and other risks. Easy to install and remove. Suitable for non-emergency use in case you wish to go off-grid.

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