Generator Guide

How many times have you heard this one: “To prepare for an outage, buy a backup generator!”

It’s a great idea in theory. A generator can keep your essential appliances on while restoration crews do their thing. But anybody who’s tried to buy one knows it’s not quite that simple – there are several different types to consider, not to mention setup and safety concerns.

We want to help you out. Read on for a crash course in portable power.

Meet the Candidates

Portable Power Stations are like giant rechargeable batteries. They don’t use gas or propane, and you can charge them when they’re not in use. Unlike generators, they’re extremely quiet and don’t produce fuel emissions, but they’re also not as powerful as other options, and there’s no way to recharge them without another source of power. Portable power stations can typically be used for a few small items like your phone or laptop, or for a couple of your most crucial appliances, like your refrigerator.

Inverter Generators, like the rest of the options on this list, generate their own power from fuel. How long you can run them depends on how much you store. Inverters are still quieter than most generators and produce fewer emissions, but usually cost more because of their engine, which is more complex and more efficient. A small inverter has an output similar to a portable power station, while midsize to large inverters can power your air conditioning or space heater in addition to your fridge and smaller items.

Portable Generators are usually both less expensive and less efficient than inverters, with a similar output to a large inverter. With a portable generator, you can usually expect to keep your fridge and A/C on, potentially with a few other necessities like your well pump, sump pump, some of your lights, or even an electric stovetop range.

Home Standby Generators are the big guns. At their most powerful, they more than double the output of portable generators and can keep everything in your home running. The main tradeoff is cost – not only will you normally pay a few thousand dollars for the generator, but you’ll also have to pay for installation, which can double the base price.

Which One is Right for You?

First, determine what you want to keep using when the power goes out. Then, check the wattages for each of those devices or appliances. Adding these up will give you an idea of what kind of output to look for in a generator.

Don’t forget that some appliances use more power as they’re turning back on, which can be too much for your generator if you’re not careful.

Don’t Just Plug and Go

A generator can be a dangerous tool if not installed properly.

“Backfeeding” is a term that describes what happens when electricity flows in the reverse direction from its normal flow. It can happen when an improperly installed generator fires up and re-energizes our lines, resulting in a dangerous, and potentially deadly situation, for our crews restoring power.  

To prevent dangerous backfeeding, purchase a GenerLink and we will install it for you. Visit generlink.com to get started. Otherwise, a qualified electrician must install a transfer switch.

Finally, generators are carbon monoxide factories – never run one indoors. Always make sure it’s at least 20 feet away from your home, with the exhaust pointed away. Portable generators must be kept dry and off wet surfaces, and make sure you use a grounded outlet with the proper extension cord.

As with any equipment, read and adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for safe operation. Never cut corners when it comes to safety.

Please let us know you have a generator

If you recently installed a generator or if you’ve had one for a while and haven’t notified us, please call us at 800.492.5989. We will add a note to your account that will make our crews aware of your equipment prior to making repairs.