Portable Generator Buying Guide
A generator is the best thing to have on hand when the power goes out. Instead of shivering in the dark, you can feel warm and toasty until your power is turned back on. The best type of portable generator to buy depends on your needs and your budget. Here's the skinny on what types of portable generators are available and how to find the right one for your home.
What Types Of Portable Generators Are Available?
Generally, portable generators come in two basic varieties. The first kind of portable generator is mounted on a wheeled base, easy to roll into storage when not in use and easy to pull out when the power is down. The second type is light enough that it does not require wheels. Instead, it has a handle, so you can painlessly carry it from one location to another. The type best for your home will likely depend on how much power you need – a higher wattage generator will usually be heavier and placed on wheels.
The basic distinction between portable generators is the wattage level. You’ll find three basic options when it comes to the size and power of portable generators:
- Small/Medium: 3,000 to 5,000 watts. These smaller portable generators have enough power for your basic survival appliances, like the refrigerator, the furnace fan and the sump pump. It’s more powerful than a camping generator, which won’t have enough power to keep these appliances running in your home.
- Large: 6,000 to 9,000 watts. This level of wattage is enough to power appliances and electronics in a few rooms of your home. It will definitely make you more comfortable than if you only had the smaller portable generator, but portions of your home will still be without power.
- Extra Large: 10,000 to 17,000 watts. This portable generator is the most powerful type that you’ll find. It’s nearly as powerful as a standby generator but much more convenient. This wattage level is enough to power an entire small home. It can even keep the air conditioning unit running if your power goes out on a hot summer day.
What Features Should I Look For?
Beyond just the wattage level, portable generators have many features that you’ll need to consider when making your purchase. Here are some of the main features you may want to look for when shopping for a portable generator:
- Gas Tank Size: Ranges from about 3 to 16 gallons and correlates to wattage level.
- Engine: Ranges from about 200 cubic centimeters to 1,000 cubic centimeters.
- Start Type: Typically either recoil or electric.
- Connections: Usually extension cords or switches. Check to make sure it has the correct outlet type for your appliances.
- Runtime: Most run at least a few hours, but you may want one that can last through the night without refueling.
- Weather Protection: Consider whether you need your control panel to be protected from the elements.
- Muffler: A muffler can help reduce engine noise.
How Much Do Portable Generators Cost?
The price of a portable generator is largely determined by its wattage level. This is the main determining factor in price since it lets the buyer know how much of his or her home can be powered with the generator. However, the addition of convenient features like an electric starter and a muffler can also drive up the price.
Smaller portable generators can be found for as little as a few hundred dollars. However, the extra large portable generators typically cost well over $1,500 and even up to $3,000 in price. When looking at the price, be sure to factor in any additional expenses you may end up paying, such as professional installation fees or warranties.
Where Can I Buy A Portable Generator?
A great place to buy a portable generator is at your local home improvement store. These retailers often have multiple sizes of generators available, plus you’ll be able to speak with a staff member to answer any questions you have about the type and size of portable generator you need.
In addition to local stores, you can also find portable generators online. This is the ideal option if you already have a good idea of the kind of portable generator you need and you want to shop around for a budget-friendly deal.
A portable generator can make life much easier in the event of a power outage, but it can also come in handy for other purposes as well. If you are thinking about buying a portable generator for your home, be sure to consider all the aforementioned features and add-ons before you make your final purchasing decision.