Choosing a Generator

Using a small standby generator for electricity during an outage can keep your home and business running smoothly. In a power failure, you would plug your generator into the panel with a special power cord and then switch the circuits from utility to power to your generator.

Generator Options

  • Types. The two main types of residential generators are portable and permanent standby.
  • Sizes. Standby generator sizes range from an output of 1 kw to over 100 kw. If you plan to run a few lights and minimal appliances, you can use a smaller model, but if you intend to run all your lights and several major appliances, you will need a permanent standby model.
  • Fuel. Engines usually run on gas or diesel, but models are also available for propane or natural gas.
  • Selecting a Generator
    • Power for the basics. Smaller, portable models will power basic necessities and cost $1,000 or less. 
    • Evaluate your needs. Match the size of your generator to your electrical needs. Operate it at no more than 75% of its capacity.
    • Calculating size. To calculate your generator size, total the wattage of the appliances and other items you want to simultaneously power and then double that number. Most homeowners will need a 5-kilowatt portable generator to power a heating system and a few other appliances.
    • Manual transfer switch. Consider a manual transfer switch, which costs around $500 and should be installed by a licensed electrician.
  • Safety Tips
    • Store your generator outside in a dry location to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
    • Never plug a generator into any electric outlet in your home or business. It can be deadly.
    • Follow all instructions on properly “grounding” the generator.
    • Turn off the generator for at least five minutes when refueling to avoid starting a fire.
    • Keep extension cords out of the way so they don’t present a tripping hazard.