During unexpected power outages, emergency standby generators are your first line of defense. Losing communications, lighting and the ability to heat food and water can leave you and your family in a tense and risky situation, and a backup generator can help you maintain these critical utilities. However, you shouldn't assume that any generator will suit your needs. There are a variety of things to consider when choosing one of these machines. Here are some tips for buying emergency standby generators.
Some people shop for a backup generator with the goal of powering everything in their home during an outage. While this can be done, it's impractical and a waste of money. Don't count on running your refrigerator, water heater, microwave, computer, game systems or other unnecessary devices. Just get a generator that will power a small television, radio, cell phone recharger or some lights. After all, the power isn't likely to be down for too long.
Pay Attention to Power Ratings
What your generator can do for you depends on how much power it puts out. Some are meant only to provide lighting, but others are able to power most of a small household. Decide which appliances you want to run, figure out how much power they need and use that as your starting point. Remember, it's better to buy an over-powered generator than an under-powered one.
Diesel or Gasoline?
Backup generators either run on gasoline or diesel, and there are ups and downs to both. Which one you choose will depend on your needs and preferences. Gasoline is less expensive, but it generally consumed more quickly. Diesel, although pricy, tends to be used more slowly. Larger standby generators typically run on diesel along with a large battery for automatic starting. Another advantage of diesel generators is that they're often made better, so they last longer and stand up to more use.
If you plan on using your generator with a solar or wind array, you'll need to look for one that is compatible with your setup. Many standard generators aren't designed to power alternative energy setups, which can eventually result in damage to the system, the generator or both. It's best to consult with a qualified electrician in order to make sure you get the best possible generator for your needs.
Safety features, such as lightning and surge protection, are always an important consideration when shopping for a quality standby generator. Lightning and surge protection offers a significant defense against trouble. It will reduce the risk of fire if the generator is struck by lightning. It also protects your home and its appliances from harmful power surges that can occur when the electricity comes back on. GFCI protection is also recommended. This can prevent you from being electrocuted if you accidentally touch electrically-charged parts that became wet.
Placement and Storage
If you're going to have a permanently-installed emergency generator, it's important to make sure you can place it a reasonable distance from your house. The current recommended distance is at least ten feet. This reduces your exposure to exhaust fumes and also acts as an isolating factor in the event of a fire. Your ability to safely store fuel is another essential consideration. Make sure you keep spare diesel or gasoline in an approved container well away from your home and in a cool, dry place.