Buying a Generator: How Big and How Much?

by Alex ThatcherDecember 7, 2016

Picking Out an Alternative Source of Emergency Power

With climate change and what may seem like a never-ending line up of natural disasters—tornadoes on the Oregon Coast, flooding in Baton Rouge, Hurricane Matthew — on the nightly news almost every night, you may be thinking about purchasing a source of emergency power so you and your family can weather the next extended power outage in style and comfort.

A generator can be a fantastic convenience in times of disaster. When the power goes out, they can keep the kitchen up and running, devices charging, medical equipment working, and even water pumping (if you’re on a well). Unfortunately, not all emergency generators are created equal.

Purchasing the right size for both your situation and your pocketbook can take some research, forethought, and careful consideration of multiple variables.
buying a home generator

When to Buy and Install

According to the good people at Consumer Reports, as they write in their recently updated Generator Buying Guide, most people buy generators during a weather event, bring them home, and hastily set them up without following (or in many cases reading—it would seem) the safety and installation instructions.

For a generator to operate efficiently and safely in the best of conditions, it must be set up correctly. Adding poor weather conditions and a flashlight installation, bypassing some or all of the safety precautions, is a recipe for an extra helping of disaster on top of what you and your loved ones are already going through.

If a generator is a smart purchase for you and your family, then be sure to purchase and install it before you need it so it’s ready to operate safely and efficiently when the weather turns.

Figuring Out How Much Generator You Need

Generators are sold by the wattage they can produce. Knowing how much output you need comes down to figuring out how much wattage you need to function in an emergency. Check your appliances and other essential electrical items for the wattage they need to operate, or use an online wattage calculator to figure out about what you need.

Consumer Electronics recommends a base output of about 5000 watts to adequately cover home necessities during a power outage.
buying a home generator

Final Considerations and The Super Important Transfer Switch

Once you’ve determined how much power generation you need, the only thing that remains is to pick through your various options landing at a price you can handle in exchange for the options you want or think you may need. But, before you blow your entire budget on the generator itself, keep in mind that you’ll need to hire an electrician to install a transfer switch to allow your generator, whether portable or not, to hook directly into your home’s power system safely.
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About The Author
Alex Thatcher
Alex is a home staging guru who moonlights as a writer. She loves everything about interior design and loves working in the industry. Alex is an expert in finding what makes people light up when they walk into a room, and has made a living by creating interiors that are unique, warm and inviting. When she isn't arranging flowers or making sure she's found the right loveseat for prospective buyers, she writes about her passion — home design.