Power Equipment Plus Explains How to Select the Right Backup Generator

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Online power equipment superstore offers tips for homeowners shopping for backup power supplies.

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In our increasingly powered lives, backup generators are indispensable after storm events, and the time to buy is beforehand when options are available.

After Superstorm Sandy there was a run on backup generators, and they quickly became almost impossible to find. When generators were available, price gouging was common and choice was scarce. In our increasingly powered lives, backup generators are indispensable after storm events, and the time to buy is beforehand when options are available.

But, with so many options available including portable generators, hard-wired generators, and whole home backup power systems, how do you choose what will be right for your needs? Your pals at Power Equipment Plus are here to help homeowners identify key factors to consider while selecting a generator.

Assess your backup power needs.

“The first, and most important question to consider when shopping is, ‘What am I going to use the generator for?’” says Carl Eickenberg, product manager at Power Equipment Plus.

Generator users will fall into two categories: those who need a backup power supply for critical uses, and those who will use backup power for convenience.

Critical needs include powering medical equipment, preserving temperature sensitive medicine or large amounts of perishable food, and safety appliances including lights, alarms and gates. Other critical power uses include operating pumps during cellar flooding to prevent extensive damage and water pumps for homes relying on well water. Without power, you will need to leave your home in these instances even if you are comfortable in candlelight.

According to Eickenberg, “Critical users would be wise to ‘over spec’ or purchase a generator with a higher threshold of power output than they anticipate needing to be safe.”

Convenience uses of generators include powering household appliances such as air conditioning, interior lights, and stoves. Most generators can be relied on for up to two weeks at a time, but commercial or contractor-grade power supplies are necessary for more extended use.

How much power will you need?

Electric generators are rated by the number of watts they produce, and homeowners’ needs are directly tied to the number of devices and appliances they seek to power simultaneously.

To determine needed wattage, homeowners should add up the wattage of all tools and appliances they will power simultaneously. To assist with this calculation, many sources are available such as electricians, books, and online guides including a chart from Power Equipment Plus to easily identify needed wattage.

While listed by the maximum wattage they produce, generators typically can only run at maximum power for about 30 minutes. “Rated power” or “running load” are better representations of how much power a generator can provide over an extended period, but you will need extra power to start appliances.

“Most electric appliances draw more power immediately after starting than their running load, and a helpful rule of thumb is to provide 20% more than the running load wattage to start everything together,” says Eickenberg. “Bear in mind that not all of your appliances will go on and off at the same time, but you will need to use common sense to determine the peak load. The worst case with miscalculating peak load is a blown circuit.”

Consider the fuel source.

The most common fuel sources for electric generators are gasoline and natural gas/propane, and homeowners should choose theirs based on their access to fuel.

With gasoline generators, your access to fuel may be limited because gas stations rely on electricity to move gas through pumps and will be closed during a power outage. During Superstorm Sandy this resulted in long lines and fuel shortages.

When gasoline is scarce, natural gas may offer an advantage because they can operate off the same widely available tanks used for gas grills (i.e. Blue Rhino) and if your home is already connected to a municipal source or you have a propane heating system you will likely be able to connect your generators to these supplies. Homes that are already heated with a large propane tank or natural gas from a municipal source provide the opportunity for an essentially endless supply of fuel.

Portable, Hardwired, or Whole Home?

Portable generators can go anywhere, but you can also hardwire a backup generator into your home’s electric panel. Hardwiring offers the advantage of providing power to multiple appliances from the same outlet, but if you don’t hardwire you will need to lead extension cords from the outdoor portable generator to each appliance you are powering.

Almost all portable generators can be hardwired to a switch or house by an electrician at a low cost, and a professional should always perform this task.

Additional convenience-boosting options include remote-start technology for outdoor generators and automatic-starting generators that seamlessly begin providing power to circuits when the primary power source disconnects.

Whole-home units are the ultimate in backup generators as they provide seamless, automatic, uninterrupted flow of power to all the circuits of a house when an outage occurs and shut down automatically when municipal power is restored.

These self-regulating appliances are extremely durable and will typically pay for themselves by adding at least a comparable value to the home.

Insurance and Peace of Mind.

Portable and hardwired generators can offer peace of mind and insurance that health, safety and convenience can be maintained in the event of an outage, but beyond that, portable generators do not add value to your home. A state of the art backup power system will make your home more appealing to prospective buyers with virtually no long-term out-of-pocket costs.

“Whole home generators, while initially more expensive, typically increase the value of the home in line with the money spent on installation, and the investment can ultimately be recouped,” says Eickenberg.

To assist with any questions regarding selecting generators across the industry’s top brands, Power Equipment Plus has 80 US-based product experts standing by at 1-800-550-8780 and http://www.powerequipmentplus.com.


About Power Equipment Plus

Power Equipment Plus is an online superstore offering the best brands and fullest line of the power equipment available anywhere, superior customer service from 80 US-based experts, and free shipping nationwide.

Located in Vergennes, Vermont, Power Equipment Plus is an affiliate of Country Home Products, a proven leader in the power equipment industry with nearly 30 years of innovative products and made-in-the-USA manufacturing experience. Country Home Products is the parent company of the DR® Power Equipment, Neuton® Battery Powered Lawnmower, and Mansfield® brands of outdoor power equipment.

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Michael Joseph
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