10 Tips When Choosing a Backup Generator



Everyone will agree that power failures can indeed be quite inconvenient and downright dangerous if you are not prepared. 

Disabling heating and air conditioning systems among a plethora or other electrical equipment, experiencing a lengthy power outage often leaves home users in uncomfortable if not life threatening situations.

However, just like there’s a silver lining on every dark cloud, there is a way to make your home blackout proof.



Installed backup generator


Backup Generators; Preparing for Power Blackouts

Offering a steadfast solution to extended outages, backup generators are permanently installed on a concrete pad in your yard and can provide uninterrupted power back up for days. These generators are powered by an external fuel supply such as liquid propane or natural gas and are directly connected to your home’s electrical panel.

DCF 1.0

Blackout 2003 in Toronto source: wikipedia.org


Needless to say, having a backup generator is quite crucial to families that require un-interuppted use of electric powered medical equipment and also those running a home business. Still, chosing a backup generator can be quite a daunting task, reason why the following read provides you with a simple checklist on what to check out for when shopping for the right backup generator.



1. How much wattage do you need?

How much wattage do you need?

In getting the right amount of wattage from your generator, there is need to calculate just how much power you’ll need in the case of a blackout. Now before you go adding up the electricity needs of every appliance in your home, consider those that will be essential during an emergency. For instance, you may want the fridge to keep running, a few power outlets for the T.V, the computer and one for charging your cell phones.

For most homes, a mid-sized unit that provides 5,000-6,000 watts suffices quite well. You can easily find the starting and running wattage of an electric equipment on the identification plate of each item. However, it’s always best to purchase a backup generator with 15-20% more power than what is required to ensure your appliances’ requirements are covered and maximize the lifespan of the generator.



2. Size Matters 

Big standby generator

Available in a wide range of sizes, choosing a a backup generator that fully caters to the electrical needs of your home or business is quite important. A backup generator with a power supply capacity of 5-50kW is most appropriate for home and personal use while those that range between 50kW-3mW are appropriate for industrial use.

However, there tends to be a widely misunderstood concept that smaller generators can be used for standby electric power since all the connected loads are not continuously running.

This is not only a myth but a highly dangerous concept which creates the risk of damaging the generator because of overloading as well as the electrical equipment in use. Also known as under-sizing, using a smaller generator poses great risks and should be avoided, instead focus on getting the right size.

This can easily be achieved by the use of online calculators which help eliminate the use of assumptions in your choosing process. In case of any confusion, it’s best advised to consult the services of a qualified electrician.



3. Work with a budget

Before you start shopping around for a generator, it is important to set a budget. Not only will this prevent you from overspending, it also creates a range of generators within which you can choose from. However, do not forget that the best generators are not necessarily the most expensive; an affordable one could as well cater to your needs accordingly.



4. Number of phases

Depending on the amount of wattage required, one can either use a single phase or a 3-phase generator. In choosing a 3-phase generator, you get the advantage of using the same generator for equipment that use both types of phases.

In the case that you are looking for a residential backup generator, then the single phase will suffice; using a 3-phase generator for the same purposes will only lead to wastage. However, it is important to mention that some dealers often try to sell unsuspecting buyers 3-phase generators strapped for single-phase; keep your eyes peeled for such.



5. Municipality requirements

A single complaint from a neighbor could mean having your generator moved and re-installed all at a significant cost. To avoid such a situation, ensure that you invest on a generator that complies with state or county law requirements.



6. The national electric code

Keeping in mind that you will need to pass an inspection before being allowed to use your generator, there is need to go over the information provided by the National Electric Code (NEC) and ensure that you have the automatic transfer switch, the right generator size among a number of other requirements.



7. Quality over price                  

Quality vs Price

Although a number of you may argue that a backup generator is seldom in use and therefore doesn’t call for much attention on its quality, the fact that cheap is always expensive remains an undebatable fact. Shop for a generator that runs the quality gamut to avoid unnecessary expenses and disappointments in your greatest time of need; go through several product reviews to ensure you are getting the best deal.



8. Included items

You want a generator that comes with a number of included items to further better your experience. For instance, backup generators with the liquid cooling feature are advisable since they allow generators with high wattage to operate more quietly and efficiently. On the same note, it is important to ensure that your generator does have an automatic safety shut down that will prevent the generator from operating in unsafe conditions such as low oil level and high temperatures.



9. Standby Vs. Portable


Depending on your needs, budget, and convenience you can choose between having a standby or portable generator. It is important to mention that the former is best for residential use while the latter is most preferred for recreational and job sites.



10. Available financing options

Every so often, people will choose to go for an affordable generator regardless of its quality or ability to cater for their needs. This should never be the case. By reviewing the different financing options offered by different suppliers, you will be able to find one that suits your budget while still allowing you to take home a high quality backup generator.

It can be hard to appreciate the convenience offered by a backup generator until you’ve experienced a lengthy power outage without one. Instead of waiting for the next major power blackout, consider buying one using the above tip on chosing a backup generator.

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