What to know when buying a generator

March 2, 2015

Generators ensure you have electricity when the power goes out. They can also power electric equipment when you’re far away from an outlet. Here’s some important information to consider when buying a generator.

What to know when buying a generator

Types of generators

Choose a generator based on where and what you’ll be powering.

Standby generators: The most expensive models available, standby home generators kick in to power your home’s most essential circuits when there’s a power outage. Your standby generator will need to be professionally installed, but it can usually handle between 10,000 and 15,000 watts to keep most of your home appliances and lights working.

Portable generators: A portable generator, sometimes called a camping generator, is small and available in a number of fuel options. Its size is perfect for camping, the job site, or for essential power during short-term outages. A natural gas generator or diesel generator will generally fall into this category and can be easily filled up alongside your vehicle.

Inverter generators: An inverter generator has a special microprocessor to regulate electricity for a smoother, more consistent power output. They typically use gas and tend to be the quietest models available.

Propane generators: A propane generator runs cleaner than other models and is perfect when gas is scarce. You can purchase additional propane tanks at most hardware stores and gas stations, which can be safely kept as backup tanks for relatively little cost.

Generator features

Generators come with features to make them more versatile and easier to use.

Electric start: Most gas generators use a rip cord to start, but more advanced models may come with an electric starter so it turns on with the touch of a button.

Multiple outlets: Multiple outlets mean you can plug in more items and power them simultaneously.

Fuel gauge: A fuel gauge shows you how much fuel you have left, so you can quickly check before trying to start your generator.

Factors to consider

There are two major factors to consider when buying a generator: size and wattage.

Size: In general, a larger generator will run for longer, provide more power and have better features. They’re also more expensive and difficult to move. Consider larger models as backup home generators and portable generators as power sources while camping or working.

Wattage: Watts refer to the power available in the circuit while your generator is running. It’s important to get a generator that can run all the devices you want without going over your wattage, which can be dangerous. Refer to the power demands of individual devices, and always leave a little extra room, just in case.

A portable generator is a handy device for camping, working or in emergencies. Whether you need a convenient portable generator or a full-sized model to power your entire home during emergencies, you now know what to look for when buying a generator.

*Not only is it dangerous, it may even be illegal in some provinces, such as Québec, to do your own electrical wiring. The solution: consider hiring a master electrician.

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