Portable power generation is great for emergency backup power in case of an outage, to use around the home when extension cords would be trouble or for camping, tailgating and the job site. Regardless of the specific uses, there is little doubt that electricity is what powers out modern society and without it, we are just out of power. Every home should have at least a small, portable power generator on hand for those unforeseen needs and emergencies.
What’s The Point?
Previously, the recommendation used to be that a person total up the amount appliances and devices and purchase a generator on that requirement. As portable generator have become more common and the price variation is wider than it once was and with choices aplenty, the first thing is to determine what the generator is going to be used for. If the primary purpose of the generator is camping or tailgating, then the best generator would be an inverter generator.
Small and compact and relatively light, a inverter generator would be the best place to start. For home backup power generation or for RV camping, a larger generator that has a decent surge capacity to handle sump pumps, freezers, and refrigerators are the better choice. One the purpose is identified, then it is much easier to narrow down the choices as to which type to purchase.
Power, Power, More Power
Once the role of the generator has been determined, then we can move on to the specific need for power. For home backup power, the rule of thumb is at least 4,000 Watts. Obviously 4,000 Watts will not run an entire home. If there is a need for that, then instead of a portable generator, perhaps a standby generator is in order. The best place to begin for a portable generator for home is to determine the type and number of appliances that will be necessary to keep the home running at a minimum level till grid power is reconnected.
Usually this is a refrigerator, maybe a sump pump or freezer and a couple of lights and maybe some small appliances. Naturally, the more power output of the generator the more you can plug in but at one point you reach a point of diminishing returns. Meaning that at a certain level, unless there is a requirement for that amount of power the dollar per watt becomes cost prohibitive. For example, it is rare that a small or medium home would require a portable generator producing 10,000 Watts. While those are certainly on the market but are expensive.
The formula for getting the necessary power numbers are count all the volts of each appliance necessary and the number of amps each appliance requires. Multiply these two numbers and this will give you the amount of power in watts the group requires. The formula in algebraic is P=VxI, where V is volts, I is amps and P is the number of watts. Always allow for some extra room. Always get a generator that has at least 1000 watts over the required number and make sure it is continuous wattage not surge capacity.
It’s All a Gas
Having determined the role and the amount of power necessary, now it is time to select the fuel source. Most portable generators run on gasoline or a mix of oil and gas for 2 stoke engines. However, there are propane and diesel powered generators with propane being the second most popular behind gasoline. The main selling point for gasoline is that it is readily available almost anywhere.
However, over the last several decades more and more places have been offering propane. Those generators that are highly critical for applications, the alternate choice would be to chose a duel or tri fuel generator. The caveat with the multifuel generators is that they typically cost more an thus have a higher dollar per watt ratio.
Believe it or not, there is little feature creep in power generation. Features like independent circuit protection, over voltage protection, automatic voltage regulation are all important features for generators. Some generators have these features standard and on others they are the different points between the models. Low oil sensors and hour meters are also very useful features and if possible these should be included on any generator purchased. Of course, more features increases the cost but many of these features are worth it in both terms of power generation and safety.
Getting the best generator for a given purpose does not have to be challenging. Take the time to research the different brands and look at the features of the generators and get the one that supplies the correct amount of power for the job you wish to accomplish. Purchasing a good generator does not have the break the bank and given the fact that every home should have a generator, get the one that is right for you. Also, look at the length of the warranty and the reviews from other customers.
These can be invaluable in selecting the right generator. So remember, to determine the role of the generator, the amount of power needed and the type of fuel that fits your needs and then find those in the price range that is affordable and you will have yourself a generator that should provide years of power and good service.