The Complete Guide to Buying a Portable Generator: Everything to Know

As the portable generator market continues to grow, it’s important to ensure that you’re investing in the best possible quality for your home and its power.

Whether you live in an area prone to natural disasters or you’re just looking for a bit of backup power, buying a portable generator can have a great impact on your home. But where should you start? How can you know you’re making the best decision for yourself?

That’s where we come in. We’re here to walk you through the process of buying a home generator. Read on to learn everything you need to know.

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Why Do You Need a Generator?

The first thing you should consider is why you’re buying a portable generator in the first place. They’re great for providing power in the event of a blackout, but they also come in handy for powering small appliances outside the home when you’re camping.

If you work in construction or own a business that finds itself outdoors a lot, you can even place medium and large generators at a worksite to power tools, paint sprayers, air compressors, and other essentials you need to operate.

Before you make any decisions, it’s best to sit down and make a list of the things you need a portable generator for. If it’s not a lot, then you might be able to get away with something small for a smaller amount of money.

If you need it for long periods of time, or for projects on a consistent basis, then you might have to turn to bigger and better options.

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How Much Power Do You Need?

Once you know what you’re using the generator for, the next step is to figure out how much power you need for everything.

The wattage on any portable generator is going to tell you what items it’s capable of powering, and using a resource like a wattage worksheet is going to help you determine how much wattage is necessary for the items you need to power.

The delivery and quality of power are going to help determine how well the generator will run. A generator with a high output that struggles with delivery might stall out or even trip a circuit when it gets bogged down.

If you’re looking at this for home use, then you can start with creating a list of what you can’t go without in a power outage. The same goes for work sites, but the list should just be made up of essentials that you need while working.

Are You Transporting It?

Next, you have to figure out how easily the generator you’re purchasing needs to transport. Some come equipped with wheels or handles that make them easy to carry and transport from place to place, but others are heavy and don’t come with the same convenience.

Knowing how often you’re going to transport the generator is going to help you determine which to get. Some are better suited for carrying to camp or tailgate parties, while others are best for leaving at home as a backup power source.

What Other Features Do You Want?

Besides transportability, different generators come equipped with different features that make them easy to operate.

Things like circuit-breaker-protected outlets are great for guarding against generator overload.

If you have a gas-powered generator, a larger gas tank for extra runtime or even integrated fuel gauges can help prevent power interruptions.

If you’re powering things like computers or other technology, having something that’s safe to power sensitive items is a must-have. The same goes for low-tone mufflers that allow for quiet operation.

How Is It Powered?

Next, you’re going to need to figure out how your generator is powered.

Gas generators are by far the most common type of generator, and it’s the easiest one to power for long periods of time when emergencies strike — especially natural disasters and major storms.

Diesel generators are more fuel-efficient, but they come with a price tag for the upgrade. These are best if you’re looking for something that’s capable of running an entire household.

There are lots of other types of generators, but the other most common is solar generators. Both, however, come with pros and cons.

Solar-powered generators — like the patriot power generator — come with fewer emissions, endless charging options, and they’re usually smaller, making them perfect for easy transportation. On the flip side, they also come with less power, and they don’t last as long as gasoline-powered generators.

This means they’re not ideal for home backup power, or for when you need to power different items for long amounts of time.

Gasoline-powered generators, on the other hand, are typically more rugged, more powerful, and they last longer than solar-powered generators. They come with a quick startup time, and they don’t need to charge up.

On the flip side, they’re louder and heavier than other types of portable generators, and they require ventilation due to potentially harmful emissions they let off.

Where Are You Placing It?

Now that we’ve gotten to ventilation, another important question comes into play: where do you plan on placing your generator? No matter what your potential answer is, there are a few things you need to consider before deciding.

  • Children need to be kept away at all times
  • They need at least five of clearance on all sides
  • They need to be protected from the elements, even during storms
  • Do not ever run them indoors
  • Find a level surface
  • Inspect it regularly

These considerations might sound like a lot to handle at first, but they’re all necessary for the lifespan of your portable generator. When the time comes to replace parts or make any necessary repairs, you’re also going to want to ensure that you’re able to call your nearest authorized dealer for parts or assistance.

The last thing, always disconnect the spark plug wire. When the generator isn’t in use, also be sure to place the wire where it isn’t going to reach the spark plug. This is going to help prevent accidental starting up during transport, set up, adjusting, or when making repairs.

Consider Safety

Though we just talked about safety, there’s more to consider when you’re working with portable generators. A lot of these safety measures apply to gas-powered generators more than they do solar-powered ones.

Carbon Monoxide and Ventilation

Gas-powered generators let off emissions, and those emissions contain carbon monoxide — a deadly gas that you can’t see or smell.

It’s important to recognize that running these generators indoors, or even partially enclosed areas, is extremely dangerous and shouldn’t ever be done. Running them alongside fans or open windows isn’t going to help at all either, and you’re not going to be able to provide sufficient ventilation this way.

Instead, these generators should be run outdoors only, far from windows, doors, vents, and even crawlspace. It’s also important to ensure that you have proper carbon monoxide detectors on hand at all times.

Preventing Burns

Other risks with generators of any kind are burns and electric shock.

It’s important to remember that gasoline is flammable and explosive and that it has the potential to expand when it’s inside the tank. Remember to leave space when you’re filling up, and always use caution when you’re operating it.

Never add fuel to the unit when it’s running or hot, and never store it where the vapors may interact with an open flame, spark, or pilot light.

Avoiding Electrical Shock

There are also precautions you should take when it comes to avoiding electrical shock.

Connecting generators directly to your household wiring can be dangerous. It runs the risk of back-feeding into your home and potentially harming neighbors or other utility workers.

The same goes for the potential to overload your generator. This can lead to your property or other appliances being damaged and/or ruined.

Remember to only start and stop your generator when no electrical loads are connected, and to always use the proper power cords. Only use heavy-duty, outdoor-rated cords with a gauge that’s acceptable for the power load you’re connecting.

Go Over Everything Before Buying a Portable Generator

When you’re buying a portable generator, it’s important to ensure that you go over everything before making your purchase. Though the options for generators are endless, it’s still important to ensure that you’re placing your money into a worthwhile investment that’s going to last for many years to come.

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