Portable Generator Tips
Portable Generator TIPS
- More power or watts means more noise and weight
- Answer checklist questions to help get the right one
- Start up power needs for large appliances can stall mid-sized generators
- WATCH stand-by generator video
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Decision To Write About Generators
Did you know that writers like me, magazines and other periodic publications often develop editorial calendars? These are simply a road map of what is going to be written when.
I decided on the topic of portable generators a few months ago. I felt it would be a ho-hum column and bulletin. Boy, was I wrong!
Loss Of Power Is Popular
Evidently hundreds of thousands of people, probably more like millions, out there have suffered just like myself and my family during storms. My suggestion to you is to consider buying stock in one of the top portable generator companies for your IRA or Keogh plan.
Free & Fast Bids
More Watts = More Noise
Portable electric generators are often powered by the same gasoline engines that deliver power to air compressors, lawn mowers and similar equipment. As you know, these engines produce lots of noise.
Some generators are quieter than others. It's something you should absolutely consider when purchasing a unit.
I can tell you from experience that the droning of a 5 or 8-hp gasoline engine for countless hours can drive you crazy. I used a gasoline-engine air compressor for years and by mid afternoon you wanted to throw a rock at it.
When you need electricity in an emergency, you'll already be stressed. You don't need some extra noise grating your nerves as well!
Countless Options / Variety
I'm astonished at the variety of sizes and types of portable electric generators. You're not going to have an easy time making up your mind!
Many are air cooled. However as you approach 5,000 watts or more of power you might start to run into a few liquid-cooled engines.
If you want the ultimate generator, get a monster stand-by generator like I have. It comes on automatically and I don't have to switch out extension cords. It's connected directly to my breaker panel.
Watch this video of my generator.
Multiple Outlets / Levels Of Power
Some models offer multiple outlets of different power, AC & DC current capabilities, built in GFCI safety breakers, electric start, etc. It reminds me of buying a car! You will have a tough time keeping all of the options clear in your head.
The DC power created by most portable generators is very dirty. It's good enough to recharge a car battery, but don't even think about using it to operate a ham radio or other precision electronic device that needs a clean DC power stream.
Create A List Of Must-Haves
I suggest you make a list of "must haves" before you start shopping. Here's a list of questions that might help you narrow down what you need:
- Where will you store the generator when not using it?
- Where will the generator be when operating?
- How will you move it into position?
- Will moving it require wheels?
- What are you going to connect to the generator?
- How will you make the connections?
- Do you have the correct-sized extension cords?
What things would you love to have if money was no object?
Calculating Power Needs
Don't go to Amazon.com just yet to order one! opens in a new windowCLICK HERE if you can't wait and need a beefy portable generator.
You have to wander around your house and do a power study first. I want you to imagine that the power has just been cut off to your house. It's 20 degrees outside. What do you need electricity for, to keep you partially comfortable and your water lines from freezing?
A power study is simply a list of everything you MUST operate at some point during the power outage. While it would be nice to have everything operate at once, you'll discover it's not necessary to survive.
You may have to have your furnace on for an hour, then you can plug in the refrigerator. Different light circuits can be plugged in depending on the time of day.
Common Watt Requirements
Find the wattage of the electrical devices and write down this number. If you can't find watts on the appliance or motor, write down amps. We will convert amps to watts in a moment. (Refer to the Appliance Wattage column for common appliance wattages.)
- cell phone battery charger - 25 watts
- furnace fan blower - 700 watts
- electric crock pot - 240 watts
- microwave - 700 to 1,200 watts
- video game device - 40 watts
- refrigerator - 550 watts
- water well pump - 575 watts
- hand hair dryer - 1,200 watts
- window air conditioner - 1,500 watts
Once you have this list, add up the total wattage. Don't forget to add lights that must be on.
Not every light mind you, just the ones that are a necessity.
Now, what things on the list MUST be on at the same time? Often you don't have to have the refrigerator, freezer and the furnace on together. Why? A winter emergency will require reduced refrigeration (the house temp may fall into the 50's and 60's). A summer emergency will require full power to the refrigerator and freezer but none to the furnace.
Once you have the list of the things that must be on at the same time, you can calculate the total wattage you must have as a minimum.