Today, there are many more people using electricity than in the past and the demand for electricity is outpacing the ability of utility companies to supply reliable electricity. This is a bad situation that means that brownouts and blackouts will only become more common and longer lasting. Not having electricity anytime is very inconvenient, but especially in the summer and winter when the HVAC has to work the hardest. In the summer, food will spoil very quickly and in the winter, it can get very cold without a good way to heat your home. All of this can be taken care of with a home generator to provide backup power.
There are two general types of home generators that can help you during brownouts and blackouts. The first type is a standby generator. A standby generator is usually large, installed in a fixed position and is attached to your home wiring via a subpanel. The second type is the portable generator. These come in many sizes but they are not permanently attached to your home wiring and they usually need to use drop cords to power your appliances and lights
Portable generators can be found in most hardware and home improvement stores. These are the ones that are generally hand-portable and you use a rip cord to start. After the generator is running you attach your drop cords, and will be able to power several small appliances and some lights. These types can provide from 500 watts to 2000 watts of power and may cost $500 to $1500, depending on their size. Larger portable generators that have wheels or need two people to lift are also available and may produce from 3000 watts up to 5000 watts. These smaller generators can supply a lot of power in a small package for a very long time if they are the inverter type. A nice sinewave inverter generator produces very clean power that is well regulated and every bit as high quality as normal line power. This can be very important with all the sensitive electronics in homes these days.
The larger standby generators can produce 7000 watts and up. They are generally powered by the same gas lines that may power your stove and heater, but can also be ran on large LPG tanks or even large diesel tanks. A baseline standby generator starts at around $5000. This is usually for a 7000-watt unit and the hefty price tag includes installation. These are very convenient because they can usually power your entire house, including all your heavy load appliances. They are also wired to your home, so no drop cords are needed.
If you plan to use a standby generator, you will need to conduct a little energy audit to know how much power you use. Also, you need to go around and add up all the wattages that everything in your home requires. Use the maximum starting watts for items that have starting watts and running watts listed. By adding up the maximum wattage each appliance can pull, you can figure out how many watts your generator needs to be able to handle. When in doubt, buy a slightly bigger generator than you need. If you buy one that’s too small, it will be overload often and your electricity will be cut off when that happens.
In summary, a generator can be very handy, especially during the summer and winter in the event of an electrical outage. Also try to get a true sinewave generator if you can. Inductive loads have big trouble with modified square wave generators and most appliances and electronics have inductive loads these days. If you need help selecting the best generator, call an electrician and get advice. Some electricians are available 24/7.