Home Backup Generator Buying Guide
Expert Advice

Looking to keep your power on during an outage? Having a home backup generator is something you should consider. Power outages and blackouts seem to be more prevalent now with more extreme weather, hotter summers, colder winters, severe storms, and the aging utility infrastructure. The chances of losing power to your home are increasing. It can happen in an instant and pose danger when critical appliances such as heating, cooling, refrigeration, and medical equipment may not be available for long periods of time.

Home backup generators have become a top priority product for emergency situations.  In 2021, Generac, a leading generator brand, reported net sales increased 50% to a record $3.74 billion. A record number of people are still buying generators to protect their household in emergency situations.

There are many different types of generators ranging in wattage, run time and budget.Don’t overspend on more power than you need and avoid a generator that can’t deliver electricity that you do need. This home backup generator buying guide will help you determine your own needs and better evaluate various available options.

Whole House Generator

Whole house generators are the most powerful and are designed to power your entire home, including your air conditioner, water heater, kitchen appliances, and more. These are larger, considerably more expensive, and permanently installed. If you are looking to provide total coverage during a power outage this is your best option. Just keep in mind that in addition to the high cost of the unit itself, you must factor in the price of on-site installation.

The whole house generator connects directly to your existing gas line and provides reliable standby power in case of an emergency.  An automatic transfer switch is part of the installation. The switch automatically detects a power outage, disconnects your home from the utility line and connects it to the generator. Once electric service has been restored, the process is reversed.

Portable Generators

Portable generators usually run on gas or propane and are much cheaper than a whole home generator. Of course, they don’t produce anywhere near as much power, so they aren’t as useful in an emergency as a home backup generator. Still, they can keep some lights on and power small appliances during a short-term power outage.

With a portable generator, you must get it out of storage, wheel it at least 15 feet away from the home or open windows to keep exhaust fumes from entering the home. Fill it with fuel, start it and then run a power cord from it into the house. If your outage lasts a long time, you will have to periodically refuel it.

Full size generators may be connected to your home’s circuit-breaker panel with a transfer switch, they can power almost as much as a home standby generator. They have built-in outlets for directly connecting suitable extension cords if you haven’t installed a transfer switch. These devices with a power rating of 8000 watts and up, which weigh around 185 pounds to 400 pounds – are not so portable unless you have a wheel kit. 

Inverter Generators

Inverter Generators run quieter and offer excellent fuel economy. Many models can run in parallel with a second inverter generator which combines the power of both units—a 2500-Watt in parallel with 2000-watt generator = 4500 watts. Between ultra-quiet operation and exceptional fuel economy, an inverter generator is a good choice for home backup during an outage.

An inverter generator produces a different type of current that’s stable enough to charge electronic devices like phones and laptops. They’re also available in both portable and full-size units. However, they can’t be used for large appliances, and you’ll need to set them up at least 20 feet from your home to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning.

Home Battery Backup

Home battery backup systems store energy which can power your house during an outage. They run on electricity, either from your home solar system or the electrical grid. As a result, they’re much better for the environment than fuel-powered generators.

They can be small devices that power just a few appliances, or a large power bank that can supply energy to your whole home. However, unlike gas-powered generators, battery backups will only last as long as there’s a charge in the battery itself and can’t be replenished until the power comes back on, or if they’re connected to solar panels. Could a home battery backup be better option for you? 

In Conclusion

To determine which home backup generator is the right option, you must research how to choose the right size generator such as wattage requirements and run time to meet your specific power needs.