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How to choose the right size generator

July 17, 2020

How to choose the right size generator

 

UPDATED: 2/17/2021

There's a storm brewing outside. You can hear the clouds clashing against each other. You can feel the chill wind whistling through your windows. Heavy rain begins to fall on your roof. Are you ready in case of a blackout? Having a backup generator for your home is so important in today's modern world, especially in unprecedented times like these. Knowing you can power up a few essentials around the house in a time of need is a peace of mind you can’t put a price on.

 

For first time buyers, purchasing a home generator can be a little bit confusing and daunting. There are so many factors to consider, like watts and fuel choice. To narrow down your purchase, the best advice I can give you is to ask yourself, “What are my power needs? What’s essential during a power outage?”. So, let’s step back and take a look at your home, more specifically the appliances within them. Let’s figure out how to choose the right size generator.

 

 

PORTABLE GENERATORS

2,000 Watts Overview

Running Watts

Starting Watts

Refrigerator or Freezer

700

1200

Box Fan (20”)

200

300

Lamp x2

200

200

Radio

150

150

Inflator Pump

50

100

Cell Phone Charger

25

25

Total

 

1,975 Watts

 

A 2000-watt “portable generator” is a great entry level for home power backup. Sometimes called recreational generators, they are also perfect for tailgating, camping, and RVing. A well-made generator in this category is the DuroMax XP2200EH 2,220 Watt Dual Fuel Inverter Generator. What I like about this unit (besides the power) is two features, the inverter and the dual fuel technology. The digital inverter built into this generator provides clean and stable power for sensitive electronics, like laptops or tablets. This unit also runs on gasoline or propane (hence the term Dual Fuel) giving you the freedom and flexibility of fuel choice. Another popular option is the Honda EU2200I 2,200 Watt Inverter Generator with CO Minder. This quiet generator packs a powerful punch!

 

If you’re interested in inverter generators and would like to read more about its digital advantages, CLICK HERE!



MIDSIZE GENERATORS

4,000 Watts Overview

Running Watts

Starting Watts

Sump Pump

1050

1500

Refrigerator or Freezer

700

1200

Television (50”)

500

500

Box Fan (20”)

200

300

Lamp x2

200

200

Radio

150

150

Inflator Pump

50

100

Cell Phone Charger

25

25

Total

 

3,975 Watts

 

At 4,000-watts, you begin to enter the “midsize” generator territory. They are heavier than your portable generators. The reason behind this is because they feature stronger more powerful engines to produce high wattage. With that in mind, most midsize generators include wheels and handles making it very easy to transport. Take the DuroStar DS4850EH 4,850 Watt Hybrid Generator as an example of a great midsize generator. Perfect for home standby power, jobsites, to a weekend with the RV. This unit is equipped with low oil protection, AC and DC regulators, and a spark arrestor. Another neat feature is that its Dual Fuel, so just like the inverter unit, you have the option of running this between gasoline or propane. Another great alternative is the Honda EB4000X 4,000 Watt Gasoline Powered Generator.

 



LARGE GENERATORS

7,500 Watts Overview

Running Watts

Starting Watts

A/C (10000 BTU)

1500

3000

Sump Pump

1050

1500

Refrigerator or Freezer

700

1200

Television (50”)

500

500

Lamp x4

400

400

Box Fan (20”)

200

300

Outdoor Light String

250

250

Radio

150

150

Inflator Pump

50

100

Cell Phone Charger

25

25

Total

 

7,425 Watts

 

As shown above, these are larger generators with big power. They can operate a wide variety of home appliances and can be used for other applications like outdoor events. A good purchase in this segment is the Simpson 70010 7,500 Gasoline Generator. However, a better purchase is the DuroMax XP12000EH 12,000 Watt Dual Fuel Generator! LESS MONEY FOR MORE POWER AND MORE FEATURES!!! This generator is my favorite recommendation at this tier. The power panel is packed with electrical features like voltmeter, MX2 switch, idle control, DC charging, low oil sensor, and an AC breaker. The selection of power outlets is excellent too! We’re talking about two 120V outlets, one 120V 30A twist lock outlet, one 240V 30A outlet, and one 240V 50A outlet. All powered by your choice of gasoline or propane.

 



STANDBY GENERATORS

20,00 + Watts Overview

Running Watts

Starting Watts

Electric Stove

8600

8600

Water Heater

3000

3000

A/C (10000 BTU)

1500

3000

Space Heater

1800

1800

Sump Pump

1050

1500

Refrigerator or Freezer

700

1200

Lamp x6

600

600

Television (50”)

500

500

Box Fan (20”)

200

300

Outdoor Light String

250

250

Radio

150

150

Inflator Pump

50

100

Cell Phone Charger

25

25

Total

 

21,025 Watts

 

So if you don't want to sacrifice any amenities in your home during a power outage, a standby generator is what you need. These machines are heavy and NOT portable whatsoever. They are stationary and have to be installed by a Certified or licensed Electrician, but once you have this up and running… it's a game changer! It's like having your own personal mini power plant, and if you want quality get a Generac. The Generac 70432 22,000 Watt Standby Generator is a great piece of equipment. Personally, what I like most about Generac's standby is the ability to hook up Mobile Link. This allows you to monitor the status of your generator from anywhere in the world using a smartphone and easily access information like operating status. Very cool!

 

Now that you have a better understanding on choosing the right size generator for your needs, we can move forward and talk about other important aspects. There are other questions and decisions to ponder over and consider during your purchasing journey like: transfer switches, gasoline or propane generators, but above all and most importantly, let's discuss safety and proper maintenance. 


TRANSFER SWITCH

Basically, a transfer switch is an electrical device/panel that allows you to safely connect (or “transfer”) the power from a generator directly into your home power outlets. It is permanently installed by a Certified or licensed Electrician near your home's main breaker box. Depending on the amount of circuits on the transfer switch, you can power up several or all of your most important household circuits. Once professionally installed operating is fairly easy. When the main power goes out (or utility power), you plug your generator into the transfer switch inlet box using a twist lock power cord, start up the unit as normal, and flip the transfer switch/switches from the main position to the generator position. Just like that, you now have generator power in your home. When it comes to quality and reliability, Reliance Transfer Switches are best in the market!

 

GASOLINE VS. PROPANE GENERATORS

What's better? A gasoline powered generator or propane power? To be honest, in my opinion, there's no right or wrong answer. There are pros and cons to both sides and that’s the best way to weigh out these two options.

First, I would like to talk about runtime. All gasoline generators include a small built-in fuel tank. This small amount of fuel provides many hours of electricity, which in some cases is plenty of time. However, it will have to be periodically checked and refilled a few times a day. Depending on the size tank, propane can operate for days without any interruption. Of course, this depends on the power load as well.


Next, availability and cost between the two. In a case of emergency, your generator will serve you no good without usable and stable fuel. Gasoline is a tried-and-true fuel option but during a crisis, it could be a headache to obtain. Propane is a little bit more accessible during this time and very much affordable in comparison.

 

When trying to store gasoline, it's a challenge to keep it stable. It's not easy to store it as its highly flammable and degrades rapidly after a year, sometimes less. Propane on the other hand is easy to maintain as usable fuel. Propane tanks generally last for many years as long as the tanks are properly maintained and situated, which is peace of mind to have during an emergency.

 

Lastly, maintenance. One major advantage is that propane generators won't gum up the carburetors, which is a major win. However, I do see one downside on propane generators and that’s mechanics. Most gasoline generators run off small engines and they are very easy to repair at home if needed. The mechanics on a propane engine is a little bit more complicated and need a little more expertise.

 

So why not have the best of both worlds! My suggestion is to purchase a Dual Fuel generator. There is a reason why Hybrids and Dual Fuel generators are so popular in today's market. You can pick and choose when you want to use gasoline or propane, it’s your choice!

 

SAFETY

This is an extremely important topic to talk about and educating yourself AND your family about carbon monoxide is priority number one. By now, we know how useful generators can be during emergencies or for fun recreational activities.

However, you must understand the dangers of the emissions that these types of generators put out in the air. Carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas that can be lethal if not ventilated well. The good news is that with proper precautions, you could easily protect yourself and your family from this poisonous gas.


The absolute best way to fight against carbon monoxide is to simply run the generator outside at all times. Never run these generators inside your home or garage or anywhere emissions can build up. A few other things to be cautious about is when the unit is running outside, make sure it's far away from doors and windows with the exhaust pointing away. This method will not allow carbon monoxide to find its way back indoors. By doing so, you’re creating distance from the source as well. A second line of protection is to stay alert. Carbon monoxide detectors are now being featured in modern generators. A prime example of this technology is Honda's CO-Minder.

 

This piece of information is not meant to scare you away from generators. It's been proven that generators are very safe to handle if you put education and safety first.

 

MAINTENANCE

Maintaining your generator is important to ensure its ready for use when you most need it. Just like your car, if you take care of it, it’ll take care of you. First and foremost, make sure you frequently change out the oil and air filter. Follow the manufacturer's maintenance guide found in the owner’s manual. There you will find how frequently you need to change it and how much oil you need. It's also not a bad idea to check the spark plug during these scheduled checkups. If you only intend to operate the generator during emergency situations, or just not that often, a good habit to have is to run the generator at least every three months for about 30 minutes to an hour. This will keep your generator well lubricated and the battery charged. If by any chance you plan on storing your generator for longer than six months, here are a few tips on keeping that generator in good shape.

 

Never put a generator in storage without stabilizing the fuel. In fact, it’s an even better idea to drain out the fuel and motor oil. This way it will prevent the carburetor from gunk build-up and engine sludge. In the case when you need to operate it, just remember to replenish these fluids. A great tip is putting your portable generator up on blocks, this will prevent flat spots from occurring on tires and keep the wheels & tires in good rolling condition. Also keep in mind of any rodents that you have on your property, they like to eat wires so make sure you keep the generator away and somewhere they can't get to it. Lastly, if you have an electric start generator, a good idea is to keep a trickle charger hooked up to the battery, this way you could always ensure that the battery is charged and ready when you engage the electric start. Taking these wise steps in advance will protect your investment.

 

 TOP 5 GENERATORS 2021

Best Overall

DuroMax XP13000EH
  • Max Watts 13,000  Rated 10,500 Watts
  • Gas & Propane Powered
  • 8 Hours of Time (Gas)
  • 236 Lbs.
ADD TO CART
Best Inverter Generator

Honda EU2200I WITH CO-MINDER

  • Max Watts 2,200  Rated 1,800 Watts
  • Gas Powered
  • 8 Hours of Run Time
  • 47 Lbs.
ADD TO CART
Best Standby Generator

Generac 70432
  • Max/Rated 22,000 Watts
  • Natural Gas & Propane Powered
  • 564 Lbs.
ADD TO CART
Best Midsize Generator

DuroMax XP5500EH
    • Max Watts 5,500 Watts  Rated 4,500 Watts
    • Gas & Propane Powered
    • 8 Hours of Run Time (Gas)
    • 129 Lbs.
ADD TO CART
Best Large Generator


Honda EM5000X3AG WITH CO-MINDER

  • Max Watts 5,000  Rated 4,500
  • Gas Powered
  • 7 Hours of Run Time
  • 232 Lbs.
ADD TO CART

 

A generator is a first line of defense against power outages. If you're caught without one during a storm, you’ll be facing a long list of inconveniences and unexpected expenses. From spoiled food, frozen pipes, to flooded basements. So when you're at home calculating how much wattage you need during a power outage, remember that it's always best to have more than not enough. If you essentially need 2000 watts, consider purchasing a 3500 or a 4000-watt unit. Having that extra headroom will avoid tripping the breaker during a power surge and gives you the luxury to turn on a few more light bulbs. Also don't forget to pick up any accessories like extension cords, generator covers, RV adapters, or spare fuel tank. You may not realize you need this now but you probably will later down the road. Be safe, be smart, and be secure in the knowledge that you are ready for anything!