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Buying A Generator? Here’s What You Need To Know


So, you’re thinking about buying a generator but you want to be sure of the facts before you make your purchase. You’ve come to the right place; here you’ll find that we’ve got a brief but precise breakdown of what you should look for in your new generator.

Everything’s neatly laid out in the subheadings below, so if you’re just looking for research on a problem area then you can scroll down and find what you’re looking for. If not, check out the entire thing, it’s an easy read that has all the info you’ll need to make that purchase. Once you’re ready, you can then move to supply sites like Generator Hero or the biggest inverter generator to browse the generators that fall within your ideal generator category.

Wattage and Outlets

First, you’ll want to establish what kind of generator you want. This encompasses everything from the wattage and the power outlets that transfer that power, to the size and fuel type of the generator, but we’ll get to those later. For now, let’s talk about power and what range you should go for.

The secret to figuring this out is averages, averages, averages. Your own home and appliances will have wattages slightly different from everyone else but you can generally call an average on the wattages required for powering a home. Also, make sure you pay attention to both starting wattage and running wattage if you’re powering larger appliances. To give some examples, refrigerators can take approximately 800 watts to run but they might need 2,400 watts to start in the first place. The average US home generator often puts out 7,000 watts, but this depends on generator application and we’ll go through that in the Type of Use section.

If you want a more accurate power requirement diagnosis, you should add up any and all of the devices your new generator might find itself powering. Remember to consider both the starting and running wattage and, once you have the two figures, find a generator whose wattage figures exceed that of your devices. Remember to leave some breathing room too, so you can add more unexpected devices.

On the smaller end of generators, they’ll come sporting 120V AC outlets along with some USBs, so you can conveniently attach a handheld device directly to the generator. Those power outlets will become 240V plugs if you’re getting a larger generator, and they’re unlikely to have USBs which will make investing in a connectible USB power bank a good choice. If you’re using the generator outside, you’ll want them to be protected from rain and debris, so look for a generator that’s GFCI-protected.

Size and Use

The wattage of your generator is going to influence the overall size of the unit, that’s a given, but you should still consider the dimensions of your ideal generator. Where is your generator going to go? That’ll be the biggest factor in how big or small your generator can be. If you want to power your home and space is no issue then you can go as big as you want, but if you need to keep it in a small area or bring it with you on the go, it can’t be too big, simple as that.

Even if you’re going for a domestic generator as opposed to an RV or camping one, you can get away with a cheaper, smaller unit by only using the generator occasionally. If you’re grabbing a generator to use during power outages or other emergencies, then you don’t need to keep it on in your day to day life.

While we’re talking about use and size, it’s worth looking at how your new generator will start and how noisy it’ll be when running. Pulling a recoil cord can be a pain, sometimes literally if you have physical limitations, in which case you might want to consider an electric start. It’s more expensive though, obviously.

As for noise, the smaller generators will naturally be quieter, and then there are higher-end models that have noise dampening properties that help keep the noise within a manageable range. You’ll want a quieter generator when out in public, too. It’s not just considerate but some camping areas will have rules about making too much noise and distracting other citizens.

Fuel Capacity and Type

Also tied to the generator size will be the fuel tank capacity. Weigh up how often you want to refill the generator and then decide on how many hours of runtime you need. Most product pages will give the runtime at a 50% load. We’d advise you to get as large a tank as possible while staying within your preferred power and size limits.

What goes into the fuel tank is just as important. Gas generators are the most common by far and this fuel type is abundant, assuming there isn’t some storm or major catastrophe happening that’s causing a run on gasoline. Recently, official sources are looking towards gasoline to make up for lost power in other sectors.

Diesel is more fuel-efficient but costly, just as it is for your car, and then there are the dual-fuel generators that use both gasoline and propane, whichever you’d prefer. Propane is even more efficient and environmentally-friendly, to boot.

There are battery-powered options too but they’re almost exclusively small portable camping generators that don’t exceed 2,000 watts. If you’re running a generator for smaller gadgets, you’ll want the power to be clean. Having a cleaner waveform is a big deal for smaller devices since it can damage the electrical components within. Look for low-THD model generators to make sure they’re safe for use with smaller devices.

Transport Kits

We’ve gotten past the complicated stuff now, here you just need to decide if your generator has a wheel kit or lift hook bars. Most generators come housed in a cage-like structure but, with the simple addition of wheels, it can become portable even if it’s heavy. Some purchases include the wheels while some don’t, so make sure you’re getting a wheel kit if you want one. Likewise, a generator for industrial purposes might want to get a lift hook bar so that you can elevate the unit whenever you need or bring it to a higher floor.

Safety Features

The two main safety features are based around fuel and fuel byproducts, and the automatic shutoff that can save both the generator and you from danger. First, when the fuel is depleted, your generator should turn off so that the internal components don’t get damaged. Similarly, it’s a good idea to get a generator that’ll do the same when an abnormal level of carbon monoxide is detected coming from the generator. This is potentially life-saving so we’d advise you get one and, if you do, make sure the exhaust is downwind from the sensor so you don’t get any false positives.