How to sort the many choices in home generators
If you’re wondering whether to buy a home generator, you’re not alone. Backup power sources are popular, and manufacturers offer a wide range of choices, from gasoline models costing a few hundred dollars to permanent outdoor installations for several thousand dollars.
Which home generator is right for you depends on your needs. Do you just want to keep your phone charged when you lose power or do you want to have heat and air conditioning throughout an extended outage?
You might even ask if you really need a generator. In 2022, the average Broad River member was without power for 86 minutes. Is that enough to justify the expense and attention?
Another part of your planning should be contacting Broad River Electric to get our expert advice on the best and safest fit for your home.
“We strongly encourage our members to give us a call if they are considering purchasing and installing a generator,” says John Fowler, vice president of member services. “Generators can not only be expensive, but hazardous if installed improperly.”
Here’s what to know about the four basic choices in home generators:
Portable generators are small enough that you can take them on camping trips, with costs ranging from more than $2,000 to as low as $400. Most can run a refrigerator or a window air conditioner.
However, special attention to safety is required. Because portable generators produce carbon monoxide, you should never use them indoors, not even in a garage. They should be operated more than 20 feet from the house and connected only with outdoor extension cords matched to the wattage being used. Look for models with a carbon monoxide detector and automatic shutoff.
“A generator should never be plugged into an outlet or your home’s electrical system,” says Fowler. “You should also have an electrician install a transfer switch to protect your appliances.” Inverter generators are higher-tech versions of standard portable generators. The power they produce changes to match what the appliances are using. Although a little more expensive, they use fuel more efficiently and make less noise. Inverter generators have the same safety guidelines as standard portable generators.
Standby generators can cost $7,000, plus installation, but they have the benefit of turning on automatically during a power outage and running your whole house. They’re typically permanently mounted outdoor units that are connected to your home electrical system and run on propane or natural gas. It must be installed by a professional electrician.
Power stations charge themselves while the power is on. They’re not as powerful as some of the other options and can be more expensive, but they’re quiet and easy to operate. They can cost between $400 and $6,000. One common use of power stations is to pair them with rooftop solar panels so that electricity from the sun can be available even at night.
“With the increased reliance on electronic devices, power outages can be a bigger concern these days,” says Chief Operating Officer Cary Johnson. “Whatever choice you make for how to react, rest assured Broad River is working to get you back on as soon as possible.”