Be prepared for the next power outage. A portable generator will provide recreational, jobsite or limited home standby power, while an automatic standby generator will start automatically and provide power to selected circuits or your whole house, even if you're not there.
Running watts required:
Light or recreational use: 1000 - 3000
Job site use: 3000 - 5000
Essential items in a typical home: 5000 - 9000
Total home or off the grid 10,000 - 27,000
Industrial 30,000 and up!
If you plan on transporting your generator regularly, you should consider weight, dimensions, wheel type and handle style to determine ease of mobility. If you need your generator to run for extended periods without refueling, such as overnight or through full work days, run time is an important consideration. Portable generators operate on gasoline, and some models offer a fuel or hour gauge to help you keep track of remaining run time. A manual transfer switch allows the option of changing the energy source from utility power to generator power, and can be purchased separately at The Home Depot.
Overtaxing a generator reduces fuel efficiency and in some cases can damage the generator and connected equipment. It's important to calculate the power output you need and to give yourself some wattage cushioning.
A back-up electrical system provides 24/7 blackout protection whether you're at home or away. It automatically supplies power within seconds of a utility outage. After utility power returns, the generator shuts itself off and awaits the next outage. It operates on natural gas or liquid propane gas and is permanently installed outside just like a central air conditioning unit.
Decide whether you want to back up a few essential circuits or your whole house. The number of circuits you back up and the power requirements of the items on those circuits will determine which generator you need.