Which backup generator is good for a small house?

Answered by Brett Kulina ~ November 12, 2012 ~ Comments

I want to get a generator for my home to use during power outages. What is a good one for a small (1500 sq.ft.) house? Do I need an electrician for this type of install?

Bert E. - Miami, FL

Brett Kulina

Bert, when determining what type of back-up generator is right for your home, you will first need to decide how much available power you might need from your new generator. While there are small and inexpensive generators that produce just enough electricity to operate a few lights or small tools, there are also large generators that can power almost everything in your home.

The two common types of residential back-up power generators are portable models and standby models. Portable generators need to be started by a person, usually by electric ignition or a pull cord, and have several outlets in which to plug power cords. Unlike portable generators, which are not connected to your home's power system, standby generators are permanently wired to your house and have a transfer switch which automatically starts the unit when the power goes out. Standby generators are installed outside of your home on a cement pad and operate on diesel, propane, or natural gas, while portable generators are moved into position when and where they are needed and are most commonly powered by gasoline or diesel fuel.

If you want a generator that starts automatically following a power outage, and you want to use most of the appliances, lights, and outlets in your home, then you should consider a standby model. You can buy a 10,000 watt standby generator for about $2500, but expect prices to rise with increased electrical output (a 48,000 watt model will set you back about $14,000!) You will need to hire an electrician to install the generator for you and determine which circuits in your house should be wired to the unit.

If you want a less expensive option then you should probably consider buying a portable unit, which can cost between $200 and $2500. Portable generators are ideal for occasional and limited use, but during a power outage they can provide just enough electricity for your home's essential needs.

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