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Remodeling tools: choosing your portable generator

Posted by Woodrow Aames ~ September 16, 2011

Whether you do construction projects as a contractor or work on your own home improvement projects, having the right tools can spare you horror stories and costly mistakes. For most, lack of power can pose a serious dilemma when you haven't planned ahead. Expert carpenters and contractors may rely on household hand tools to do a lot of their work. But eventually, you'll simply need to plug in.

Whether you're shopping for a portable generator for general remodeling or simply for a back-up power source to keep on hand for weather emergencies and disasters, you'll need to start by considering how much temporary power you need. One good way to proceed is to compare gas-powered generators by their capacity.

Choosing tools: Generator power vs. operating cost

The Tools of the Trade website makes an excellent argument that sizing a temporary power source based on starting and running cost makes a difference for the working contractor. An underpowered generator makes your tools work harder, burning out their motors over the long haul.

At the same time, an oversize generator drinks down fuel and can be a real monstrosity to lug around. A good rule of thumb is to find a unit capable of running your heavy-use tools: air compressors, miter and table saws, and demolition hammers. If you're in this group, shop for a model with an automatic voltage regulator to avoid spikes. Obviously a homeowner who is only interested in powering hand tools will be shopping for a low-end generator.

Shopping for Backup Power

It's not a bad idea for most homeowners to pick up a backup power generator if you live in parts of the country subject to earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and energy brownouts. Popular Mechanics recommends that you tally the startup wattage of your most-used appliances in shopping for the right capacity generator. Furnaces and electric water heaters often draw the biggest jolt to get running.

You should also take measures to move any gas-powered generator at least 10 feet from your living space. Exposure to carbon monoxide should never be taken lightly.

Too many homeowners assume they can connect a power generator to a wall socket using an extension cord. To be safe, Popular Mechanics says, install a power-transfer switch in your home's circuit panel. You can attach your tools or built-in appliances as well as the temporary generator to the switch, averting back-feeds and blowouts.

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