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How to Choose a Backup Generator

A comprehensive generator guide that will give you all the information you need on how to buy the right generator.

Getting Started

A generator is sometimes an over-looked important piece when owning a home or business. If the weather gets bad and there is a power outage, if you own the right generator, you don't have to worry about the electric company getting things back on track. Keep your family and your property safe and sound with the right generator to fit your needs.



Portable generators are the most versatile generators on the market. Their uses are practically limitless. You can use them for emergency power at home, for power in remote locations where utility power is unavailable, or for recreational purposes, like boating, camping, or even tailgating.

Portable generators are fueled by gasoline and include 120-volt power outlets like the ones in the walls of your home. When the generator is running, you can plug appliances and tools directly into these outlets. Be sure to know what you will be using it for so you don't under or over estimate the size needed.


A standby generator is permanently installed outside your home or business and is wired directly into the electrical system to provide power to some or all of the necessary circuits during any power outages. Depending on the model, they may start automatically when the power goes out and stop when the power returns. Standby generators are fueled by liquid propane or natural gas and require professional installation, often with a permit.


Alternative-Fuel Capability

Most portable generators run on gasoline, but some are equipped with the ability to run on natural gas or propane using a conversion kit. Stationary generators typically run on propane or natural gas.

Inverter Technology

Inverters turn DC power into AC power, the type of current that powers everyday appliances. When you purchase an inverter, you need one that can handle the wattage of the appliances you plan on using.

Noise Reduction

Generators aren't exactly the quietest of items. Some offer extra features to reduce the noise created during operation. Look for large mufflers if noise is a concern in your home and neighborhood.

Transfer Switch

If you want to use your generator to power part or your entire home, you'll need the right sized generator and a transfer switch. This switch closes off the utility power line to your house's electrical system and opens a direct line to the generator and reverses the process when utility power is restored. Standby models can work either with a manual or an automatic transfer switch. The benefit of an automatic transfer switch is that it senses when utility power has been lost and automatically switches to generator power.


As the name suggests, portable generators can be transported to different locations. The smallest portable generators are comparatively light--perhaps 50 pounds--and can be carried. Larger models can weigh as much as several hundred pounds, making a wheeled frame essential for moving it out of the garage or shed to power up when you lose power.