8 Questions Answered: Standby & Portable Generators

With Hurricane Preparedness Week behind us, we wanted to share some of the common questions we heard from folks looking for answers about generators and backup power. Here were the top eight questions about standby generators and portable generators:

Portable Generator FAQ

Should I buy a standby generator or portable generator for home backup power?
While both types of generators offer a solution to home backup power, it is important to understand one key difference: standby generators are a permanent solution while portable generators offer a more temporary solution. Standby generators, because they are automatically connected to the home’s electrical system and natural gas meter or propane supply, provide a seamless transition of power and keep things running smoothly when an outage occurs. A portable generator requires the homeowner to get the generator out from where it is being stored and manually connect it to the homes electrical system via a transfer switch or cord connect individual items. The safest way to power your home is to use a transfer switch. Extension cords should only be used to power outdoor items, but if you do power indoor items be sure to protect the cords from damage and minimize any openings through which cords pass. Openings may allow carbon monoxide to enter the home. Portable generators also needs to be refueled on a regular basis.

Standby Generator FAQs

Home Standby Generator Information

What size standby generator fits my needs?
The answer to this question is unique to each situation. It really depends on what you want to power in an outage. Check out our generator buying guide, which makes it easy to choose the items you want to power. Once you make selections, our guide will give you an idea of what size generator might meet your needs.

Do I need a permit to install a standby generator?
Installing a standby generator usually requires a permit and an electrical inspection after the installation. We recommend checking with your municipality or county to make sure all the necessary permits are in place before you buy a generator.

Does the location of the standby generator matter?
Yes. You’ll want to make sure you follow all location requirements shown in the installation manual provided with your generator, in part those include Carbon Monoxide, fire and maintenance. Yearly maintenance of your generator will require easy access. The location of the generator can also impact cost of installation. In general, the closer it is to the electrical meter and natural gas meter the lower the cost.

How much do standby generators cost?
Cost varies depending on the amount of backup power you need and where the generator will be installed. Once that is determined, you can contact your local generator dealer to get more information on the cost, which generally falls in the $4,000 to $10,000 range.

Portable Generator FAQs

Can a portable generator be used for home backup power and outdoor recreation?
Generally, portable generators have different features depending on the use. Those used for home backup power have more power than is required for outdoor recreation. Although fuel efficient, they tend to be louder than what you may want for camping or tailgating. Other portable generator models, such as an inverter generator, are better suited to outdoor recreation. Because generators have different uses, we suggest researching and looking into different models to find one that makes sense for your needs.

What kind of maintenance does a portable generator require?Home Standby Generator Information
Like any piece of outdoor power equipment, portable generators need regular maintenance. Refer to your operator’s manual and follow the maintenance guidelines. You can also speak to your local generator dealer to learn how to check oil, visually inspect the generator and troubleshoot common problems. Doing so will help extend the life of your generator.

What’s the difference between an inverter generator and non-inverter generator?
Because this question is so common, we already wrote a blog about it. Check it out!

Don’t’ Forget: Generator Safety Should Always be Top of Mind.

We can’t stress enough to always read and follow the manufacturer’s operating manual and instructions before running a generator and pay close attention to safety considerations. Visit our website for other useful generator safety and usage tips and generator safety videos.

Before starting your portable generator, locate the unit outside and far from doors, windows and vents. Generator exhaust contains Carbon Monoxide (CO), a poison gas that could kill you.

Safety is key when operating a portable generator. Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a reality. Never operate a portable generator inside your home, open or closed garage, basement or near windows / vents that could allow CO to enter the home.

Installing carbon monoxide alarms inside in the living spaces will save you, your family, and everyone from carbon monoxide poisoning if generator exhaust enters the house.