Should You Get a Portable Generator?

If you've experienced any type of power outage, you know how frustrating it can be to go without your appliances and devices for an extended period. This is where a portable generator can be especially useful.

Portable generators are convenient and flexible, as well as easy to use. While they are great for emergency use, they're also handy for campsites, remote work and recreation. Portable generators have many different uses, and there are many advantages to having one on hand. If you're thinking of getting a portable generator, let this be your guide to everything you should know before you buy.

What Are the Advantages of Portable Generators?

There are several types of generators on the market today, but portable generators have the greatest level of convenience and flexibility, among other benefits. Here are the top advantages to using portable generators:

  • Flexibility: Portable generators have a wide range of uses, and because of their portability, they can be used in a wider variety of applications than other types of generators. Use it at your home or business or take it with you to a job site or on an outing for recreation. Having a portable generator means that you have extra power wherever and whenever it's needed.
  • Convenience: Portable generators can go with you just about anywhere and are easy to transport and operate. Their convenience is simply unmatched compared to other types of generators. They also provide you with the convenience of having the power to keep tools and appliances running wherever you wouldn't normally have access to electricity.
  • Safety: These generators are incredibly safe to use. Most portable generators have their own circuit breaker protection built-in to prevent electrical overload. They also have many other built-in safety features to keep the engine running as smoothly and safely as possible.
  • Protection: If you have medical devices at home that require electricity or essential business equipment, you can be sure that you can use them even if the power goes out, with a portable generator. You can keep any necessary tools and appliances going when you need them most. Protect food from spoilage, too, with backup power for fridges and freezers.

What Are the Uses of Portable Generators?

Portable generators are useful in many applications, and the flexibility of portable generators means that you can take your power with you anywhere you go. The uses of portable generators are seemingly endless, but here are some of the most common:

  • Backup or emergency power: Whether for home or business, a portable generator can provide necessary power during an outage to keep your essential tools, machines or appliances running as usual. There's no need to worry about downtime for your business or spoiled food in the fridge and freezer. You can keep the internet or tv going during a power outage so your family can keep having fun too. Portable generators can even save lives and are essential for anyone with electrically powered home medical devices such as oxygen generators, rechargeable wheelchairs and heart monitors.
  • Power for tools: With a portable generator, you can always have the power you need for tools and equipment, no matter where you are. They are great for remote job sites for contractors or farmers and large properties where extension cords can't reach. Bring your portable generator wherever your work takes you.
  • Camping and recreation: Take a portable generator with you on your next camping adventure, and enjoy lighting at night or power for your camper's mini-fridge, TV or other appliances for all the comforts of home. Power a backyard barbecue, tailgating party, outdoor wedding or other event. A portable generator can give you extra lighting anywhere or allow you to set up an outdoor theater, bouncy house and more.
  • Recharging electric cars: If you drive an electric car, an extended power outage can really be a problem. Keep your car charged up and ready to go with a portable generator.
  • Keep well water flowing: When you're connected to city water, the pressurized system keeps your water flowing to the tap no matter what. However, if you live in a rural area and rely on well water, you likely have an electric pump to power the water flow. In this case, you'd also be without water during a power outage. Keep your water flowing whenever you need it with a portable generator.
  • Keep the sump pumping: Many homes have sump pumps in the basements, especially in areas where flooding can be an issue. However, if the power goes out during a storm, the sump pump stops working, and the rainwater can start to seep in. A portable generator can power the sump pump to keep it going no matter what.
  • Security: Many home alarm systems rely on electricity to function properly. A portable generator ensures there is no loss of power to security cameras, alarms and other protective systems for homes and businesses.

How Do Portable Generators Help During Weather-Related Outages?

When nature strikes, power outages and other damage and dangerous situations can ensue. However, having a portable generator on hand can protect you in many different weather-related situations. When the power goes out during a thunderstorm due to lightning strikes or high winds, it's usually very temporary. However, during this time, your sump pump may not work without power and water can back up into your basement. A generator can protect your home from water damage during the storm.

Snowstorms, tropical storms and hurricanes can also cause power outages, sometimes for a long time, but with a portable generator, you can keep any essentials powered or stay comfortable and entertained during the storm. Areas with extreme temperatures may also experience power outages due to the high demands of so many HVAC systems running at once. You can keep yours running when you have your own portable generator.

And if you live in an area more prone to wildfires, you're probably used to extended power outages when the power company shuts off the supply to whole neighborhoods as a fire preventative measure. Even when the power lines aren't delivering power to your home, you can keep your essential appliances and electronics running with your portable generator.

What Should You Know Before Buying a Portable Generator?

Perhaps you know you want a portable generator for your home, but what else should you know? There are a few additional factors to consider before you decide what type of generator you need. Here's what you should know:

  • Consider your situation: Think about just how often you experience a power outage and how long it's likely to last. Is it only a few hours or days on end? Think about the seasons more likely to have power outages and your HVAC systems — would your home be comfortable for a few hours without heat or air conditioning? What other appliances would you like to power during an outage? These questions can help you figure out if a portable generator is sufficient or if you might need a larger home backup power system.
  • Determine how much power you need: You'll want to have a good idea of what household essentials you want to power and what wattage they require. You may need to look up some appliances and fixtures and do some converting from amps or volts, but the math is worth it to know what kind of power you need. Portable generators usually don't have enough power for an entire household, so you'll want to be selective but realistic in determining how much power you want. Portable generators are available in several different sizes, with different power outputs, so it's a good idea to know what you need.
  • Decide where the generator will go: A portable generator can easily be stored in a garage or storage shed. But when it's running, it will need to be outside, at least 20 feet away from your home. This is due to carbon monoxide (CO) emissions and excess noise production.
  • Determine fuel type and stock up: Most generators run on gasoline or diesel. Keep in mind that during certain disasters, you may not be able to obtain more fuel. So, you'll want to have enough on hand to run your generator — anywhere from 10 to 30 extra gallons is a good estimate. Keep your fuel stored safely in appropriate containers. You should also consider what type of fuel you'd like your generator to use and how large you want the fuel tank to be.

Regardless of what type of portable generator you decide you should get, the best advice is not to wait, especially if you need your generator to power essential equipment or live in an area prone to frequent outages. It's best to be prepared and have your generator, as well as plenty of fuel, ready to go. If you wait for the next disaster to strike, you may not be able to buy a generator or additional fuel if your whole community is experiencing power loss.

What Portable Generator Accessories Might You Need?

Portable home generators have a wide variety of additional features and accessories that you may want to consider. Depending on your situation, you may want some of these special features and add-ons:

  • Transfer switch: Some home appliances, such as HVAC systems, are hardwired to electricity instead of plugged into a standard outlet. For a generator to power these types of devices, you'll need a transfer switch. These switches are available as automatic or manual versions and can also help maintain your electric system and prevent circuit overloads.
  • Extension cords: Heavy-duty extension cords are a must-have item so you can connect your generator to whatever devices you need to power.
  • Carbon monoxide detectors: Some newer portable generators have built-in carbon monoxide detectors that can even shut down the units if they detect too much CO.
  • Lift hook bar: If you'll be moving your portable generator often, a lift hook bar can be a great addition to help you lift and move the generator more easily.
  • Wheel kit: Another great accessory to increase the portability of your generator is a wheel kit. Generators can be quite heavy, and many do not come with wheels already installed, so you may want to consider this add-on.
  • Maintenance kits: Most generators don't require more than minimal maintenance, but it's a good idea to have a few essentials on hand in case of emergency. You can often find kits that provide a collection of some maintenance essentials, such as oil, filters and spark plugs.
  • Cold weather kit: If you'll be operating the generator often in cold weather, a special kit designed for cold weather use is a good idea. These kits have methods to heat the battery and oil to keep the generator running smoothly through any type of weather.
  • Mufflers: Generators can be quite noisy, but you can purchase special accessories to reduce noise.
  • Starter accessories: Many generators start with a pull chain, like a lawnmower. However, other options are available for greater convenience, like push starters and remote starters.
  • Weather-proof covers: You can protect your investment with a cover that will keep dust and dirt, as well as the weather elements, out of your generator while in storage.

How Do You Safely Operate a Portable Generator?

Once you've chosen the right portable generator for your home, you'll want to be sure to exercise the proper safety precautions when operating and storing your generator. Read the manual that comes with the unit. Keep it in a safe and handy location so you can refer to it with any questions later.

Make sure you only operate your generator outside. Even with an open window or other ventilation, it is not enough to avoid a dangerous carbon monoxide situation. Keep your generator at least 20 feet away from the home to ensure fumes will not enter the building through open windows or vents. Keep neighbors' mind when choosing the placement for your generator. The generator should be sheltered from rain and snow but still should not be operated indoors. You can get a special tent to fit over your generator if bad weather conditions are a regular concern.

It's important not to backfeed your generator by plugging the generator into an outlet. This can damage the electrical system. It can also harm neighbors or utility workers further down the line. Always shut off the generator and let it cool down before refueling. Follow all the recommended safety tips for proper startup, maintenance and storage, and you'll keep your generator in good shape for years to come.

Browse Online for Portable Generators at Ingram's Water & Air

No matter what type of portable generator you need, you can find it at Ingram's Water & Air. We are proud to offer a wide variety of generators of all types, as well as replacement parts and accessories, and you can browse our selection online. Financing is available, and all of our products come with lifetime tech support from our helpful and knowledgeable staff. Shop online with us today and prepare your home for the next power outage with a portable generator to keep your devices running no matter what.

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