Understanding How a Home Generator Can Save You and Your Family's Life
Updated: Jan 24, 2021
We want to help you purchase the right home generator.
And don’t forget, we are also here to help you purchase the perfect tractor when the time comes.
Let’s get started discussing home generators.
A generator helps to keep the home operating when the power goes out. They are great investments --- and these days, it may prove to be a lifesaver.
In fact... if you have any type of medical equipment at home that relies on power --- your home generator will absolutely be a lifesaver. People have relied on power to run life-sustaining equipment and died as a result of a blackout.
You may be asking, “What size generator do I need?”
There are a vast number of generator sizes with many features. So it is important to know what you need it for. You don’t need the same kind of generator if you’re looking to keep the lights on versus running a house full of appliances for hours.
The size generator you will need depends on the size of the house and how many appliances you want to run.
A typical size home would need around 5,000 – 7,000 watts.
You need to also determine which appliances you want to run during an outage.
Here is a shortlist of items needing power:
Watts, Volts, and Amps
Power measurements make a difference in the type of generator you need.
Generators measure their output even when the power goes out.
Volts measure how strongly an electrical current can be carried through the system. Amps (Amperes) is a measurement of how much power your appliances and personal electronics need.
There’s a formula for calculating amps into watts…
Wattage = Amps x Volts
In the USA, standard outlets typically run on 120V. Anything that can plug into and run on a standard outlet uses 120V.
There is also a second standard voltage --- 220V. Many high-power kitchen appliances use 220V.
So, how many watts will you need?
Find the number of amps and voltage of each appliance that you want to run on the generator. Most appliances have a small panel with the model number and other relevant information printed on the back. If not, consult your owner’s manual or go online.
Add up all the wattage for your appliances. This is a good starting number, but it is likely a little higher than you need for your generator. It is rare that you’ll run them all at once.
Once you have a list of the appliances you need, and a good estimate of the highest watt usage --- add 100 extra watts just to be safe.
Now you need to consider --- Starting Watts vs. Running Watts
Many appliances, and even smaller electronic devices, have a surge in demand when they first start, and then a slightly lower running wattage.
The running demand is what these appliances list as part of their specifications. You also must look up the starting surge to make sure you have a generator that can handle the initial demand. If the power goes out, your generator will deal with a starting surge from almost all your appliances. Your refrigerator, freezer, and water heater at a minimum will be on.
If you have a separate freezer or are running the A/C or central heating when the power goes out --- you also need to account for those.
On the other hand, your dishwasher, microwave, and other appliances likely won’t be running all at once when the power goes out. One or two might be, so give yourself some extra wattage just in case.
If you want to run all your appliances off a generator at once, then give yourself 1,000 to 2,000 additional watts to cover the starting surge.
You can cut a few corners on your generator to save a little money by simply using less electronics during a power outage.
If your generator cannot handle the load of electricity you ask it to produce, one of two things will happen. A modern generator will shut off. Otherwise, the generator will try to meet demand and overheat. Eventually, it will shut down. Either option can cause damage to your appliances and electronics.
Picking the right size generator gives you a multitude of benefits:
Avoids random failures. A generator operating at, or over capacity, will sometimes fail, even if it doesn’t overheat.
Longer lifespan. If you aren’t stressing your generator, it will last longer.
Safer to use. Avoids short-circuiting plus unexpected loss of power or damage to your appliances.
You may be wondering what the difference is between a large portable generator and a home generator.
The biggest difference between a home generator and a large portable generator is Total Harmonic Distortion (THD). THD cannot be above 3% if you want to run smaller and more delicate appliances. Laptops, TVs, and most electronics that are not considered appliances, count among those more delicate appliances.
These two generators can also have different fuel sources. Portable generators use gas or propane. Stationary generators often use natural gas.
If you decide to go with a portable generator, consider a portable inverter generator. They have lower TDH, but they do have a lower overall power capacity. You won’t be able to run your whole home on a single inverter generator. Many do have a parallel capacity that allows you to run two generators simultaneously.
No matter what type of generator you use, you will need a transfer switch to protect your appliances and electronics.