Ballpark Estimate: $500 to $3,000
You may be in the dark when it comes to generators. But the next storm may shed some light on the need for this backup power source. If your electricity suddenly goes out, a portable generator can save the day by powering up a few of the essentials, such as a lamp, refrigerator and microwave oven.
You can’t control inclement weather, but you can prepare for the effects. High gusts of wind, heavy rain, downed trees, car accidents and a damaged transformer are just a few of the things that can cause a power outage. When the problem is widespread, it can sometimes take the utility company days or even weeks to get your power back up and running. In the meantime, you can be stuck without modern conveniences for an extended duration. That’s where a portable home generator can make a big difference.
A portable generator can usually be stored in a covered area outside of your home and then connected to your home with a heavy-duty electrical cord to power your lights and a few appliances. You must be certain that your portable generator is large enough to support the appliances and power that you require.
How Much Wattage
Portable generators come in a range of shapes and sizes. The most important consideration before you buy is deciding what constant wattage you’ll want to maintain. The constant wattage is the amount of energy you need the generator to support in an emergency. Most portable generators range from 1,200 to 10,000 watts or more.
To figure out how much wattage your portable should have, you’ll have to determine what appliances you absolutely need when your power goes out. Each one will require a certain number of watts to keep it running. In addition, each item will require extra wattage in order to power it up. This initial amount can be two or four times what the appliance requires to run. Therefore always check the surge rating of any portable generator you’re considering to make sure it can support the total amount.
Another issue to consider is what type of fuel you want your portable generator to use. Most portable generators are powered by gas. You can also consider a digital portable generator, which uses inverter technology to operate. The latter is quieter to run than a traditional gas portable generator, and it is also more powerful. In exchange for these benefits, the price for digital portable generators are usually higher. Then there’s a propane portable generator, which is lower maintenance than a gas-run portable generator and costs less to operate. However, you’ll need to invest more up front to purchase the equipment. You can also find diesel portable generators on the market today. These are mainly used in commercial settings. They cost more to purchase but they are also more powerful, so some businesses feel they are worth the investment.
Other Factors to Consider
A portable generator can be quite heavy, weighing as much as 300 pounds, so it’s helpful to get wheels with your unit in order to transport it. In addition, you’ll want to find out how large the gas tank is on any portable generator you’re considering. A 5 gallon tank or larger is usually recommended, but keep in mind that you have to store gasoline safely, and that it also can gum up the tank if it sits for an extended period of time. This takes some preparation and set up before using the portable generator.
You should also know that most portable generators take some manpower to start up. If this will be a problem for you, you should explore portable generators with electrical start-ups.
Where to Shop
A good way to familiarize yourself with portable generators is by going to an area Home Show where you will find some vendors displaying various models. This offers a good opportunity to ask questions and to get a feel for what you need. Just be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau before you contract with any unknown companies.
Some people prefer to do a search online for “portable generators” or “home generators” or search for some of the popular generator brands, which include Generac, Coleman, Honeywell, and Briggs and Stratton, among many others. You can also look at home improvement and hardware stores such as Home Depot, Lowes, Sears, and Harbor Freight.
What It Costs
Portable generators come in a range of prices, depending on what features you select. Before you invest in a portable generator, it’s important to understand what you’re getting so you can make sure that your money is well spent.
This size portable generator is appropriate if you want to run one or two appliances at a time. It will take constant attention since the fuel tank has a small capacity. This size portable generator can cost between $250 and $700. While this will get you through the occasional power outage or might even be good to take on a camping trip, it would not be suitable for long-term use.
If you want a portable generator that has a bigger tank to handle your lights and a few of your essential appliances at the same time, you’ll probably want to invest in a mid-range portable generator. It can cost anywhere from about $700 to $2,000 for something that will better support your basic needs.
For a high-quality and powerful portable generator that will cover all of your home’s needs, including air conditioning, kitchen appliances, television, computers and more, you should plan on a cost between $2,000 and $5,000. While this might sound pricey, if you experience an extended electrical outage, the convenience you’ll get can make the money spent well worth it.
The cost to purchase a portable generator can range from $400 to $5,000, depending on the size, power and quality you select. You will also need to consider the fuel costs associated with running your generator.
If you skimp on a portable generator that is too small to support your needs, your appliances may start up initially but then could overheat and burn out their motors. This can end up costing you much more in the end. Rather than buying a small portable generator that won’t end up meeting your needs, you might also consider renting a portable generator. Rental costs for a portable generator range from $50 to $200 a day.