The type of residential generator and features you’ll want will vary greatly depending on whether it’s intended solely for sporadic emergency backup or is meant to shoulder part or all of your power use on any sort of a regular basis. The features listed here are the most important to review before pulling the trigger on a purchase.
The wattage rating is simply the power output of the generator. Generally speaking, this is also the main factor in the price — higher wattage equals higher cost.
Generators that are useful for most residential application range from about 2,000 watts to 15,000 watts in output. The smallest of these are basically just for emergency use of small applications. A generator in the area of 2,000 watts is good for keeping lights on, running small power tools, powering a desktop or laptop, charging devices and possibly running one small electric cooking device like a single-burner range. If you want to step up to powering a heater or a microwave while using the generator for other things like lights simultaneously, then you’ll want to move up to at least 4,000 – 5,000 watts.
10,000 watts is the largest amount of output you can get in a portable generator. If you want to go up to 15,000, you’ll need a stationary generator that will require professional installation.
Inverter vs Conventional
The two types of generators are fundamentally the same in that they convert a liquid fuel to AC power output, but the inverter generator adds the extra step of converting the voltage to DC then back to AC. The purpose of this is to stabilize the output, preventing drops and spikes.
An inverter is a good choice if you plan on running multiple appliances at once as it will prevent overload, and it’s also better if you plan to have a computer or other sensitive electronic devices hooked up to it. One more plus for inverters is that they are more fuel-efficient as they’ll adjust power output to whatever your current demand is.
The Noise Factor
All generators will necessarily make some amount of noise, and the more powerful they are the more noisy they will be. Inverter generators tend to be built with sound dampeners, however, and their ability to adjust to power demands means that the noise they make can also vary depending on the current load. Conventional generators, on the other hand, are pretty much non-stop loud.
The only way to get a truly silent generator is to purchase one that is situated in an acoustic cabinet. These can render even a powerful conventional generator almost completely silent. Most portable inverter generators will not make a level of noise to justify this if it is going to be separated from the living areas, however.
This determines how often you will need to refill the generator. On a full tank, the range on portable generators is about 4 to 20 hours, with a range of 8 to 10 being a reasonable expectation for most models under normal loads.
Modern generators are usually designed so that you simply have to flip a switch or push a button to start them up and turn them off, but you may see some that still have the old choke cord that you have to pull to fire it up.
Some portable generators are designed to be stacked together and run in parallel. Some reasons for doing this include meeting a level of overall power output that one generator would not be able to reach, adding more AC outlets, and redundancy in case one generator fails.
If you’re in need of a residential generator in Minnesota, Wisconsin, or North Dakota, contact us to learn more about our superior service and to request a quote.