Home Backup Generator: How to Find the Best One

The best home backup generator for you depends on two simple things, how much you plan to use the generator, and how much you want to spend.

Do you need to run everything in your home, or just a few lights?

Do you want a smaller unit that costs less (and has less amps) or do you spend more for a larger unit?

People are installing backup generators in their homes in record numbers. Living in the southern parts of the United States in the summer, and losing power during nasty thunderstorms for any length of time, is unbearable.

The same holds true for those folks in the north who endure snow storms that bring down power lines all the timeWhen having the lights on and keeping the refrigerator and freezer cold is a must, then a standby generator is surely needed.

Candles and flashlights just don't cut it any longer. There are two main types of generators, standby and portable. The standby generator is permanently installed outside your house and wired into the electrical system. Some start and stop automatically. These generators are powered by natural gas or liquid propane and require a permit and professional installation.

If you want to run your air conditioner off the backup generator, you need to get one that is strong enough to handle the high load. For example, if you have a 5-ton (60,000 BTU) air conditioner, you'll need at least a 20 kilowatt generator.

Determining wattage is extremely important, you need to make sure you get a generator that will take care of the things and people you care about.

Learning the proper electrical terms is essential, otherwise you get confused really quickly. The bigger the generator the more amps.

Most homes use between 0 and 200 amps, never the full amount all at once. You don't need to buy a 200-amp generator to power your home during a blackout, unless you really want one to run everything in your home. Generators come in all sizes, shapes and colors. They usually run from 8kW to 48kW.

Again, what size you needs depends on the way you plan to use the home backup generator.

Standby generators range in price from $500 to as high as $15,000 such as the Briggs and Stratton Portable Generator 30469 6,000 Watt 342cc.

Portable backup generators are great to use in emergencies at home or in remote locations where you have no power.

Many people buy portable units to take camping and boating. These portable units are fueled by gasoline and include 120-volt power outlets like the ones in homes. You can plug your appliances and tools directly into these outlets.

Portable generator costs range between a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, depending on size and features.

Buying a portable backup generator means you must also buy an automatic transfer switch. Just match the amps on your main breaker and your transfer switch. If you have a 100-amp main breaker, you will need to buy a 100-amp automatic transfer switch.

There are three styles of automatic transfer switches: Standard, Load Centers, and Service Disconnect.

Fortunately, Standard has almost been eliminated; they are just too old and most electricians will no longer install them.

Load Centers are ideal for backup generators in small homes; although they will not power an air conditioner, they will keep the lights on.

Service Disconnect switches are best for homes with 200-amp service. They cost a bit more, but are much easier to install than the load centers. Inverter generators are small gasoline powered units that run quieter than other generators.

These units are great for camping as they run quiet enough not to bother anyone.Propane powered generators are similar to standby and portable generators, except they run on clean burning propane. These are handy to have because all they require is a spare tank or two of propane for backups.

Every maker of backup generators has a generous selection of makes and models suited for every need. The best ones will start automatically and allow you to run your air conditioner and use your electronics and computers.

With so many choices, there is one out there for your needs. Life is really rough in the dark. You get too comfortable in your ability to flip a switch to get light, or push a button to turn on your computer.

When these things go dark you feel lost. Home backup generators are there to quickly come to your rescue when you are stranded in the dark due to a powerful thunderstorm or snowstorm.