3 Commonly Asked Questions About Choosing a Generator for Your Home

Posted on January 13, 2017

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Electricity is a mainstay of modern life and it is essential to lead a comfortable and safe existence. Americans often take power for granted, and when there is a power outage, it can make life difficult, and in some cases, life-threatening. If you live in a region that experiences freezing winters or scorching summer heat, or you or a family member rely on medical machinery to stay alive, a power outage could prove to be fatal.

Power outages are often the result of serious weather events such as blizzards, heat waves, and storms. Depending on the severity and extent of the event, you may lose power for many days or even weeks. However, the most common cause of power outages across the country each year is the aging national power grid. The USA has the dubious honor of having a higher rate of power outages than any other developed country.

Having a generator as a back-up electricity source can save a lot of discomfort and anxiety in these situations. If you’re thinking of having one installed in your home, then here are the answers to three commonly asked questions.

  1. What Types of Generator Are There?

There are two main types of generators used for residential purposes, standby and portable. Standby generators, sometimes called permanent generators, are hardwired into your home’s electricity system. They automatically switch on when the power goes out, so there’s no interruption to your power supply. Once installed, this type of generator can only be moved by a licensed electrician.

Portable Generators are much smaller and can be easily and safely moved from location to location. These generators don’t need to be installed and can be operated by the owner. They plug into your electrical system when needed. Portable generators are excellent if you regularly move between your usual residence and a holiday home or cabin because the generator can travel with you.

  1. What Size Generator Is Best for My Needs?

In basic terms, generators fall into two categories, large (more than 150kW output) and small (less than 150kW output). One of the most important factors in choosing a generator size is how much power you’ll require. This will depend on how large your home is and how many electrical items you wish to run concurrently.

Make a list of all the appliances you would like to run from the generator and then work out the wattage required. Remember to account for the start-up power needs of many appliances, as this can be as much as three times the running power. This information is usually found on a plate inside the door or on the back of your appliances or in the product’s user manual.

Once you have added up your power requirements, multiply that number by 1.5 to allow space for start-up surges. It is important to only run your generator to about 50-75% of its capacity, so choose a generator with enough power that your electricity requirements won’t push it to maximum capacity. This will extend the life of both your generator and your appliances. It’s also better to have too much power than too little in a time of crisis.

  1. Which Fuel Type Is Best?

Traditionally, generators were run almost exclusively on diesel. While diesel is still a popular option, more environmentally friendly fuels have risen in popularity. Natural gas or liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) produce far less emissions than diesel and are providing steadily increasing levels of fuel efficiency in generators.

If you’re thinking of getting a large generator with a high kW capacity, then diesel is still the most cost effective fuel type. For smaller generators, natural gas and LPG will prove to be more economical. Many people opt for diesel and LPG over natural gas purely because they can both be stored on site, but natural gas needs to be delivered by a specialized delivery truck.

Another point to take into consideration is how much you can get out of your generator on a single tank of fuel. Some run for just a couple of hours; others have much larger tanks that can keep the generator up and running for several days. This can make a huge difference when riding out an extreme weather event.


With the wide variety of generator makes, models, sizes, and fuel types available on today’s market, it’s understandable that you may feel a bit overwhelmed when it comes to deciding what your best option is. Give the helpful team at Oak Electric a call. They’re experts in the installation and maintenance of residential generators and can help you make the right choice for your home.