Know What to Look for When Buying a Residential Generator

Posted on January 18, 2017

January 2017 Blog Post Image

If you live in a cold weather region like southeast Michigan, you don’t want to find yourself without heat and electricity as the result of a power outage following a severe snowstorm. Even a short power outage can lead to frozen pipes, food spoilage, no phone service, and no water supply when a well pump stops working. But when shopping for a standby generator to meet the needs of your household, there are several key factors to consider.


Manufacturers rate standby, or permanent generators, by their kilowatt (kW) output-the volume of electricity a generator produces. When purchasing a generator that is the proper size for your home to keep everything running, you need to total the number of watts that the appliances and systems powered by
the generator will need.

You also need to consider the startup wattage needs of major appliances like a refrigerator and electric clothes dryer. The motors in larger appliances generally use more wattage to start up than to run continuously, which is a factor to include in the calculation when sizing an electric generator for your home. Keep in mind too that each additional electrical appliance or system that you want a generator to power will increase the total wattage you need.

If you want to save money by buying a smaller-size generator, limit the number of electrical devices or systems that you want to power if the electricity goes out. Consider what items you really need operational during a storm. Even your refrigerator doesn’t have to run continuously to keep food from spoiling.

Although there are websites that can calculate the wattage needs of your home based on the total square footage and number of electrical appliances, systems, and electronics that you want a generator to power, a qualified electrical contractor can size a generator for you. He or she will measure how much power each electrical appliance, device, or system in your home uses. An electrician will also leave some wiggle room to avoid overload.

The sizes of generators vary widely with a system to meet most homeowner needs. Even if you have an AC system that you don’t want to do without in hot weather, you can buy a generator that produces enough power to supply the needs of your home.

When comparing different models before you buy, note the rated capacity of each model and not just its maximum capacity. Generators operating at maximum capacity can overheat after running for a just a short time. However, rated capacity is the continuing power a generator delivers even though it may be less than what it delivers at maximum power.

Noise Control

One of the functions of a standby generator is performing regular test runs to make certain that the generator will operate automatically if the power goes out. Standby generators are programmed to run for a short period of time during weekly tests. A feature of some newer models of generators is a lower generator
engine speed during test runs. A lower motor speed runs quieter and uses less fuel.

Other options available to homeowners for reducing the noise a generator makes is to set the time of day the generator will perform its test run. An aluminum or solid steel generator enclosure also reduces the noise level and protects the generator from weather elements.

Reduced THD Levels

Since generator power is not the same as utility-grade power, it’s important to consider sensitive electronic devices that a standby generator will power. The amount of THD, or total harmonic distortion, a generator produces can affect sensitive electronic devices and audio systems.

Generators that minimize the THD levels help ensure that electronic equipment and other electrical systems will operate properly. Higher THD frequencies cause distortion and interference that can overheat a device’s motor, causing damage and leading to a device not lasting as long.

Newest Features

Advanced technological features of newer model standby generators include Ethernet ports. These give internet access to the generator so that you can start and stop the generator from anywhere through the use of a laptop or smartphone. If you are away when a storm is approaching, you can access the generator online and run diagnostic tests to make certain that it is operational. Wireless remote monitors also make it easy to run a test on the generator when at home without having to go outside.

If you want a standby generator as a backup power supply for your home, the professionals at Oak Electric perform quality work when installing and wiring residential generators. You will get safe installation that meets all local codes and regulations.