Ask any Floridian and they’ll tell you that an emergency generator is like gold after a hurricane. Almost all of us live in a geographic area susceptible to earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, or ice storms. In each of those disasters, a backup emergency generator can quickly become your most valuable possession.
Generators come in different sizes and types. The larger the generator the more items you can operate at once. You must balance your anticipated needs in an emergency with the cost of the generator.
Generally, there are two types of generators to choose from. The first type is the permanent standby generator. This generator is installed as part of the electrical system in your home or business and provides power directly to the building’s wiring. An automatic switch prevents the generator from “backfeeding” power to utility lines, as well as protecting the generator from damage once power is restored. Permanent standby generators must be installed by a licensed electrician and require inspection from your city or county building department.
The portable generator is probably more familiar to the homeowner. With a portable generator, you can physically move the generator to the location required, and hook up specific items directly to the generator. Most homes require a 5,000-watt generator, which cost between $500 and $3,000, depending on options and quality. You may also opt for a smaller unit, capable of running a few lights, fan, and a television. If you anticipate running a large appliance such as a full-size refrigerator, sump pump, or water-well pump, make sure your generator can start and maintain the item. You do not want to ruin the motor of your appliance because you tried to operate it with a small generator that could not provide the appliance with the proper electrical current.
Before shopping for a generator, evaluate what items you will need in an emergency and the amount of current they pull. Total the watts and look at generators that can operate the amount of wattage you require. If you are unsure, consult the item’s owner’s manual for information on how much wattage it uses. Also, keep in mind the type of emergency you anticipate. If you live in the northeast and expect blizzard conditions, a generator that will safely operate your furnace will prevent frozen pipes, as well as keep you warm. If you live in the coastal south and are planning for a hurricane, you will need a generator that can operate a cooling system, or at least a few fans, as well as your refrigerator. And any home that is supplied by well water will require the well pump to be on a generator if you want to flush the toilet.
As with any household appliance, there are some safety hazards associated with generators. As stated earlier, generators installed as part of your homes electrical system can backfeed current into your home, causing damage to equipment, or even cause a fire if not properly installed. Consult a qualified electrician to install this type of generator. Also, generators burn fuel and must be run outdoors. Generators should never be run in a garage or in any room that connects to the house. Cords to and from your generator should be properly sized to prevent overheating and damage to equipment. By following these straightforward guidelines, you can enjoy heating or cooling, unspoiled food, working bathrooms, and even a little entertainment during an otherwise disastrous situation.