We’ve selected your nearest store or select a different store
Please set a location to see pricing and to order online. Select a Store
Please select a Home store location and click “make this my store”
Here’s How to Choose the Right Generator

Here’s How to Choose the Right Generator

A generator provides your family with more than just a backup power source; it provides peace of mind. A generator is essential during power outages, and it can also come in handy during home renovations, entertaining or on outdoor adventures. 

Before choosing a generator, it’s important to ask a few questions about your secondary power needs: 
  • What purpose will the generator serve? .
  • Where will it go? Is it for your home, cottage, business or camping trips?  
  • What appliances and/or systems do you need to power? 
  • What are your overall wattage needs?  
We’ve created this buying guide to help you answer these key questions. Read on to learn more about generators and how they work so you can choose the right model.

Reasons You Would Need A Generator

If you’re not sure where to start, here are the main reasons to use a generator:

Power Outages

A power outage can wreak havoc on your household, especially if it lasts for days or weeks at a time. A generator helps ensure your home has enough power to keep crucial appliances running or sufficiently charged. This includes cell phones, heating and cooling systems, septic systems and refrigerators.

Storms and Natural Disasters

From heavy wind and rain to ice storms, intense weather conditions can also cause power outages. A generator will help keep your appliances running in the face of bad weather or climate conditions.

Keeps Crucial Systems Running

A generator can power your home security system in an emergency, keeping your family and possessions safe. Some households also have family members who rely on medical equipment. A generator can keep these life-saving machines running when the power goes out.

Ideal for Trips and Entertaining

If your family enjoys the outdoors, a portable generator can come in handy. It can drive lights and sound systems at outdoor parties or power lights and heaters at the cottage. And for safety, a portable generator can provide power in remote areas while camping.

Handy for Outdoor Renovations

A portable generator can also be used to keep machines and power tools charged up and running during outdoor renovations or landscaping projects.

Types of Generators

There are three main types of generators, each with it’s own unique benefits.

Standby Generators

A standby generator acts as a back-up electrical system. It automatically engages when the power goes out, and shuts off when it comes back on. Most models will also run periodic self-diagnosis checks to ensure its systems are in proper working order. 

Standby generators are permanent and require professional installation. This makes them more expensive, but a good investment if you live in areas with frequent power outages. This type of generator is also good for businesses, preventing downtime and potential loss of perishable inventory. A standby generator can handle between 5,000 and 20,000 watts.
Standby Generator

Portable Generators

A portable generator is much smaller than a standby generator, and can usually be taken wherever you need power. Ideal for emergency and recreational use, a portable generator can also run power tools on construction projects or power lights and appliances at outdoor parties. 

Portable generators run on gas and must be used outside to avoid injury from emissions. They can handle between 1,000 and 8,500 watts.

Inverter Generators

Inverter generators are essentially enhanced portable generators. They’re more complex and a bit more expensive, but inverter generators are also lighter, quieter and more fuel-efficient than the average portable generator. 

This type of generator is ideal for camping trips or if you need to power phones during an outage. They can handle between 1,000 and 8,500 watts.

Why Wattage Matters

When you’re shopping for a generator, it’s important to calculate your household wattage first. This ensures you pick a model that has the wattage capacity you need to power essential electrical appliances. 

Here are the general wattage requirements for the most crucial home appliances: 
  • Lights: 60 to 600 watts 
  • Computers: 60 to 300 watts 
  • Refrigerator: 600 watts 
  • Portable heater: 1,500 watts 
  • Air conditioner: 1,000 watts 
  • Sump pump: 750 to 1,500 watts 

It’s also important to remember that some appliances like sump pumps and air conditioners draw more wattage when they turn on. Be sure to account for surge wattage to get an accurate number. 

If you’re using a portable generator for entertaining or trips, calculate the wattage of the appliances you plan on running to choose the ideal model. 

The average wattage needs for homes and businesses are as follows: 
  • Home essentials: 5,000 to 7,000 watts 
  • Job sites: 3,000 to 5,000 watts 
  • Recreational use: 1,000 to 3,000 watts  
In general, a 1,000-watt generator will be great for recreational use, while a 6,500-watt generator is a better choice for your home.

Generator Features to Look For

It’s important understand the various generator features so you know how to use them when needed:  

Automatic Idle Control 
An automatic idle control turns the engine off when it’s not in use to preserve fuel and extend run times. 

Automatic Transfer Switch 
An automatic transfer switch is only found on standby generators. It senses when the power is out and turns the generator on. This item must be purchased separately. 

Circuit Breakers 
Circuit breakers help prevent damage to the appliances and equipment you have connected to a generator by preventing system overload.  

Electric Start 
An electric start is a push-button that turns on portable generators and inverter generators in place of a pull-start handle. 

Fuel Gauge 
The fuel gauge lets you know how much fuel is left in the generator.  

Manual Transfer Switch 
This feature lets you change the energy source from utility power to generator power. It is purchased separately. 

Safety Shutdown 
This feature shuts down a standby generator if there’s low oil, high temperature, low coolant or other unsafe operating conditions. 

Wheel Kits 
Wheel kits improve the mobility of portable generators and make them easier to maneuver.
Whether safeguarding your home and business or enhancing your outdoor fun, a generator delivers the power you need. Shop our selection of generators to choose model that best suits your needs.
loading image