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Generators: Purchasing and Safety

  • Posted: 12.19.2017
Photo: Safe Electricity

Having a generator can help you weather storms that take out power. If you are thinking of purchasing a generator as a precaution, here’s a primer to help you figure out what to buy and how to stay safe.

What size?
According to Consumer Reports, here's what you can power with the model you select.

  • Small portable model (3,000 to 4,000 watts). This one will cover the basics, such as your refrigerator (600 watts), microwave (1,500 watts), sump pump (600 watts), several lights (400 watts), and TV (200 watts)
  • Medium portable or small stationary model (5,000 to 8,500 watts). In addition to the appliances listed above, this size can handle a portable heater (1,300 watts), computer (250 watts), heating system (500 watts), second sump pump (600 watts), and more lights (400 watts).
  • Large portable model (10,000 watts). All of the above plus a choice of a small water heater (3,000 watts), central air conditioner (5,000 watts), and electric range (5,000 watts).
  • Large stationary model (10,000 to 15,000 watts). This handles all of the items that a large portable generator operates plus a clothes washer (1,200 watts) and an electric dryer (5,000 watts).

In addition, Safe Electricty offers another distinction to make when selecting a generator: Know the difference between standby and portable generators.

  • Standby generators are wired directly into the home and must have an approved safety transfer switch to avoid feeding electricity back into the electrical system outdoors, creating what’s known as “backfeed”. Backfeed is dangerous for line workers as well as anyone who may be near downed power lines.
  • Portable generators are not permanently attached to the home, and can only power appliances that are plugged into the generator. A portable generator should never be plugged directly into the home to avoid backfeed into the utility electrical system.

Be safe when installing and operating a generator. For best practice info, check out this You Tube video from Safe Electricity.