Three Features to Consider Before Buying a Generator

Whether you need a backup power source or you just want to wire electricity into a camper or RV, a good generator is one handy item to own.

turning on high-output generator
A reliable, high-output generator is great for those times when the power goes out at your home.Westinghouse

A good generator can seem like a frivolous expense when things are going well, and you have all the electricity you need from the local power company. But when emergencies occur and outside power isn’t available, you’ll be glad you have a generator to provide needed power, along with plenty of fuel to run it. Generators come in all shapes and sizes, producing a wide range of electricity outputs. Not just any generator will suit your specific needs, so shop carefully. To choose a generator that’s right for you, educate yourself on capacity, size, noise output and other important factors.

Generating Capacity

Westinghouse WGen9500 Heavy Duty Portable Generator
This powerful generator can produce 9,500 rated watts and 12,500 peak watts and features two GFCI 120V 5–20r standard household receptacles, one transfer switch-ready 120V L14-30R, one RV-ready 120/240V 14–50r and two 5V USB ports.Westinghouse

Generating capacity of generators varies from a little to quite a lot. If you’re looking for a generator as a standby in case you lose power at your home, you’ll want one with more generating capacity than if you’re just planning to run the electrical appliances in your travel trailer for a day or two while off the grid. For standby generators, experts recommend you do a home walk-through and write down every appliance you’ll need to run, along with the wattage necessary to run it (check labels for this info). Since it takes more power to start up many electrical devices than to run them, you’ll want to multiply your total by 1.5. For instance, refrigerators take about 700 to 1,200 watts, while laptop computers only take about 250 watts. Once you’ve determined the wattage needed, you can start looking for the perfect generator. For portable generators, do the same computations for the power requirements in your camper or RV. That’ll help you decide the generating capacity you need. Along with capacity is having enough different receptacles available for all your different power needs. Know what types of receptacles and ports you need before making a purchase.

Size/Portability

Jackery Portable Power Station Explorer
This very lightweight generator is powered by a lithium-ion battery instead of gas or diesel fuel.Jackery

While generating capacity and size don’t go hand in hand, they are closely related. In general, bigger units are capable of producing more power, but that’s not always the case. If you want a generator that is going to run all of the electric appliances in your house, it’s probably going to be fairly large and hard to store when not in use. If you want one that you can take along to your campsite or hunting cabin, a small, portable unit will better fit your needs. Just be sure you know how much electricity you need to generate before choosing a generator. While most generators are fueled by gasoline or diesel, some small units are powered in different ways, such as with rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Some experts recommend buying the smallest generator that will meet your power needs, since it will use less fuel than a much larger one will.

Noise

WEN Super Quiet 3800-Watt Portable Inverter Generator with Fuel Shut-Off and Electric Start
This very quiet generator minimizes noise to keep you and those around you both sane and happy.WEN

In a worst-case scenario where the power grid goes down for whatever reason for an extended amount of time, you probably wouldn’t really care how loud your generator is. It will likely be sitting outside your home, making no more noise than the generators being run by all your neighbors. However, you must consider possible damage to your hearing if you have a generator that is extremely loud. If you intend to use a portable generator for electricity for your camper or RV, it’s more kind to your ears and to your neighbors to get one that is relatively quiet. Generator noise has been greatly reduced with modern technological advances, and many are available now that produce less than 60 decibels. For reference, hearing loss begins with extended exposure to noises of about 85 decibels and above. Super-quiet generators are also great for tailgate parties, where you might need to run some electric appliances but don’t want to ruin the fun for all of your neighboring tailgaters.

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