Selecting a Home Generator
It may have seemed like overkill in the past, but recent storms have forced many to reconsider the wisdom of owning a generator. Brief, infrequent electricity outages are easy enough to endure, but if you’re losing power more frequently and for longer periods of time, it may be time to purchase a portable or standby generator.
Portable generators: Labor-intensive but affordable
Smaller portable generators cost between $500 and $1,500 and are capable of powering your home’s essential appliances. But while this type of generator is relatively inexpensive and quick to set up, it does require manual operation and close monitoring.
First things first: You must be at home when the grid power goes out in order to get a portable generator going. And because a gas tank will hold three to six gallons on average, you must periodically refill it, even during foul weather.
Due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning from engine exhaust, a portable must be placed at least 10 feet away from the house. And I recommend plugging in a carbon monoxide detector whenever you run the generator as an extra precaution.
Standby generators: Hands-off but expensive
More powerful, quieter and safer than their portable counterparts, standby generators start automatically in a blackout — you don’t need to lift a finger. But that convenience doesn’t come cheap. Installed, an average system of this type will cost about $10,000.
The upside is that standby generators tend to last a long time, approximately 15 years. And upon home resale, they recoup 50 percent or so of their value. Though maintenance is necessary every two years, licensed professionals can help ensure a unit’s reliability.
Whether it’s worth it to shell out for a standby generator depends largely on your needs. Grid failures are certainly inconvenient for everyone, but for some people, living without power can be dangerous —families with home medical equipment come to mind.
In making your decision, strike a balance between what is essential for your comfort and what your budget will allow.