4 min read
From powering your RV and camping equipment, to keeping home appliances running during power outages or natural disasters, to standby power for businesses, or off-grid living, a portable generator offers affordable and reliable peace of mind, comfort, and protection for you and your family.
But choosing the right generator can be difficult. With a huge variety of sizes, designs, fuel sources, and connections, you need to understand your energy needs and the features of your generator before you buy. Here are some considerations before you buy a portable generator:
The first step in the generator buying process is to determine what you want to power and how much energy your items require. The size of your generator depends on answers to questions such as:
If you are running only a few household items like a refrigerator and personal devices, then you may only need a small generator. But once you begin to add more power-hungry items like heating/cooling, washer/dryer, or a water heater, you may require a larger generator.
A small, portable generator is generally categorized as being under 2000 watts, medium between 2000-7000 watts, and large over 7000 watts.
The longer your generator can run, the less often you’ll have to refuel. The most common metric used in determining the run time of your generator is expressed as “run time at half-load”. This number tells you how long your generator can operate at half of its capacity.
For example, a 2000-watt generator with a 10-hour run time at half load will operate for 10 hours when the load is kept at 1000 watts.
You generally want a portable generator with a half-load run time of at least 10 hours to comfortably get you through the night if needed.
The amount of outlets and their types play a pivotal role in determining which items your portable generator can power. Most small generators come with 2-4 standard 120V AC outlets. The more outlets your generator has, the better. More outlets increase the generator's power stability by spreading the load more evenly.
Medium-sized generators (around 4000 watts) will start including 240V plugs. 240V plugs are required if you want to connect your portable generator to your home’s panel.
Portable generators are meant to be… well… portable! However, larger units can weigh upwards of 350 pounds and be difficult to move and lift. Before you buy, consider where your generator is moving to and from, and if you will need help carrying and storing it.
Additional features such as locking and folding handles and durable wheels will make moving your generator easier.
Gas is the most common type of fuel to use with portable generators due to its availability and cost-effectiveness; other fuels such as diesel, natural gas, and propane can also be used. You’ll want to run your generator periodically to ensure the fuel does not degrade inside your generator. If you’re using gasoline, it’s recommended to use a gas stabilizer to prevent damage from idle fuel.
Today, there are many solar and battery-powered generators available. Solar-powered generators have the advantage of not needing any fuel to operate, and power items with no emissions and no noise.
Using the power of the sun is a great alternative to heavy, fuel-guzzling gas models. Gas generators can be very noisy, heavy, and can release toxic chemicals. In times of crisis, fuel may be extremely expensive or not available at all; a solar power generator runs on power from the sun and stores it in a high-capacity battery.
Some of our favorite portable solar generators manufacturers include:
There are several features you should consider when buying your generator. Models may come with some of these and others may be purchased as add-ons.
Finding a generator that meets your exact needs is easy once you know a few of the generator basics and how to determine your energy needs. Prior research into different models will help you make a more informed purchasing decision and lead to higher overall satisfaction.
Do you have any other questions about generators? If so, we’re happy to help. Just contact us at 1-844-WILDOAK (945-3625) or through our website's online chat feature to speak with one of our trained and friendly professionals. We’ll help you find the perfect generator and any other camping or off-grid supplies you need.
Need more help? Check out our list of top solar power generators for 2021!
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