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How to Choose the Right Generator

When the power goes out, a generator can keep your lights on, your heat working, and your devices charged. It provides an added layer of security and peace of mind. To get the most out of a generator, make sure you use the right one for the intended application. Find out what you need to know about choosing a generator.

Common Generator Uses

Different generators are better suited to different settings. To select the right one, first consider whether you need it for leisure, residential, or commercial use.

  • Leisure: A portable generator is a convenient power source for outdoor activities like boating, camping, RVing, or tailgating, when other power sources might be hard to come by.
  • Residential: If you have to power an entire home or important components of a home, your best option is a standby generator. Having a backup standby generator is a good idea for the elderly or for people with disabilities.
  • Commercial: Depending on the workplace, a portable generator can be used to temporarily run lights and electrical tools, while a standby generator is typically used for powering essential networks, phones, and computers.

Features to Look for in a Generator

Generators come in all shapes and sizes, and with a variety of features. When trying to find a new generator, there are three main factors to consider.

  • Type: Deciding whether you need a generator for home, work, or leisure use can help you choose between the two main generator types: portable and standby.
  • Runtime: The runtime of a generator indicates how long it can supply you with power. Keep in mind that this is calculated based on average load, rather than full load.
  • Wattage: The higher the wattage of a generator, the more it will be able to power. If you need to run a lot of power-hungry equipment, a high-wattage generator is a must.

Pro tip

The power of a generator is measured in circuits, and can vary between models and brands. Consult a licensed electrician to help you calculate whether a generator will provide enough power for your needs.

Using a Generator Safely

It is crucial not to cut corners when it comes to generator safety. Here are some important safety tips to be aware of for starting, operating, and maintaining your generator.

  • Never operate a generator in an enclosed area, as this can cause the buildup of deadly fumes.
  • Confirm that your generator is grounded in accordance with all local, provincial, and federal regulations.
  • Perform a regular inspection of your generator and only source parts from an authorized dealer.
  • Ensure that your generator is inaccessible to children and pets.
  • Do not operate a portable generator when it is raining.
  • Do not connect a portable generator to the wiring of your home.
  • Only use heavy-duty extension cords rated for outdoor use with your generator.
  • Turn your generator off and allow it to cool before refuelling.

In addition to keeping these tips in mind, you should also carefully read and understand all of the instructions and safety tips in your owner’s manual.

Pro tip

Generators should never be operated inside of your home, including in the garage or the basement. Keep any generator at least 30 feet away from your home’s exterior in a dry area, well away from vents or open windows and doors. Improper generator operation may lead to carbon monoxide poisoning, which can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, unconsciousness, and even death. You should always have a working carbon monoxide detector installed in your home.

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