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The Best Standby Generators For Home Use: 2023 List

Gretchen Rubin
  Jan 27, 2023 11:51 PM

When the power goes out at home, a portable generator won't be able to supply the entire house because its intended use is to give power to appliances, electronic gadgets, and lighting in distant settings, such as campsites or in an RV. Standby generators are worth the investment if power outages are a frequent occurrence or cause serious worry for you and your family.

Standby generators are big, semi-permanent equipment that are wired directly into your home's electrical system and ensure that your electricity is restored within minutes if the grid goes out. If you're looking for a standby generator to use as backup power in your house, the models shown below are a good place to start.


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Buying Guide

Power Needs and Size

If you're looking for a standby generator to power your home, it's important to take your electrical demands into account. Verify the power consumption of must-haves like the stove, oven, freezer, and heater. If you add up the power consumption of all of your household's main appliances, you'll get an idea of how much electricity your home will need to function. This ranges from 5,000 to 7,500 watts; nevertheless, it is recommended that you seek out a generator that can supply more than the bare requirement.

Although physical size is often mentioned, the term "generator size" more accurately describes the amount of power it can produce. Most standby generators lie between 20,000 and 30,000 watts, while the smallest ones can be as low as 7,500 watts for smaller houses. The beginning watts rating of these products is indicative of the initial power output of the generator. The continuous output of power while the generator has been running for more than a few minutes is rated in running watts, and this number is typically 2,000 watts greater than the running watts output.

 

The starting watts number isn't a valid measurement of the generator's capabilities, thus you should always use the running watts rating when choosing the finest standby generator for your equipment.

Fuel Source

Natural gas, liquid propane, diesel, and dual-fuel alternatives are all viable choices for determining the optimum fuel source for the standby generator.

The use of natural gas (NG) as a backup power generator's fuel source is prevalent. Since these huge devices are often installed for an extended period of time, some consumers choose to permanently connect their generator to their natural gas line so they never have to worry about running out of fuel. Natural gas is the least efficient fuel source, however these generators make up for their inefficiency with a lower emissions profile than diesel generators.

Most backup power systems run on liquid propane (LP) as their fuel source. Generators that run on propane can be connected to the main propane tank in the home or have their own separate tank, as propane is a clean-burning fuel that is more efficient than natural gas.

Diesel is a very efficient fuel that outperforms natural gas and liquid propane in terms of power output per gallon. However, diesel generators are notoriously hard to come by, and their toxic exhaust emissions can be a hazard in residential areas, especially if there are children or pets in the neighborhood.

Many manufacturers of standby generators now provide a dual-fuel option that allows the unit to run on either natural gas or liquid propane. Products with this feature are better for people who aren't sure which fuel is best.

Transfer Switch

Standby generators typically have a transfer switch installed between the generator and the main electrical panel of the home. This allows the user to seamlessly transition between using the utility's power grid and the generator's power. In the event of a power failure, a home equipped with an automated transfer switch (ATS) will seamlessly transition to using a backup generator. This takes between 30 seconds and a minute, and it guarantees that there will never be a power outage at home.

To keep the house safe when the owner is away, an automatic transfer switch is a must. The ability to connect to the generator through Wi-Fi and receive status updates on its operation remotely is another fantastic feature. You may rest easy knowing that your home is secured from power outages thanks to this service, which alerts you whenever the generator begins providing continuous power or when it begins coming on for a few minutes to recharge the starting battery.

Wattage

A generator's ability to supply energy to whatever is plugged into it can be measured in terms of the watts it produces. That is a crucial fact to learn about any prospective generator.

Find out first what your home's individual electricity needs are. The actual wattage required to run an appliance is indicated on its energy label, but as a general rule of thumb, you'll need about 2,000 watts to run your refrigerator and the majority of your lights; 3,500 watts to add a window air conditioner; up to 7,500 watts to add a sump pump and furnace; and 20,000 watts to power everything else. If you want to know how many watts of power you need from a generator, just total up the wattage of all the devices you plan on using at once. This worksheet is provided to assist you in your mathematical endeavors.

 

Power to start an appliance, power to keep it going, and power to endure a power surge — when the regular electricity flows again and everything turns back on — are all part of watts, so this number is just the beginning. Energy usage during startup is typically higher than during normal operation for many home equipment. Overworking the generator is possible if starting watts aren't considered. In a similar vein, if the generator isn't able to generate adequate watts, it could overload from a power surge. It is important to know the total wattage output of your generator in case you need to power multiple appliances or the entire home.

In most cases, a higher wattage will result in a more expensive generator. Most people would agree that having enough electricity is preferable to being without any at all or having to make difficult choices between using a fan or a refrigerator to stay cool.

Engine Capacity

Consider the generator's engine while making decisions about its overall performance and compatibility. Whole-house generators are powered by liquid fuels like propane and have gas engines that turn chemical energy into rotational energy, which is then converted into electricity. In order to gauge the generator's efficacy, it's vital to ensure that the gas engine driving it has a sizable output.

Whole-house generators, like autos, have gas engines with a finite output that's measured in cubic centimeters. The volume of an engine's combustion chamber is measured in cubic centimeters, or CC for short. Power output from an engine can be maximized by increasing its cubic centimeter (CC) rating. The engine capacity ranges from around 200 cc to as much as 400 cc for more powerful configurations, depending on the model you pick.

Output Ports

Aside from the technical requirements, you should think about a few additional things that have more of an impact on the actual use case than the generator's efficiency. You may want to think about the output ports. No matter how much power the generator produces, it will be useless if you can't plug in the gadgets you want to power with it. Buying an RV generator for use on a lengthy trip elevates the significance of this consideration.

Make sure you're getting a whole-house generator that gives you a variety of output port alternatives before making a purchase. Common methods of attaching the generator include regular residential AC outlets, transfer switches, RV connection points, and many others. You can plug USB-powered gadgets straight into the generator with the help of the USB connector included in some models. If the generator is lacking in sufficient output ports, you will need to purchase an extension cord. That means a higher cost of entry.

Size

The size of the home is a consideration while shopping for a home generator. A generator can be as small as 3 feet in length or as large as 5 feet or more in length, depending on its cooling system. The larger the generator, the more power it can produce.

Remember that the distance between the generator and your house may be specified by the manufacturer or by local building rules. There should be at least 18 inches of space around some compact generators.

Automatic Start

When a power outage is detected, some whole-house generators begin to power the home immediately. When the generator senses a drop in power from the grid, it can kick in and keep your lights on. In most cases, this function is only available on permanently installed generators, not portable ones. The higher initial investment may be justified by the piece of mind gained from knowing that in the event of a power outage, your generator will kick in to continue running essential equipment like the sump pump and HVAC unit.

Please keep in mind that this is not the same as an electric start, which allows you to activate your generator with the push of a button as opposed to the recoil start used by most small motor machines. Even if your generator has an electronic start, you must physically turn the switch to start the power.

Warranties

A generator is an expensive investment, but it usually comes with a warranty from the manufacturer. There is often a 2- or 3-year guarantee on the components and labor for home generators, whether they are conventional or inverter models. Most manufacturers cover their more expensive standby generators for three or five years.

Depending on the brand and type, some warranties will even pay for a technician's trip to your location to service the generator. Find out exactly what is and isn't included by reading the tiny print.

FAQS

What’s the difference between portable and standby generators?

It's important to know the distinctions between portable and standby generators. To put it simply, standby generators stay put while portable ones may be moved around. As an added bonus, standby generators can power an entire house rather than just a camper because they produce significantly more electricity than portable generators. Standby generators are completely enclosed, while portable ones leave the engine exposed. Another key differentiator between standby and portable generators is the standby generator's automatic start functionality, which can detect a power failure and activate the generator within a minute.

How do I correctly size a generator for my home?

It is important to know the total wattage of your home's appliances, including your refrigerator, stove, heater, and freezer, when choosing a standby generator. Calculate the total wattage required to power the house and then shop around for a generator with a higher output. The minimum size for a home's backup generator should be able to power the critical appliances, which typically utilize around 5,000 watts.

How do you safely run a home generator?

Standby generators can power an entire house, but they require a transfer switch to cut power from the main panel and instead send it from the generator to the various outlets.

Unlike stationary power sources, portable generators must be manually activated to begin providing electricity. Each device has its own set of safety measures to ensure it is used properly and safely. For example, portable generators should never be used inside the house or garage, and regular household outlets should never be used with a portable generator.

Where is the best place to put your home generator?

Similar to the cleanliness of cooking with natural gas, natural gas generators produce no exhaust fumes. However, gasoline-powered home generators release carbon monoxide into the air through their exhaust, therefore it's critical to locate the unit safely and securely away from living quarters. Utility providers and zoning ordinances therefore often stipulate location specifications.

Generators should be placed at least 5 feet away from any openings in a building. While some generators only require a gap of 18 inches from the home, the required 5 feet from the house's air intake locations still applies.

Never use a portable generator indoors, not even in a garage. This kind of generator, however, should be placed outside the house, with at least 20 feet of clearance from any windows or doors.

Conclusion

Electricity is produced by generators, which are powered by the combustion of fuels like natural gas or propane. This means that these choices can be used as a backup power source for your home, workplace, or RV in the event that the mains power goes out. Whole house generators come in a variety of power levels, and the more robust ones can run even the most power-hungry electronics with ease.

We've compiled a list of the top whole house generators and provided brief descriptions of their features and characteristics for your perusal. There are a few good choices on our list, so you should be able to find one that works for you.

Check out our shopping guide for the top whole house generators to learn more about your options.


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