There's no denying it. Losing power to one's house can be at the least inconvenient and at the worst devastating--and sometimes even dangerous. If your power goes out for a brief period of time, your only issue might be the aggravation of having to reset a few clocks, but if you lose power for an extended period of time, you could be in trouble. Hundreds of dollars could be lost to food spoilage. Lives could be in danger if medical equipment is a necessity, There's no reason to fear, though, because there is a simple solution: A home generator. Before discussing the varieties of generators available, let's take a look at what causes power outages.
What Is the Most Frequent Cause of Power Outages in US?
In the US, there are several causes of power outages that are challenging or almost impossible to avoid.
This is the number one cause of power outages. From strong winds, excessive heat, and heavy ice and snow, it's no surprise power lines get damaged by inclement weather. Even natural disasters such as earthquakes and lightning strikes can wreak havoc on the nation's power supply.
Whether it's a heavy branch knocked down by a storm or a mistake made by a tree trimming company, trees cause a large number of outages. Underground cables can also be damaged over time by thick roots.
3. Bad Drivers.
All it takes is one careless person behind the wheel to knock down a pole and you're suddenly without power. And it can take hours or sometimes days for utility companies to make their repairs.
Somehow birds are able to navigate their way to landing safely on power lines--and sometimes not. Even with proper protection measures and devices in place, other small animals, such as squirrels, can also cause enough damage to interrupt power.
5. Human Error.
If you live in a city with underground cables, invariably a construction worker with a back hoe is going to hit one of those cables. A homeowner with a shovel could also cause a power outage.
6. High Power Demand.
Especially during the summer months when millions are blasting their air conditioners, the stress put on the grid can cause electrical equipment to overheat and fail. Many cities and counties have resorted to rolling blackouts or brownouts to try and keep power flowing to the majority of residents.
These are only six of the biggest reasons for power failures and outages. At one time or another, you will most likely experience the loss of power.
How do you get power in case of a power outage?
The best solution when it comes to the loss of power to one's home is a generator. Unless you are one of the very few people who are running solar power with a back-up battery--which can be extremely pricey--some kind of generator is the most economical solution to keep you and your home safe and secure with back-up power. But what kind of generator is best? Read on to find out which solution fits your unique situation.
Types of home generators
There are 3 main types of generators: Whole House, Standby and Portable.
Whole House Generators
The ultimate solution, a whole house generator can keep all of your lights on and appliances running, including your HVAC system. This type of generator should automatically engage during a power outage and can power your entire home. This unit will connect directly to your home circuit board so there won't be a bunch of extension cords laying around. And these generators connect to an existing fuel line such as natural gas. The drawback: It's very expensive, takes up a lot of space, and will need to be maintained to make sure it's ready in case of an emergency.
A portable generator can run off of gas, solar power, and even propane in some cases. These units are much smaller than a whole house generator and won't run your entire house, but there are advantages to going smaller. The price, for one. This is the most economical solution to power outages. Portables take up a lot less space and can usually be easily move about. Some cons include not being able to run the generator in your home, needing to be selective as to what you want to power, and the need to refuel manually.
The difference between a standby generator and a portable generator is that standby generators are permanent fixtures in a building, and once installed they can automatically turn on in the event of a power failure to power the equipment connected to your home.
Although more expensive and more bulky than portable generators, a standby generator comes with it's own advantages. They tend to be safer and more convenient. They also run at variable speeds depending on how much power demand is put on it--this will save fuel and reduce noise.
Types of generator fuels
The three main types of generators above need fuel to run, but the question is, what fuel is best? This of course depends of your situation and needs. Let's take a look at some plusses and minuses of each.
This is the most common kind of generator and usually the least expensive to purchase. Although gas is typically easy to get, it can be expensive. Gas is also hard to store and is only usable for three to six months unless using a fuel stabilizer.
Diesel generators are very similar to gasoline generators but in advantages and disadvantages. The main difference is that they run more efficiently and can be used in harsher conditions such as extreme cold. These types of generators also tend to last longer due to the lower burning temperature of the fuel type.
Natural Gas Generator
If you've got natural gas running into your home (as most homes do) a natural gas generator can be an attractive option. Natural gas is inexpensive and burns clean, although not clean enough to run your generator indoors. These generators tend to cost more to set up and maintain, but they are very durable and last a long time.
What if they made a generator that could run off of gasoline, diesel, OR natural gas? Well, they do make these, but they are sometimes hard to find and your preferred manufacturer might not make their own model of a bi-fuel generator.
With no emmissions, solar generators can be run indoors, if needed. They do depend on the sun, so there might be situations where a solar generator is not reliable. To help with this predicament, adding a battery power storage set up can help--but it will also add to the overall cost. The power output is lower with solar generators but can be increased with additional solar panels.
Propane as a fuel source for your generator, whether it's liquid or vapor, does not degrade when being stored long term. One issue is the amount you can store--those containers are only so large. And even though propane burns clean, it can not be used indoors.
With so many options, it's a no-brainer that there is a solution for your situation. There's no reason keeping you from adding a generator to your home in some fashion, especially with all the advantages that come with it.
Reasons to get a generator for power outage in your home
Besides peace of mind, which is invaluable, there are some critical reasons to set up a generator in case of emergencies. Here are just a few.
You need to keep important appliances and equipment running.
Besides the refrigerator, you want to keep the lights on and stay connected online. Also keeping up to date with local news and knowing when power might return can be invaluable.
You do not want your food to be spoiled and ruined.
Food is expensive and, well, we need it to survive! Instead of having to use your gas-powered stove to cook everything to keep it from spoiling, you'd rather keep the cold food cold.
You own a hybrid or electric car that will need charging.
Not being able to leave in case of an emergency is not a good place to be.
You have someone in your family that needs an electronic medical device.
Some people have elderly living with them that depend on medical equipment to keep them healthy and alive.
You live in a high-crime area and need your home alarm system to work.
Most criminals will pass on a house if they see that the power is on and the alarm system is functioning.
Making sure your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide monitors are keeping you safe.
Although usually overlooked, these devices may depend on your home's power to continue doing their job.
How to choose a home generator
The first step in choosing your home generator is determining your needs. Do you want your entire house to never lose power? Would you be okay if only the refrigerator and a few appliances get power during an outage? Are you running a business out of your home that would collapse if you lost power? Consider your unique situation before selecting which generator to move forward with. Most likely you will fall into one of two categories.
#1: I want my entire house to have power.
If you fall into this category, the best options for you will be a whole house generator or a solar generator. With solar and the added back up battery system, you should be able to keep power for a long period of time.
#2: I am okay with only a portion of my house or a few appliances having power.
Being in this situation certainly opens up many options for you. If you do choose to go with a gas, diesel, inverter or even a natural gas or propane generator, you need to understand that you are covering your power needs for the short term. If you can make this work, you have the benefit of choice.
What is the best solution for a long term power outage?
If you want to be prepared of a long term power outage, there is one source of fuel for your generator that you know will always be there: The sun. Solar powered generators are going to be your best long term solution. They are clean, durable, and dependable. If you add a battery storage system to your unit, you could be set and ready for any power outage situation.
Portable solar generators are also the least complicated solution for fulfilling your power needs as you will not need to cart fuel around. As for choosing your solar generator, here are a few tips.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Solar Generator
Again, make sure you consider your specific needs before choosing which solar generator to purchase. Here are the main points to focus on.
- Battery Capacity: 1000 watts or 3000 watts? Decide what you will need to power and that should help you choose the proper wattage unit.
- Portability and Weight: Using a solar generator at home and only at home means portability and weight is not an issue. If you plan on using your solar generator at a camping site, you should choose one that can be carried without too much effort or without a dolly.
- Charging Speed: Of course, the higher the input wattage, the faster the battery will charge. It's best to find a unit that will charge while also being used.
- Adding Batteries: Can you expand if needed? Sometimes you won't know what the future holds, so being able to grow your power supply can be crucial.
- Number of Ports: It's best not to run 20 different appliances or devices off of one 10v plug! This holds true for your home outlets, too. Having four to six outlets should be your minimum requirement if your needs are greater than just charging phones and running a portable fan.
- How About Car Charging?: This option (being able to charge your generator's battery via your vehicle could be a make or break feature, especially if you are going with a portable solar generator.
- The Warranty: Any reputable company selling solar generators will have a solid warranty and an excellent customer service reputation.
Home generators are becoming more important every day
Just pay attention to the news. There is no doubt that power outages have increased across the nation. And as we as a society depend more and more on electricity thanks to all of our electronic devices, our WIFI routers, and our computers, having a home generator simply makes sense. Having that peace of mind, knowing you will not lose your connection to others via the internet, understanding your food will be safe and secure, and not losing the ability to drive your hybrid or electric car are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the advantages of owning a home generator. And realizing that with a home generator, even if you lose power, you actually WON'T lose power because you were one step ahead.