You’ve decided it’s time to purchase a generator— and as a resident of Southwest Florida, land of the hurricanes, it’s a smart thing to have on hand.
You’ll be delighted when you’re charging your phone, cooking dinner, and doing a load of laundry while the rest of your block is in the dark after the next storm makes landfall. Or, perhaps you’re considering purchasing a generator for your business; you don’t want to lose business because the lights are out for days after a serious storm.
Regardless of your reasons, you’ve got a lot to think about before you buy a generator. Sure, you might have a brand that you prefer, and you’ve certainly got a budget you need to stick to, but beyond that? What do you need to consider before buying a generator for your home or business?
1. What Size Generator Meets Your Power Requirements
How much power do you need for your home or business? Well, that depends on what you hope to do. Do you plan to keep the whole building up and running for the whole outage, or do you just intend to simply power up “emergency loads,” or the bare minimum required? You should also consider factors such as the demands during the peak season. Southwest Florida residents know just how steamy it gets in the summertime, so you should be sure that your generator can handle your air conditioning needs. That requires you to determine the amount of amperage your electrical service requires, and go from there.
You can't really make a good guess at the amount of power you'll need without first knowing what you're going to be operating. That’s why it’s so important to take the time to make a list of all the appliances, light bulbs, and anything else you'll want to power with your new generator.
Once you have your list, add up the power requirements for everything you plan to operate, round up and choose a generator in that range. By rounding up, you should consider a generator that's just slightly larger than your needs. For example, if your total usage requirements come to a wattage of 10,735, consider an 11kW generator. That's a great way to make sure you have enough power for your needs, but that you're not overbuying for something you won't use. Be sure to read our article What Size Generator Do I Need to Power My House During an Outage? for more.
2. What Type of Fuel Should You Choose For Your Generator?
Let's take a closer look at the fuel types for home generators, their pros and cons, and what to consider. First, natural gas offers an "always-on" supply of fuel that's pumped directly into your standby generator. You don't have to worry about running out of fuel, or transporting fuel and refilling the tank. When the power goes out, the natural gas comes on so the generator can operate. It's also a very clean fuel and meets emissions requirements. But if a natural disaster damages the gas lines, you could be left without a way to operate your generator.
Diesel-fueled generators offer a low-maintenance way to be prepared in the event of a power outage. But they need to be run at least once every month to keep them working correctly. Diesel generators can also be noisy, and they don't burn as cleanly as those that run on natural gas. The cost of the generator may be lower upfront, but the cost of fuel and additives, coupled with the issues these generators can have, may not make them the smartest choice for your needs.
If you're thinking about propane, consider that it burns cleanly, but that it's not as efficient as natural gas or diesel. It's easy to get propane in sealed metal tanks, and it doesn't degrade over time the way diesel does. Its long shelf-life makes it a good choice for people who don't use their generators very often, but who want to make sure they can use them when needed. Compare some generator types and their fuel sources here.
3. Determining Where to Place Your Generator
Where do you plan to put your home standby generator? Well, you’re going to want to put it where you can get to it with ease for maintenance and repair purposes. Also, it should be high enough to avoid rising water. Keep it far enough away from the building’s entrances and exits as well as any combustible materials.
If you choose a natural gas generator, the location will likely be indicative of how close it can get to the natural gas source underground. A certified standby generator installer can help you locate a few possible places for this type of generator.
If you’re thinking about installing your own generator, think again. Regardless of how handy you might be, a licensed electrician should always be involved in the installation of a generator, and sometimes you might need to bring a plumber on board.
Be sure that the electrician you choose has a lot of experience installing generators; if you’re looking for a reputable electrician in Southwest Florida to assist you with the installation of a standby generator system, we can help.
Naturally, with an expensive (and complex) piece of equipment like a generator, you expect it to be warrantied. Typically, residential generators come with warranties that range between two to five years, but an industrial model might only have a warranty that covers one to two years. You could potentially purchase an upgrade, but these are important questions to ask before you make the purchase.
Compare the warranties on two of our best-selling generator brands for both residential and commercial use, Kohler and Generac, before making your decision.
The Right Generator for You
There are so many brands of generators on the market for both home standbys and business-grade units.!
In our Battle of the Home Generator Sizing Guide, we compare three major residential generator brands— stacking up their three most popular wattages to choose the best generator for your specific electrical needs.
Many of these brands also carry commercial-grade models, and the 20kW at the end can even be used for small businesses, so be sure to give it a read— no matter if you’re a homeowner or a business owner.