Buying a generator: Tips to know before you make a purchase
After Hurricane Irma, much of Florida lost power. And during Hurricane Maria, all of Puerto Rico is in the dark.
The one-two punch of storms reminded Floridians of the importance of owning a generator. If you’re shopping for a power source, here are factors to consider:
How much do you want to spend?
Stand-by generators can power your whole house and usually run on natural gas or propane. They typically cost $5,000 to $10,000, according to Consumer Reports. And you’ll need to start planning the installation months in advance. Most homeowners opt for portable generators, which usually won’t run central AC and cost $400 to $1,000. (However, Consumer Reports’ top-rated portable generator is a Honda that goes for $3,999.)
What do you want to power?
If you want to run a fridge, a fan and a few lights, a small portable generator will do the job. If you hope to keep living as if the hurricane never hit, you’ll need a stationary generator. And if you’re willing to rough it but would like to run a window AC unit, you’ll want to make sure before the storm that your generator has enough juice to run your AC. Another caveat: Cheap generators can produce power surges that will fry expensive electronics.
How much noise can you stand?
Or, put another way, how many decibels do you want to bombard your neighbors with? In general, the more expensive the generator, the quieter it is.
Technology is getting better.
For decades, Floridians have been buying portable generators that were the mechanical equivalent of muscle cars, says Paul Hope of Consumer Reports. Now, though, manufacturers are designing fuel-injected engines for generators. These models are quieter, more fuel-efficient and emit less carbon monoxide. They’re also more expensive.
The smart move, says Hope, is to shop for a generator between storms or after hurricane season. That gives you time to research what you need — and to hire an electrician to install a transfer switch or interlock device that lets the generator power your house.