How to Buy a Generator

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Especially if you live in an area prone to power failures, purchasing a generator can bring peace of mind. Here's what you need to know and do.

Things You'll Need

  • Generators
  • Make a list of the appliances and lights you want to run off the generator.

  • Add up the wattage requirements of each of these to determine the wattage of the generator you need. Note that some items have a higher wattage requirement for startup than for sustained usage.

  • Shop for generators, comparing prices within your wattage requirement.

  • Expect to pay anywhere from under $500 to several thousand dollars or more for a generator, depending on wattage requirements and other features.

  • Purchase the unit you have selected.

  • Hire a qualified electrician to install a transfer switch if you intend to connect the generator directly to your home's electrical system.

Tips & Warnings

  • Wattage requirements for typical items: refrigerator ' 2,200 W to start up, 700 W to operate; light - as per bulb wattage; microwave oven - 800 W to start up, 625 W to operate; radio - 50 W to 200 W; ½-hp well pump ' 2,100 W to start up, 1,000 W to operate; television - 300 W.
  • Generators can be purchased through qualified dealers, electricians or large home centers such as Home Depot.
  • Generators have a maximum and a rated output. The maximum output can be used to meet increased power requirements for starting an appliance, however sustained wattage demand should be based on the rated output (usually 90 percent of maximum).
  • When in doubt about any matter pertaining to your home's electrical systems, consult a licensed electrician.

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