How to Choose and Use a Portable Generator

By Staff
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April 2021

Sponsored by Champion Power Equipment

The reliability of our electricity supply isn’t what it used to be. The continent-wide, interconnected electrical grid means power failures can ripple outward like falling dominoes. Portable generators offer a safe, convenient way to provide power to a home during an outage. For a more detailed review please review this ebook.  Or watch this video on how best to choose a generator to meet your needs.

Deciding how much power you want is the first step in the selection process. Add up the wattage of all the items you plan to use during a power failure, add an allowance for extra capacity, and that’s the size of generator you need.  Online tools, like this one can be very helpful for determining the right size:

As a rough overview, a 3,500-watt generator is sufficient for bare-bones household needs; it will be able to handle a household sump pump, basic lighting, a fridge, a freezer, and a small hot plate, though not all at once. A 5,500-to-6,500-watt model offers more options and less chance of overloading the generator. A 7,500-to-9,000-watt model is even better.

The simplest way to get power from the generator to household appliances is to run extension cords from the generator in your yard into your home through an open window or door to power your fridge, TV, or kettle. However, that can be a pain, and besides, many important items in your home are hard-wired into the electrical system. Your furnace might run on natural gas, but it still needs electricity to function — electricity you can’t provide with an extension cord. Well pumps, lights, and wall outlets depend on a direct connection between a generator and an electrical panel. Portable generators can be safely routed through the electrical panel to power hard-wired appliances, but this work must be done by a qualified electrician.


As you shop for a generator, you’ll notice two main types: “generators” (both portable and stationary), and “inverter generators.” Inverter generators cost more per watt of output and aren’t available in large sizes, but they deliver very clean power and are just plain easier to live around. They’re often equipped with a variable load feature that controls motor speed, making them quieter and reducing fuel consumption. Inverter generators are also lighter and more compact than their open-framed counterparts.

Of all the outdoor power products you may own, generators probably work the hardest. A generator might not operate as often as other outdoor equipment, but when you do fire it up, it works really hard, which is why you need to keep oil on hand for changing during an extended power failure.

Protect your generator from the weather. Generators aren’t supposed to be exposed to wet or snowy weather, but that’s usually the kind of weather they’re needed in. Covers made specifically to protect generators help them last longer.  They fit properly and are easy to store, so they’re ready to use when needed.  

Always run your generator outside in a well-ventilated area — never in a garage, and at least 25 feet away from an open window or door. Finally, consider warranty and after-sale service, and look for a brand that will provide support for the long haul.

Generators are better and more affordable than ever. It’s wise insurance to own and be able to maintain one.