Generators rather they be portable or standby are a great tool to have at your disposal. Rather you are on a camping trip and needing some power for your flood lights, or if you stuck at home during a blizzard and your power goes out. Whatever the situation is generators are there and are able to provide you that power when it is most needed. Over the past few weeks we here at ToughAssTools have dedicated article after article to generators. Our goal here is to find out everything there is about them. In this section we will be an answering the common question of: What Happens if I Overload My Generator?
Watts, Running Watts, & Starting Watts
To answer this question we first have to do a short explanation of watts, running watts, and starting watts. I’m sure most of you are already familiar with what watts are. Watts are a unit of measurement when it comes to power or electricity. The larger the number the more power it has or needs. Generators can range from five-hundred watts all the way up to forty-thousand watts. It all depends on what you need your generator for. Depending on your needs you may only need a small or medium sized or you may need something to power your whole home. In order to determine this we need to understand what running watts and starting watts are.
Running watts are a measurement of how many watts your generator can sustain continuously. In other words, this your standard measurement. Let’s say you have a few appliances that you want to hook up to your generator and they total about two-thousand watts. These could be a coffee maker, a laptop, and a few phone chargers. Nothing major. In this instance the two-thousand watts would be your running or continuous watt measurement. The amount of watts required doesn’t change, it is a constant.
Starting watts, or surge watts, are a bit different. These typically apply on larger appliances like your refrigerators, air conditioners, furnaces, or power tools. Typically, when there is a motor involved then the appliance will have starting watts. These appliances have both starting watts and running watts. When the appliance initially turns on there is significant power needed to start the motor up. This extra power dissipates after a few seconds as the motor gets moving, but this extra wattage is needed in order to power on the machine. This ‘extra’ power is known as starting watts. As an example, if we look at Westinghouse’s WGen7500 portable generator on Amazon by clicking here we can see that it’s running watts are seventy-five hundred and the starting or surge watts are at ninety-five hundred. This is a great example as it states the running and starting (peak) watts right in the description of the product.
Overloading Your Generator
Ok folks, so now that we know the differences between these wattage measurements we can begin to understand how your generator can be overloaded. The first and most logical way for an overload to occur is exceeding the running watts of your generator. Yes, as we mentioned above, an appliance with starting watts DOES exceed the running watts but it is important to note that starting watts are a temporary need. They only last for a few seconds then the appliances tapers back down to running watts. An overload can occur when having numerous appliances plugged into your generator that exceed the total running watts. It doesn’t matter if you are still below the starting watts. Remember, starting watts are temporary and your generator can only produce them for so long. After enough time has passed the generator will overload and either shut off due to the circuit breaker, or if it doesn’t have a circuit breaker then it will keep running and eventually overheat which could lead to a fire. Starting watts are not meant to be sustained over long periods of time.
I mentioned the fire risk above but I’m going to expand on it a bit further here. If your generator is not protected against an overload by using a circuit breaker, then the system will eventually overheat. Depending on the length of the overheating the unit could eventually catch on fire. If this fire gets close enough to the gas tank then you could have a rupture or explosion. This can end very badly and there are documented cases of people burning their homes down by mistake due to this.
Even without the risk of fire though, running your generator hot or above capacity can burn out your alternator and other components of your generator which can significantly shorten the life of your system. Not only that but if the system is overload then you could have intermittent power which can damage any appliances directly plugged into your generator. It is very important to pay attention to the running and starting wattage of your generator and to not exceed it not only for safety’s sake but also to protect your wallet.
No matter what, generators cannot exceed their maximum wattage capacity. It will not happen. This capacity is based off of two things. The first is the capacity to generate electricity through the alternator. The second is the power of the engine that drives the alternator. Most generators do come with circuit breakers to limit excessive amounts of current. If after a few seconds of extra current then the circuit breaker will trip and shut down. This security allows starting watts to come through, but if the excess wattage lasts for more then a few seconds then the system trips and overloads. While your generator may survive being overloaded I cannot say the same thing about the appliances that are hooked up to it. It is best to to know exactly how many watts that you need before running your generator to ensure safety and to protect the generator as well as your appliances.
If you take anything from this article I hope that it is the importance of measuring how many starting and running watts you need for your generator. Once you have that number of required watts add an additional twenty or thirty percent just to give yourself some more leeway. If you have more questions on sizing your generator and what to look for then I suggest you visit our Generator Sizing Guide by clicking here. Also, if you are in the market for purchasing a generator then check out our ‘Best Generators’ guide by clicking here.
Remember folks, safety first when it comes to generators. While they can be great tools and can give you that needed power in hard times they can also be very dangerous. There are numerous injuries each year due to improper generator usage. If you are unsure on how to use a generator or how to set one up please check out our Safety Guide by clicking here.
Lastly, please note that this article is meant as advice and is for informational purposes only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any property damage, injuries, or anything else when it comes to generator installation and usages.
Over the past few weeks here at ToughAssTools we have been focusing on portable and standby generators for home and commercial use. That’s how we work around here. We find a specific type of tool and then read, learn, and write everything we can about it. Today, with generators, we are going to focus on what’s known as Starting Watts and Running Watts. If you already own a generator or are familiar with the term already then this article may not be for you. However, if you are in the research stage of your purchase then I highly recommend you keep reading to ensure that you get a firm grasp and understanding on the differences between these two measurements. Knowing these two measurements and how they can affect your generator are crucial.
First let’s start with that all generators, rather they be portable or standby, have the amount of power that they can provide measured in watts. Watts are a unit of measurement for power and are used to quantify the rate of energy that is transferred. The higher the number the more power or energy is transferred. Appliances, computers, phone chargers, or anything else that you plug into the wall will have a wattage rating. On some of the larger appliances like refrigerators or air conditioners the watts will be right on the label. However, with smaller things it may not be as obvious. If you were to look at a toaster for example, you may only find amps and volts. Nothing to worry about though as these two numbers can easily be transferred over to a watts. All you have to do is take the amps multiplied by the volts. You then have your watts. Measuring how many watts you need is a key step when figuring out what size generator you need.
Here’s the thing though, it is not just as simple as adding up all of the watts of each appliance. No, you also need to take into consideration what’s known as staring watts. Most appliances, especially larger ones like your refrigerators and air conditioners, will have two different wattage ratings. There will be starting watts and a running watts. Running watts are what we discussed above. These are the required watts to continuously run the appliance. (These watts are also known as rated or continuous watts.) Most of the time when you are looking at a toaster or coffee maker you will only find the running watts. This is also the wattage measurement that most folks are used to.
It is when we get into the larger appliances, especially ones with a motor, that we run into what’s known as Staring Watts. These watts, also known as Surge Watts, are the amount of power required to turn or start one of these larger appliances such as refrigerators, furnaces, air conditioners, and power tools. In order for these machines to start up they need a short and brief boost of power to get the motor going. This boost requires more watts then the standard running wattage. Once the motor has turned on the amount of watts required slowly goes down until it reaches the rated running watt level. Most of the time these extra watts are needed at the start of the appliance being turned on, but there are occasional instances where a compressor or motor will need to run during regular operation of the appliance. Again, starting watts will be used these scenarios as well. Starting watts are only meant to be used for a very short period of time. (Just a few seconds at most.) If you try to run numerous applications and you exceed the running watts but are still within the starting watts you will still overload your system. For more information on exactly what sized generator you should purchase please click here to be taken to our Generator Sizing Guide.
Starting watts are what’s known as maximum watts. When purchasing a generator you should pay very close attention to what the maximum watts of the generator is and the running watts. The worst thing you can do is purchase a generator, get it setup, and then find that you don’t have enough power because you bought based off of running watts and not surge watts. When looking at generators you should be able to find the specific maximum starting watts and the running watts. If it is unclear or you cannot find it on the product either ask for help or move onto a different product. As an example, if we look at Westinghouse’s WGen7500 portable generator on Amazon by clicking here we can see that it’s running watts are seventy-five hundred and the starting or surge watts are at ninety-five hundred. This is a great example as it tells you right in the product description. I’m a big fan of making things easy.
Lastly, if you are planning to purchase a generator check out our Best Generator Article by clicking here and also our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here. Remember folks, it is always best to be safe then sorry. Generators are not toys and they can be very dangerous if not used correctly. Please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.
Portable generators can be a lifesaver especially for those times when you suffer power loss during extreme weather. It could be a sweltering summer day in Kansas where the temperatures are over one-hundred degrees or it could be bone-chilling cold and snowy in northern Michigan. Whatever the reason for your power going out having a portable generator will allow you to get your lights and appliances back on.
The question though is a manual transfer switch necessary for your portable generator, or can you get your lights back on without worrying about it? Well folks, before I can answer that question there are some factors that we have to consider first.
Manual Transfer Switches
What will you be using your generator for in the event of a power loss? Now that may seem like a stupid question. Obviously, you are going to be using it to get your power back on, but the real heart of this question is what exactly do you want turned back on in your home? In our introduction we gave an example of a hot summer or a cold winter’s day. In both of these instances you want your air conditioner or furnace back up and running.
This is where things can get tricky. Let’s pretend that when your power goes out all you want back on is your refrigerator, a few lights, and maybe your television. In this case you do not need a manual transfer switch as all you have to do is route an extension cord from your generator over to the appliances. This is pretty straight forward. Where it gets tricky is when dealing with appliances that don’t directly plug into an outlet like your furnace or air conditioner. Instead, these are routed directly to your power panel.
Here is where your manual transfer switch will come into play. A transfer switch connects directly to your circuit box, or power panel, and will feed the electricity generated from your generator directly into your home. It is then up to you to determine which circuits you want to turn on and which you want to keep off. (This can be very important as you don’t want to add too much load to your generator and exceed the rated wattage.)
I won’t lie to you, transfer switches are expensive. Sometimes they are just as expensive as the generator itself. On top of that you have to pay for a professional installation from a trained electrician. Trust me, you don’t want to guess your way through this. It’s best to leave it to the professionals. That being said, keep in mind that you’ll have to pay for the switch and the install to get things working correctly.
In order to get around this extra cost some people take it upon themselves to backfeed their generator into their home. Backfeeding a generator is hooking the generator directly into an outlet of your home with a two male sided extension cord. I won’t get into all of the details on what happens when backfeeding, but if you want to learn more you can click here. What I will say is that backfeeding can be extremely dangerous for you, your neighbors, and electrical workers. The most common problem found with backfeeding your system is when the power from the grid comes back on. You now have two power sources running through your home with no circuit breaker to regulate. Eventually you will a get current overload which could lead to a fire.
A transfer switch actively prevents these problems by stopping power from the outside grid from getting into your home. This prevents the current overflow and also prevents a possible fire. It is the safest way to alternatively power your home.
Along with the safety bonus transfer switches also can make things much easier during a power loss event. Even if you do not plan to power on your furnace or air conditioner a transfer switch can still be quite useful by making things easy. If you wish to give power to your living room and living room only all you have to do is setup the generator, turn off all circuits on your power panel except the living room, and then transfer the power over to the generator. Now compare that to having to route wires and cords back and forth for each and everything you want turned back on.
Alright folks so now, hopefully, you have an idea if you need a transfer switch or not for your home. It basically boils down to if you want to power on larger appliances like furnaces or air conditioners, or if you want things to be easier to get back and running during a power loss. Will you pay the extra expense, or will you stick with a standard generator?
If you are not sure what size of generator you should purchase then I highly recommend taking a look at our sizing guide. This will walk you through on how to determine exactly what wattage that you need. Also, before setting up and running your generator it is best to consult our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here. This takes you through the Do’s and Dont’s of generator usage.
Lastly, is our disclaimer. I want to be clear that this article is meant for advice and for informational purposes only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any financial loss, property damage, or injuries that can occur when working with and using generators.
As winter approaches many folks begin prepping their homes for the oncoming cold and snow. This could be cleaning the gutters, caulking any drafty areas, and making the home as efficient as possible. Another step in preparing for winter that a lot of folks don’t consider is having a generator on hand in the event of a power loss. Generators can be a lifesaver especially in those cold winter days when the power goes out and your furnace won’t start.
Generators can give you that much needed power, but they can also be dangerous if ran or setup incorrectly. In this article we’re going to cover what’s known as ‘Backfeeding,’ your generator.
What is BackFeeding?
Backfeeding is routing power from your running generator and plugging that power straight into an outlet of your home. This is done with a two male sided extension cord. (Why these cords exist, I do not know.) By doing this you are flowing power throughout your home in reverse. The power will move backwards from the outlet, to your electrical panel, and back throughout the rest of your home.
While this may seem like a very easy way to power your whole home I will warn you now that it is illegal and dangerous to you and others. Many people do this without realizing the risks.
The first is that by backfeeding the generator into your home you negate the circuit breaker/fuse in your power panel. For those of you that do not know, a circuit breaker is an automated electrical switch that protects a electric circuit from a short or excess current overload. When your circuit breaker trips it shuts off automatically normally to prevent damage and to prevent over heating. Without a circuit breaker, or by negating your circuit breaker by backfeeding, you risk your home and your generator catching fire.
A lot of times these fires begin when the homeowner’s normal power comes back on line. There are now two sources of power flowing back and forth between the panel and the generator. This causes the overload that we mentioned earlier and poses a large fire risk either at the panel or the generator itself. In one such incident a backfed generator caught on fire, the fuel tank exploded, and caught the user’s house on fire as well as a neighbor’s home. The story on this extreme example can be found by clicking here. The worst part about these fire accidents is that most of the time the homeowner doesn’t realize anything’s wrong until it is too late.
Along with the fire hazard you should also know that backfeeding your generator is against the law. No, that’s not the government being overreaching. There is a good reason for this. If you do backfeed your generator the electricity that you are generating through your generator can be routed back through your home and back through the electrical grid. That means if a power company employee is working on the lines he is at risk of being electrocuted. The lines they are working on are supposed to be dead/off but if a generator is backfed there is risk of electrify running through the lines during maintenance. Do you want to be responsible for that? I certainty don’t.
The Right Way
Ok, so we’ve gone through the wrong way to hook up your generator. Let’s look at the right way. Now when most people backfeed their generators they do it because they want power throughout their home. They don’t want to just power one or two things, they want the whole shebang.
This can be done, and done safely, using portable generators. The difference here is that instead of backfeeding your system you get what’s called a ‘manual transfer switch,’ installed on your power panel. A transfer switch will allow you to do just that. It allows you to transfer the power from your generator over to your home all the while blocking new power from the gird. This prevents your overload and prevents damage or overheating.
Installing a manual transfer switch can be rather tricky and complex. The best way to do this is to hire a trained electrician. This way you get the switch installed correctly and have nothing to worry about during your next power outage. Also, if you have a trained professional come to your home be sure to ask if he recommends a grounding rod for your generator. Most of the time you will need a grounding rod if you are going with a manual transfer switch.
Ok folks, we have now gone over the dangers of backfeeding. For more information on generator setup, install, and running safety please check out our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here.
Also, please note that this article is intended as advice and is for informational purposes only. We at ToughAssTools are not liable for any property damage or injuries that can occur when using generators.
Portable generators can be a lifesaver in a dire situation or they can provide you some much needed power during a camping trip. Whatever your reason is for using them you may notice that a lot of these units come with wheels. Now, this may not be something you really think about when purchasing a generator, but depending on the wattage size of the generator having wheels can make a huge difference.
Remember, these units are meant to be portable. What good is a portable generator if the system weights over two-hundred pounds and you have no way to move it besides brute strength? I guarantee you that after doing that a few times that you’ll never want to do it again. That’s to say if you even could move it.
If you opt for a smaller generator, maybe a few thousand watts, then you may not even need the wheels. Sure, they would be nice, but you should still be able to move the generator around without killing yourself. This is more of a preference and if you want to pay a bit extra for a system with wheels. (Personally, if it was me I wouldn’t worry about wheels. Just keep an eye on the product weight and make sure that you’re comfortable moving something that heavy around.)
It’s as you go up in wattages that you’ll begin to see the weight increase. They may start at around one-hundred pounds but some of these can be huge reaching almost three-hundred pounds. The good news is that most of the time these heavier generators will have wheels as part of the system, but you should be wary because some systems sell the wheels as a separate component. These separate wheels can cost you an extra one-hundred dollars or so.
Also, I want to caution you that before you purchase your generator you should ensure that the tires are a ‘never-flat.’ What that means is that you won’t have to deal with a flat tire or a tire that comes off the rim. If that doesn’t seem like a big deal now, let me paint a picture for you.
Let’s say it’s the dead of winter and your power just went out due to an ice storm. Your family is inside getting cold and you need to be the hero. You are out in your garage getting ready to pull your generator out, dust it off, and get it setup for emergency power. Only as you get to the back of your garage you see that both rear tires are flat. Now on top of having to deal with the loss of power you have to contend with flat tires.
If it was me, I would pay a bit extra for the peace of mind that my tires aren’t going to be flat when I need them most. Keep an eye out for these ‘never-flat,’ tires and if you do see them advertised for the generator you want be sure to read the product reviews to ensure that they are actually ‘never-flat.’
Please be aware that while generators are a great tool to use they can also be dangerous if not setup or ran correctly. For more information on the Do’s and Don’s of generator usage please click here to be taken to our official Generator Safety Guide.
Lastly, please note that ToughAssTools is not liable for any property damage or injuries caused by generators. Exercise caution when using and if you have any questions please consult a trained professional.
A lot of you may not know this but when it comes to generators there are two different and distinct types. Most of you may already be familiar with the standard portable generator. These are the units that you see at campsites, RVers using, or sitting in your neighbor’s driveway during a power outage. These are the most common generators. They provide a mobile alternative power source for a relatively cheap price. (Depending on the model you purchase you could pay as low as two-hundred dollars.) The majority of the time they run off of standard eighty-seven octane gasoline but there are some models out there that run on a propane tank. (The same tank you use to fire up your gas grill.) Portable generators also come with a relatively easy installation process depending on what you’re using for.
What a lot of folks aren’t aware of are generators known as standby generators. These more or less accomplish the same thing as portable generators. They provide you with an alternative power source. The difference here though is that standby generators are not mobile. They are a stationary generator that is typically much much larger then your portable systems and can provide a lot more power. Another key difference is that a standby generator is automated. What that means is that if your power goes out today and you have a portable system then you are going to have to go outside, pull it out of the garage, prep it, route your cords, and then start it. That’s a lot of work. With a standby system once your power goes out the standby will start after only a few seconds and your power will come right back on almost seamlessly. Then, when the power does come back from the electric grid your standby system will shut right off. It’s a very easy no hassle system.
Let’s do a quick Pros and Cons of each type of Generator:
Able to provide power anywhere in the world. (Within reason)
Much cheaper then standby systems.
Portable and able to be wheeled around as needed.
Variety of uses such as camping, RVing, job sites, or emergency home power.
Can be routed directly to your circuit breaker via a manual transfer switch.
Manual setup each time it is needed. This includes pulling it out of the garage, prepping it, routing the cords, and starting the system.
Carbon Monoxide poisoning is a very big risk when it comes to using portable generators.
Fire or electrocution risk.
Unit is not shielded from weather
Power or wattage supply is limited and it may be difficult to find a system to power your whole home.
Everything is automated. If your power goes out there is no work or worry.
Most standby units come with a shielded case to prevent damage from the weather and to keep water out.
Lots of power and watts. In some cases you may find models as high as forty-thousand watts.
The standby system can be hooked directly up to a large propane tank. (Eight-hundred or one-thousand gallon tanks.) By doing this your system can run for a week or more with no hassle.
Twenty-four seven protection even if you are out of town and the power goes out.
Cost is a huge one here. Not only do you have pay thousands for your standby system but you also have to pay thousands for the installation.
Installation cost and overall process. I mentioned this above but it’s worth bringing up again.
The unit is stationary and cannot be moved.
Ok folks, so now we understand the differences between a portable and a standby generator. The question now though is what unit is right for you? If you are unsure then I highly recommend reading our ‘What Are The Best Generators,’ guide by clicking here. This guide goes into the different types of applications, sizing, and product features to look out for. After reading the guide you should then have an accurate idea of what type of generator that you need.
If you do decide to go the portable generator route then I would highly recommend you visit our Generator Safety Guide. This safety guide goes through all of the Do’s and Don’ts of running a portable generator as well as what to look out for. Remember folks, it is always better to be safe then sorry.
Lastly, since this article has to deal with generators I need to provide our disclaimer. ToughAssTool’s is not liable for any product or property damage, injuries, or anything else when it comes to generators. This article was designed to provide advice and information to the reader. We are not liable for any consequences.
There are many reasons for someone to purchase a generator. It could be that they are looking for a power source on a camping trip, they need power during a job site, or they are looking for an alternative power source for their home in case of an emergency. A question that we see a lot when it comes to generators is if the consumer can install the system themselves. There isn’t a simple answer to this question. Let’s dive in here and take a look:
First, we have to look at what type of generator you will be purchasing. By knowing this we can then begin to make the determination if you are able and if you should install the system yourself or if you should hire a trained professional. What will you be using your generator for? Do you have an application in mind already? If so, then we can most likely determine the install and what will be involved. Let’s say for example you want to purchase a generator as a backup power source for your RV during camping trips. The generator will allow you to keep your refrigerator and a few other things running on your RV without having to idle the engine or drain the battery. In this example the install is rather simple and you will most likely not need an electrician.
Let’s take a look at another example. Let’s say it’s winter and a blizzard just rolled through your town. The power was cut and you need your phones charged and maybe power to an infrared heater you have in your living room. You don’t need to power on your whole home again, or even your furnace, but you do need enough power for some smaller appliances. In this scenario the setup is still relatively simple for your portable generator. Be sure to setup your generator outside of your home by about fifteen to twenty feet. Never run your generator near your home, in your garage, your closet, or your basement. This can be a HUGE safety risk. (For more information on safety and generators click here to be taken to our Generator Safety Guide.)
Once you have your generator setup all you have to to is route an extension cord from the generator into your home to power your appliances. There you have it, you’re setup. Not so bad! Again, keep in mind that this is ONLY for smaller appliances and is not intended to power your whole home. Also, whatever you do, do NOT backfeed your generator into your home. Backfeeding your generator is taking an extension cord with two male ends and plugging one end into your generator and one into an outlet of your home. This can create a fire hazard at best and at worst can cause serious electrocution injury to you or local electrical workers.
Ok folks, I have two more examples for us to go through. The next is if you are in a similar situation as above. Your power is out and you need to get some things back on. The difference here though is that you want to turn your furnace back on. Your furnace is hooked directly to your circuit breaker. There isn’t an outlet for it to plug into. So how do you turn it back on? The only way to get your furnace back during a power outage is by installing what’s known as a manual transfer switch. This transfer switch will allow you to hook your generator directly to your circuit breaker. In these situations it is imperative that you consult a trained electrician or professional. Installing a transfer switch can be a difficult task for a laymen and along with the transfer switch your electrician will tell you if you need a grounding rod for your generator or not. (In most cases you WILL need a grounding rod if you are hooking your generator up to your circuit breaker via manual transfer switch.) On top of all that the professional will be able to tell you if you are complying with all city, county, and state regulations and codes.
Alright, our last example are on standby generators. For those of you who don’t know a standby generator is a much larger version of your portable generator. A standby unit will automatically switch the power of your home over to the generator in the event of a power loss. These units will switch between power sources after just a few seconds of outage. They make things easy and allow you not to worry during a power outage. The downside of these is that they are quite expensive and the install can be very complicated. When purchasing a standby generator it is imperative that you have a certified electrician come out and install the system. If possible, try to get an electrician that is familiar with the brand of standby generator that you will be purchasing. (Even the most trained professionals can sometimes make mistakes on systems they are not familiar with.) If you were to try and install one of these systems yourself you risk harming yourself, your home, not following codes and regulations, AND voiding the warranty on the system. Is all of that really worth it? Or, should you pony up the cash and get it installed right the first time? I know what I would do.
As you can see above there are many types of scenarios and possible outcomes when it comes to installing a generator. Depending on what application you need the decision for a do-it-yourself install and a professional install will be made for you. Remember folks, it is always better to be safer then sorry.
As always, since this article has to deal with generators I have to put our ToughAssTool’s disclaimer here stating that we are NOT liable for any product damage, property damage, or injuries when dealing with generators. This article was a guide to best practices. If you have further questions we HIGHLY recommend you converse with your local electrician.
Portable generators are a fantastic tool to have in your possession. It doesn’t matter if you are purchasing one for camping, RVing, a work site, or for an emergency power back up. Whatever the reason is they can provide you with the much needed power that you are looking for. The question though on a lot of folks minds is exactly how much do these generators cost? What should they expect when preparing to purchase? Well we here at ToughAssTools are going to take the time and do our best to answer that question for you.
First thing’s first though folks. Before we can give you an estimated cost we need to identify two things. The first is what will you be using this generator for? Is the intention to drag it along during camping trips so that you can charge your cell phone? Is it intended as an alternative power source for your RV so that you don’t have to idle? Or, do you live way up north and are looking for an alternative power source before the next blizzard arrives? By identifying HOW you will be using your generator we can then begin to make an educated guess as to what cost you can expect.
The next big question is what size generator that you will need. Now, application and usage come right in line with sizing. So, if you determine that you want a camping generator then we can pretty much narrow the wattage down to between one-thousand and three-thousand. But, if you’re looking for something to power your home then the sizes can range from four-thousand watts upwards to ten or twenty-thousand plus.
Before you read further I would recommend checking out our portable generator sizing guide. By reading this guide you will begin to understand how to size your system and then you can begin to see what cost you are looking at. Please click here to be taken to our sizing guide.
Ok folks, so now that you have a kind of idea on what type of generator you need we can begin to get into the cost. In this section we are going to break down the cost by category. Then within this category we will give you a cost range. This cost range will give you an idea on how much a lower wattage model costs and how much a higher wattage model will cost. These categories will be your camping/RVing, your partial home power, and your full home power. Let’s take a look:
Camping and RVs
Camping and RVs are the smaller sized generators and will be on the lower end of the cost spectrum. Most of the time these types of units will range between one-thousand watts upwards to three or four-thousand watts. You are going to see these units range in prices starting at around two-hundred dollars all the way up to five-hundred dollars. These ranges can depend on not only size but also features.
Our recommend product in this category is the DuroStar DS4000S thirty-three hundred watt generator. This unit gives you a good amount of power while also not costing you an arm and a leg.
Alternative Home Power (Partial)
Ok, so the power is out in your home and you need to keep your refrigerator, computers, and phones running. You’re not looking to power everything back up again. You just need a few things turned back on and then you’ll be good. In these situations your generators wattage can start at around four-thousand watts and can go upwards to six or seven-thousand watts. The price range on these units can vary wildly. The smaller sized units will start at around three-hundred dollars whereas a larger unit can end up costing you around eight hundred to one-thousand dollars.
Here at ToughAssTool’s our recommended product in this category is the Generac 6672 5500W portable generator. This product will give you enough power to hook up a manual transfer switch if you wish. It also comes in at a decent price point considering the wattage you get as well as buying the very reputable Generac brand name. (Generac is one of the top generator producers in the world.)
Alternative Home Power (Full)
Let’s use a similar example to what we illustrated above. The power is out in your home and you need it to come back on. You don’t want to do a half-assed approach and only have half of your systems come back on. No, you want the whole spiel. You want it all to come back. The lights, the furnace, the washer and dryer. Everything. This is where things can get quite expensive. I just want to say that right away. With powering everything in your home you are going to need a lot of watts and that means more cost.
It should be noted that when looking at fully powering your home you have a choice between the traditional portable generators and what’s known as a standby generator. A standby generator is a unit that is hooked directly to your home and automatically switches to the alternative power the moment your power goes out. Whereas a portable generator will still need to be wheeled out, setup, and manually transferred over. The choice is up to you, just be aware that with standby units you will not only need to pay for the system but you will need professional installation.
Portable generators at this size can start at around nine-hundred dollars and can top out at over two-thousand dollars. A standby generator can start at a few thousand dollars and can go all the way up to seven or eight-thousand dollars. Also, remember that with standby systems you will need to pay for professional installation as well.
Here at ToughAssTool’s our recommend portable generator for these types of applications is the A-iPower 12,000-watt portable generator. This system gives you a whole twelve-thousand watts of power while still coming in at a relatively low price point. You also get a host of other features such as GFCI outlet, never flat wheels for easy moving, and seven gallon fuel tank that can run up to nine hours.
We won’t recommend a specific standby unit in this section as each one can be rather specific to your home. Instead we’re going to recommend a brand and direct you to their website. The company known as Generac, is one of the best in the generator market. For more information from them click here to be taken to their site.
Well folks, that about covers it for how much do generators cost. The above estimates were just that, estimates. Prices can change at any time and it is always best to do your research from multiple sources and articles. Lastly, I would be amiss if I didn’t mention that generators can be dangerous, especially if you do not know what you are doing. If you are not familiar with generators I highly recommend checking out our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here. The guides goes into details on what to do, what not to do, and overall best practices when using generators.
Portable generators are one of those things that you never really think about it until the time you need one. When hurricanes roll through or when a blizzard blankets your town and drops the power you need an alternative solution. When my wife was younger her and her family would have their power knocked out by a storm. While we have all experienced this before, what was unusual was they sometimes had to wait one or two weeks for it to be hooked up again. Depending on where you live or who lives with you, having your power out for two weeks isn’t just uncomfortable. It can be a matter of life and death.
While generators can give us this emergency power that we need it is often the case that users of these machines don’t know the first thing about them. This can result in injuries, electrocution, or worse. In an effort to educate those of you out there we here at ToughAssTools have taken the time to write this short article to answer some of your questions.
When working with portable generators there are many risks. In this section we are going to focus on the electrocution risk of not grounding your generator. Grounding your generator allows excess electricity to be displaced and prevents users from accidentally shocking or electrocuting themselves. Depending on your system you may need a grounding rod. A grounding rod is a long copper rod that measures eight feet in length. It is usually recommended for it to be at or over five eights inches in diameter.
Now, don’t be fooled into thinking that all generators need grounding rods. That is not the case. There are considerations that have to be taken. Basically, it boils down to two main checks:
How are you using your generator? If you plan to be plugging appliances directly into your generator using extension cords then you do NOT need to ground your unit as long as you meet the criteria from step two.
Ok, the second check that you need to look over is that all components of the generator are bonded to the generator’s frame. This includes your fuel tank, your engine, the generator’s housing, and the power receptacles.
If your generator meets the above conditions then you are OK to move forward without using a grounding rod. This is because the generator’s frame replaces the grounding rod. (That is why we checked if every component was bonded to the frame.) So, if your errant electricity exists it will be grounded by your generator’s frame. If these conditions do NOT exist then a grounding rod will be required in order to safely run your generator and prevent injury.
Also, there is another exception that is veryimportant. If your generator meets the above conditions BUT your system is plugged directly into your home’s circuit breaker via a manual transfer switch or if it’s connected directly to a building then you are required to have a grounding rod.
If you are unsure exactly if you need a grounding rod for your generator then I would highly recommend consulting with a trained electrician. Remember folks, it’s better to be safe then sorry. For more information on grounding your generator click here to be taken to OSHA’s guide on grounding your generators.
Well folks, I hope that this was able to answer your question and if it did not hopefully it at least pointed you in the right direction. For more information and best practices when using a generator you can check out our Generator Safety Guide by clicking here. The guide goes over all of the Do’s and Don’ts of setting up and running your generator.
Also, because of the nature of this topic I have to put a legal disclaimer here stating that ToughAssTools is not liable nor responsible for any damage, injury, or other events due to this article. This article is advice. If you are unsure on what to do when using your generator Please Please Please consult a trained professional for a consultation.
A lot of folks don’t even think about generators until the need arises. That’s why we see a huge swath of generator purchases right before a blizzard or hurricane hits. It’s the same thing that you see at grocery stores. I always laugh when a blizzard is in the forecast because I know that if I go to the store that all of the bread, milk, and eggs will be gone. The shelves will be empty. I couldn’t tell you why people do this.
The same thing applies to your home improvement stores with generators. If you go to a Lowes or Home Depot a day or two before the storm you’ll find that the selection of generators have been picked over. Usually the ones left over only have enough power to charge your phone or computer.
While buying these generators last minute can give you peace of mind, you are also losing something in this last minute decision. You lose your ability to pick and choose what size and options that you want. You lose the ability to properly research the company and brand behind the generator. And, most importantly, you lose in your wallet. Believe it or not, these big box retailers tend to mark these products up right before a storm hits.
Would you rather be purchasing something like this last minute, or would you like to do the proper research and really understand what you’re buying and how it can be used? Would you like to know that you received a competitive price? I know what option I would choose here folks.
In this article we’re going to take a deep dive into the world of generators. We’re going to view what size generator you need, what features to look at, installation and safety requirements, what price points to expect, and most importantly we are going to showcase ToughAssTools’ top generator selections.
Before you Buy
Before you consider purchasing a generator it is always smart to stop and take a step back to look at all of the possible considerations that need to be factored in. Generators come in all sorts of sizes, features, and safety concerns. Do you know what to look for? Do you know where to begin? If you do, then by all means bypass this section and move right onto the next section.
However, if you find that you still have some questions on what to look for then I highly suggest you take the time and read through some of our guides. These guides will serve as your compass in the maze that are generators. Yes, I know, that was a bad analogy. Oh well. That aside though, these will provide you the knowledge on what to look for and after reading these guides you find that this product isn’t the right one for you then we have served our purpose by steering you in the right direction.
If you are not sure what size of generator you should be buying click here to be taken to our generator size guide. This sizing guide will walk you through the process on how to calculate total watts, amperage/volts, and the differences between starting and running watts.
If you are not sure what features you should be looking for then click here to be taken to our top features for generators guide. There are so many things to consider like electric starters, wheels to help you move around, low oil indicators, and so on and so on.
Lastly, if you are not quite sure how to safely use and run a generator then please click here to be taken to our safety guide. Safety is something I just can’t stress enough of when dealing with generators. These machines can be life savers but they can also be very dangerous if you do not know what you are doing.
ToughAssTool’s Top Generator Products
In my opinion there are three types of generators and generator applications. We have our camping/recreational applications with a lower power output, our medium units for powering some appliances in your home, and your high power systems designed to power your whole home either through a portable or a standby system. I hope that after reading our sizing guide you now have an idea of what you are going to use your generator for.
In this section we are going to review the best units out there for each category. Please note that there are many other great generator models out there. This is OUR list of what we have deemed the best. If the model you want isn’t listed don’t panic. Do you research, read the reviews, and make the determination yourself. Remember, we try to condense these recommendations so as not to overwhelm the consumer.
Camping, RVing, & Tailgating
Every Fourth of July a friend of mine and his family throw a rather large party. The party is held on some land they own quite a ways south of town. It’s about eighty acres of prairie with a large pond in the middle of it. There are no buildings or power supply anywhere to be found. Since this is a fireworks party attenders are going to be there when it gets dark and this is country dark where it’s hard to see a few feet in front of you.
To resolve this problem they bring in a portable generator and hook up some flood lights to it. These flood lights illuminate the buffet, seating area, and the kid’s play area. The generator is hooked up quite a ways away and the lights are wired with an extension cord. The unit doesn’t have a lot of power, but it has enough to keep the lights going and to keep the crock pots warm.
If you are looking for something like this for your camping, RV, or tailgating adventure then these are the generators for you. They are not too high in wattage and that means that they are not too high in price. Most of the time with these applications you can get away with two to three-thousand watts of power. To be exact though, I would refer to our sizing guide we mentioned above, and remember that it is recommended to go an average of ten percent higher watts then what you have calculated.
Ok, so now let’s take a look at our top camping generators:
This generator from WEN comes in three different watt sizes ranging: Twelve-hundred and fifty, two-thousand, and thirty-one-hundred. These threes sizes should more then cover your camping needs. Please note that wattage sizes mentioned above are surge or peak watts. The rated watts are lower. (You want to base your sizing off of rated operation which is about eighty percent of the peak watts.)
Along with the various sizes it also runs very quietly when compared to other generators. This unit comes in at fifty-one decibels which is about the same noise level as a standard window air conditioner.
You also get two one-hundred and twenty volt outlets, one 30A RV plug-in, and two USB ports to charge your phones and electronics.
Lastly, the product comes with a two year warranty to ensure your investment lasts.
This generator from Westinghouse comes in all different wattage sizes. I won’t list every single one here, but the model we have selected to view is the thirty-six-hundred rated watt model. (Four-thousand six-hundred and fifty watts peak.)
You also get a four gallon fuel tank with an estimated twelve hour run time when the generator is at fifty percent capacity. For those of you that don’t know, a twelve hour run time is unusual and very nice. Most of the time you’re filling up every four to six hours.
With the WGen3600 you get a three year warranty rather than the two year we mentioned above on the WEN unit.
Lastly, the price point on this product is much lower then WEN and you get a longer warranty. Personally, I would choose this product over the WEN.
The other two units were great for camping and giving you that power support you need. This next product from Champion does that and more. You see, this product has a bunch of extra features added on to it that make your life easier when looking for power.
First, this unit comes in at four-thousand seven-hundred and fifty starting watts and thirty-eight hundred running watts.
Something I love about this product is that it’s a dual fuel system. What that means is that you can either use your standard gasoline OR you can use a propane cylinder. Yes, that’s right, just like the ones you use on your grill. Most RV’s out there carry some propane tanks with them and having your generator take propane will make things that much easier.
This champion product is expected to run for around nine-hours on a full tank of gas and a little over ten hours on a propane cylinder.
You also get an electric starer over the manual rip cord that you find on other units. Again, this makes things easier.
Lastly, you get a three year limited warranty and LIFETIME technical support.
If I was looking for a premium generator for my camping or RV trips then this is the one I would purchase. Just be aware, that this unit is higher in price then the others we recommended.
If you find that generators aren’t the right tool for you, or if you want something a bit quieter then a generator then you may try power inverters. (There are a lot of campgrounds that ban generators due to the noise but allow power inverters.) A power inverter acts much like a generator but provides a lesser amount of power and is much quieter.
Emergency Home Power – Partial Restoration
Let me paint a picture here. Let’s say it’s the Spring season and a severe storm has just rolled through and cut the power across your neighborhood. It’s been a few hours already and there is still no sign when the power is going to come back on. As the day drags on more and more time passes and you realize that your power is going to be out for quite a while. You need to get power back to your home, or at least for parts of your home.
This is where a generator will come in handy. In order to power your home, or partially power your home, you are going to need significantly more power then you would when compared to a camping trip.
First, let me ask you a question. Are you wishing to power just a few things like your computer and your phones? Maybe your refrigerator? In these cases you may only need a four-thousand watt generator. However, if you are wishing to power your lights, furnace, air conditioner, or even washer/dryer then you are going to need to go up in wattage but you are also going to need a manual transfer switch installed on your circuit breaker.
These transfer switches allow the generator to hook straight up to the power of your home and allow you to power your large appliances like your furnace or air conditioner. These transfer operate off of two-hundred and forty volt power and if you wish to have a transfer switch installed you will need at least a five-thousand watt generator. You may want to go higher though to accommodate for starting watts. Also, note that manual transfer switches need to be professional installed by a trained electrician. An install along with the switch could end up costing you between seven-hundred to one-thousand dollars.
With all of that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the top generators in this category:
This Briggs & Stratton model comes with sixty-five-hundred starting watts and five-thousand running watts.
The Q6500 does come with a two-hundred and forty volt outlet and can be hooked up to your home with a manual transfer switch. (Again, consult an electrician before doing this.)
The product comes with a five gallon fuel tank and a rated operation time of fourteen hours. That’s a HUGE run time and one of the highest I’ve ever seen. That’s a great convenience for those of you who hate filling the generator up with gas every few hours.
Like one of our models in the RV section, this Briggs & Stratton model is VERY quiet. In fact, it’s rated at sixty-percent quieter then your standard generator.
For your money you also get a two year warranty on the product to ensure your investment is protected.
Bigger and bigger! This Champion generator is rated at eighty-four-hundred starting watts and seventy-five hundred running watts. Those are some big numbers folks!
This product comes with a two-hundred and forty volt outlet and can be hooked up to your home with a manual transfer switch. (Again, consult an electrician before doing this.)
This model is dual fuel as well. So, that means that you can use either standard gasoline or propane. Personally, I’m a big fan of the propane as it’s an easier setup.
You also get a host of other features on this Champion model such as a low oil engine shut-off block, an electric starter instead of the traditional rip cord, and built-in surge protectors.
Lastly, this product comes with a three year limited warranty and a lifetime of FREE technical support from the Champion team.
Emergency Home Power – Full Restoration
Alright folks, so now we are on to the high wattage systems. Let’s use the same scenario we used above for the partial power. Your home’s power is out and you need to get power back. In our previous example we were powering on select systems such as refrigerators, phones, and furnaces.
If you wish to power on our whole home then you are going to need a whole lot more power. What’s that Home Improvement Tim Allen bit from the 90’s? More Power! This section is going to focus on generators that are over ten-thousand watts.
Now, before I get into our recommended products I want to make something clear. As we get above that ten-thousand watt mark the amount of portable generators begins to shrink. It is fairly rare to find units over ten-thousand, but there are some out there. There is another option though folks and this other option will automate the power transfer during a power outage. In other words, if your power goes out it will come right back on after a few seconds due to your generator. These units are called your standby generators.
Standby generators are immobile systems that are hooked directly to your home. They can range from ten-thousand watts up to forty-thousand watts. These are the kinds of systems that business owners or rural homesteads might have installed. A lot of the times these systems are tied directly to the homeowner’s propane tank so there is no worry about feeding gas every few hours. While these units are convenient, they are also very expensive. Depending on the system you could easily spend five to eight-thousand dollars. If you throw in the installation by a professional electrician then you could be looking at over ten-thousand dollars all in.
Depending on your needs a portable system would be cheaper, but it would not be automatic. You would still need to haul it out, hook it up, etc to get it running. The choice is up to you.
This DuroMax unit is known as ‘The Beast,’ and I can see why. It comes in at a whopping twelve-thousand starting watts. That’s a whole lot of power, especially for a portable generator.
This product comes with two-hundred and forty volt hookups and can be connected to your home via a manual transfer switch.
Like other models we’ve gone over, this unit is a dual fuel system. You can use either gasoline or propane. Again, I prefer the propane method.
At fifty percent capacity the run time on gasoline fuel is rated at around ten hours. With propane the run time is measured at twenty hours. Yes, you heard right. Twenty hours!
You also get a host of other options such as the low oil emergency shut-off, low oil warning light, muffler to reduce noise, and a heavy duty frame to ensure durability.
Just so you are aware, I want to warn you about the weight of this product. It comes in at over two-hundred and fifty pounds. It does come with wheels, but it will still be difficult to move around due to it’s size.
Like our previous model, this A-iPower system comes in at twelve-thousand starting watts and nine-thousand running watts.
This product comes with two-hundred and forty volt hookups and can be connected to your home via a manual transfer switch.
You get a seven gallon all steel fuel tank that can provide a run-time of up to nine hours on fifty percent capacity.
A host of other features are included such as GFCI outlet protection, electric starter, and a protective cover to conceal and cover any wires and electronics.
Remember how I talked about weight on the previous unit? Well, the same can be said on this one as well. The good side though is that this unit is about sixty pounds lighter AND it has NEVER flat wheels so moving this thing around is a lot easier.
And you thought twelve-thousand watts were big! This standby generator from Generac comes in at twenty-two-thousand watts.
This unit includes a smart home transfer switch.
You also get a tough and durable aluminum casing around your generator to ensure maximum durability.
Generac stand behind their products with a five year limited warranty. That’s the highest warranty I’ve seen so far on a generator.
Please note that standby generators need to be professionally installed by a trained electrician.
This is a smaller market but I thought I would mention it here anyways. It could be construction or at another job site where you need power. Most of the time this power is needed to run power tools. Because of this, the wattage needed can vary wildly. In our generator sizing article we got into the differences between starting watts and running watts, but I’ll briefly cover it here as well.
Starting watts are how many watts it takes to start your appliance or power tool. Typically you’ll see these with applications that have motors or compressors in them. These starting watts measure how much power it takes to fully start up your tool. While you will only need starting watts for a short time your generator will need to be able to have sufficient power to support the starting watts. Running watts are just that, how many watts it takes to run your tool or application. Normally, this won’t change once the application has been started but there are some exceptions such as a compressor turning off and on during normal running.
This is why it is so difficult to gauge an adequate construction site generator without knowing exactly what types of tools and applications that will be used. If you are looking for a generator for these purposes then I highly suggest you sit down and make a list of exactly what you will be using and what their running and starting watts are.
Once you have this information you can then add everything up and determine exactly what sized generator you need. Also, please note that with whatever number you came up with it is always safest to add an additional ten or fifteen percent so that you have some leeway in your total wattage.
Alright folks, we have gone through the sizing requirements for generators, what features to look for, what safety guidelines to follow, and what applications you may need. Along with all that we covered our top picks in each category. Our goal here was to make the most comprehensive generator guide on the internet today and I have to say, I think we did it. If you do find yourself having additional questions on generators feel free to reach out to us.
Lastly, I want to make clear that while generators can be a very resourceful tool they can also be dangerous. When installing and using these machines please ensure that all safety requirements are met and followed. While we here at ToughAssTools have given advice and recommendations on which generators to choose from we are not liable for any future safety concerns or injuries.
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