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Mar 08

Portable Generator Buying Guide

With a portable generator you can go on with your life and with your work as usual even when there is a power outage. Buying a portable generator is not a simple task given all the technical aspects which you need to look into and the considerable size of the investment which you have to make. I speak from experience as I use such devices to supply power to my small restaurants in the Caribbean during outages.

I have come up with this portable generator buying guide to help buyers make the best choice according to their individual needs and requirements. One piece of advice I feel obliged to give you in advance is to focus your attention on generators from reputable brands with long term presence in the market. That way you can be certain that the portable generator is of good quality. Now let’s focus on how to buy a generator.

Portable Generator Buying Guide

Define Your Power Needs

Each portable generator produces a set maximum continuous power output and a maximum surge power output. Your task is to decide on the optimal outputs for you given your individual needs. The surge output is the output which you need to start an appliance or a piece of equipment using electricity. The continuous output is the output which you need to run the respective item. The former is higher than the latter.

In order to calculate the continuous output which you will need, you should go around your home or business premises and add together the running wattages of all the appliances and devices which you will need to power in case of a power outage. You can do this with a recreational vehicle or a boat, depending on what you will use the generator for.

Use the calculated total running wattage to look for a portable generator with a matching continuous output. In order to calculate the surge output which you will need, you need to add the highest starting wattage to the total running wattage you have just calculated. This is how you get the two numbers to look for.

Features to Look for

  • Engine

The OHV engines are the best of their kind. OHV stands for overhead valve. These motors are more durable than their counterparts. In addition, they have longer running times and greater fuel efficiency. They work more quietly as well. Other features to look for in an engine system are air cooling and cast iron sleeve. Both of these features protect the motor and provide for its optimal operation in the long term.

  • Alternator

This is the part of the portable generator which produces electricity. You would want it to be made from durable materials. It should produce as high surge output as possible. The produced energy should be of good quality. The alternator should operate safely above all.

  • Inverter Technology

This is generally not a mandatory feature for portable generators, but it is highly desirable. This inverter technology allows the device to produce smoother and cleaner wattage with extremely low total harmonic distortion. This output is of sufficiently high quality to be used for powering sensitive electronic items such as computers and printers.

  • Start

Most generators come with a standard recoil start, but there are also those which have an electric start. The latter is typically easier to use and faster to work. However, it requires a battery which has to be fully loaded for it to operate. In my opinion, it is best to go for a model which has both an electric start and a recoil start as a backup. Ensure that the batter for the electric start is included. In general, check to confirm that the start works effectively before buying a product.

  • Outlets

The more outlets a portable generator has the better. It is more versatile and the wattage is spread so the risk of overloads is lower. You should look for a standard 120-volt 20 amp double outlet, which is mandatory for all models. It is best if there is a 120/240-volt 30 amp outlet as well. You will also benefit from a DC outlet for charging batteries. In general, it is best to choose the outlets based on your individual needs.

  • Low Oil Protection System

This system will work to stop the engine from operating when there is insufficient oil. Its purpose is to protect the motor from serious damage. Ensure that the model which you pick has a reliable system of this type.

  • Circuit Breaker Protection

This is necessary for the prevention of overloads. Go for a model which offers effective protection of this type.

  • Voltmeter

You should be able to monitor and control the voltage of the portable generator in order to prevent accidents which may cause damages and injuries.

  • Fuel Gauge

Most people overlook this feature, but it is actually extremely valuable. By monitoring the amount of fuel remaining, you will never have to worry about the tank becoming empty and the appliances in your home or office going off.

  • Portability Features

I strongly recommend buying a portable generator which comes with a mobility kit included in the package. The kit should have sufficiently large pneumatic wheels with never-flat tires. The handle or handles should be easy to extend in horizontal position and easy to fold next to the generator frame for more convenient storage.

Capabilities to Look for

  • Run Time

The run time shows you how long the portable generator can operate for at a full tank and at 50 per cent load. It is best if the run time is at least 8 hours. Experts recommend models with turn time of 10 hours or more for homes as households will find it convenient to use a generator without refueling it during the night.

  • Energy Efficiency

Since the most commonly used fuel for portable generators is gasoline, it makes sense to go for an energy efficient model. Choose a generator which can run at various speeds depending on how much power you use so that you can save on fuel.

  • Quiet Operation

Manufacturers typically give a measure of the loudness of the noise at 23-foot distance from the generator when it is operating. I would personally recommend models with 70 dB at 23 feet or lower.

A Final Word

Use this guide for buying portable generators to make the best choice for you. Remember to check the warranty of the product before purchasing it.

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