The combination of an aging electricity grid and increasing episodes of extreme weather due to climate change means that power outages are now a recurring event in many people’s lives.
Acquiring a portable generator is one way of taking control when the lights go out, allowing you to get on with your life regardless of what’s going on outside your window.
If you’re new to the world of generators and off-grid power, it might surprise you to learn how many different types there are. Follow this guide to choose the right generator for your home and ride out the outage comfortably.
1. Choosing the Right Type of Generator
There are dozens of different types of generators on the market. Choosing the right generator for your needs should factor in your energy consumption, resource availability, product lifespan, and more.
Diesel generators have been around for a long time and offer a reliable solution for homes that need backup power. They function well in cold weather, so they are a better option in some locations than gasoline.
However, diesel is expensive, especially if you have an extended outage, and you’ll need a lot of fuel if you want to run numerous appliances. A safe location for a fuel tank is essential. Plus, you should consider the dangerous emissions and noise when the generator is in use.
Gasoline generators are usually cheaper and have lower fuel costs. They are versatile and convenient for home use compared to diesel generators as they are generally smaller, lightweight, and more portable.
Most homeowners’ main issue with gas generators is that you can’t use them indoors. They produce toxic fumes that can be one-hundred times more poisonous than CO from vehicle exhaust.
Propane and Natural Gas Generators
There are different options for gas supply, including natural gas in the mains and propane. These generators are more cost-effective, stable, and efficient. Propane is also a cleaner-burning alternative fuel that reduces air pollution compared to gas or diesel.
However, it’s highly flammable, so homeowners should take care when storing it.
Portable Solar Generators
A portable solar generator combines a portable power station (PPS) with solar panels. The solar panels harvest the sun’s energy and charge the battery in the PPS, which keeps the electricity in reserve for later use.
You can also recharge a PPS from the grid if you think an outage is looming and want to have reserve energy ready in advance. Portable solar generators avoid the risks, noise, and fumes associated with fuel-driven generators and are kinder to the planet.
Using solar to store energy for those off-grid occasions will save you money too. You can add smart extra batteries to increase capacity, allowing you to power larger and more heavyweight appliances during an outage.
Best of all, you can use portable solar generators within your home. There are a few types of portable solar generators to consider:
DELTA Solar Generators
DELTA solar generators exemplify the standard for a battery-powered generator that runs on solar power. DELTA solar generators have a high capacity, ranging from 1260Wh to 26kWh, and enormous output. It also offers fast charging speeds and multiple charging options, including AC outlet, solar, and car adaptors.
Truly portable, there is no loss of capacity due to its compact size.
Smart Generator (Dual Fuel)
If you want to ensure you have even more electricity for an extended power outage, consider pairing a DELTA Max or Pro with EcoFlow’s smart dual-fuel generator.
The dual-fuel Smart Generator runs on gas or propane (LPG) and integrates seamlessly with the DELTA Max or Pro as a last line of defense when your solar battery runs low.
A dual-fuel generator offers the best of both worlds, using less fuel than other alternatives. It’s quieter, with fewer emissions than diesel or gasoline generators.
Smart Home Ecosystem
Don’t just think of power alternatives for outages; you can go fully fuel-independent with a smart home ecosystem, letting you use solar to generate power to use anytime you want, not just during blackouts.
Small systems work well for compact homes, and you can expand the capacity with smart extra batteries for larger properties or permanent integration into your home circuits.
2. Placement of the Generator
The placement of your generator is key to avoiding a dangerous situation. The right location depends upon the type of generator you have.
If you have a conventional fuel generator, you must never use it indoors. Place the generator in a dry location outside that is well away (no less than 20 feet or 6m) from windows and doors; otherwise, you could find carton monoxide entering your home.
Avoid a basement or garage, as carbon monoxide can pose a problem in enclosed locations. The generator will stay dry, which is important, but the fumes won’t vent properly even with the doors and windows open.
A dry surface underneath a canopy with open sides is the perfect location.
Carbon monoxide (CO) is odorless and colorless, which makes it extremely dangerous. People can easily be overcome by CO fumes before they realize what’s happening, causing illness and, potentially, death.
It’s easy to think that keeping the generator outside will avoid this, and it will if you keep it well away from windows and doors. But even more than 20 feet away, the wind can still blow carbon monoxide toward your property.
If you are concerned and are using a fuel generator regularly, install a CO detector in your home for total peace of mind. A working CO detector is that extra layer of reassurance to keep you and your family safe.
Alternatively, opt for a clean solar generator to avoid toxic fumes altogether.
3. Use and Storage of Fuel (If Applicable)
Diesel and gasoline require careful and safe storage in sealed containers, away from direct sunlight and other possible forms of ignition.
You must store fuel in an approved safety can and carefully dispense it to avoid spills. Incorrectly sealed tanks produce toxic vapor that will sink to the ground and ignite, just like a fuel spillage.
If you’re unsure about how to store fuel, then your local fire department is a good source of information. They advise homeowners about safe fuel storage at domestic properties following the EPA and National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines.
Always use the exact type of fuel recommended by the generator manufacturer. Fuel stored for longer than six months is classified as old and can make generators hard to start or even prevent them from running.
4. Using Your Generator Safely
Follow the manufacturer’s instructions regarding a correct and safe location for the generator. It will minimize the risk of electrocution and carbon monoxide poisoning from fuel-powered generators.
After you have positioned your generator in a safe location, unplug all your appliances and turn off the light switches before you start it. Always check the oil levels first. Some, but not all, fuel generators will have a low-oil cut-off.
Know how much power the generator can provide and which appliances and lighting it can support. Your generator needs to produce more electricity than the appliances connected to it consume. Don’t forget to consider the initial power surge required by many appliances to turn on.
Once the generator is running, add appliances one at a time to avoid overloading the unit. Staggering appliance use is one way to protect the generator from overloading and blowing a fuse.
If you don’t use the generator often or are a new user, practice starting it. Keep the instructions close to hand. No one wants to fumble to start a generator in bad weather or an outage.
Use quality extension cords rated for outdoor use.
Always turn the generator off and let it cool before refueling. Remove all electrical loads before you shut down, and unplug all the extension cords. When the engine is cool, check the oil and refuel.
With our changing climate and aging infrastructure, power outages and blackouts are an unfortunate fact of life. Sadly, power insecurity is likely to get much worse before it gets better.
The good news is that you don’t have to be powerless – no matter the state of the grid. By following the steps above, you can keep the lights on even when the power goes out.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can safely use a portable electric generator in the home during a power failure. The only precaution to take is to know that if your portable electric generator uses fuel, you can only use it outside the property to avoid toxic fumes and carbon monoxide poisoning.
A generator is an excellent, reliable solution during a blackout. But choosing the right one requires weighing several factors, including the source it uses to recharge, indoor and outdoor use, capacity, safety features, and more. Portability, fuel supply, storage, and cost are other factors to consider before choosing your generator. Choose a generator you feel comfortable using that suits your home layout and situation, and you can be confident you’ve chosen the right one.