What Kind of Generators Are There?
Types of Generators for Your Home
Most people tend to think of their home as a castle and as homeowners, it's up to us to protect it and everyone living in it. That means preparing for potential problems.
Although I don’t expect Attila the Hun to invade my suburban neighborhood anytime soon, there is always the threat of a severe storm or something else knocking out my power.
In medieval times, royals used to have soldiers constantly on the lookout for trouble. If something went wrong, they’d spring into action to protect the castle. When it comes to power outages, a backup power generator stands guard. It protects me and my family from descending into the dark ages.
Just like there were different levels of soldiers protecting the king’s castle, there are different types of generators I can use during a power outage. The main ones are portable backup generators, inverter generators, and standby generators.
Portable Backup Generators
The most basic type of power protection for your castle, portable backup generators are great for keeping your essentials on. They are like the guards protecting the precious gold and jewels in the castle.
Portable generators can run on gasoline, propane, or switch between both, called dual-fuel. Usually, portable generators can provide between 800 and 17,000 watts of power. That’s enough to keep your lights, refrigerator, and microwave powered for a few hours to a few days. Unfortunately, that’s not enough power to run your home's central air conditioner effectively, so invest in a small portable a/c unit if you’re hot.
The larger ones are protected by a steel frame, like a suit of armor, against physical damage. You can either connect your appliances directly to the generator using an extension cord or install a manual transfer switch to your home’s circuit panel.
Although these generators are rugged and powerful, they fight dirty. The electricity they put out isn't clean enough for sensitive electronics like computers and TVs and could damage them. Yeah, you might be fine at first, but there’s a chance of your devices getting fried. If your priority is to power a home office, I’d recommend one of the next two types of generator.
Inverter generators are also designed (using digital circuitry) for your essentials, but they are like elite soldiers who fight cleanly and efficiently, without causing any collateral damage.
What I mean is they produce clean power—the same kind of power as your electric provider—so you can power all electronics (smartphone chargers, laptops, tablets, etc.) without worrying about them malfunctioning.
One disadvantage of inverter generators is they max out at around 7,000 watts. Fortunately, they like to fight in teams. You can parallel (connect) two inverter generators together to get more power. They are also much quieter than regular inverter generators, so you can sleep like a king or queen at night.
The generator equivalent of the super-soldier for your home is a standby or whole house generator. It’s like a sentinel that keeps watch 24/7 for a power outage and turns on the moment it happens.
A home standby generator is wired directly into your home’s main electrical panel through an automatic transfer switch. This gives it the power to automatically run everything in your house without you having to lift a finger. Standbys typically run on natural gas (NG) or liquid propane (LP) but in some cases, can also be powered by diesel gasoline.
Of course, a home standby generator will only power as much as its wattage output allows, which ranges from 6,000 to 150,000 watts depending on the model. Some come with load shedding, which means they’ll turn off one appliance temporarily if another, more important one (like an air conditioner) needs the power immediately.
With a standby generator standing sentinel outside your home, fighting a power outage will be a piece of cake.
Pick the Right Soldier
Choosing the right generator to defend your home relies on what you want to power, how long you want to power it, and your price range. Check out our electric generator buyer’s guide for more advice.
You now know what generators are available to safeguard your castle. As king or queen, it’s up to you to choose the best protection for your family.