Generator Accessories and Extras

Along with every generator comes extra accessories like gas cans, tachometers, funnels, and other items to test and make sure your generator is working optimally. The last thing anyone needs to worry about is having a backup power source but no gas.

Below are the most common items purchased in conjunction with best-selling generators. You’ll most likely need at least a couple of these items to make maintenance and the use of power much easier.

If you are in the market for an inverter generator, you need to be aware of its characteristics, what it does, how it works, along with the types and models that are considered the best for the money spent. So, before you run out and buy one, take a look at some of the preliminary information and the reviews of the top 5 given here to get an idea which ones are currently top of the line. No matter the model, there is one that will likely meet your needs.

Quick Overview: How an Inverter Generator Works

An inverter produces direct current (DC) power and then converts it to alternating current (AC) power using digital electronics. Digital electronics transmit information, which has been encoded digitally for the storage and processing of information. It generates AC power in phases at high frequency. Then it is converted to a direct current (DC),then back to alternating current (AC), which can be used with electronic equipment, power tools and appliances that require power.


Types of Output

Most inverters put out AC current in pure sine waves, others in square or block waves and still others in modified sine waves. They not only modify the signal but they can make it clearer and cleaner. Consumers need to be aware that pure sine wave AC power is the most reliable, steady and clean of the three.

A pure sine wave will deliver the same wave as what is delivered from a normal generator or a power company. There will not be fluctuations in voltage, which can occur with more traditional generators. They produce a purer energy output as opposed to square or block waves. The output from an inverter is often called clean power, which brings a stable and consistent current and a stable sine wave delivery.

Square wave inverters are not used as much as others, though they are good for powering motors in power tools. They are less expensive, but they are difficult to find.

Modified sine wave inverters create power with a wave form that is similar to a square wave. Larger items like pump motors, fans, refrigerators and other items will not operate as efficiently with this type.

Characteristics of These Generators

Most are usually compact, rectangular or streamlined in shape, considerably lighter than regular generators and are easily moved from one area to another because of their portability factor, which usually includes a built-in carrying handle. They are also safer, quieter, eliminate distortion and, depending on the model, can be started through a remote device or a pull start.

They are used for both restoring back-up power and for operating equipment such as small and large appliances, power tools, laptops, tablets, monitor screens, cellphones and other sensitive electronics. Restoring back-up power is a necessity, especially if you’re in a position to invest in a generator.

Most inverters are equipped with display panels, USB ports, 12V DC receptacle, and three-pronged 120V (Volt) receptacles. They are fuel-efficient and are usually fueled by gas, propane or natural gas, and have excellent run times.

Top 5 Inverter Generators to Buy

1. Honda Eu2000i Companion Portable Model


honda-EU2000-generatorThe Honda EU 2000i has a 2000 maximum wattage with a 1600 watt rated output. It contains one 20 amp 120V (Volt) outlet and one 30 amp 120V (Volt) outlet that can be linked with another Honda inverter to double the power of the GX100 OHC engine.

When two Honda EU2000i’s are linked this way, a recreational vehicle air conditioning unit is easily powered as well as more demanding power hungry equipment. This model is lightweight and quiet, particularly in the eco save mode; starts easily and runs clean and smoothly, for about 6 hours, though the gas tank could be slightly larger to accommodate a lengthier running time.

It is gasoline run and is CARB-compliant (California Air Resource Board compliance that ensures strict air quality measures in the state) for the 50 states, and it has a 3-year limited warranty.

2. DuroMax XP4400E 4,400 Watt 4-Cycle Gas Powered Portable Generator


With a 4400 Watt surge (3500 Watt Continuous), you’ll be able to relax knowing that the Duromax generator has you covered. With this model comes a four-gallon gas tank, an 8 hour runtime, and also an electric key start.

Highlighted Benefits:

  • 4400 Watt Surge/3500 Watt Continuous
  • 4 Gallon Gas Tank/8 Hour Run Time
  • Electric Key Start/Includes Battery
  • EPA Approved
  • Automatic Low Oil Shut Off

3. Yamaha EF2000iSv2 Portable


Yamaha EF2000iSv2 PortableThe Yamaha EF2000iSv2 is a pure sine wave inverter that is an upgrade from its previous EF2000is model. It is packed with power yet quiet, compact and lightweight, which makes it easy to transport and store. There is quick access to controls as well as a fuel gauge that is easy to view.

There are two 120V (Volt) AC outlets and one DC outlet-8A (amps) 12V (Volt) for charging batteries, which includes cables. It powers a number of items in various ranges and has a 1600 watt rated AC output with a 2000 watt maximum.

It also has a very quiet muffler with a spark arrestor. A Smart Throttle aids in varying the engine speed based on load, which improves fuel use and limits noise. Its  system has a Pulse Width Modulation control (PWM) that provides voltage stability. This Yamaha, like the other models reviewed, is CARB compliant (California Air Resource Board), and it has a 3-year limited warranty.

4. Champion 100261-3100 Watt Portable


Champion 100261-3100The 3100 maximum watt Champions 100261 has a true sine wave output along with a remote wireless starter that contains an automatic choke design for easy start and stop- up to 80 feet in distance. There is a 12V (Volt) DC outlet as well as dual-port USB adapter and battery charger.

The inverter is fully enclosed with a durable housing that eliminates sound output and enables quiet operation, and it contains integrated wheels and stow away handles for moving and storing. Its clean power output can be utilized for just about any energy need such as campsites, recreational vehicles, cabins, electronics and appliances.

A Champion 192cc OHV engine powers with a low oil shut off provides protection and extends the life of the generator. There is even an economy mode with this model that allows it to run over seven hours as it adjusts engine speed to optimum levels. Fuel use is reduced as is engine wear. There is a 2-year limited warranty and it is EPA and CARB (California Air Resource Board) certified in 50 states.

5. Westinghouse WH2400i Portable


Westinghouse WH2400iThe WH2400i gas powered inverter is a reasonably priced, lightweight, compact and quiet inverter that offers power at any time and any place. It can safely power sensitive electronics with its low THD (Total Harmonic Distortion) as well as provide clean power for refrigerators, power tools, smartphones, tablets and laptops with its 1800 running watts and 2200 starting watts.

There are two 120V (Volt) AC power outlets and one 12V (Volt) DC power outlet. This model has a 13 hour run time that allows for all night use and enhanced fuel efficiency along with an automatic low oil shutdown. Power can be enhanced with anchoring to another Westinghouse inverter to increase wattage and the power necessary to take on real energy eaters.

Westinghouse has provided a 2-year limited warranty on this model, and it is EPA and CARB compliant (California Air Resource Board) certified.

Inverters manufactured by Honda appear to be leaders in the industry, though their higher price-points can hold off a purchase, which comes down to where they are purchased. Yamaha, Champion and Westinghouse provide competition with somewhat lower prices and are still effective given the necessary features and fuel efficiency to get power going when electric power is limited, or is required for any number of devices that require power.

Whatever the choice, these five inverters are top of the line for most any use or need you might have.

It’s 2am. Lightning strikes and the LED for your alarm clock flickers. It’s the first sign that your electricity is about to fail. Your little one comes scampering into the room screaming “Mommy, Daddy, I’m scared!” Of course, you take a minute to calm her down and remind her that the boogeyman doesn’t exist, but you have a real monster to worry about.

You just spent $300 on groceries and all the food in your refrigerator and freezer will go bad if your electricity fails. Come to think of it, your phone only has 20% charge, your laptop is dead, and your internet depends on your electricity. How will you call work? How will you find information about the current weather situation with no television and no internet?

Worse, what if it was a serious problem that caused the electrical outage, such as a tornado that came through your neighborhood? Even if it completely missed your house and you are otherwise safe, you could still be displaced for lack of basic services.

You could be without electricity for days. Wouldn’t it be nice to know that you could wait out the clean up in the comfort of your own home because you were well supplied and prepared?

Winter storms present a danger as well. Even though most have gas heat, their heat won’t switch on without electricity. I remember a winter when my parents were trapped at home for a week with no electricity and no heat but what came from turning on their stove and lighting the gas with matches. They had a 3,000 square foot two-and-a-half story ranch house with a basement…but no electricity.

All they could do was wall off the kitchen with blankets and sleep on the hard tile floor. They literally lived in that one small room for a week with the exception of trips to the bathroom or trips outside to Nature’s “great outdoor refrigerator,” which thankfully preserved their food. No hot water. No showers. No TV. No light for books because the flashlight batteries wore out.

A week–cooped up in the same room–with a hard tile floor for a bed and no entertainment. They now have very reliable backup electricity.

A lot of people wonder whether a generator is a worthy investment until they find themselves replacing hundreds of dollars worth of groceries after sweltering in the heat or stumbling around in the cold and dark for days. After that, the question is no longer, “is this worth the cost?” but “which one should I buy?”

How did I become so sage about this particular decision-making process? I went through it last week. Live and learn. And now I’d love to share what I have learned with you so that you can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ll never be left in the dark.

How Do I Choose the Right Backup Power for My Needs?

When deciding on a major purchase with several different factors to consider, I like to think of each decision as I would a game of table tennis. Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages, so I just keep track of what wins for the most important factors (for my needs) and look for the best product in my price range with all of these characteristics. Here are some points to consider:

Convenience: Stationary vs. Portable

Stationary generators are large, produce a lot of electricity, and are already connected to your house’s electrical supply. If the electricity goes out, the motor switches on and supplies enough electricity (if we have chosen well) to keep your basic essentials on. You won’t need to trudge outside in the rain and mess with a pull starter or search for extension cords. You won’t be without electricity for more than a few short moments as long as your equipment is well-maintained. And best of all, you won’t lose your hard-earned groceries.


Lightweight machines offer the convenience of transport so they can be used for camping and traveling as well as house electricity. But they are not as easy to use for the house since they must be stored at least 20 feet away. They should also be kept in a covered area to protect them from rain. When the electricity goes out you will have to start it up, check cords for any worn areas and then plug them into the house’s transfer switch.

Fuel Supply: Propane or Natural Gas vs. Gasoline

Most small machines require large quantities of gas to provide enough electricity for your basic household appliances unless you can find one with alternative fuel capabilities. Large standby models use natural gas or propane. Natural gas and propane tend to be safer to store than gas, and gas will require stabilizers for storage.

But, sometimes all you have left is the gas in your car. That’s why having an alternative options is a bonus. Some transportable machines, even very inexpensive ones, can use both gas and propane. Some can even run on natural gas too. These are called tri-fuel options, and you can expect to pay a couple thousand dollars for one that produces around 10,000 watts. It’s worth it though if you consider the security that comes with having several different options.

Cost: Large vs. Small

Lightweight machines can cost 1/5th to 1/10th as much as a large stationary unit, yet the more expensive transportable machines (around $1,000) will produce as much energy as a small stationary one (between 5,000 and 8,000 watts). So when it comes to bang for the buck, transportable provides more watts per dollar. (Consider the fluctuating cost of gas, however.)

Starting: Manual vs. Electric

This won’t be a concern for the larger, whole-house equipment, but it applies to the smaller machines. Most small units use a manual starter instead of a switch. If you have trouble pull-starting a lawnmower, you will want a machine that will operate with an electric start.

Don’t Forget the Transfer Switch

When considering cost, don’t forget that you’re going to need to install a transfer switch for any equipment that produces over 5,000 watts of electricity to safely share it with your household appliances. While some people try to make use of only an extension cord when the electricity goes out, this is unsafe for both your electronics and for you. Your only use for an extension cord should be to plug it into the transfer switch.

Now for the last of our tips. Whichever type of machine you get, make sure it produces enough electricity to meet your appliances electrical needs. You can take a look at your energy bill to see what your daily usage is. Most electric providers will even tell you how much electricity you use on average during peak hours.

Even if you were assured by the salesperson that this is all the machine you need for your household, double check the instructions to be sure that you completely understand the capacity of your unit. You don’t want to find out that you can overtax it in the middle of a storm.

Now that you know a little more about your backup electricity choices, feel free to share this information with your friends in hopes that you can all become better prepared with your backup and safety equipment together. Meanwhile, we’ll keep the light on for you.

Maybe you’ve got an outdoor project you need a little juice for. Maybe you’re going on a backyard camping adventure and want to have some of the amenities of living back home. No matter what kind of use you need it for, an inverter generator is your friend. With that said, not all of them are created equal.

If they were, we wouldn’t have to drum up this handy little guide for you. But they are different, so we’re going to give you the lowdown on what this generator is, how you can use one in your favor, and what kinds of generators are out there to make your life just a little bit easier.

You can also find a more in-depth article about just an inverter generator and leave most of the conventional generator talk out.

Let’s get a glimpse of 3 top inverters on the market:

3 Top Inverter Generator Quick Reviews

Not all inverters are created equal when you’re looking at a portable generator. We’re going to take a look at some pretty cool inverter generator reviews in order to give you some options when you’re in the market.

Yamaha EF2000iSv2 – 1600 Watt Inverter (Scratch & Dent)

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This inverter is especially resistant to scratches and dents on its exterior panels, which is a great trait to have. It has completely new tech for the new year, making sure that new apps are covered with this generator.

It can safely run any product with a built-in microcomputer, so you don’t have to worry about your mobile devices. It has an efficient and reliable engine that will make sure you’ve always got the highest quality generator on your side.

Honda EU2000i – 2000 Watt Portable Inverter

With this option, you’ll be going back to the granddaddy of all inverters: Honda. This one is super quiet and yet it still has enough power to get the job done. It’s completely controlled by a microprocessor so that no matter how sensitive your device is, you won’t have to worry about power surges.

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Also, find the EU2000i/ic Parallel Combo Kit here on Amazon (used to double wattage)

It’s got stable and clean power with a cool sort of form function. It’s also got an Eco Throttle system to automatically adjusts the speed of the engine to maximize efficiency. Another cool thing it’s got built in is an oil alert warning system that will shut the engine down in the case of oil reaching an unsafe level. This is a super cool option for anyone.

Honda EU7000is – 5500 Watt Electric Start Portable Inverter

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Here’s another Honda. We would say we apologize for including a second Honda on the list, but the things are that good that it only makes sense for us to highlight the best options for you regardless of the company that made them.

This generator is super quiet and yet still powerful as well. It’s got advanced inverter technology that makes it safe for any type of application. It’s been designed for service diagnosis and performance monitoring, so you can always count on this generator.

Find the latest price and discounts on generators available on Amazon >>

What Exactly Do Inverters Do?

These are a whole new kind of animal. They’re more portable, lighter, and cleaner with the kind of electricity that they produce. They do give lower wattage, but at the same time they provide you with the option of inverting the electricity right back into stable electricity. That’s pretty awesome.

The way these generators work is that you use fossil fuels to power the thing, and it’ll then create electricity for you to use. That’s a cool concept, isn’t it?

The generator as a concept goes all the way back to 1965 when Honda released the first generator. Since then, companies have made a boatload of innovations for the key concept in order to flesh out the overall concept.

The big problem was trying to minimize the sound and the heat that was generated by these things. To get this done, small changes were made incrementally over time and per generator.

Why Should I Go With an Inverter Generator?

You might be wondering what the major benefits of having this kind of generator might be, why you should for sure invest in one. Well, they have a higher quality output and that power will be just as reliable as if you were plugging something into an outlet.

These machines also have a higher level of fuel efficiency when compared to other regulars. Also, there’s such a thing as parallel capability. This is where you put two of them together in order to double the power you’ve got on your hands.

One of the big struggles with owning a generator is that the power will tend to fluctuate depending on the RPM of the generator. The great thing about these is that this doesn’t happen. These generators are more of a stable source of energy than regular, traditionals.

Back around the late 90s, Honda knew they had something awesome on their hands with the possibility of these machines. They put research, money, and time into it when no one was able to perfect it. They got the job done, and the rest was history.

These machines tend to be used for recreational reasons like RVs, outdoor excursions, and tailgating parties. Whatever you need portable power for, you can find it in one of these machines. With all of that said, we might as well take a gander at what the key differences are between a traditional generator and an inverter.

Read the generator buying guide here >>

What’s the Difference Between a Conventional and an Inverter?

Conventionals are the most well-known of all of these machines. They’ve been around forever, and they have a really good track record. You can use a variety of gasses like propane, diesel, and regular gasoline to get the job done.

Inverters are still the new kid on the block, and they are used for a lot of the same outdoor activities as the conventional generator. The key difference here is that they are much cleaner to run, and they provide a stable source of power no matter the RPMs.

Noise levels are a big difference too. Conventional generators can be quite noisy, which might get you into trouble with the neighbors. On the flip side, we’ve got inverters that are designed to be quieter right from the start. This is kind of similar to how websites now are first developed with mobile access in mind, and then designed the rest of the way.

Another difference is wattage output. Some conventionals are producing upwards of 20,000 watts or more. This can give you the power you’re looking for, even capable of powering your home in the event of a power outage. Inverters will be in the 500 to 5,000-watt range, so you won’t be able to use as many plugs unless you’re using additional wattage as a cushion for future uses.

Fuel efficiency is where they really differ. A typical conventional is going to be stuck at about 3,600 RPM when it’s giving a maximum output. This can lead to a power surge which can destroy devices that are plugged in.

Inverters, on the other hand, rely on a smart control system that adjusts the RPM used depending on what is needed, effectively nixing the chances you have of your power going out or even surging the power and in the process destroying your electronics.

In terms of runtime, both conventionals and inverters are optimized to work for a very long time. The average generator is going to last you between 8 and 12 hours on a single tank of gas. That’s pretty efficient, isn’t it?

Higher Quality Power – Is it a Need?

The science and technology behind how an inverter works is pretty darn cool. When you start up the generator, it generates electricity that’s sent through an alternator. That electricity is in the AC form of electricity. While this can be a strong source of power, it’s definitely pretty sporadic too. AC electricity can go all over the place.

Once that generator grabs hold of the AC, it’s converted into DC. This is a much more stable source of power. Now the power’s going to be flowing stably through the system. The last step is actually to turn that DC back into AC, which is the same type of power used by outlets. This way, you’re going to have a reliable, steady way of generating power for your needs.

Now that we’ve taken a look at what all inverters and conventional generators are, let’s go ahead and take a look at some examples of inverters so that we can see which ones are the best in the business.

Summary and Thoughts

As you can see from the following information, inverters can be a good choice for many occasions, but sometimes you might decide that a conventional is going to be a better option. Take the time to consider your options, what you will be using the generator for, and how long you’ll need access to it.

Don’t forget to check out our generator buying guide for even more information about finding the right one for your needs.


The First Question: What is a Generator?

In the chance that the power in your home would go out or not be available for use (as in non-existent), there would need to be some other type of power source. This is where a generator comes in. The generator (depending on which type used) will supply the correct amount of wattage, amperage, and portable electricity to power the necessities of your home – things like major appliances, heaters, or even air conditioners.

​There may be different questions about what type of generator a family needs, the amount of power it will provide, and even what size to get. Don't worry, we'll cover all of those questions in this guide.


What Needs Power and What Doesn't?

It's important to know what your power needs are. Will you need a refrigerator? How about your stove? Or, more importantly, heat or air conditioning. These factors must be considered when you're deciding the type of generator you'll need and how many watts to use.

You can use this portable generator wattage calculator for backup, recreational, or job site portable generators. There's also a home backup calculator if you're thinking about getting a standy generator model.

Here are some important items to consider:

  • Refrigerator (average 600 watts)
  • Window Air Conditioner (1,000 watts)
  • Sump Pump (750 - 1000 watts)
  • Lights around the house (100-200 watts depending if you're with the LED crowd)
  • Computers or Laptops (if you're going to use a charger)

Make your own list and decide what's most important. Each household will be different and it's up to you to prepare. Don't forget to add in additional watts since your needs are different and there's also the possibility of forgetting something.

Looking for your next generator? Have a look at the best selling generators on Amazon or best sellers at Walmart.


Main Types of Generators

Although it can seem overwhelming, you might find it easier than you think to pick out the type of generator you're looking to buy. Many generators have a specific purpose and are designed for a certain application such as running an entire home, supplying electricity for appliances, or just using recreationally for an RV or camping.

If you can think about how you will be using your generator at home, this will definitely push you in the right direction for the right equipment.​ Let's go ahead and cover the different kinds available.

Briggs & Stratton 20,000 Watt Home Standby Generator System (Amazon)

Stationary/Standby Generators

  • Start and stop automatically when power is out
  • Inform you of any maintenance needed (even with a text!)
  • Use natural gas or propane
  • Sometimes requires a permit (an electrician can help)
  • Can cost between $4,000 - $10,000
  • Typically cost more because they're automatic

Champion 3500 Watt Portable Generator on Amazon

Portable Generators

  • The average portable model costs less
  • Costs are about $300 - $1,000
  • Offer electric starting (less pull starting)
  • Require stabilizer periodically for stored gas
  • Typically cost more because they're automatic
  • Batteries for electric start may not be included

A Breed of Their Own: Inverter Generators

WEN 56200i: 4-Stroke Gas Powered Portable Inverter Generator from Amazon

Inverter Generators have a specific job. They are used for recreational events and activities such as camping, tailgating, sports events, or for boats & RVs. They are portable and use less power which usually means you will not be able to run them as hard.

Another advantage to an inverter generator is that they run quietly. They are designed this way to ensure limited noise in an environment such as a campground.​ You also get the added benefit of not frying your sensitive electronics. It's important to remember these little things because that's what's going to set the inverter generator apart from a typical, cheaper portable alternative.


Other Features / Benefits

Although this may (or may not) seem like a laundry list, there are some options to consider when looking into your next (or first) generator.

Does Automatic Start & Stop Appeal to You?
With standby generators, you'll get the comfort of knowing that in the case of an outage, your power will continue to run and it should be seamless (given the generator is ocassionally tested). Otherwise, you'll be the one to start the generator, hook it up for power and monitor the status.

Will You Need an Electric Start?​
Without an electric start, you are required to pull start the engine (similar to a push mower). If this is no problem, then you don't have to worry. But, you may regret it in the future without it! As previously mentioned, you'll need to purchase a battery for the electric start and make sure it's kept up to date.

Are You Rolling With Wheels?​
I doubt you'll find a standby/stationary generator with wheels, but they are often found on portable models. And, sometimes, they're not included at all. How about those accessories! You're looking at about 100-200 pounds for some models, so take that into consideration.

Gauge for Checking Fuel Levels​
For an extended period of time (like a blackout) it is critical that you keep informed with how much fuel available in your generator. Without knowing, you'll have to worry about restarting and losing power. You can relate it to driving your car without a gas gauge -- it's possible, but not fun.

Having Multiple Outlets Ready
Instead of running 1,000 watts directly from one outlet, it helps to spread the load across more than one outlet. This also prevents possibly using an extension cord in a pinch with a 3-way on it. Definitely not safe.

Interested in a Quick Video? Here's a Less Than One Minute Short from Amazon 


The Correct Size: Is There a Right or Wrong?

When speaking in terms of size for a generator, we're not talking about wattage, but physical size. Depending on what you will need running once your power goes out will also determine how you'll move it around.

If you remember, in the features and benefits section, wheels were listed as a feature. This is where size comes into play. Moving a 100-200 pound generator around isn't going to be easy for some, although many of you out there might be up to the challenge 😉

​There really isn't a right or wrong size, but more importantly, what is the correct size for your situation?

Remember to think about the following when you need to know what size to use:

  • Does the generator come with wheels?
  • If I need more wattage, will I be moving it frequently?
  • Do I Need a Larger Fuel Tank?

Quick Tip:
Portable generators are usually underrated for running a whole house, they are for a limited number of items.


Finding The Perfect Wattage

It's hard to think about all of the factors when considering size, weight, features, and everything else that comes with the decision of getting a generator. This section about wattage is the most important because without the right power being distributed, you can end up with electronics that fry or are seriously damaged by too much electricity.

You may come across the terms rated wattage and maximum wattage​. These determine whether the generator is running at a continuous (rated) or maximum power. When running something like a desktop computer, this requires a continuous load because the electricity is consistent the entire time the computer is on.

On the other hand, if you're running something like a television, the wattage will only be used while the TV is on. The wattage might peak over the continuous, but not the maximum. Keep in mind: the television example is not typical -- I don't think a newer television would consume upwards of 1,000 watts!


Generator Runtime: A Feature Not To Overlook

There was a brief mention about having a larger fuel tank for a longer runtime. This is just one benefit of having a generator that will last long enough for your needs. 

The importance of runtime is that of safety. When a family is in a blackout and trying to make due of everything around them, they shouldn't have to worry about how long the generator is going to last when there's food, light, and possibly weather to worry about.

Having the longest runtime also means being proactive with taking care of your gasoline. Make sure to add stabilizer if necessary and find a generator that is genuinely good (or great) for your needs. Being on the more affordable side of the scale may not get you the additional 1-2 hours of extra runtime.​

Be prepared for your next blackout. Go buy a generator. @Lawnaholic

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The Transfer Switch (or a budget friendly alternative)

Reliance Controls 31410CRK on Amazon

Connecting your generator to the breaker panel in your home is no easy feat. Once you get the generator going, you have to bring all of that nice juicy power into the house for the juicy fruit in the fridge. Especially after a storm when you may consider bypassing the most important steps, you want to be safe.

Consumer Reports in this transfer switch article talks about why a generator needs one and a more in-depth look at what it does. Without regurgitating the great information there, I'll summarize.

Basically, when the power goes out, you need to connect your generator to the power source to provide the correct watts and needs for the electrical items in your home. Residential transfer switches can range from $250 - $300 (plus $200-$400 in labor) according to Popular Mechanics. These costs are typically associated with a six-circuit switch which is a more common circuit.

Using a transfer switch is no joke and should be taken seriously!​ Installation is critical and no matter the wattage of your generator (typically 5,000 watts plus), the setup will significantly matter. Read about using a professional and where to find one in the next section.

If you're looking to cover your home with a generator and simply cannot work the additional $700+ ​into your project costs, then you can think about using an interlock kit. This should also be installed by a professional and avoided if possible. Basically this is added protection for your service panel to prevent backfeeding of power and also making sure the generator doesn't get destroyed. Backfeeding is both dangerous and illegal. Take the necessary precautions to prevent this!


Safety Concerns

Can a portable generator run indoors?
There is never a safe time to use a generator in an enclosed area. When a generator is running with a gas engine, carbon monoxide is emitted and can (and will be) fatal. Carbon monoxide is a very poisonous gas that a human cannot tell they are inhaling. Please don't assume that you might be an exception. The exhaust will cause death in ONLY MINUTES. Not something anyone should play around with.

Should I Leave a Generator Running While Fuel is Added?
The engine on the generator should be completely cooled before adding new fuel. You'll need to coordinate use of your electronics, appliances, and other items being run by the generator. Depending on the model, it can take anywhere from ten minutes or more before the engine is cooled enough.

How Far Should a [Portable] Generator Be Placed From a Home?
A very good distance is at least 15-20 feet. With this as a safe distance, there will be proper ventilation and, as an added benefit, it will be more quiet from inside the house! But, maybe a little louder for your neighbors...

Does Fuel Stay in the Tank When Storing My Generator?
The gas tank should be empty when storing. However, if the gas remains in the tank, make sure to add fuel stabilizer to keep the gas fresh. 

Quick Tip:
Fuel stabilizer prevents things like rust and corrosion from getting into the gas tank.


Find & Hire a Contractor (Here's Why)

electrician for generator installation

In the previous section, we talked about backfeeding. This can be extremely dangerous and even fatal in the worst cases.

Here's the deal: when a generator starts, it is actually generating electricity. If the generator is incorrectly hooked up to your breaker panel, the electricity will go back up the neighborhood electric lines and will try to power your surrounding neighbors homes!

If there is a utility worker or someone working on a line near you, they will have a surge of electricity that they aren't expecting. When something happens to them while working, the person with the generator could face legal consequences for the harm of that utility worker.

In short, take the best practices on this type of project and don't try to do the DIY approach unless you really know what you are doing. It's not worth the risk.

Head over to for a general contractor to set you up with an installation of your new generator. Specifically, you will need an electrician to do the work. They can help you decided on the best features for a transfer switch and the correct setup.

Wrapping It Up

Deciding to purchase a generator is a big deal. This is your safety net for when the unexpected happens. A situation we don't have any control over and have to deal with. From a personal standpoint, I feel that the extra money and features should be thoughtfully considered.

I know that if everyone had the financial capability, we would all go for the standby generator, right? But, since all of us aren't millionaires, let's think about what we really need. Kind of like insurance -- pay the higher premium monthly or have a higher deductible at the time it's due?

Think about it.

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