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A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Generator

A Beginner's Guide to Buying a Generator

Using a generator outdoors

From lights to power tools, electricity is always essential. When you don't have access to power, a generator can help you in a pinch. This machine uses fuel to create electricity, so you can power devices during outages or when at a campsite. There are many options to consider, from portable options to commercial-grade models. No matter the circumstances, here are the dependable types and features to consider when buying a generator.

Types of Generators

Portable Generators

A portable generator offers hours of electrical usage that you can take with you on use for a camping trip, on a jobsite or during inclement weather.

Benefits & Uses...

  • Camping - Communing with nature doesn't mean you have to give up all the comforts of home. From microwaves and a mini-fridge to hair dryers and air conditioning units, you can connect small appliances and enjoy these conveniences no matter where you are.

  • Power outages - Whether you're hit with a storm or a downed power line you might suffer a power outage. When your power goes out, this model can keep your refrigerator, lights and other important electrical items running until the problem is resolved.

  • Outdoor parties - Routing your electrical work for extra lights, speakers and other devices outside your home can be complicated. A portable generator can provide simpler, on-the-spot electricity.

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Portable generator

Emergency power supplies

Emergency Power Supplies

When severe weather hits, an emergency power supply will help power small, essential items for the few hours that the power may be out.

Benefits & Uses...

  • Charging phones - Many emergency power packs have slots built to charge cellphones and other portable electronics that can help you communicate with others.

  • Emergency lighting - An emergency unit can typically light a bulb up to 100 watts. That should provide enough light to help you read and give light to a room without using candles.

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Solar Generators

A solar generator lets you capture and store energy from the sun to use indoors or outdoors, whenever and wherever you want. Many solar panels are small enough to tote around in the back of a vehicle.

Benefits & Uses...

  • Outdoor adventures - This machine is convenient for those who love to go camping or boating. The generator soaks up the sun during the day so you can charge handheld devices, lights and small appliances in the evening.

  • Worksites - Many worksites are in areas that have limited power sources. A solar-powered option can charge batteries or provide direct power to the tools you need to use to get your job done.

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Solar generator and battery pack

Standby generators

Standby Generators

A standby generator monitors a building's incoming electricity. If that supply stops, this unit takes over until the normal flow of electricity is restored.

Benefits & Uses...

  • Whole-home solutions - If the power grid in your area is unreliable, a standby generator can provide peace of mind. Some models automatically kick in within seconds when there's an outage, keeping your lights, electronics and appliances going.

  • Commercial buildings - Local building codes might require a standby generator for a commercial building. Regardless of regulations, having a standby generator in place to provide power to elevators, emergency lights and security systems when the power goes out can be invaluable.

Features of Generators

Fuel Sources

  • Gasoline - As long as it's filled with gasoline, this model will keep electricity flowing. If you handle a wide variety of heavy-duty projects, consider a unit with a higher fuel capacity so it runs longer.

  • Diesel - A diesel generator creates electricity using a more efficient fuel source.

  • Propane - Hooked up to a propane tank you might find on a grill, a this unit is a clean option and typically has a long lifespan.

  • Dual-fuel - A dual fuel generator produces electricity from using a combination of gasoline or diesel fuel and propane, providing more versatility when you need it.

  • Solar-powered - Using solar panels, this type of generator garners electrical power with help from the sun.


Portable propane generator


  • Wheels - Many portable options include wheels so you don't have to lift this heavy piece of machinery.

  • Handles - These allow you to effectively move the unit around any home or jobsite without straining yourself.

Gas generator on a truck


  • Electric start - Pull-cords are the standard, but many new models technological feature push-button and remote starters for an easy startup.

  • Auto-idle - Generators with automatic idle control maintain constant RPMs even under heavy loads. This reduces noise levels and preserves fuel in the machine.

  • Low-oil shutdown - This automatic feature shuts off the machine, preventing damage to the engine when oil is low.

  • Quiet operation - Equipped with the latest mufflers or advanced technology, some of the latest generators can cut down the noise.

  • USB slots - Aside from power outlets, new emergency power supplies have USB ports so you can charge phones or power other electronics.