Selecting the Right Type of Generator


In an increasingly unpredictable world, where power outages can occur due to various reasons like natural disasters, grid failures, or planned maintenance, having a reliable backup power source has become essential for both homes and businesses. Generators are invaluable tools in providing the necessary electricity to keep critical systems running. However, selecting the right type of generator involves careful consideration of several factors, including power needs, fuel type, portability, and specific use cases. This article delves into the essential aspects of choosing the right generator to ensure you make an informed decision that meets your needs.

Understanding Power Requirements

Calculating Power Needs

The first step in selecting a generator is understanding your power requirements. Generators come in various sizes, and their capacity is measured in watts (W). To determine the appropriate size, you need to calculate the total wattage of all the appliances and devices you intend to power.

Identify Critical Loads: List all essential devices you need to keep running during a power outage. This might include lights, refrigerators, medical equipment, computers, and heating systems.

Calculate Starting and Running Watts: Appliances often require more power to start than to run continuously. For instance, a refrigerator might need 1200 watts to start but only 200 watts to run. Ensure you account for these starting watts in your calculations.

Sum the Total Wattage: Add up the running watts of all devices and then add the highest starting wattage among them to get the total wattage required.

Power Management Solutions

To optimize the use of a generator, consider employing power management solutions like transfer switches and power distribution panels. These tools help allocate power efficiently and ensure critical systems receive priority.

Types of Generators

Portable Generators

Features and Benefits

Portable generators are versatile, mobile units that can be moved to different locations as needed. They are typically powered by gasoline, propane, or diesel.

Flexibility: Portable generators are ideal for outdoor activities, construction sites, and temporary power outages.

Ease of Use: They are relatively easy to set up and use, often equipped with multiple outlets to plug in various devices.

Cost-Effective: Generally, portable generators are more affordable than standby units.


Limited Power Output: Portable generators usually provide less power compared to standby generators, making them unsuitable for powering entire homes or large commercial facilities.

Fuel Storage and Availability: Ensuring an adequate fuel supply during prolonged outages can be challenging.

Noise: Portable generators can be noisy, which might not be ideal in residential areas.

Standby Generators

Features and Benefits

Standby generators, also known as whole-house generators, are permanently installed units that automatically turn on during a power outage. They are connected to a home’s electrical system and typically run on natural gas or propane.

Automatic Operation: Standby generators start automatically when the power goes out, providing seamless transition and uninterrupted power.

High Power Output: They can power entire homes, including critical systems like HVAC, security systems, and major appliances.

Reliability: With a direct fuel line connection, standby generators offer a continuous fuel supply, making them more reliable during extended outages.


Cost: Standby generators are more expensive upfront and involve additional installation costs.

Installation: Professional installation is required, which can be time-consuming and complex.

Maintenance: Regular maintenance is necessary to ensure optimal performance and longevity.

Inverter Generators

Features and Benefits

Inverter generators are a type of portable generator that offers a higher quality of power output. They are typically smaller, quieter, and more fuel-efficient than conventional portable generators.

Clean Power: Inverter generators produce a stable and consistent power output, making them suitable for sensitive electronics like laptops and smartphones.

Fuel Efficiency: These generators adjust engine speed to match the power demand, improving fuel efficiency and reducing emissions.

Quiet Operation: Inverter generators are designed to be quieter, which is ideal for camping, tailgating, and use in residential areas.


Cost: Inverter generators are generally more expensive per watt of power compared to conventional portable generators.

Power Output: They usually provide lower power output, making them less suitable for heavy-duty applications.

Solar Generators

Features and Benefits

Solar generators use solar panels to convert sunlight into electricity, storing it in a battery for later use. They are environmentally friendly and provide a renewable energy source.

Renewable Energy: Solar generators harness solar power, reducing reliance on fossil fuels and decreasing carbon footprint.

Silent Operation: With no moving parts, solar generators operate silently, making them ideal for quiet environments.

Low Operating Costs: Once installed, solar generators have minimal operating costs since sunlight is free.


Initial Cost: The initial investment for solar generators and panels can be high.

Weather Dependency: Solar generators rely on sunlight, which can be inconsistent in cloudy or rainy conditions.

Power Output: They typically provide lower power output and are not suitable for high-demand applications.

Fuel Types



Availability: Gasoline is widely available and easy to obtain.

Ease of Use: Gasoline generators are straightforward to operate and refuel.


Storage and Stability: Gasoline has a relatively short shelf life and requires proper storage to prevent degradation.

Emissions: Gasoline generators produce higher emissions compared to other fuel types.



Clean Burning: Propane burns cleaner than gasoline and diesel, producing fewer emissions.

Long Shelf Life: Propane can be stored for long periods without degrading.

Safety: Propane is less flammable than gasoline, reducing fire risk.


Availability: Propane may not be as readily available as gasoline in some areas.

Efficiency: Propane generators may be less fuel-efficient compared to gasoline generators.



Efficiency: Diesel engines are more fuel-efficient and have a longer lifespan.

Availability: Diesel is widely available and is often used in commercial and industrial applications.

Durability: Diesel generators are built to withstand heavy use and are typically more robust.


Noise: Diesel generators can be noisy, which might not be suitable for residential use.

Emissions: Diesel engines produce more particulate emissions compared to propane and natural gas.

Natural Gas


Continuous Supply: Natural gas generators can be connected to the home’s gas line, providing a continuous fuel supply.

Clean Burning: Natural gas burns cleaner than gasoline and diesel.

Convenience: No need to store fuel, as it is delivered directly via the gas line.


Installation: Connecting a generator to the natural gas line requires professional installation.

Dependence on Infrastructure: Natural gas supply can be disrupted in case of major disasters affecting the infrastructure.

Specific Use Cases

Home Backup

For home backup, a standby generator is often the best choice due to its ability to automatically provide power to the entire house. Depending on the size of the home and the power requirements, a generator with a capacity ranging from 7,000 to 20,000 watts is usually sufficient.

Recreational Use

For recreational activities like camping, tailgating, or RVing, portable or inverter generators are ideal due to their portability, quiet operation, and ease of use. Inverter generators, in particular, are preferred for their clean power output, which is safe for sensitive electronics.

Construction Sites

Construction sites often require robust and reliable power sources for tools and equipment. Portable generators with higher power output and durability, typically running on diesel or gasoline, are suitable for these demanding environments.

Commercial and Industrial Use

Commercial and industrial facilities need high-capacity generators to ensure critical operations continue during power outages. Standby generators, particularly those running on diesel or natural gas, are preferred for their reliability and ability to provide significant power.

Additional Considerations

Noise Levels

Consider the noise level of the generator, especially if it will be used in residential areas or during recreational activities. Inverter generators are generally quieter, making them more suitable for noise-sensitive environments.


If you need a generator that can be moved easily, look for features like wheels, handles, and a compact design. Portable and inverter generators are designed with portability in mind, while standby generators are fixed installations.

Run Time

The generator’s run time, which is how long it can operate on a full tank of fuel, is a crucial factor. For prolonged outages, a generator with a longer run time is beneficial. Diesel generators typically offer longer run times compared to gasoline or propane generators.


Regular maintenance is essential to keep the generator in good working condition. Consider the ease of access to parts, availability of service centers, and whether the manufacturer provides a comprehensive warranty.

Safety Features

Look for generators equipped with safety features such as overload protection, low-oil shutoff, and covered outlets. These features help prevent damage to the generator and connected devices, and enhance user safety.


Finally, budget plays a significant role in selecting a generator. While it’s tempting to opt for the cheapest option, consider the long-term costs, including fuel, maintenance, and potential repairs. Investing in a higher-quality generator can offer better performance and reliability.


Selecting the right type of generator involves a careful evaluation of your specific needs, power requirements, and the various features of different generator types. Whether you need a portable generator for recreational activities, a standby generator for home backup, or a robust unit for commercial use, understanding the benefits and limitations of each type is crucial. By considering factors like fuel type, power output, portability, and specific use cases, you can make an informed decision that ensures reliable power when you need it most.

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