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Buying a generator can be a daunting process. However, you can take control by being informed and getting organized. Here is a simple checklist to use to help in choosing the correct generator to protect your home and family. Portable generators help protect your family and possessions during a power outage. They are also useful when camping, on the job site or anywhere you need power.The best time to buy a generator is before you need one.

• Determine wattage needs. Determine how much power you need for the items you care about. If you decide to purchase a portable generator, don't forget you will also need a transfer switch to safely power the circuits in your home.

• Understand electrical terms. You’ll see a lot about watts, volts, amps and more.

• Decide: Standby or portable? Considering your budget, convenience, and power needs, choose which type of generator you want.

• Take care of home power issues. Locate your existing electrical service panel and gas line to target any potential problems before buying a generator. Portable generators should be used with a transfer switch.

• Perform product comparisons. Compare power outputs, run times, and prices, as well as what’s included in those prices, such as accessories, warranties, support and installation.

• Determine financing options. Some retail stores offer financing options for generator purchases.

• Consider included items. Does the generator come with warranty or maintenance package? What about a power cord, oil, wheels, and funnel?

• Consider additional costs. How much more will it cost for installation by a qualified professional? Will you need an accessory like a cover for protection from the elements or a transfer switch?

• Establish your budget. Generator prices fall across a wide range, so determining how much you’d like to spend is important.

Standby generators are hardwired to the house electrical system via a transfer switch and permanently connected to an external fuel source (such as LPG or natural gas). They can provide continuous power in case of emergency for as long as the fuel is available. You would just need to periodically turn them off for oil changes.

A portable generator is normally used for short-term powering selected AC loads. It connects via extension cords or via a special cable plugged to a manual transfer switch. This type is generally cheaper than stationary, but most models get the fuel from an on-board tank and therefore need frequent refueling. Some multi-fuel portables can also be connected to an external fuel source for extended runtime. Street prices for residential gensets range from about $100 per kW to as much as $1000/kW.

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