Generator Buying Guide

Posted by NorthStock, Inc. on Dec 26th 2012

Generator Buying Guide

Generator Buying Guide If bad weather interrupts your electrical service you can find yourself in a position where you are not able to provide the essential things your family needs; from running your refrigerator and lights to powering your sump pump they require power. These essentials will stay off until the power grid is restored. Power generators make it possible to maintain the essential power in your home during such outages.

Generators By Powermade

When Buying A Generator Consider These Points: How does a generator work? Generators have four basic components:
1) The generator head, the component that produces the electricity
2) The engine that powers the generator head
3) The tank that holds the gas necessary to run the generator
4) The outlets, used to connect to your power sources

Generators come in several different sizes and configurations; each one designed for specific applications and uses. Which one is right for you depend on how you plan to use your generator. Understanding these core components will help you make the right choice.

1) Generator Head

The generator head produces the power and is rated in watts/wattage. Many people buy their first generator without really researching their wattage needs. This often leads to purchasing a generator that does not have enough power to support you in an emergency.

2) Engine

If your needs require longer usage or greater power we suggest OHV (overhead valve) engines as the right choice for you. OHV engines provide increased fuel efficiency (up to +20%) and are built with cast iron sleeves to run cooler. These engines also have lower exhaust emissions and a longer life. OHV engines cost more than side valve engine but for longer life and quieter operation they are the right choice.

3) Tank

This component is often overlooked but a critical factor. The size of your tank will determine how long the generator can run. Search for running time ratings to provide an idea of how long your generator will run between re-fueling. Of course you can always carry extra gas tanks to refill the unit but it is wise to consider your basic power requirements before you purchase your model.

4) Outlets

Outlet configuration will depend on your power requirements. The more powerful the generator the more outlet combinations are possible. Most generators come with the standard duplex 120 volt, 15 amp outlets. As you get more powerful additional outlets are added in a variety of combinations. Possible outlets available depending on the generator model:

Generator Outlets

How Do You Determine How Much Power You Need?

Begin by looking at what you need to power. Ask yourself whether you'll be running one item or several and whether they run continuously or do they start and stop frequently?

Electrical appliances have two ratings, surge wattage and running wattage. Surge wattage is the amount of power the item uses to startup. This is usually higher than the amount the item needs to run after it has begun to run. To determine the right generator:

1) Create a list of all the items with surge and running wattage.
2) Identify the highest surge wattage.
3) Add all the remaining running wattages to the highest surge wattage, do not include the running wattage of the highest surge wattage item.
4) This will be your total wattage requirements.

Item Surge/Starting Watts Running Watts Calculated Watts
Sump Pump










500 500
Required minimum generator wattage 4100

Refer to the manufacturer's start and run requirements of the equipment prior to starting.

Always start your largest electrical motor first and then plug in other items one at a time.

If the item you need to power does not show running wattage you can use this formula: Amps X Volts = Watts

This will give you the approximate running wattage. But remember electrical motors typically require 2 to 3 times the running wattage to start, their starting/surge wattage.

Example: A refrigerator with a motor rated at 5 AMPS running on 120 VOLTS:
5 AMPS X 120 VOLTS = 600 WATTS

NOTE: This is only an example. You should always refer to and use the items nameplate or manufacturers information.

Commonly Asked Questions:

1) Can I connect my portable generator to my house?
Yes. If your generator is to be used as a stand-by power source in case of utility power failure, it should be installed by a licensed and registered electrician and in compliance with all applicable local electrical codes, generally some types of manual transfer switch is required. (See Powermate's Accessories). Back feeding electricity is extremely hazardous. Do not plug your generator into your home through a dryer outlet. For Emergency power to appliances it is recommended to use a 12 ga. Outdoor Extension Cord and a multi-outlet power strip with a minimum of 100 joules rating.

2) Can I run my generator in the house?
No. Engines produce carbon monoxide, an odorless and colorless gas, if breathed causes serious illness and possible death.

3) Can I run my portable generator in rain or snow?
No. The generator uses air to cool the generator section. Running it in rain or snow could cause it to short out.

4) How often should I shut the generator down?
Your generator must be shut down during refueling and when checking and adding oil.

5) When should I apply a load to the generator?
Have the generator running before a load is applied. Likewise, remove the load before shutting the unit down. Do not tamper with engine speed. The RPM.s are factory set.

6) Is it safe to run televisions and appliances with digital displays off of my generator?
Solid state equipment is designed to operate within small frequency and voltage fluctuation. A power line conditioner may be necessary for solid state equipment. Check with a licensed and registered electrician if you are unsure of your equipment needs.

7) How often do I need to run my generator?
We recommend running the generator once a month with a load.

8) When should I drain the gasoline from the engine?
You should always remove the gasoline from the engine if you plan to store the unit in your basement or garage. You should never store combustible materials in your home or vehicle. Remember never operate your generator in confined spaces especially inside your home. Carbon Monoxide can cause death.

9) Where is the best place to store my generator?
Store your generator in a clean, dry place that is well ventilated away from open flames or sparks. If you plan to store it in a basement, you should remove all gasoline from the engine. Remember never operate your generator in confined spaces especially inside your home. Carbon Monoxide can cause death.

10) What are your "hard start" instructions?
If your unit has been sitting around for a long time, it may be hard to start. Try these easy steps before calling: 1. Check oil level. 2. Replace old fuel. 3. Change spark plug. 4. Make sure fuel valve is open. 5. Check all generator parts for integrity. 6. Clean carburetor (see engine manual).