Home Survival Handbook - Survival-proof your home

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Buying a Generator

Before buying a generator there are some questions to consider:

  • How much energy do you want? need?
  • What are the starting watts?
  • What are the running watts?
  • Do you want a pull start? an electric start?
  • How often do you anticipate needing it?
  • How long will it typically run?
  • What type of fuel do you want to use? Gasoline, diesel, propane?
  • Does it need to be moveable with wheels or is it stationary?
  • How will you hook it up?
  • How far from the house, garage, shop will it be located?
  • Will it be exposed to weather when in use?
  • What can your budget afford?

All of these should be taken into consideration before making any purchase. If you plan on using the generator simply to tide you over during a power outage then you may not need the biggest generator out there. However, if you are planning on using the generator to power a cabin or small home, then you especially need to look at the load it will carry and the starting watts.

Depending on your situation, the generator may need to handle the start up of a well, air-conditioning unit, electric stove, microwave oven, hot water heater and such. In this case you should calculate the start up watts needed and use those figures in making a decision. The starting watts are the amount of power it takes to get the appliance running. Once it has started the amount of power it takes to run it may drop depending on the appliance. For basic starting watts needed visit this link or check with the generator manufacturer for information specific to their brand.

How you hook the generator to either the house, appliances or breaker box will depend on the overall use and amount of time it will be running. In circumstances where all you want is to keep the freezer and refrigerator running for a short period, you can probably get by with using suitable extension cords to hook up the appliances directly to the generator. If you want to run a whole cabin, you may need a special hook up to tie into a breaker box.

Generators should receive regular maintenance just like your car. Check it periodically for exterior damage and soiling, start it up and let it run at least once a month even if you don't need it, make sure the battery stays charged if you have 'electric start', and keep enough fuel on hand in case of an emergency. For gasoline, an additive like Stabil should be added to keep the gasoline from breaking down over long periods of time.

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