Choosing the right generator for your home

Posted at 5:00 PM, Jun 03, 2013
and last updated 2014-09-12 10:55:24-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL/ -- Homeowner Edward Cochran has one generator at his home and another one at his winter home in Mission, Texas. He says they come in handy when he loses electricity.

"There is a lot of dust, a lot of humidity and when they get big rainstorms it's not uncommon for transformers to blow. Last year we were out for a period of nine hours. The year before we were out for about 23 hours at one time," says Cochran. "Not a lot of times, but when you run out of power it's really nice to have a back up generator. It makes a big difference in your quality of life in that point and time."

A Generator can be a great safety measure in case of a power outage. According to Angie's List founder Angie Hicks, "It can prevent food from spoiling in your home, it can help you do your everyday things, keep pipes from freezing, and if you have any medical equipment that runs off electricity it can be a lifesaving tool as well."

When it comes to generators, homeowners have a couple of options. Hicks says portable generators are cheaper than permanent units, but are designed to run for shorter time periods and are powered by gasoline, so they'll need frequent refueling. Permanent units can start automatically or with the flip of a switch - and can power everything in a house.

Electrician Contractor Chris Hinesley says, "Portable is more common than permanent and there are a few reasons. I think that the ease of use is one. Probably the biggest one is its cost-effective. We can install your transfer switch, emergency panel, for around $500-$600, and then there would be the cost of the generator, whatever generator you would pick. That's pretty cost-effect for a homeowner on a house around 1,500 to 2,000 square feet to have emergency power so that they would be comfortable in a power outage."

When deciding what type of generator to have, Hicks says consumers should look at potential use.

"If you are living in the city and you may just need it for a few hours a portable generator can be a great option, they cost about $1,000," says Hicks. She adds, "But if you live in a rural area where you may be without electricity for a longer period of time or if you have medical issues that require equipment to be plugged in you are probably going to go with a whole house generator."

A licensed electrician is the type of contractor someone would hire to install a whole house generator. According to Hicks, "A whole house generator is going to run anywhere from a few thousand dollars to as much as nine or $10,000 depending on the size of the generator."

Generators do require some maintenance. Consumers should regularly check their generator to make sure it starts and is operating correctly.

And always follow specific safety instructions when using generators. Put the generator outside on a level surface in a well-ventilated area at least ten feet away from the house to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.