Selecting a Generator

portable generator
  • 250-10,000

You have decided to get a generator for your homestead and are wondering just what unit to buy. Here are a few guidelines to aid you in making that decision.

Power Requirements

Make a list of just what you want to power and get the nametag reading of volts and amps required for that load. Multiply amps times volts to get watts for the load. Add all your load watts together and add 25% more for starting each load. The result will be the minimum required size of generator you will need to power the loads. If you have hard starting loads such as air conditioners you should add 50% unless you are buying a large generator to run many loads.

Use Around Homestead

If your generator needs are for using around the homestead to power your tools where an extension cord is impractical there are many choices available. The inverter models are a good choice for this use and they generate “clean power” which is friendly for your computer and computer type appliances. These generate direct current (DC) power which is then converted by an inverter into pure clean alternating current (AC) for your sensitive appliances.

portable generator on wheels

Conventional generators produce “dirty power” which can cause problems with sensitive electronic components. The inverter generators usually run quieter than the conventional generators. This could be a factor in your choice. Don’t forget to consider any member of home that has electrical dependent needs such as an oxygen concentrator, CPAP, or BIPAP machines, or electrically operated hospital type beds or lift chairs.

Whole House

If you are planning for a whole house generator it will be good to study your needs and get a large KW (kilowatt) unit that will have no problems generating enough power to operate your house. Some people opt for a partial house generator to operate necessary appliances such as some lighting, sump pumps, refrigerators, freezers, and heating. This will require a sorting out of the desired loads at the breaker box when making your installation and require an additional breaker box to accomplish.

trailer generator

Individual Appliances

If you only need to keep individual appliances operating, it is possible to plug in a refrigerator for a while, and then switch to next need, such as a well pump. By alternating between needs, you won’t require as large of generator, but will have to personally “tend” to needed loads constantly.

Manual Start vs Auto Start

Generators are available with auto start which will start the generator a few seconds after grid power is disrupted. These require an automatic transfer switch and will increase the original cost of generator installation. Manual start requires your presence and hands on for starting and could be quite problematic in bad weather times. Many whole house units are equipped with control units that start and run the generator for a preset time on a weekly or monthly basis. This assures the unit is functioning properly and ready for the need to provide power.

Transfer Switch

Any permanent whole house install requires a transfer switch to interrupt the power feed connection to grid. This prevents grid linemen from being electrocuted from a back feed from your generator. Transfer switches are available as manual and automatic. Manual requires you to physically change the switch position from grid to generator and back to grid, while automatic transfer switches change a few seconds after grid power is interrupted and will switch back to grid when power has been restored for several minutes.

generator transfer switch


Generators can be powered with several different fuels. The most common fuel is gasoline, but diesel is a good choice for larger generators. Natural gas and LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) are excellent fuels to use as they do not require as much maintenance as gasoline or diesel. Gasoline needs a fuel stabilizer and diesel needs an algaecide during storage to keep them in good condition to fuel your generator.

diesel generator

Diesel fueled generators are noisier than the gas powered ones. LPG and natural gas fueled generators will run at hotter temperatures than the diesel ones.

Choose Wisely

Do your homework and read up on what is available to fit your needs then make your choice and shop around for best price for the installation. Some installs will require a certified electrician to complete, so figure this in your initial cost analysis.