Choosing a Portable Emergency Generator
For Florida residents a backup power source is more than a luxury – after a major storm it’s a necessity! We quickly forget how much we rely on electricity until it’s gone. If a home standby generator is not in your budget, converting a portable generator into an emergency backup power system is a step in the right direction. You can try to calculate your exact wattage requirements, or you can simply select one of four sizes: Small, Medium, Large or X-Large.
Small Emergency Generators
Small, easily portable generators of 1,000-2,500 watts are commonly used during large outages but they have severe limitations. Small generators can typically only power one or two appliances at a time and may not be able to power more than a fan and some lights. Small generators are good for camping but are not good for powering a home.
Medium Emergency Generators
Medium generators of 3,000-5,000 watts may be relatively small, but they will restore power to most of your critical appliances, like the refrigerator, sump pump, ac/furnace fan, lights, etc. But keep in mind; mid-sized generators will not power your entire home, and they will not run a central air conditioner. These require extension cords and the number of outlets are important.
Since medium generators produce limited electricity, you’ll need to manage how many appliances are connected to the generator at one time, so it doesn’t overload. If two appliances start simultaneously the electric surge could pop the generator’s circuit breaker. Your best bet is to rotate the larger appliances or only plug them in as needed. Small window-unit or portable AC’s may sometimes be run (depending on its listed wattage) but only by themselves.
Large Emergency Generators
If you want to do more than just survive, consider a large emergency portable generator (6,000-9,000 watts). You can still string extension cords from this generator, but you won’t be able to tap its full potential without connecting it to your home with a transfer switch.
Large generators work best with manual transfer switches that can restore power up to 10 circuits in your main electrical panel. In other words, they can energize multiple rooms in your home (minus a central air conditioner). If you really need air conditioning, consider buying an X-Large generator, buying a small window-unit or portable AC to run only during power outages, or opting for a home standby generator.
X-Large Emergency Generators
If you want the strength of a home standby generator with the ability to run a whole house, get an X-Large portable generator of 10,000+ watts. They are large and require a good amount of storage space, but when properly matched, these behemoths can generate enough power to keep your central air conditioner running during a summer outage.
While electric start is standard on most X-Large models, they are NOT automatic. They must be manually started and require a transfer switch of the correct wattage to connect to your home. It is very important you get a generator with the correct wattage if you plan to run your central AC.
If you have a large home or would like to have standby power that will automatically start up and switch over in the event of an outage, you should really consider a home standby generator.
How can you tell what size generator you need? Look at your air conditioning unit’s data plate and it will tell you the size in either BTUs or Tons. There are 12,000 BTUs for each ton of capacity and 3.517 Kilowatts of energy. So, for example, if you have a 3-ton (36,000BTU) air conditioner, it will require a standby generator that is 11kW or larger just to run the AC unit. (3T x 3.517kw = 10.551 or 11kw). Be sure to add-in the power needs of your home as well to calculate the correct generator wattage, plus a little extra to cover power surges.