If you live in an area with frequent power outages or if you run a home-based business, use sensitive medical equipment at home, or simply want the peace of mind of never losing power, a power generator may be on your list of important household purchases. Buying a generator can be overwhelming—they typically are not cheap, and selecting the right size for the needs of your household takes thought and planning.

Although most people think of generators as small, noisy, gasoline-powered contraptions, there are several different types of generators on the market today. Depending on your needs, a traditional gas-powered generator may or may not be the best option—a natural gas- or propane-powered standby model or even a solar-powered generator could be the smarter choice. In today’s article, we’ll examine the difference between backup and standby generators. Check back with us in a few days for the scoop on gas-powered and solar-powered generators.

Backup Generators

The first decision you’ll need to make before purchasing a generator is whether you need a backup or a standby model. Backup generators are portable and are intended to power a few crucial appliances in an emergency. They are not permanently connected to your home’s electrical panel. Most backup generators are gasoline powered, so their location when in use is very important—to avoid accidental carbon monoxide poisoning, they should be kept outside in a well-ventilated spot that is far away from any outside air intakes. Backup generators must be started by hand, and appliances can be plugged directly into them with heavy-duty extension cords. Keep in mind that most backup generators are equipped with only a few outlets, so you’ll need to be judicious in deciding which appliances you will power during an emergency.

Standby Generators

Standby generators, sometimes called whole-house generators, are permanently installed near the home and are connected directly to the electrical panel. This type of generator is also powered by a fuel source—usually natural gas or liquid propane from the city or from a tank on the home’s property—and it has an internal transfer switch that will start the generator automatically once your home’s municipal electrical service has stopped. The main downsides to standby generators are their cost and size. Although small models designed to power only a few essentials can be purchased, most standby generators are designed to power an entire house for several days. These generators can cost tens of thousands of dollars and be quite large in size. If, however, you live in a remote area that is subject to frequent power outages or you simply cannot or do not want to deal with interruptions in electrical service, a standby generator may be the right choice for you.

When shopping for a generator, the decision between backup and standby is perhaps the most important. This decision is dictated largely by your needs and by your budget. Check in with us in a few days to learn more about generator fuel sources.

Click Here to View Your Local Best Pick® Electricians 

Sources: GoalZero.com; HouseLogic.; MySolarPower.info; Popular Mechanics; The Huffington Post.

For more information on our sources, please contact us directly.