If you have decided a whole house generator is too expensive and you want to use a portable generator, as a lower cost alternative, then what generator do you choose?
The simplest way to run your generator safely is with a generator interlock kit from www.interlockkit.com. Instead of running multiple extension cords from your generator to all necessary circuits, during an outage. You can supply all the circuits in the house with just one extension cord between with a generator, inlet box, and home electrical panel. Certain circuits may be unavailable depending on the running wattage of the generator.
Your next question might be how do I find the right generator for me? This guide will help you balance cost, capacity, and operational issues. But understand, BIGGER is not always better! Remember how much fuel you need each day is based on the generator design and size.
One of the largest items to run in a home is the air conditioner or heat pump. If you do need to run these items along with other small necessities, you will need a 10 to 15 kW or larger generator. These generators may have wheels, but they are hardly portable at 350 plus pounds. When you shop for larger kW gens, a key consideration is; they will typically use 20+ gallons per day. Will you be able to fill 4+ five-gallon cans each day? You will need to shut off the homes power supply 3 to 5 times per day to safely put fuel in the tank. An example of this size generator is a Generac 15KW generator. This alternative including the generator, interlock kit, extension cord, and inlet box will cost between $3,500 and $4,300.
The next step down is to give up the Air Conditioner but have the hot water heater and the stove top (maybe not at the same time) but life will go on pretty much as normal. This will require a 6KW to 9KW which generally uses 15 gallons a day. Generators like these units are offered at Home Depot: Total material cost to run a generator of this class, with and interlock kit, would be around $1,300.
If low cost is your priority, give up the electric hot water heater and you can buy a basic 3.5 kW generator from Lowes. Smaller kW generators will keep the lights on and the food cold. You will need about 10 gallons of gas per day. Total material cost to run a generator of this class, with and interlock kit, would be around $900.
Another option to consider, if you can afford it, an electric start is a great $100 to $150 upgrade but make sure and buy a trickle charger to keep the battery fresh: NOCO Lithium Jump Starters. Select an overhead valve engine for the best fuel economy; remember you have to make less trips to the gas station with a better, more efficient engine.
The latest technology is the inverter generator. This generator generates DC voltage then converts it to AC voltage for your home needs. This allows the engine to run at the lowest speed possible and this results in an almost 40% reduction in fuel consumption and a significant reduction in noise. These units are expensive but if you can afford them, they are great.
Match your needs and budget to your generator selection and you can keep the lights on for far less than a whole house generator; and if you move, you can take it with you to your new home!