Generator Buying Guide

Give yourself peace of mind with a generator. Be prepared for the next power outage, camping trip or renovation project by finding the right generator.

A portable generator or inverter generator provides recreational, jobsite or limited home standby power, while an automatic standby generator starts when there’s an outage and provides power to selected circuits or your whole house.

Remember: For safety reasons, always make sure the items or circuits you’re powering meet your generator’s wattage capacity (a transfer switch can keep track of your wattage levels).

Here Are Some Questions to Get You Started on Picking a Generator:

  • What do you need a generator for? Do you want to ensure your home or cottage has power if there’s an outage, or do you want portable power for projects or outdoor trips?
  • Do you need to power hardwired items such as a furnace, well pump or air conditioner?
  • Will you be powering computers, home electronics or other sensitive equipment?
  • Do you need your generator to start automatically if an outage occurs?
  • What are your wattage needs? Find out by filling out our wattage worksheet. Some general guidelines are:
    • 5000-7000 watts (home essentials use)
    • 3000-5000 watts (jobsite use)
    • 1000-3000 watts (recreational use)

Automatic Standby (or Stationary) Generators

Automatic Standby (or Stationary) Generators

Best for: Homes, Cottages, Farms or Offices

Advantages:

  • Start automatically within seconds of a power outage
  • No refuelling or extension cords necessary
  • Remote monitoring accessories available
  • Weather-resistant

Things to Consider:

  • More expensive than portable models
  • Professional installation required
  • Not moveable

A standby generator is a true back-up electrical system that’s installed outside your home like a central air conditioning unit. It automatically supplies power within seconds of a utility outage and shuts itself off when power returns. It operates on natural or propane gas and can generally handle between 10,000 and 15,000 watts.

Before purchasing an automatic standby generator, decide whether you want to back up a few essential circuits or your whole house. These circuit diagrams will help determine the amount of wattage you need.

Automatic Standby Generators: Features to Look For

Automatic Transfer Switches
Automatic transfer switches sense when your power goes out and turn your generator on for virtually uninterrupted power. When power is restored, the automatic transfer switch turns the generator off.
Automatic Voltage Regulation

Automatic voltage regulation stops voltage fluctuations that may harm sensitive electronics (computer, home theatre system, etc.).

Automatic Safety Shutdown

Automatic safety shutdown shuts down a generator in the event of low oil pressure, low oil or coolant level, high temperature or other unsafe operating conditions.

Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers help prevent damage to connected equipment by shutting down the flow of power if there’s too much current passing through.

Liquid Cooling

Liquid cooling allows generators with high wattage outputs to run more quietly and reliably for longer periods of time.

Portable or Inverter Generators

Portable Generators

Best for: Recreational or Jobsite Use

Advantages:

  • Easy to start and move around
  • Provide power to individual appliances or tools
  • Less expensive than a standby generator

Things to Consider:

  • Don't start automatically
  • Need refuelling (and fuel should be changed regularly, meaning you need to have gasoline on hand)
  • Cannot sit outside in inclement weather for long periods
  • Limited wattage

Portable generators run on gasoline and include outlets for running electricity; they typically handle anywhere between 1,000 and 8,500 watts. If you plan on transporting your generator regularly, look at weight, dimensions, wheel type and handle style to determine ease of mobility. If you need your generator to run for extended periods without refuelling, such as overnight or through full work days, run time is an important consideration.

Inverter Generators

Inverter generators are a newer breed of generators that are designed to be lighter, quieter and more fuel-efficient than other portable generators. Many are suitable for use with computers and other sensitive electrical equipment.

Overtaxing a portable generator reduces fuel efficiency and, in some cases, can cause damage to connected equipment. It's important to calculate the power output you need and to give yourself some wattage cushioning

Safety First: Always run portable generators outdoors  never in your house, garage or basement. Keep away from doors and windows in a well-ventilated area.

Portable Generators: Features to Look For

Electric-start

Electric-start generators power up with just the touch of a button or switch; this feature requires the battery to be fully charged.

Fuel Gauges

Fuel gauges can help you keep track of remaining run time.

Automatic Idle Control

Automatic idle control idles the engine down when not in use for greater fuel efficiency and extended run time.

Automatic Safety Shutdown

Automatic safety shutdown shuts down a generator in the event of low oil pressure, low oil or coolant level, high temperature or other unsafe operating conditions.

Circuit Breakers

Circuit breakers help prevent damage to connected equipment by shutting down the flow of power if there is too much current passing through.

Automatic Voltage Regulation

Automatic voltage regulation stops voltage fluctuations that may harm electronics.

12V Outlets

12V outlets allow you to charge a wide range of batteries, from vehicle and cell phone batteries to RV, marine and automotive batteries.

Wheel Kits

Wheel kits allow for easier manoeuvring and transport to and from jobsites.

Manual Transfer Switches

Manual transfer switches allow you to change the energy source from utility power to generator power, and can be purchased separately from the generator.

Frequently Asked Questions

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