Generator Buyer's Guide

Generator Buyer's Guide

How to Pick the Perfect Electric Generator

Demand for electric generators has been soaring in recent years, and it’s no surprise. With rolling blackouts, severe weather, infrastructure issues, and other problems plaguing the electrical grid, Americans are investing in the security that generators provide.

For those unfamiliar with electric generators and how they work, finding the right one can be a challenge. This generator buying guide is the first in a series of guides designed to walk you through finding the perfect backup power solution for your home.

Solar picnic generator

What is an Electric Generator?

An electric generator creates power by converting fuel into electricity.

Generators are very similar to your local electric power plant; just on a much smaller scale. Instead of burning coal to turn turbines, most generators use engines to convert gasoline, natural gas, propane or diesel fuel into useful electricity. Increasingly, solar or battery-powered generators are hitting the market as a clean, safe alternative to combustion models. Learn more about how generators produce electricity.

Buying an Electric Generator

There are several types of electric generators. In addition, each type has subtypes. For example, portable generators encompass everything from solar generators to inverter models. The table below shows the four main types of generator: portable, standby, PTO, and RV.

Generator Type Chart

Here’s a brief synopsis of the types of generator with a link to more detailed information for each.

Portable Generators

Portable generators are all about mobility and can deliver electricity wherever you need it

Small, handheld generators are commonly used while camping or tailgating. Some can be recharged using solar or A/C power, thereby eliminating the need to use combustible fuel sources.

Recreational Inverter Generator

Larger portable generators, surrounded by a protective steel frame, are commonly seen in the back of pickup trucks headed to the next construction site or outdoor event. They are most often used for emergency backup when a power outage strikes. For short-term blackouts or brownouts, portable generators are the way to go.

MORE: How to Pick the Perfect Portable Generator

Standby Generators

Instead of waiting for the utility company to restore power, many home and business owners are taking matters into their own hands to protect their investments from prolonged power outages. Standby generators are like mini emergency power plants designed to provide longer-term backup power during severe blackouts.

Home Standby Generator
These permanently mounted generators are commonly fueled by reliable natural gas or propane. The electricity is then routed into the home or business through an automatic transfer switch, which also automatically starts and stops the generator.

Standby generators are available for residential, commercial, and industrial uses. The largest, prime power models can completely replace utility power in remote or high-demand applications.

MORE: How to Pick the Perfect Standby Generator

Recreational Vehicle (RV) Generators

Recreational vehicles give you the freedom to tour the countryside without actually "roughing it." Sometimes, however, you'll be parked in remote areas without electrical hookup - like outside your favorite stadium.

RV Air Conditioner

While small recreational generators are great at blending margaritas, RV generators energize entire motorhomes including air conditioners. RV generators are conveniently housed inside a compartment outside of the vehicle and may even run off your existing gas or propane tanks.

MORE: How to Pick the Perfect RV Generator

Power Take-Off (PTO) Generators

PTO generators are designed for farmers, ranchers, and other large property owners who need power across their land. The difference between PTO units and other types is that PTO generators don’t have an engine—instead, they connect to a tractor’s engine.

PTO Generator

Since most farmers already own a massive engine on their tractor, they simply attach a PTO alternator to it. The tractor engine simply turns a shaft connected to the PTO to create electricity.

MORE: How to Pick the Perfect PTO Generator

Read through our series of guides linked above to help you buy the right electric generator for your use. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact us.

Jared, the Generator Expert
Generator Expert
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