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By Jon James|

As a Facebook troll and feed reader, I saw many folks saying how they were looking for a warming center and place to shower during the recent wind and rain storm. Most of us have been there.

I saw as many people looking for a place to stay as were looking for a generator and, not surprisingly, they were hard to find.

Coincidentally, as I write this story, the power seems to be fluctuating a little here, resetting the television and causing the lights to flicker.

It’s interesting to me that, most people who have been through these storms where we’ve lost power for a day or days, at some point, reach their limit and emphatically state, “That’s it! I’m getting a generator!”

I went through the ice storm in ’98 and didn’t get one (although I thought I should).

The next ice storm, which was not as bad but equally frustrating, sealed the deal. That’s when I bit the proverbial bullet and got one…a Rigid portable generator which offered 8500 starting watts/6800 running watts.

You need to know, the starting wattage isn’t what you’re going to get going into your house. That’s the maximum power you’ll get when starting to power your house up or starting up an appliance in the house.

6800 watts was good for running what I need, though I only used it a couple of times, not even for a full day.

After a while, after reading about the benefits of inverter power over the classic generator, I got rid of the generator.

Here are a few things that may help you out that I have learned, though I’m not claiming to be an expert.

1- If you feel you need and can afford a whole home (back-up) generator, you’ll be golden during the next electric disaster. This is a generator that will power your whole house with no worries and, typically, starts by itself and does it’s job without human interaction when you lose power. These options can be pretty expensive, depending on what you get.

2- If you use a portable generator, like many of us, pay a little extra and, rather than run extension cords all over creation, get an electrician to install a power “inlet” (4 prongs) and an interlock in your breaker box. THIS IS IMPORTANT! The cord method is not only dangerous but causes openings in doorways and windows where heat can get out and fumes (carbon monoxide) can get in.

Once the interlock is installed at the power service entrance (the breaker box), just plug the generator into the single outlet and it will send power throughout your home…you may have to pick and choose what you fire up, depending on the generator’s output. Worst case scenario, you’ll have to reset your generator breaker.

Another recommendation is to have a licensed electrician do all of the work at the breaker box.

Here’s a quick video that gives you a basic idea how a manual interlock switch works…the come in different flavors but here’s how they do their magic:

3- If you have sensitive electronic equipment (anything digital….smart tvs, computers, modern heating system) and you use a portable, splurge for an inverter generator. This will provide “clean” energy to your devices…otherwise, you may fry them. I went with a Champion 8750 (starting/surge)/7000 watt continuous. Worked GREAT! And you can use the same interface that you use for a regular generator as they’re the same in that regard.

** BASIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN AN CLASSIC GENERATOR AND INVERTER– The classic generator (which is typically less expensive per watt) produces straight AC, which will fluctuate with engine speed, causing spikes in power which can harm electronics. An inverter, which is typically a bit more money per watt, is quieter and produces AC…converts to DC…then back to a cleaner (more stable) AC.

4- Make sure you have enough to power what you need. For example, ours was able to run electric stove top, water pump, propane boiler, lights, tv, computers, electric blanket and likely a bit more. We lived as normal except with added noise and gas fill-ups every 12 or so hours.

5- Of course, safety is key!… Make sure the generator isn’t near a place where exhaust can enter your home.

6- Maintenance is paramount. Oil changes, fuel additives for storage, spark plug changes, carburetor cleaning and so forth are of the utmost importance if you want your generator, standby or portable, to be ready when you need it.

What kind of generator should you get? Brand, power, type? That’s entirely up to you.

There are many good and reliable brands out there. I use a couple of methods of choosing. One is ratings (on Amazon) along with comments and answered questions. Another is Consumer Reports.

You can go bigger for not a lot more money and that will give you a little breathing room if you have high power demands, but for us, 7K is just fine for the short term 🙂

If you have anything to add, please feel free to email me directly at Jon@MixMaine.com


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