Angie's List: How to pick the right home generators

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - You never know when the power might go out, especially during severe weather season. 

"Generators can be a great safety measure in case of a power outage," says Angie's Lists' Angie Hicks. "It can prevent food from spoiling in your home, it can help you do your everyday things, keep pipes from freezing, and if you have any medical equipment that runs off electricity it can be a lifesaving tool as well."

First, decide what kind of generator is right for your needs. Portable units are cheaper than permanent ones, but are designed to run for shorter time periods. Portable generators are also powered by gasoline, so they will need frequent refueling. Permanent units can start automatically or with the flip of a switch and can power everything in your house.

You can also seek help from an electrician contractor.

"Portable is more common than permanent and there is a few reasons," says Chris Hinesley. "I think that the ease of use is one. Probably the biggest one is its cost-effective. We can install your transfer switch, emergency panel, for around $500-$600, then there would be the cost of the generator, whatever generator you would pick. That's pretty cost-effect for a homeowner on a house around 1,500 to 2,000 square feet to have emergency power so that they would be comfortable in a power outage."

Hicks adds, "When deciding what type of generator you might want to have its dependent on your potential usage. If you are living in the city and you may just need it for a few hours a portable generator can be a great option, they cost about $1,000. But if you live in a rural area where you may be without electricity for a longer period of time or if you have medical issues that require equipment to be plugged in you are probably going to go with a whole house generator."

"A licensed electrician is the type of contractor you'd hire to install a whole house generator. A whole house generator is going to run anywhere from a few thousand dollars to as much as nine or $10,000 depending on the size of the generator."

Generators do require some maintenance. You should regularly check your generator to make sure it starts and is operating correctly.

Always follow specific safety instructions when using generators. Put the generator outside on a level surface in a well-ventilated area at least ten feet away from the house to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

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