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When power outages hit, generators provide backup electricity to keep your home powered on. But with the variety of generator types and fuel options available, how do you choose the right one? In this guide, we’ll explore the pros and cons of standby generators, portable generators, solar generators, and more to help you find the best generator for your specific needs.

Standby home generator installed on the side of a house

Questions to Consider

Before diving into the generator types, first think through these key questions:

  • How much backup power do you need? Size your generator adequately.
  • What devices/appliances do you want to run? This determines your fuel and voltage needs.
  • What fuel source makes the most sense for your situation? Gasoline, diesel, propane, and solar all have advantages.
  • How often will you use it? For occasional outages or whole-home everyday backup?
  • What’s your budget? Prices range widely, depending on features and fuel type.
  • Do emissions or noise levels matter? Look for cleaner, quieter models if needed.
  • Do you need portability or permanent installation?

Having a clear understanding of your power requirements, usage scenarios, and site considerations will guide you to the best generator choice.

Portable Generators

Portable generators offer flexibility for temporary backup power needs. They’re compact and easy to move wherever power is needed. Here are the key details on portable models:

  • Power Output: Typically 2,000 to 10,000 watts. Size it for your expected loads.
  • Fuel: Most run on gasoline, but some propane and dual-fuel models exist too. Gasoline offers high energy density for portability.
  • Voltage: 120V and 120/240V models are available. 240V can run larger appliances.
  • Features: Outlets, wheels, handles, fuel gauges, inverters, and remote start capabilities are common.
  • Ideal For: Construction sites, RVs, outdoor events, household backup during shorter outages.
  • Limitations: Runtime limited by fuel tank size, refueling required, noisy, higher emissions.

A mid-sized portable generator with key features provides solid temporary power in a compact package.

Standby Generators

For whole-home backup power during prolonged outages, standby generators are the way to go:

  • Power Output: Typically 10,000 to 50,000 watts or more for homes. Fully automatic models assess home loads.
  • Fuel: Natural gas, propane, and diesel are common fuel options. Each has advantages.
  • Voltage: Permanently installed standby units provide full 120/240V home power compatibility.
  • Features: Automatic transfer switches, weatherproof outdoor enclosures, battery backup.
  • Ideal For: Whole-home emergency power, including central AC. Provides days of uninterrupted backup.
  • Limitations: High upfront cost, permanent installation required, may require refueling for long outages.

Standby generators provide robust backup for keeping a residence powered for days when the grid fails.

Inverter Generators

Inverter generators are a unique subtype optimized for cleaner, quieter portable power:

  • Power Output: Typically 1,000 to 4,000 watts. Lower outputs than conventional portable models.
  • Fuel: Gasoline, propane, or dual-fuel. Some solar-powered models exist too.
  • Voltage: Standard 120V household current. Many include RV-style outlets and USB ports.
  • Features: Ultra-quiet mufflers, efficient inverter engines, cleaner sine wave power.
  • Ideal For: Camping, tailgating, RVing, quieter backup power for homes, worksites.
  • Limitations: Lower wattage capacities than regular portable generators, premium pricing.
  • Inverter generators shine for quiet, portable power needs where low noise and clean electricity matter.

Solar Generators

For renewable energy fans, solar generators are a sustainable backup power source:

  • Power Output: Typically 500 to 2,000 watt-hours of capacity. Used to charge devices versus directly run appliances.
  • Fuel: Battery charged via built-in solar panel or external electrical source. Zero emissions.
  • Voltage: Standard 120V outlets, 12V DC, and USB ports for device charging.
  • Features: Ultra-portable, silent operation, charge via sun or grid power, zero fuel costs.
  • Ideal For: Off-grid adventures, camping, emergency prep, short outages for small electronics.
  • Limitations: Can’t directly run large appliances, limited run time per charge, charging dependent on sun.

Solar generators provide renewable off-grid power in a compact, portable package. Limitations exist for whole-home backup.

Bi-Fuel Generators

Bi-fuel generators add flexibility by supporting two fuel sources, like gasoline and propane:

  • Power Output: 3,000 to 10,000 watts, typically. Comparable to gasoline-only models.
  • Fuel: Gasoline and propane are common pairings. Switch between fuels as needed.
  • Voltage: Standard 120V/240V power compatible with household devices and RV hookups.
  • Features: Convenient fuel flexibility, extended runtime from dual fuel capability.
  • Ideal For: Home backup power, worksites, food trucks, recreation for uninterrupted runtime when refueling.
  • Limitations: More expensive than single fuel models, larger and heavier for portability.

Bi-fuel generators provide wonderful flexibility in fuel source, useful for extended outages when refueling can be challenging.

Which Generator is Right for You?

Now that you’re familiar with the main generator types available, consider your budget, intended usage, and site-specific needs. This will guide you in choosing the optimal generator for backup and portable power needs, whether that’s:

  • An affordable mid-sized portable gasoline generator for home backup during shorter outages.
  • A quieter inverter model for camping and RV trips off the grid.
  • A whole-home standby unit for extended emergencies and peace of mind.
  • A solar generator for sustainable, emissions-free off-grid power.
  • A bi-fuel unit for flexibility between gasoline and propane during prolonged outages.

At McBride Electric, we understand the importance of having a reliable power source. That’s why we offer expert advice, installation, and maintenance services for a wide range of generator systems. Whether you’re looking for a whole home generator, a backup power supply, or a portable unit, our team of licensed and experienced electricians is here to help you make the best choice for your specific needs.

To get a fast and free consultation, call us at 817-858-0255 if you’re located in Fort Worth or 972-733-1199 if you’re in Dallas. We’ll evaluate your situation and recommend the ideal standby or portable generator to keep you powered during outages. Let us help you power up your peace of mind with the right generator for your home.

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