The average energy consumer in the US experiences almost 200 minutes of power outages each year. 

While that may not seem like a long period, being without power during a winter storm or in the extreme summer heat is dangerous. Every minute without power is an inconvenience. 

The solution? A generator. 

Buying a generator can save your life but you need to shop smart. Here’s what you should know before you purchase a portable generator.

1. Which Fuel Type Should I Use?

When buying generators, you should first consider which type of fuel you’ll be using. The most common options are propane, natural gas, and diesel. 


Propane is the most popular fuel option for emergency generators. 

Having a propane tank onsite allows you to maintain a large supply of fuel in case of an emergency. Propane has a better heating efficiency than other fuels and puts off no greenhouse emissions. 

Learn more about the pros and cons of propane in this article

Natural Gas

Natural gas is provided by your local utility company. 

This solution is viable since most people can safely rely on their utility company to provide the fuel when an emergency strikes. But, if you want to live off the grid, natural gas has its drawbacks.

Not only do you rely on the natural gas company for supply, but you are also at their mercy when it comes to pricing. There’s no shopping around for the best fuel rate with natural gas. 


Diesel is generally viewed as a safer fueling option as it’s less flammable than the alternatives. 

But despite its safety advantage, diesel fuel comes with many disadvantages. You’ll need to keep a supply of fuel available and replace it often as it comes with a short lifespan. You’ll also be subject to the fluctuating prices that come with diesel fuel. 

2. Which Type of Generator Is Best?

There are three main types of generators to choose from: home standby generators and portable generators

Home Standby Generators

Home standby generators make the best choice for emergency generators. 

These permanent units are installed by a professional and start automatically anytime your power goes out. While these typically cost more, their permanence and automatic start provide ease of mind for all emergencies. 

These work best with propane fuel or natural gas.

Portable Generators

Portable generators are generally smaller than home standby generators and cost less. 

The convenience of these generators is that they can be used anywhere and don’t sit in one permanent position. You’ll just want to make sure they are around 20 feet away from your residence and any other structures. 

The big drawback is that these don’t start automatically and they most commonly run off of gas or diesel fuel. You’ll need to have a stash of fuel ready at all times in case an emergency strikes. 

3. What Size Do I Need?

The size of the generator you need depends on the energy usage of your house. 

Portable generators are smaller than the alternative and generally range from 3,000 to 8,500 watts. These work best for homes with small furnaces that run off of city water. 

Standby generator sizing usually runs from 5,000 to 20,000 watts. These are great for homes with large furnaces that rely on a well pump for water. 

Emergency generators are meant for emergency situations. During an emergency, you should conserve your energy and fuel usage because you never know when power will return. A small generator is always better than no generator at all. 

If you want a more detailed report of what each generator size can cover, check out this guide

4. Where Should I Put My Generator?

After you’ve chosen your generator type and size, you need to find a place to keep your new generator. 

Like mentioned previously, portable generators are movable and not in a fixed location. This means you can try out different locations to find the best one that works for your household. Just make sure you keep the generator 20 feet away from any structure. 

A professional will help you install your standby home generator so they can help you choose the right location. You’ll want to pick a location that is convenient for regular maintenance and away from any areas in your yard that may flood. Also, you’ll want your generator close to your fuel supply. 

Before you decide on a location for your generator, you should check to see if your town or county has specific codes requirements.

5. What Extra Features Are There?

Not all generators are created equal. Beyond choosing your generator type, fuel, and size, there are also extra features to consider. 

Some of the most popular features include:

  • Fuel gauge – allows you to monitor when you are getting low on fuel.
  • Low-oil shutoff – shuts off your generator if it has low oil to prevent damage.
  • Cold weather kits -protects your generator against extreme temperatures. 
  • Enclosure lighting – lights up your generator for easy maintenance or refueling. 

Just like with a car, the more features your generator has the more expensive it becomes. Sit down and consider which features you feel are worth investing in before you start shopping. 

6. Is There a Warranty?

The last question you should always ask before buying a generator is, “Is there a warranty?”

Most generators come standard with a warranty. These warranties can range anywhere from one to five years. If you are offered a generator without any warranty, you should look elsewhere. 

Many companies will let you buy an extended warranty for a higher cost. If you are making a big investment with a state-of-the-art generator, an extended warranty may be wise. 

Beyond Buying a Generator

When buying a generator, it’s important you get answers to the above questions. 

Most people will end up choosing a home standby generator ran by propane gas. This solution is the most economical choice to protect your home during emergencies. You’ll rest easy at night knowing you have a reliable generator ready to go. 

After purchasing your generator, you need to set up a propane delivery service to ensure your generator is ready when you need it. Contact Kauffman Gas today to set up your propane delivery. 

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