When it comes to the question of what machine everyone and every home needs, you might not expect the answer to be a portable power generator. But there are more portable generator uses than many realize, and the odds are good that you'd find value in having one. You may end up needing a generator, and having it and not needing it is always better than needing it and not having it — especially when an emergency arises.
Read on for six reasons why you need a portable generator and the different ways it can help. Plus, we go over three things to consider before you buy one.
6 Reasons to Get a Portable Power Generator
Perhaps the No. 1 reason for keeping a portable generator on hand is because emergencies happen. This goes beyond natural disasters — more on those in a bit — and is more about unexpected power outages. Most households may be fine without power for a short amount of time, but that's not the case for everyone.
Of course, having a portable generator to provide power in an emergency can mean something as simple as preventing food spoilage, which saves you money. But a much bigger reason for buying one is that it can literally be lifesaving. If someone in your household relies on an electric medical device — like an oxygen machine — having a portable generator is an absolute necessity. If the house loses power, those devices must be able to continue working. And a portable generator can ensure they do, even if it's only temporarily while another solution is devised.
The other big reason you should have a portable generator in your equipment lineup? Disaster preparedness, of course. No matter where you live, odds are you need to be concerned about natural disasters of some kind, whether it's hurricanes, fires, tornadoes, or snowstorms. While you might not have to worry about them year-round, these situations do arise. And owning a portable generator is invaluable if they do.
A natural disaster can render your home literally powerless for a short amount of time, or even several days. During that time, any perishable foods you have are likely to spoil, not to mention you could find yourself dealing with extreme temperatures, as well. Having a portable generator that can power your home at least partially in these cases can mean more comfortable living conditions. It can also save you money in the long run, as you won't have to toss out an entire fridge's worth of food.
For many consumers, going camping means "roughing it" and living the simple life — cooking meals and making coffee over the fire, fishing and hiking for fun, reading physical books, and spending nights in sleeping bags under the stars. They may opt for a tent if the weather has the potential to turn rainy.
However, sometimes when you get away from it all, you don't want to literally get away from it all. In those cases, it's good to have a portable generator for camping. This doesn't mean you have to be on your laptop or playing video games while camping, but it does mean you have the ability to charge your smartphone in case of emergencies. And if you need to run a medical device while camping, a portable generator is the way to do it.
Sports fans love a good game day party, but sometimes those gatherings take place in stadium parking lots away from power sources. You might not need power for a charcoal grill, but maybe you need electricity for other parts of your tailgate setup. Maybe you need to charge your phone, for instance, or you want to watch the game on TV while tailgating. That's when a portable generator becomes a tailgating must-have.
Even if you aren't planning to watch the game, a portable generator can be helpful for an epic tailgating event. You can use it to power pressure cookers for killer game day snacks that are best cooked hot and fresh. Or you can use it for an electric cooler to keep all your drinks at the perfect temperature.
Tailgating long into the night? Power up some lights to keep the party going. And don't forget about things like fans! If the weather is particularly hot, you'll want that breeze to keep you and your friends cool. If you'd really like to step it up, some suggest going as far as using your portable generator to power ice cream machines, margarita makers, and speaker systems.
Similar to tailgating, outdoor events — both big and small — can benefit from having a portable generator behind the scenes. Whether it's a backyard wedding, movie night, pool party, or just a friendly barbecue, the experience can be more comfortable thanks to a portable generator. Plus, you don't have to worry about navigating tangles of extension cords!
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For instance, a portable generator can power twinkly lights for a backyard wedding, or an outdoor projector for a double-feature movie night. As for pool parties or barbecues? Even if you prefer gas or charcoal grills for these events, that doesn't mean you won't find uses for a portable generator and small kitchen appliances, like blenders, pressure cookers, or slow cookers.
Working From Home
If you work from home or run your own business from your house, losing power can cause serious disruptions. In those cases, a portable power generator for the home can be the difference between losing money and time, and carrying on as normal. These machines go beyond powering your laptop and can ensure your router stays connected, as well, so you can stay online and in contact with clients and employees. Additionally, a generator helps prevent the loss of any of your important work due to circumstances beyond your control. That peace of mind is worth the cost of a portable generator, hands down.
What to Ask Before Buying a Portable Power Generator
You'll want to consider a few things before purchasing a portable generator. As these aren't the cheapest devices, it's important to make sure you choose the best portable power generator for you from the start, to make the setup process smoother and prevent issues when you have to use it.
What Do You Want to Power?
Deciding what all you want to power with your portable generator will go a long way when you're figuring out how much wattage you'll need. It's helpful to make a list of all the appliances you plan to hook up to the machine and what their wattages are. Then, go higher than what you think you'll need, just in case.
For instance, according to Consumer Reports, a portable generator — or large inverter — can handle up to 7,500 watts. That equates to powering items like a refrigerator, laptop, five to 10 lights, a smartphone charger, a home security system, and select air conditioners. Obviously, your needs will vary based on what you want to power — you can add things like sump pumps, well pumps, and gas-powered furnaces to your list, as well as other large appliances.
How Often Do You Lose Power?
In addition to figuring out what all you'd need to hook up to your portable generator, you'll need to think about how often you lose power. Some areas are more susceptible to outages, and even those that aren't might have outages that last for prolonged periods of time. The good news is that if you experience frequent power outages or occasionally lose electricity, a portable generator is a solid bet to cover your bases. If you rarely lose power, though, a portable generator might be overkill.
What's Your Budget?
Obviously, you should consider your budget when trying to decide on the best portable power generator for you. Portable generator costs can cover a pretty wide range — at the time of this writing, we saw prices on portable generators as low as $149. On the other end of the scale, you can find prices around $3,000, but be sure to check the specs before you shell out that kind of cash. The model you're looking at could have more power than you need, and you may be able to spend less by shopping for a lower-wattage unit.
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If you're shopping other types of generators, you can generally expect standbys to cost anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000; inverters to run from a few hundred dollars to $4,000; and whole-house generators to set you back anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.
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