Keep Your Generator Away From the House
A generator is the best thing to have in a blackout. But it can make you black out (or die). Hurricane Katrina led to more than 50 cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. Like any internal combustion engine, a generator engine exhausts carbon monoxide gas, which can give you a headache, knock you out or even kill you. This is easy to avoid, though: Don't run a generator in your garage or porch, and keep it at least 10 ft. away from your house.
Buy a Standby Generator if You Can Afford It
A standby generator, unlike a portable generator, is permanently connected to your electrical system and goes on automatically when the power goes out. Standby generators can run on propane or natural gas, eliminating the need to monitor the fuel. And they're quieter. You can buy one large enough to power everything in your house, or you can buy a smaller unit and choose the most critical circuits to power. Standby generators start at about $1,800, plus installation. (And they do need to be installed by a pro.)
The difference in cost between a portable generator and a standby unit may not be as great as you think. Remember, a portable unit requires either expensive extension cords or a transfer switch. Standby units can run on less expensive natural gas, which will save you money in the long run.
Photo provided by Kohler