You’ll Need Heavy-Duty Extension Cords
Remember, if you decide not to install a manual transfer switch, you’ll need a lot of expensive, heavy-duty extension cords. Using undersize cords presents a fire hazard and can damage motors as well as stress your generator. To run a refrigerator, depending on how energy efficient it is and how far from the generator, you’ll need at least a 12-gauge cord. A 50-ft. 12-gauge cord will set you back about $50. Multiply that by five or six and you can see that a transfer switch starts to sound like a better deal.
Don’t Wreck Your TV With a Cheap Generator
Computers, TVs and many modern appliances contain sensitive electronics that can be damaged by the “dirty” power produced by less expensive generators. Inverter-type generators provide the cleanest power but are very expensive, especially in sizes large enough to power a house. But for a little extra money, you can buy generators with power conditioning that provides cleaner power. Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) is a way to measure the quality of electricity from a generator. Look for a generator with a THD of less than 5 percent to safely operate most electronics.
You Can Buy a Quiet Generator, But It’ll Cost More
One problem with portable generators is the noise that you—and your neighbors—have to put up with. You can compare decibel ratings to find quieter models, but keep in mind that there’s no industry standard, so you may be comparing apples and oranges. Standby generators are quieter, and for a stiff premium you can buy a really quiet portable generator like the 6,500-watt Honda shown here. It costs $4,500.
Photo provided by Honda