Q: What are your thoughts on purchasing a whole house generator? I live by myself, in the country and worry about my electricity going out. Should I just buy a portable generator to service a couple of appliances, or should I buy a whole house generator?
A: A whole house generator is ideal if you have about $10,000 to invest for equipment and installation.
A portable generator will operate a gas- or oil-fired furnace plus the refrigerator and a few lights. You would have to figure the wattage you need and then purchase the appropriately sized generator. A chart on wattage requirements for common household appliances can be found at http://bit.ly/1h4jGy7 .
Remember that the smaller generators are portable and affordable. A portable generator should never be operated indoors, including in an attached garage or outside near a window or a roof’s overhang. Carbon monoxide fumes from the generator’s gasoline engine are colorless, odorless and tasteless and can be deadly if elevated levels reach the interior of the home. Never add gasoline to the generator’s engine while the engine is running. Shut the motor off when refilling.
No matter which unit you decide to purchase, you must have a licensed electrician install a transfer switch to turn the main breaker off as soon as the generator comes on. The switch will transfer the generator to a second electrical panel containing the selected appliance and lighting circuits for the home.
Without a transfer switch, a running generator will feed current back to the outside service wires through the main electrical panel and anyone coming into contact with the wiring could be electrocuted.
C. Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Send home-improvement questions to C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 286, Evansville, Ind. 47702 or e-mail him at d.Barnettinsightbb.com.