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Why Own a Generator?

A white Generac standby generator outside a home at night.

Updated May 21, 2021

Marc M.

By Marc M.

A power outage is more than just a nuisance for homeowners and businesses, and a generator can keep necessities running.

Power Outages

Power outages often last for hours, days or even weeks, and they can be costly if you're not prepared. Hurricanes, tornadoes and ice storms can disrupt our power supply system. But it's not just inclement weather that can turn the lights out. Curious animals, automobile accidents, human error and utility failures also can trigger a blackout. Prepare now by adding a standby generator or portable generator that will help make power outages more manageable.

Determining Your Generator Needs

The most important step to finding the generator you need is to identify how you'll likely use it. Consider these uses:


  • Power essential appliances and lights
  • Power occasional protection devices such as a sump pump
  • Power an entire home or most of a home
  • Provide backup power for short-term or occasional outages
  • Provide long-term backup power where weather systems can disrupt power for days or weeks, sometimes several times a year
  • Provide backup power for individuals who may have difficulty handling and operating a portable generator


  • Power essential computers, networks and phones
  • Power an entire business
  • Provide temporary jobsite electricity for tools and lights
  • Provide backup power for short-term or occasional outages


  • Camping
  • Boating
  • Tailgating

Standby Generators

A standby generator next to a wood fence.

A permanently installed automatic standby generator provides backup power protection and peace of mind for your family or business during a power outage. A standby generator runs on liquid propane or natural gas, and just like your central air conditioner, works automatically when you need it and shuts off when you don't. There's no need to manually fuel or start a standby generator, and you can eliminate the need for extension cords that portable generators require. Sizes are available to back up essential circuits only or to provide complete coverage for large homes and businesses. Around the home, a standby generator can create enough power for nearly all of your needs — heating or cooling, lighting and cooking — at the same time.

For more information on standby generators, see our Standby Generator Buying Guide.

Portable Generators

A red and black Craftsman generator outdoors with saw horses, lumber and a circular saw.

A portable generator is a great mobile option for temporary power. But portable generators are intended only as a backup solution to provide power for some basic household needs in an emergency situation or for recreation, camping and power tools. 

Many portable generators are powered by gasoline or propane, while others are powered by solar energy. Fuel-powered models emit carbon monoxide when in use, so you should never run them indoors or near windows and doors. However, solar, battery-powered models are safe indoors or outdoors. 

As with any generators, higher-wattage models offer more options. Different devices require different amounts of power, so take this into consideration when making a decision. For example, a 2,000-watt generator can power a coffee maker, laptop and an LED TV, but it may not be able to run much else at the same time. Alternatively, a 5,000-watt generator can power a coffee maker, laptop, TV and toaster oven and still have capacity for a few other items. To determine what a generator can run, make sure the total power the devices need isn’t greater than the generator’s capacity. If you’re running a device with an electric motor, make sure the generator can accommodate the device’s starting wattage in addition to the power needs of any other connected items. 

See our Portable Generator Buying Guide for more information and safety tips and our Inverter Generator Buying Guide to learn about the features and benefits of portable invertor generators. If you’re interested in the benefits of solar power, read How to Choose a Solar Generator.


Always follow the generator manufacturer's operating, maintenance and safety instructions.

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