(ANGIE'S LIST) - Losing power is never convenient, but a home generator can help you through the next blown transformer or winter storm.
Angie's List founder Angie Hicks says first you need to determine whether you need a standby generator to power everything in your house, or if a less expensive portable generator will do the job.
"A portable generator costs around a thousand dollars and might help you get the bare necessities, so maybe your furnace running; making sure you've got your sump pump going, which are important during a storm, but if you're looking for full-house functionality during a storm, you might want to consider a full-house generator, which is going to cost anywhere from five to ten times that much," Hicks said.
Installing a standby generator requires a licensed electrician to locate the unit near a power source, just a few feet from your home. The electrician will also install a transfer switch. This automatically detects a power outage and turns on the generator.
Greg Wells, a licensed electrician says professionally installing a generator will take out the guess work of operating a generator.
"When the power comes back on to your home, the transfer switch will sense that and it will automatically switch back to the utility mode, which comes off your power lines," Wells said. "The generator will run for ten more seconds on a cool down mode and then everything will go back to normal."
Wells says an 8-kw generator will power up two refrigerators, a gas furnace, several outlets and a microwave.
Portable generators are more commonly used for emergency power and can easily be stored in a garage or shed. Hicks says to make sure they are refueled regularly. Also, never use them in a garage or an enclosed area to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
For the millions of Americans who rely on electrically powered medical devices, such as a breathing machine or home dialysis, losing power can be a life-threatening situation. If you have a home medical device, Hicks says to be sure to let your utility company know. This way the company may be able to prioritize getting your power back on as quickly as possible.