Homesteading can be a rewarding adventure for anyone taking on the challenges that come with it. Self-sufficiency is a big part of the homesteading philosophy. What could be more self-sufficient than generating your power? A generator is a very useful tool to have at home or on the farm. Generators can make a home more energy-efficient and come in handy during tough times. In this article, we’ll share a few tips for getting a generator for your homestead.
Portability and Transfer Switches
Buying a generator is a complex decision. You need to understand why you need a generator in the first place, decide how you’re going to use it, and figure out its fuel source. Furthermore, owning and maintaining a generator requires some storage concerns and additional accessories. These might be the fuel cans in which you’re going to store whatever type of gas your generator uses. It could also mean building a shed or small compartment outside the home to store this fuel. Another key consideration for the generators is how you’re going to keep it maintained. It will likely require regular filter changes and occasional maintenance outside of the norm. This will require tools and accessories. So, when you’re looking for your generator it’s important to keep that in mind as part of the process. Finally, there’s the portability aspect. Depending on what you’re using the generator for, portable generators can really benefit the homestead. Standby generators also have plenty of usability, but lack the portability aspect. If you’re going to go either route, it’s imperative to have a transfer switch installed to make it easier (and much safer) to switch the power load between your generator and your home’s electrical power.
Like many other tools, the size of the unit influences its function. As we mentioned the bug, getting a portable generator might be in your best interest on your homestead. If that’s the case, an affordable generator is not going to be huge. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re extremely small, it just means that portability in size correlates to each other. Small, portable generators are ideal for keeping a few things running. For more power—enough to handle the entire home—a home standby generator makes the most sense. For larger power needs, you might go for an inverter, diesel, or solar generator instead.
When buying a generator, you need to know what kind of power you want to get from it.
Wattage should absolutely factor into selecting a generator. There are three things to look at here: starting wattage, running wattage, and surge wattage. The concept of starting wattage is fairly self-explanatory. It’s merely the amount of power appliances need to fire up in the first place. It’s going to be two or three times more than the amount of wattage required to run the appliance (known as, well, the running wattage or rated wattage). Surge wattage is also easy to understand, as it’s the amount of power an appliance the generator can briefly supply to prevent damage to the appliance in the event of a power outage.
A generator is handy for keeping the electricity going when mainstream power sources aren’t available, during blackouts, in emergencies, or as an energy efficient power source on your homestead. It ultimately depends on your power needs, your location, and how you intend to use the generator. When you’re thinking about generators, they need to be powered by different fuels. Here are the most common types of fuels generators use:
Gasoline is an easy to obtain fuel and often used in generators. It can, however, be expensive at times. It’s also flammable and doesn’t always perform well in colder weather. Despite these drawbacks, small gas-powered generators are ideal as standby generators because they’re easy to use, maintain, and fill.
Propane makes for less engine noise, but isn’t as easy to use. Propane is also highly flammable and can increase both maintenance and fuel costs over time.
Natural gas is abundant, but doesn’t produce as much power as gas or diesel.
Diesel is also easy to come by, but diesel generators can be a bit on the loud side.
Choosing the right fuel source for your generator depends on your power needs and budget, and choosing the right fuel source is essential to ensuring your generator is up to the task.
One drawback of using a generator is the noise level. Sometimes, generators can produce high-level noise. It might not be too cacophonous for the neighbors near your homestead, but it can certainly be loud near your home! Noise is measured in decibels (or more specifically, dBA), and will usually be listed in the tech specs of the unit. On average, a typical mid-size generator will usually have a noise level between 50-80 dBA. Noise levels will vary greatly depending on the generator’s size, make, model, and manufacturer. When you’re on the hunt for the perfect generator, be sure to keep these factors at the forefront of your mind throughout the research and selection process.