Generators Leave the Light on For You

A backup generator can serve multiple purposes in a blackout situation.
(JJ Gouin/JJ Gouin -

Power outages are no picnic.They can lead to food spoilage, temperature discomfort, lack of communication, and accidents while stumbling around in the dark. Have a generator on hand for the next time the lights go out.

“Having a portable generator will make surviving a common power outage, brownout, storm, natural disaster or extended grid-down situation less stressful and safer for you and your family,” says Rick Matto, and emergency preparedness expert and chief editor at Los Angeles-based

Portable generators are typically gasoline-fueled, rechargeable battery-powered or solar-powered. The most popular option is gas-powered, due to gasoline’s easy availability.

A 2,000-watt unit by Polaris Power provides 7.6 hours of run time at 25% capacity, according to Clint Johnson, the company’s product leader. Like many portable generators, this unit provides multiple outlets and USB ports, so you can charge a smartphone and use a lamp and refrigerator. Portable generators are also useful on road trips and camping adventures.

“Gas-power generators are louder, but they perform better in all weather,” explains Johnson. “Battery-power generators don’t need fuel, but you do need to find a method to charge them and they don’t perform as efficiently in all weather conditions.”

“If you properly maintain and store a portable generator correctly, it can last for decades,” notes Matto, who advises storing the device in your garage or garden shed when not in use. “When shopping for a unit, pick a brand that offers a good warranty - most provide between one and five years of warranty protection.”

When using a generator: safety first. Brianne Deerwester, communications coordinator for the Electrical Safety Foundation International in Rosslyn, Virginia, cautions that improper use can lead to carbon monoxide poisoning. “When using one, always keep it at least 20 feet away from your home, never operate it in an enclosed space, make sure the generator has three to four feet of clear space above and on all sides for proper ventilation,” she recommends. “Also, be sure your home has carbon monoxide alarms.”

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