Preppers: Some Things to Consider Before Purchasing a Generator

Portable Generators

Preppers Do You Need a Generator or Do You Even Want One: Things to Consider

While it is possible to live without electricity and all the conveniences that go along with electricity, it would be difficult. Those with medical conditions that require portable oxygen or chilled medication, for example, will need a power source if the power grid goes down, so decisions must be made as to how to supply your home with the much-needed electricity when the grid fails.

Options include solar, wind, hydro and portable or not so portable generators that can supply you with some if not all of your electrical needs during a crisis.

Refrigeration would be difficult to give up during a crisis, and not having refrigeration can be costly due to wasted foods because of spoilage. Refrigeration may be needed to chill medications such as insulin as well.

In most cases, insulin can be stored out of refrigeration for up to 28 days but if you have a 90-day supply of insulin then 60 days of insulin will have to be chilled. Heat is important as well and lack of a heat source in the wintertime can be deadly.

Given the lowering of gas prices this may be a good time to look at generators and look to stockpile the much-needed fuel to operate one. There are various ways to power up generators and you will have to choose one that best suits your needs. Keep in mind that if natural gas is used to power a generator it can be disrupted if the power grid fails, and natural gas is not a fuel that can be stockpiled like gasoline, diesel or propane.

What Size Do You Need

The following is just a general guideline. To determine what size generator you would need specifically, you can visit the following website and checkmark the appliances/tools/equipment that you would expect to use during a crisis to determine running watts and starting watts needed.

Things to Think About

What is running watts and starting watts? This is something you will see when shopping for generators and it is an important consideration.

Running watts are the constant watts needed to keep an appliance or piece of equipment running. Starting watts are the additional watts needed on start up, sometimes referred to as the surge wattage needed to start motor-driven products like a refrigerator and certain tools.

A Small portable is capable of producing 3,000 to 4,000 watts what it can power includes 

  • A Refrigerator (600 watts)
  • Microwave Oven (1,500 watts)
  • Sump pump (600 watts)
  • Lighting with combined wattage up to (400 watts)
  • Television (200 watts)

Midsized portable and small stationary is capable of producing 5,000 to 8,500 watts what it can power includes

  • A Portable heater, many portable electric heaters have a high and low setting usually the low is 700/750 watts while the high is 1500 watts
  • Computer at 250 watts
  • Additional heating system using 500 watts
  • Additional water pump at 600 watts
  • More lights 400 watts combined

Large portable 10,000 watts and what it can power includes

  • A Small water heater using 3,000 watts
  • Central air conditioner up to 5,000 watts
  • Electric range up to 5,000 watts

Large stationary 10,000 to 15,000 watts and what it can power includes

  • Clothes washer at 1,200 watts
  • Electric dryer at 5,000 watts


A portable generator is one that usually has wheels, which makes it easy to move from one area to another as demand requires or it can be carried by one or two people.

Stationary generators once installed are considered somewhat permanent, but unless they are what is called an “inline generator” they can still be moved, but with considerable effort involved.

Inline generators are installed between the main electrical source and your home. Once the power company flow is disrupted, the inline generator would automatically take over to supply the home. A qualified technician is usually needed to install unless you have a complete understanding of the installation process. The power company in most cases would need to inspect the inline component to ensure the safety of their workers during an outage.

You will need extension cords rated heavy enough for the demand placed on them. Do not skimp on extension cords because having to light of a gauge can cause an electrical fire.

The thicker the wire in the extension cords means a lower gauge and the more amps or current the cord can handle. The length of the cord also has an effect on how many amps the cord can safely handle.

The longer the cord the less amps it can handle. If you need a 100-foot extension cord for an appliance that normally requires a 14-guarge cord, for example, you may need to buy a 12-gauge cord to compensate for the distance the current has to travel.

  • A 16 Gauge Cord up to 100 feet long will adequately handle up to 10 amps.
  • A 14 Gauge Cord up to 50 feet long will adequately handle between 10 and 15 amps.
  • A 12 Gauge Cord will handle between 10 and 15 amps, if the length of the cord is 100 feet

These are only guidelines, and it is important that the cords you choose be rated for outdoor use.

Generator Placement

Yes, people still need to be reminded not to operate generators in enclosed spaces like garages crawlspaces, basements and even in some carports. Generators placed outside next to a dryer vent can also allow toxic fumes to get inside the home for example. Do not place generators near any windows, doorways or venting from inside the home.

Stationary generators will need a solid foundation and they need to be placed where heavy rains would not leave standing pools of water around the generator. Generators that cannot be moved easily by carrying can be mounted on trailers for easy placement if the trailer can be secured properly once the generator is in operation.