Do you really need a generator?
January 30, 2007
Generators have been selling fast in southwest Missouri over the last several weeks. The interest has been driven by wide-spread power outages created by the great ice storm of 2007.

However, before rushing out after the storm to purchase a generator one University of Missouri Extension recommends weighing the dangers, cost and true need for a generator first.

“I do not recommend that each Ozarks household have a generator on hand. Rural landowners are better candidates for generators than urban dwellers. Rural areas are more prone to power outages and are less likely to be reconnected quickly after an outage,” said Bob Schultheis, a natural resource engineering specialist with MU Extension.

Generators can be dangerous in the hands of novices, due to the electrical connectivity, fuel storage and carbon monoxide hazards.

“Undersizing the generator or improperly cycling the loads on the generator can also increase the risk of motor burnouts on refrigerators, freezers and pumps,” said Schultheis.

The size of the generator depends on the electrical loads it must run at the same time.

“Devices with motors or compressors draw about four times the wattage to start them as to run them, so they must be started first,” said Schultheis.

Portable generators with 4,000 to 5,000 watt ratings are the minimum size needed for a typical three-bedroom home served by city water. Residents on private wells will want a larger unit or multiple units according to Schultheis.

Since generators are occasional-use devices, they also require periodic maintenance according to the manufacturer's directions.

“Maintenance is absolutely necessary to keep the generator functional when needed,” said Schultheis.

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