Q: I live on the East Coast and depend on a “portable” generator to get me through hurricane season. I now plan to upgrade to a “standby” generator, but need help. Can you talk about sizing up a home generator to meet your needs?

A: As a pipefitter I have experience with standby generators, since many residential models run on natural or propane gas and require occasional parts service. I can also attest to the fact that since standby generators are permanently installed to a home’s electrical system, automatic operation is a great feature.

For sizing, the standard measure for generators is “kw,” which stands for kilowatt (1,000 watts). Residential standby generators can range from 6–20kw, and even larger if needed. Issues that determine size can be the electrical load needed for your home, or if you want to power the whole house or just selected circuits. That’s why I recommend that your local generator dealer/installer comes in to do a site visit.


Ed Del Grande is a master plumber, contractor and author. Send questions to eadelg@cs.com.