When it comes to appliances for your home, you probably think of refrigerators, washers and dryers and maybe a microwave and dishwasher. However, there’s a machine many homeowners don’t consider, even though it can be an important safeguard for keeping your family safe and comfortable during severe weather: the generator.

As power outages due to natural disasters, ice storms and other factors have increased significantly, generators have become a must-have layer of protection. And if you’re in the market for one, you’ll find a variety of options to choose from when shopping for a generator at retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s.

Generators range in price, with larger models typically costingĀ you can get your generators here more than smaller ones. Prices also vary by fuel type, with solar-powered generators costing the most but potentially saving you on long-term energy costs. You can also select features that can improve convenience and safety, such as carbon monoxide sensors.

Portable generators run on gasoline, propane gas or natural gas and can be used to keep essential appliances running during a power outage. Some have built-in wheels to make them easier to move, while others require a trailer or other vehicle to transport them from place to place. Generators can be purchased at hardware stores, big box retailers, department stores and specialty appliance dealers.

Hardware retailers often carry a wide selection of generators and usually offer competitive pricing. However, when it comes to selecting a generator, the brand of the product can play a large role in its overall cost. In general, cheaper generators come from brands such as Champion and Honda, while more expensive models tend to be from companies like Generac or Briggs & Stratton.

Whether you purchase a portable generator or a whole-house unit, it’s important to follow proper usage and safety guidelines to avoid injury and property damage. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, generators should never be operated within seven feet of a home or garage, as carbon monoxide can seep inside, causing illness and even death. Additionally, you should always use generators outdoors and keep them away from windows, doors and vents that can allow carbon monoxide to enter the home.

In addition to ensuring your generator is in good working order, it’s crucial to store it properly to avoid fires or theft. Moreover, you should never plug your generator into your home’s wiring unless instructed to do so by the manufacturer. This is known as backfeeding and can cause utility workers to suffer electrocution or your house to experience an electrical overload, resulting in a fire or generator failure.

Lastly, you should only operate your generator on dry surfaces. It’s also a good idea to have a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergencies and to install a carbon monoxide detector near the generator in your home, especially if it will be used for extended periods during bad weather. By following these simple tips, you can ensure your generator is ready for the next power outage.

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