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How Emergency Power Systems Work

Emergency Power Options and Goals

To generate normal 120-volt power on an emergency basis, you have two options:
  • You can buy an engine-powered generator. The engine can burn gasoline, diesel or propane.
  • You can buy an inverter and power it from your automobile battery or a deep-cycle battery you have purchased for the inverter.
To decide which alternative is best for you, you need to decide what your goals are during a power failure. There are perhaps four different ways to think about emergency power:
  • I want to provide a very minimal set of creature comforts -- I want to be able to power a few lights so I don't have to burn candles, power my cell phone, power an emergency radio and operate a fan.
    You can do this with a small generator or with a small inverter that plugs into your car's lighter socket.

  • I want to be able to operate a microwave oven, a TV, some lights and my computer so I can eat and get some work done.
    You can do this with a small 1000-watt generator and plug things into it with an extension cord.

  • My main goal is to keep my refrigerator and/or freezer running, but I would also like to run some lights and small appliances.
    You can do this with a 2,500- to 3,500-watt generator and plug things into it with extension cords.

  • I want to be able to power my well pump and water heater, the blower in my furnace, a room air conditioner, my refrigerator and other basic appliances.
    You can do this with a 5,000-watt generator that is wired into your home's circuit panel.

We'll talk more about understanding your power needs in the next section.

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