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Photos courtesy of Kohler Generator

Let’s start with the basics. Generators are machines that create electricity. The people who sell them simply say, “Storms generate sales.” During Sandy, Katrina and other big weather events, power outages were daily problems. Homeowners couldn’t buy generators, because they were all sold out.

Instead of burning coal to turn turbines, generators use engines to convert gasoline, natural gas, propane, or diesel fuel into useful electricity. There are basically two types: home standbys and portables. Both involve gas, propane and oil, all of which must be monitored. Buying a generator isn’t like buying any kind of ordinary appliance. It’s a serious purchase, requiring knowledge and responsibility. Generators produce carbon monoxide (which is true of many other machines), and this is something that must be understood by a prospective buyer.

Small, handheld generators are useful for camping or tailgating. Larger, portable generators are good additions to recreational vehicles, where they can permit parking in desirable locations without worrying about electric power, or they can be transported in the back of pickup trucks to construction sites or wherever electricity is needed but there is no source of electric power.   With the surprising extremes of weather recently, more generators are being purchased by homeowners and apartment dwellers as standby electricity.

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Northeast Generator has been serving homes and businesses since 1964, and the company offers sales, rentals and custom-built generators, and provides installation, maintenance, repairs, monitoring, and 24/7 emergency service, according to Mark Holzner, owner. “With the latest storms affecting the Northeast, generators have moved from being a luxury item to a must-have backup power solution for today’s well-built, comfortable family homes,” he says.

The company can also restore older existing generators, and offers a free, no-obligation assessment, sending its engineers to homeowners’ residences to help with recommendations as to which model would be best and which location would provide optimum service.

Ridgefield Hardware in Ridgefield refers to itself as a “people center,” not just a hardware store, according to Sarah Scott, manager. The store carries both home standby and portable generators. Home standby generators operate automatically and can provide power during extended outages, Scott explains.

“They run on liquid propane or natural gas and they are available in many sizes, beginning at 8,000 watts and going up up to 150,000 watts, depending on your needs,” she says. “The cost of installing a home standby generator will include the fuel, which is propane, and the electrical connection. The cost can vary depending on the size and location of the generator.”

Home standbys are located permanently outside the home, and Ridgefield Hardware supplies three brands of generators, including Generac, Briggs & Stratton, and Kohler. “Portable generators are less costly to buy and run on gasoline; they can also run up to nine hours on a fill-up, depending on the size of the generator,” Scott adds. “These units range in size up to 17,500 watts. Portable generators are usually stored in a garage and pulled out when they are needed. They should also be run every month or two to make sure that they are working properly.”

Cannondale Generators in Wilton is a family business, with more than 25 years of sales and service. Paul Bonomo, owner, explains, “These days, power is needed for dozens of electronic devices we never had to worry about in years past, and power outages can suddenly interrupt and delay important work and contacts. We can take care of the whole process, from initial free consultation/evaluation and overview of specific needs to installation and service.” The company’s maintenance program covers all makes and models of generators, with two thorough inspections and an oil, filter and fluid change each year, according to Bonomo.

At family-owned and -operated Proficient Electric in Darien, electrical contractors are available for virtually any electrical emergency that may occur, according to Todd Eppley, owner. “With the increase of severe storms and duration of power outages, owning a standby generator is becoming a necessity to provide our customers with home protection and comfort,” he says.