Angie's List: Power up with home generators - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Angie's List: Power up with home generators

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MADISON (WKOW/ANGIE'S LIST) -- As we've seen in the past few weeks here in Wisconsin, and in America's Heartland, severe weather can strike at any time. You never know when your power might go out, but you can be prepared.

In this week's Angie's List report, experts tell us what we need to know about home generators.

"Last year we were out for a period of nine hours, the year before we were out for about 23 hours at a time," homeowner Edward Cochran said.

He's got a winter home in Mission, Texas, where humidity and giant rainstorms routinely blow transformers.  Cochran says a back up generator can make a big difference in your quality of life, he also has one in his Indian home.

"Generators can prevent food from spoiling in your home, it can help you do your everyday things, keep pipes from freezing and if you have any medical equipment that runs off electricity it can be a lifesaving tool as well," Angie Hicks, with Angie's List 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She says homeowners have a couple of options when it comes to generators.

Portable models are cheaper than permanent units, but they're designed to run for shorter time periods and are powered by gasoline, so they'll need frequent refueling.

Permanent units can start automatically, or with the flip of a switch and can power everything in your house.

"Portable is more common than permanent and there are a few reasons," electric contractor Christ Hinesley said.  "I think ease of use is one, it's cost effective, we can install your transfer switch, emergency panel for around $500-$600 then there would be the cost of the generator, whatever generator you would pick."

When making the decision, take a look at your typical energy use.

"If you are living in the city and you may need it for a few hours a portable generator can be a great option they cost about $1,000," Hicks said.

But if you live in a rural area, where you could go without electricity for much longer, or you have medical equipment that must be plugged in, permanent is the way to go.

"A whole house generator is going to run anywhere from a few thousand dollars to as much as $9,000 or $10,000," Hicks said.

She recommends choosing a licensed electrician to do the installation.  Also, keep in mind generators require some maintenance.  You'll want to check them regularly to ensure they start and operate well and don't forget about safety.

You're generator should be outside on a level surface, at least 10 feet away from the house to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

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