PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Losing power is never convenient, and for the millions of Americans who rely on electrically powered medical devices, such as a breathing machine or home dialysis, it can be a life-threatening situation when the power goes out.

A home generator can help you through the next blown transformer or winter storm.

“That’s usually my first question when I walk up to a homeowner is: how do you want to live if your lights go off,” said electrician Greg Wells.

Once you answer that question, you can quickly determine whether you need a standby generator to power everything in your house or if a less expensive, portable generator will do the job.

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“With an 8 kW generator, we can power up two refrigerators, a gas furnace, several outlets and a microwave, if you need,” Wells said.

“A portable generator costs around a thousand dollars and might help you get the bare necessities, so maybe your furnace running; making sure you’ve got your sump pump going, which are important during a storm, but if you’re looking for full-house functionality during a storm, you might want to consider a full-house generator, which is going to cost anywhere from five to ten times that much,” explained Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks.

Installing a standby generator requires a licensed electrician who will put the unit near a power source just a few feet from your home.

He’ll also install a transfer switch that automatically detects when the main power goes out and triggers the generator to turn on.

“When the power comes back on to your home, the transfer switch will sense that and it will automatically switch back to the utility mode, which comes off your power lines. The generator will run for ten more seconds on a cool down mode and then everything will go back to normal,” Wells said.