Slashdot videos: Now with more Slashdot!
if you can handle hands-on, avoid the "use two breaker panels" nonsense, it's not possible to do that and meet electrical and criminal code requirements that you be unable to back-feed the power line and kill the guys working to restore power.
Actually the "use two breakers" method can be completely safe, legal, and up to code if you use a generator interlock kit according to http://www.interlockkit.com/. I've done a little research and so far it seems legitimate.
Essentially it's a piece of metal that creates a mechanical interlock so that your main breaker and generator breaker can physically never both be on at the same time. You have the main and generator breaker in the same panel and now can safely backfeed into your panel. To keep it legal, you hook the generator breaker up to a 240/120V locking outlet (i.e., no male-male suicide cords).
It seems kind of silly that they charge $150 for a piece of metal, but this solution allows you to hook up your entire panel (instead of choosing 6 circuits available on a typical manual transfer switch) and seems much cheaper than a full transfer-switch panel/setup.