Is A Whole House Generator Worth It?

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When the Snowstorm Hit…

It was a scary time when the largest snowstorm our state had seen in a decade hit. The world was upended. Now we are Northerners; we aren’t afraid of the snow, driving in it, or staying warm. 

But not only was this the first year we’d had a snowstorm to this extent, but it was also the year my mother (an elderly woman) was staying with us while her home was renovated, AND my son was just two years old.

When the snowstorm hit, the power was knocked out for three days.

We made it through just fine, but we wouldn’t have had to worry so much if we’d only had a whole house generator. 

Is a whole house generator worth it? Absolutely, Yes!

This article will discuss the benefits and reasoning behind why every family, regardless of where they live, should consider a whole house generator. 

We will cover all of the hard facts and get you all the info you need to make a decision. 

What Is It, And How Does the Standby Generator Work?

In this section, I will answer all of the questions homeowners tend to have about purchasing and installing whole-house generators. 

These are questions my own friends and family have posed to me, so chances are your query will be answered here!

Let’s begin with the absolute basics. There are four basic things that happen with a standby generator:

  • Power is lost due to a storm or disrepair/failure/work performed on the power grid.
  • The generator is alerted to the loss of power. 
  • The generator turns on automatically. You need not be home. 
  • Electricity is present in the home as if nothing happened.

A standby generator is your failsafe electrical system. Within just seconds of a power outage, the generator will kick on and transfer the house’s electrical load over to the generator. 

The generator then sends power over to the circuits, and your home functions as it did as if nothing happened.

Generators can run on a variety of widely available fuel sources. Most popular brands will utilize diesel, liquid propane gas, or natural gas to function.

You can power anything you like in your home using your standby generator. 

Whether your goal is to keep the HVAC system on, power your home’s security system, or keep the fridge icy cold, a standby generator can do all that for you and more. 

The size of the generator you need will depend on the size of your home.

Here is the 5 minutes video explaining how the home generator works and how to choose one the best for you.

Why Homeowners Need A Whole House Generator?

Personally speaking, I needed a whole house generator because of my family. We live in New York, where temps can get in the negatives some winter days. 

On a broader scale, there are many reasons homeowners need whole house generators.

  • Extreme Weather: My niece lives in Florida, where hurricanes are a problem. A whole house generator for those of you that live in the hurricane states is a real helper. Think about the extreme weather in your own state- blizzards, hurricanes, rain. It will make that season much easier. Read my best pick generator for hurricane season here.
  • Grid Outages: In California, in 2019, there were many power outages. It is a scary thought, especially if you have family members that rely on medical equipment to stay healthy. You can avoid this fear altogether with a whole house generator.
  • Work Reasons: My wife works from home some days. My mother enjoys talking to her friends on the computer over Skype. My son loves his daily cartoons. Needless to say, we are a digital family and need our tech to function. A generator makes sure we have it.

Installation Cost

Your cost will vary depending on a variety of factors. 

Most homeowners will find themselves with a bill ranging from about $1300 to $7200 when it comes to installing a standby generator at their house. 

On average, homeowners will pay about $4000 to have the machine installed. 

The type of generator you decide to buy will have the biggest impact on the total cost. 

  • Gas generators cost anywhere from $300 to $3000. 
  • Diesel generators cost anywhere from $3000 to $15000. 
  • Natural gas generators cost anywhere from $1900 to $5000. 
  • Solar generators cost anywhere from $300 to $5000.
  • Liquid propane generators cost anywhere from $500 to $6000.

There are pros and cons to each type of generator. You will have to think about what power source is best for you and your family. 

My generator runs on natural gas, as I find it to be the most cost-effective. It also works the best in our chilly climate.  

In my opinion, if you can store it correctly, liquid propane is the next best fuel source. It burns clean and can be stored indefinitely if you do it properly. 

The major con to the use of a liquid propane-powered generator is that they don’t last as long as other models.

Popular Standby Generators in the Market

A quick Google search will bring you heaps of options for generators. 

The most popular brand by far is Generac, and there are authorized installers around the country that can help you safely install one. 

I myself have a Generac generator, but I am not endorsed or compensated by them. 

The options presented to me by our local installers were liquid propane or natural gas. I went with natural gas as we already use that in our home for the heating of water, the stove, and the use of our dryer.

Other popular and reliable brands you may choose from including Briggs & Stratton, Champion, and Kohler

We have a 1500 square foot home, and we use a Generac Guardian standby generator, which I determined to be the best choice after researching it online.

How to Choose A Whole House Generator?

Ready to begin your research and decide which whole home generator is best for your family? Follow these steps to get started. 

1. Pick Your Fuel

Make sure you have access to the fuel needed to run your generator in extreme situations.

For my niece, who lives in Florida, it can be hard at times for her to have access to gasoline when supply lines are shut down due to hurricanes. So, she uses natural gas for her generator.

Perhaps diesel is the best option for you, or liquid propane if you can store it properly. 

These two options are great, but you will need fuel tanks that are big enough to run the machine properly. 

If you choose natural gas, you will need to have the right meter and line size. These details will be discussed with your contractor before work begins.

2. Choose the Correct Size

Make sure your generator is the right size for the house you want it to power. 

You need a generator that can handle the electrical load of your home’s electronics, appliances, and more.

You can do this yourself or ask an expert to help determine the right size for you. To do this yourself, here are the steps.

  • Go around your home and record the starting amps of equipment around your home, such as your appliances.
  • Next, do the formula (starting amps x volts = watts). Now divide the watts by 1000, and this will give you kilowatts.
  • Now you will know how many kilowatts are needed for your home. Choose a generator that is slightly more powerful than the kilowatts needed. For instance, our home required 20 kW to run, so the 22 kW Generac Guardian was perfect for us.

3. Choose a Transfer Switch

An automatic transfer switch tells the generator to turn on right when the power goes out. 

It works by constantly sensing power from utilities. 

Once it stops detecting such power, it starts the generator’s engine and stops the electricity coming from the line attached to your home, and sends energy to the home panel via the power created by the generator.

To pick the right one, you have to know the amperage of your home’s panel. 

Take a look at the main breaker in your electrical panel for this info. Most homes have a 200-amp breaker, so you will likely need a 200-amp transfer switch. 

The size of the transfer switch must match your home’s service amps.

Want my recommendation? Generac is my #1 choice for transfer switch and can be found on Amazon. I recommend this particular model because it works well together with our home generator.

Is A Whole House Generator Worth It? You Decide

The choice to invest your money into a whole house generator is a good one. 

I am not going to lie, we worked hard to save up money to afford one, but I felt much safer once I got one installed. 

Some companies may also offer financing options if you care to take that route. 

On top of the cost, you also have to research and discuss options with your local installers to see what’s best for you. 

Even though it is a lot of work, I promise you will feel worlds better knowing your family can carry on as usual, even if the entire neighborhood goes dark.

I hope my article has been helpful for you as you decide on a generator. It’s a great way to add value and safety to your home.