Last month, we discussed the differences between portable generators and standby generators.  In summary, portable generators can power specific items in your home, like the refrigerator or furnace. You need to manually turn it on and off. In comparison, many standby generators can power select appliances and lights up to and including the whole house, and turn on automatically when power goes out. Since standby generators offer better protection, even though they are more expensive, the general recommendation is to go the standby generator route. Here are some tips on buying a standby generator.

  1. Cost. You can expect to pay anywhere between $10,000 and $40,000 for a standby generator. The actual cost depends on size but will also vary by other features.  Additionally, you may need to pay for installation if any of the following need to be done:
    1. Creating a concrete pad for the generator
    2. Installing a fuel tank or connecting to an existing gas line
    3. Upgrading the electrical panel
    4. Installing a transfer switch connecting the generator to your electric panel
    5. Obtaining permits
  2. What do you want to power? You first need to decide what the most important items to power are.  While you can power your entire home, that requires a larger, more expensive generator.  At a bare minimum you should power your furnace, water heater, sump pump, refrigerator, garage door, Internet, and a few lights.
  3. How much power do you need? Standby generator power is expressed in kilowatts (kW), with standby generators having a minimum power of around 8 kW. One kilowatt equals 1,000 watts. The chart below provides an estimate of how much wattage each selected appliance uses.  
  4. Fuel source. Whole house standby generators can be powered by diesel fuel, natural gas, or propane
    1. Diesel fuel requires a liquid-cooled whole house generator. These generators are considerably more expensive than air-cooled generators, which can run on propane or natural gas. Air-cooled generators are fine for single-family residences.
    2. Propane is a good solution if you do not have a gas line that can connect to your generator. But of course, you run the risk of running out of gas. So, if you go the propane route, select the biggest tank you can and also consider having a second tank if the first one runs out.
    3. Natural gas offers the advantage of knowing you will never run out of fuel. The downside is if you do not have a connection from your gas line to connect to the generator, you will need one.
  5. Automatic transfer switch. This critical piece of equipment is what recognizes a power outage and automatically starts the standby generator. You will need a switch that is compatible with your electric service panel’s amperage. Some switches provide power to circuits connected to selected items. Others supply power to all circuits. If you want the generator to power your whole house, you will want a switch that provides power to all circuits.
  6. Enclosures. You need to protect your generator from the elements. Aluminum and composite enclosures prevent rust and corrosion and are recommended.
  7. Maintenance. You will want a maintenance plan as part of your purchase. Maintenance will make your generator last longer, and likely will be required to keep your warranty valid.
  8. Remote monitoring. Many newer models have Wi-Fi options that let either you or your generator provider monitor it. Many maintenance agreements will include a provision for your generator provider to monitor your generator.

Contact Ravinia Plumbing, Sewer, Heating & Electric About Standby Generators

The electrical professionals at Ravinia Plumbing can help you select and install a home standby generator to protect your whole home from power outages. We’ve been in business since 1928, and we’ve made a name for ourselves as one of the most trusted and reliable plumbing, sewer, heating and air conditioning, and electrical companies in Chicagoland. Visit Ravinia Plumbing today to learn more, and to schedule an appointment.