Generators are slowly but surely becoming a necessary investment in many households. This is especially true for households that experience frequent power outages.
Like any other investment, house generators require one to do their research thoroughly before committing.
However, various price estimates are being offered on different sites online. As such, it can be confusing and hard for one to know the actual cost of a house generator.
To have a realistic estimate of the cost of a house generator, you need to understand the various factors that contribute to the cost of having the generator.
These factors include; the cost of the generator, size of the generator, type of generator, brand, installation cost, household needs, and maintenance.
This article will offer a breakdown of these factors and offer you a means of coming up with the most realistic cost estimate.
Table of Contents:
- Whole House Generator Costs: How Much Will You Really Pay?
- Evaluating the Overall Cost of a Whole House Generator
- Portable Generators vs Standby Generators Cost
- Cost of Whole House Generators vs Partial House Generators
- Top 5 Generator Problems & How to Fix Them
Whole House Generator Costs: How Much Will You Really Pay?
The general rule for achieving the average cost of a whole house generator is adding the cost of the generator itself, the cost of installation, and the cost of maintenance.
A quality generator is estimated to cost about $4,074. The average cost of a whole house generator is $12,250 to $27,150. Additionally, the cost of maintenance and repair is $165 to $485 per year. In total, a rough estimate of the cost of a whole house generator would come to $31,709.
You must note that this figure has been set on the higher side. It may, therefore, vary if you factor in the different variables.
Here is a breakdown that will help you understand and calculate your prices, depending on your preferences and needs.
Average Cost Range of Whole House Generator Itself
The estimated cost of a traditional, fuel-powered backup generator suitable for a medium-sized home will range from $7,000 to $15,000.
Two factors determine the cost of the generator; the type of generator and the quality of the generator.
The brand determines a generator’s quality. Trusted and well-known brands guarantee to offer you quality generators.
This is because these brands have invested years of research in developing reliable and highly efficient generators.
The catch here is they may be a bit more costly than generic or off-brand generators.
You may think you’re saving up on costs by purchasing an off-brand generator. However, you would be compromising on quality and a reliable warranty for your investment. This might cost you more in the long run.
Therefore, when purchasing a new generator, you should not compromise on quality. Instead, you should find other variables that will help you save on cost. One such variable is the type of generator.
The type, make, or model of a generator is determined by the type of fuel it uses to generate electricity. Therefore, depending on fuel type, generators will have different costs.
There are five types of generators; gasoline, natural gas, diesel, liquid propane, and solar generators. Each type of generator has its advantages and disadvantages.
The price range for this type of generator is $550 to $3,000. This is a popular choice among homeowners as it is the most cost-effective.
Gasoline is also easily available in most states, and you wouldn’t have a difficult time looking for fuel for the generator.
However, gasoline is difficult to store, and it has a short shelf life.
Natural gas generators
The price range for this type of generator is $1,900 to $5,000. While these generators are pricier than the gasoline types, they are more convenient.
Unlike gasoline generators, natural gas generators do not require storage.
You can easily hook them up to the utility grid, and they will serve you. Natural gas generators are also more efficient in cold climates.
The disadvantage of this type of generator is that they use more fuel.
This type of generator is mostly used to power the entire house and costs $3,000 to $15,000. Diesel generators are the priciest among all generators.
Even so, they guarantee higher efficiency than gasoline and natural gas generators and would be the best fit for any household with high power needs.
Liquid Propane Generators
These generators cost about $500 to $6,000. The main advantage of liquid propane generators is that liquid propane burns clean.
Liquid propane also has an indefinite shelf life when stored correctly.
However, these models of generators don’t last long, and liquid propane can be hard to store.
This type of generator has a friendly price range of $300 to $5,000. Solar generators are more sustainable and don’t require a constant fuel supply.
However, this type of generator may not be the best fit for a household with high power needs as it cannot store large amounts of energy.
Solar-powered generators are also not the best fit for a household in areas with limited exposure to sunlight.
Tips: When looking for the price estimates for generators, begin by settling on the generator type (based on fuel) that best fits your household needs. Once this is established, find quality and trusted brands that can offer you the generator at a reasonable price.
Why Capacity Can Determine the Cost
The most vital factor that determines the price of a generator is its capacity.
In terms of generators, capacity can also be referred to as wattage or the ‘juice’ of a generator. Capacity refers to power, often in Kilowatts, the generator can manage to produce, when need be, to run electrical appliances in a home.
Different homes have different electrical needs. Therefore, a generator’s capacity is important as it determines whether or not it meets your electrical needs in the house.
Choosing a generator that fails to meet these needs could be detrimental as it would put unnecessary strain on the unit. This could also damage some of the electrical appliances in your home.
The higher a generator’s capacity, the chances its cost will be more.
It is common for people to think that larger homes will largely have more electrical needs. As such, this might be the case in some homes but not always.
Large homes with fewer electrical appliances don’t have high electrical requirements.
In the same way, small homes, with many electrical appliances would have higher electrical needs. Smaller homes in cool climate regions require more heating and have higher electrical needs than homes in regions with a warmer climate.
The Installation Cost for a Whole House Generator
The cost of installation is another factor that you need to factor in when calculating the real cost of a whole house generator. Variables that determine the cost of installing a whole house generator include:
- Professional assessment of household’s energy needs (usually free).
- Site preparation ($50 to $75 per square foot).
- Connection to a utility line or adding a fuel tank ($50 to $100 per hour).
- Electrical wiring ($65 to $85 per hour).
- Permits ($50 to $200 per permit)
- Materials and equipment ($300 to $2,000).
Not all the variables will remain constant for all installations. For instance, only households with faulty wiring or fuse box instead of a circuit breaker would require wiring and electrical upgrades.
Other variables that may determine the cost of installing your whole house generator include where you live, the type of soil, and the generator’s placement to the source of fuel, and also an electrical meter.
The figures offered above are merely estimates based on installation charges for most contractors. You can, however, come up with your estimate for installation cost.
A good way of doing so is using the rule of thumb; installation costs are almost similar to the cost of a generator.
Consider the following during the installation process;
- Size of your home and your electrical needs.
- Whether a unit has or requires a transfer switch.
- Distance of the unit from the electrical panel.
- The need for a concrete pad.
- A fuel tank.
- Anti-theft equipment.
DIY or Hire a Professional: There are several ways you could save up on installation costs. You should, however, not try to install your generator by yourself. This goes even for individuals having technical experience.
In addition to pouring the concrete pad, professionals can help you understand your power needs and the appropriate generator.
Installing a whole-house generator also requires complex wiring and fuel hookup. If done wrongly, it could result in extra costs or end fatally.
Always contract professionals to install your generators.
Below is a quick video on the generator installation process.
Cost of Whole House Generator Maintenance and Repair
Maintenance and repair of whole house generators are often referred to as the hidden cost of having generators.
This is because most people don’t think of the maintenance cost when purchasing a new generator. It is, however, necessary for you to consider this cost if you want your generator to serve you for long.
Depending on the frequency of outages in your area, a standby generator can run between 26 to 100 plus hours per year.
If properly maintained, a generator can last between 20 to 30 years. One way to ensure your generator’s longevity is to implement a preventive maintenance (PM) program.
The PM program and service are scheduled based on engine hours to meet the needs of individual units. A PM cycle includes a general inspection followed by servicing and a scheduled inspection of the following critical services;
- The air system.
- The alternator.
- Coolant system.
- Fuel system.
- Lubricant system.
- Starting system.
- Transfer switch.
The maintenance program is scheduled for weekly, monthly, bi-annual and annual inspections.
Weekly Inspections: You can conduct a weekly inspection by yourself. Here’s a checklist of what you can do.
- Run the generator to warm it up.
- Monitor that the generator runs smoothly without alarms.
- Check to ensure the unit has enough fuel level.
- Make sure the generator has been set to auto mode.
- Ensure that the generator circuit breaker is closed.
- Check that the unit does not have any fluid leaks.
Monthly Inspections: Make sure you check the;
- The coolant level in the engine.
- Oil level in the engine.
- Generator battery charger.
Bi-annual Inspections: You should contact a certified technician for this part. The following should be checked during this appointment;
- Battery cables and connection.
- Battery-specific gravity and electrolyte level.
- The enclosure.
- Drive belts.
- The DC electrical system, control panel, and accessories.
- The AC wiring and accessories.
- The generator coolant heater.
- The connections and coolant lines.
- The lubrication system connectors and hoses. Check for any fuel leaks as well.
- The muffler, exhaust pipe, and exhaust system.
- Check and have the air cleaner filters and units cleaned or replaced.
- The air induction connections and piping.
Annual Inspection: This should also be done by a certified technician. The following should be done;
- Change the fuel and air filter.
- Change oil and filter.
- Change spark plugs.
- Clean the generator crankcase breather.
- Flush the generator cooling system.
- Change spark plugs.
- Perform a load bank test on the generator.
- Remove any water that might be in the fuel tank.
- Fuel testing and conditioning.
Evaluating the Overall Cost of a Whole House Generator
When performing your background research for generator prices online you will come across several estimated figures. Unless you are consulting with professionals, it is hard to have a specific price.
However, it is possible to have pointers that can enable you to have calculated a rough price estimate. Factors that you should consider when calculating the overall cost of a complete house generator include;
- Type of generator based on fuel and quality.
- Generator capacity.
- Power output (whole house or partial house)
- Cost of installation.
- Maintenance cost.
Portable Generators vs Standby Generators Cost
Standby generators or permanent generators are designed to automatically switch on once there’s a power outage. They are larger than portable generators, usually able to generate about 20 KW enough to power a whole house.
Because they can generate enough power, standby generators, or preferred by most homeowners. In addition to this, they ensure power and heat in the home, even after long periods of power outages.
The pricing of standby and portable generators depends on their size and the power they generate. Due to their efficiency, standby generators are more expensive than portable generators. For example, a large 20KW unit goes for about $20,000.
On the other hand, an easily portable generator is fairly priced between about $300 and $1,200. This will be a convenient option if you’re on a tight budget.
Portable generators would also be a convenient option as their installation is less expensive. That is if you choose to use them as a standalone unit with extension cords.
Portable generators are also a good choice if power outages are infrequent in your areas and you have little electrical needs. They are also less expensive and easier to maintain.
However, using an easily portable generator has its drawbacks. To start with, portable generators produce less power, about 7000 watts.
This means they can only be used as partial house generators. Additionally, having an easily portable generator means more work for you.
To start with, portable generators need to be stored indoors and also separately from fuel. You will also have to take out the generator, fuel it, set up the necessary electrical connection, and then start it every time there’s an outage.
It is also vital you note that you should not operate the portable generation in wet conditions. This is because it increases the chances of being electrocuted.
You should also never run an easily portable generator indoors, such as in the garage.
This is because the carbon fumes being emitted can accumulate in the house and harm you. Instead, ensure that the generator runs outdoors, far from windows, vents, or doors.
Cost of Whole House Generators vs Partial House Generators
When faced with a power outage, as an aspiring home generator owner, you may be faced with two decisions; to power all appliances or certain electrical appliances in the house.
Generator manufacturers put this into consideration and produce the whole house and partial house generators.
Whole house generators power all the electrical appliances in your home during a power outage. Partial house generators, on the other hand, only power the crucial appliances in your home.
As a homeowner, the level of comfort you desire and your budget will determine the type of generator you will choose.
Whole house generators are pricier than their counterparts. This is because they offer more reliable and consistent power.
With a full house generator, your home will be cushioned during an outage and will run as if the power hasn’t been turned off.
This type of generating is the best fit for homes that experience power outages for extended periods that last longer than a day.
You might also consider purchasing a full house generator if you live in a region that is prone to natural disasters, which may cut off your power for extended periods.
If you’re working with a tight budget, then you might consider partial house generators. They are less expensive, and they get the job done.
Although partial house generators will not power all electrical appliances in your home, they will help run vital appliances.
These include; heating and the refrigerator. You will, however, need to make some sacrifices, such as limiting your time in the shower, using the dishwasher or laundry machine.
Top 5 Generator Problems & How to Fix Them
Now that you know more about generators, it makes sense if we also looked at what can make them not work as required.
Below are some of the problems you may encounter with a generator.
- Battery Failure
A battery malfunction can often occur in generators. Most of the time, it will be caused by human error. The good news is that such problems are sometimes simply fixed by flipping the circuit breaker back up to power the generator.
If the circuit breaker is not the issue, check for dirty connections. Dirty connections in this case mean that the generator terminals are covered in dust and debris.
Such dirt makes it hard for the electrical current to flow thus, making it impossible to start the generator.
- Leaks from the engine
You are likely to notice some coolant leaks after a while. These leaks happen whenever the generator is overworked. This will put a lot of strain on the coolant hoses. When the hoses tear, then you can expect leaks most of the time.
Always repair the leaks so that you can have the generator running with enough coolant. As we know it, cooling the engine is very important.
- Low fuel levels
Whenever there is low fuel level, the engine can also fail to respond. It is why you have a fuel gauge. It helps you know when it is time to fuel the generator.
When the fuel is too low, the engine might end up sucking air into the hoses and whole system. It will be quite tough to start the generator when this happens.
- Insufficient oil
You may not believe it, but many people forget to check their generators’ oil levels. This can be disastrous to the working of a generator.
The oil is important for the proper lubrication of the engine. It is why you should always ensure the oil is at the right level.
It is easy to check the oil level. You do so through a dipstick just as you would do for a car. Once you read the oil level, you would know if it is necessary to add more.
- Having a dirty air filter
When conducting the usual maintenance on a generator, it is vital to also check the air filter. It is important to have the filter in the best working condition.
If the air filter is clogged, it becomes hard for you to end up with a generator that runs right.
You will always notice that your generator runs better once you replace the air filter. The frequency of changing the air filter depends on how often you run the generator and also how dusty the area is.
The best whole house generator will always leave you with a great way of powering your house. So, even when others might be experiencing power blackouts, you will still have enough power to keep the house running.
When you finally buy a generator, make sure it receives proper maintenance too. This ensures that the generator can serve you better for several years to come.