04 Nov What is the real cost of a whole house generator?
The average cost of a whole house generator
Despite the relatively high cost of a whole house generator, many families are beginning to realize they are necessary to provide safety and comfort to the home in areas with frequent outages. There is, however, some confusion around the actual cost of a whole house generator. Different sites provide different price estimates. According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a generator is about $4,074. But this may not reflect the full cost of a generator, especially if you want your generator to provide power to your whole home.
Though there are less expensive options, we estimate that the average cost of a whole house generator for a medium-sized home is $12,250 to $27,150 upfront, plus $165 to $485 per year in maintenance and repair costs. Understanding your circumstances and needs is vital to understanding how much you can expect to pay. At Hunter Electrical Service, we can provide fair estimates of a generator based on your individual needs. This article explains how we determine the cost and gives you a way to understand the process yourself.
The cost of the generator itself
The most apparent cost when it comes to installing a generator is the cost of the generator itself. If you want to install a traditional, fuel-powered backup generator, the cost for a medium-sized home can be between $8,000 to $15,000. Many factors determine the price, including the make, model, and quality of the generator.
Why capacity determines the cost
When determining a whole house generator’s cost, the most crucial factor to consider is the generator’s capacity. Capacity refers to the amount of power a generator can produce at a given time to start up and sustain electrical applications in the home. If the generator does not meet your home’s electrical requirements, it could put undue stress on the unit and may even cause damage to some of the devices connected to it.
The higher the capacity, the higher the cost. Though larger homes typically have more significant electrical needs, this is not always the case. A smaller home in a cold climate that needs a lot of heating may require a higher capacity generator than a large house with minimal electrical needs. Additionally, you may find that you only need certain appliances to run during an outage.
Cost of whole house generators versus partial house generators
The cost of a whole house generator is often much higher than a generator that only covers part of your home’s electrical needs. Whole house generators provide the most consistent and reliable power. They allow you and your household to function as if the power had never been shut off. This may be the best option if you live in an area that experiences extended outages lasting more than a day. It’s also a good form of protection against natural disasters such as hurricanes or earthquakes, which could shut off power for days or even weeks.
Backup generators that cannot provide power to all your appliances are a less expensive option. You will still be able to run the most important appliances, such as heating, refrigeration, and water heating, but some convenience may have to be sacrificed. For instance, you may have to limit shower time or wait to wash clothing or run the dishwasher. This may be a good option if you live in an area with frequent outages of a shorter duration.
Cost of installation for a whole house generator
Another cost you will have to consider is the cost of installation for a whole house generator. Installation costs vary based on the size and make of the generator and other factors such as where you live, soil conditions, and the generator’s placement in regards to the fuel source and electrical meter. However, a good rule of thumb is that installation costs about the same as the actual generator’s cost. So if the generator costs you $10,000, you can expect to pay about $10,000 in installation costs for a total of $20,000.
If the electrician has to make electrical upgrades to your home before installing the generator, the cost may be higher. Backup generators require safe and effective electrical wiring that connects to the existing wiring of your home. The cost of installing a subpanel and wiring a home can range from $500 to $900. Other upgrades may be necessary as well. If your home has a fuse box rather than a circuit breaker, for example, the electrician may have to upgrade the home to a circuit breaker for the new generator to work correctly.
Some homeowners with technical experience may be tempted to install the generator on their own to save money. Unless you are a qualified professional, however, you should not attempt this. Backup generators require sophisticated electrical wiring and gas hookup. Any mistakes could be costly, dangerous, and even life-threatening.
The cost of standby generators versus portable generators
If you are looking to offset your backup generator’s installation cost, consider buying a portable generator instead. Portable generators have a lower capacity of just a few hundred watts to 7,000 watts, but they only cost $200 to $5,000. They do not require installation, and they are easy and inexpensive to maintain. An interface for the portable generator into your main electrical panel is available and can generally be installed for around $2,000.00, a fraction of the price of a whole house generator. This can be used to run critical things such as medical devices, refrigerators, and freezers and keep some of the lights on as well.
You will have to purchase fuel to power a portable generator. It must be stored indoors separately from fuel, which translates to more work for the homeowner. Once the power goes out, you will have to take the portable generator outdoors, add fuel, set up the electrical connection, and start the generator. It is also important not to start a portable generator indoors, in a garage, or anywhere the carbon monoxide could pose a threat to your health.
On the other hand, standby generators have an automatic switch, meaning they will automatically kick on once the power goes out. They can also provide more power to the home than portable generators. Depending on your individual needs and budget, however, a portable generator may be a better option.
Evaluating the overall cost of a whole house generator
Backup generators are impressive machines that generate electricity for a home separate from the electrical grid. Buying such a machine and the comfort and safety it affords is not cheap. For many households, purchasing a generator requires financial planning and budgeting. It is thus vital to grasp how much the ideal generator for your home will cost overall.
Though various websites attempt to give you an estimate, this does not always reflect the actual cost of a whole house generator. Many factors determine the overall cost, from the capacity and quality of the generator to installation and maintenance, and repair costs.
Based on our estimates, you can expect to pay anywhere from $7,000 to $15,000 for the generator itself, $5,250 to $11,250 for installation, $0 to $900 in electrical wiring, and $165 to $485 per year in maintenance and repair costs. This adds up to $12,250 to $27,150 upfront, in addition to $165 to $485 per year. These costs change if you consider alternatives, such as a portable generator or a battery backup system.
To get a better handle on your individual power needs, give us a call, and we will send out someone to provide you with a fair and honest estimate.