When the power goes out, a home generator can be a lifesaver. You can not only keep your lights on, but also stay warm in freezing weather, avoid food spoilage, stay connected to the internet, and keep important appliances working.
It’s no surprise that homeowners are increasingly looking into home generator options these days. But before you can bring home your new generator, you need to figure out which one to buy. There are so many different options on the market today, and it’s often hard to tell which ones will work best for your home.
Below, we break down the basic types of generators, a quick summary on how to determine the generator size you need, how much you can expect to pay, and more.
What is a Home Generator?
A home generator is a machine you can use for backup power during a blackout, such as during bad weather or if your grid is unreliable. Many people use them to keep the most important devices in their homes running, such as their fridge, heater, sump pump, and any medical equipment that requires electricity.
Most generators run on gasoline, natural gas, or liquid propane (LP). Home generators are usually either standby generators, which turn on automatically during a power outage, or portable generators which need to be started manually, and can be moved around as needed with some effort.
What Type is Best for Home Use?
Standby generators are set up to turn on automatically during an outage, even if you’re away from home. They are permanently installed, usually on the side of a house. Some models can power everything in the home at once.
Also known as automatic start/stop/transfer generators, installing a standby generator is a great option if you want to make sure certain appliances will continue working uninterrupted during a blackout. You won’t need to connect cables or flip any switches to start the generator after the power goes out. Once the generator is set up, you should be good to go.
The main downside of a standby generator is the cost. Installation prices can run into the thousands, and that’s before the price of the unit. You also may not be able to install this type of generator in a low-lying area prone to flooding.
Another potential problem is limited flexibility, especially if you don’t have the budget for a generator that can supply enough power for your whole home. It can be hard to change which circuits are connected if you opt for an option that doesn’t power your whole home. You may not be able to switch off the circuit powering your coffee machine to light up your home office, for example.
A portable generator is sometimes a more flexible (and often cheaper) alternative to a standby model. With a lower-wattage portable generator kit, you can pick and choose which circuits in your panel to run, or maybe even tote your generator to a tailgate party. Like with standby generators, if you have a smaller more efficient home some portable generator models can produce enough energy to meet all of your power demands.
Portable generators also work great for homeowners that only face occasional blackouts and don’t have any special appliances that need uninterrupted electricity.. You may save thousands if you don’t mind having to pull the generator out of your shed or garage and manually hook it up during an outage. These generators also require storage of gasoline which might be difficult for some customers, where a standby generator is permanently connected to your natural gas or propane fuel source.
Unfortunately, it can still cost a lot of money to connect a portable generator to your home’s circuit panel. This generator type also tends to be extremely noisy and bulky. Be aware that generators emit dangerous CO2, so you shouldn’t run them indoors, although it’s also dangerous to use one in rain or snow. Some homeowners choose to run their portable generators under an open-sided tent or in their garage with the garage door open.
Portable generators also will not turn on automatically when the power goes out. If a tree falls on the power line supplying your home right after you leave for work, everything in your home will be turned off until you get back — including the fridge full of perishable food.
How Big of a Generator Do I Need to Run a
The generator size you need depends on how much electricity you use, and what type of circuits you want backed up during an outage. A typical home may need a 7,000 watt generator to keep the basics running, although depending on your needs you may want something larger if you plan to power a larger space or keep everything in your home running as usual.
To find out what generator size you need, it can be helpful to add together the watts needed for each appliance you plan to run. Here are some typical numbers to help you estimate how much power your household needs:
- Portable heater: 1,500 watts
- Window AC: 1,000 watts
- Sump pump: 750 to 1,500 watts
- Refrigerator: 600 watts
- Computer: 60 to 300 watts
- Lights: 5 to 80 watts per bulb
How Much Does It Cost to Install a Whole House Generator?
Between installation services and the cost of the unit itself, installing a whole house generator can vary greatly. Average cost of installation including the generator can be anywhere between $8,000-$15,000 plus tax and permit fees. However, your final estimate may be higher or lower depending on your location, the generator model, and the difficulty of your installation.
Is a Whole House Generator Worth It?
For some people, a whole house generator is definitely worth the cost over the years. Having a backup plan for when your home goes off grid allows you to avoid extreme temperatures, spoiled food, lighting loss, and more. If you work from home, a generator will allow you to continue working and avoid data loss.
While a generator is definitely an investment, it could spare you from certain types of financial losses and other issues later on, depending on your situation. Having a whole-house standby generator may also add value to your home, especially if you live in an area prone to storms and power outages.
The Best Home Standby and Portable Generators for Pacific Northwest Homes
Switch Electric sells and installs Generac generators, and we believe they are the leading choice for home backup power. We can help you find the best model for your needs, whether you are powering a one-bedroom home in Seattle or a large property in Walla Walla, and if a generator isn’t what you’re after and you are looking for something that works with solar, we can help with that too! Battery storage systems are becoming a very popular choice for backup power, and can power a lot of essential circuits for an extended period of time without making any noise, or needing any fuel to power it.
Our company has over a decade of experience and a reputation for exceptional service. Contact us today to learn more about generator options in the Pacific Northwest and we can find the ideal solution for your home.