Most people are familiar with the portable generators you roll out when the electricity fails. They keep your critical electrical items, from refrigerators to garage door openers, powered up in an emergency. The unit may run for a few hours until the electricity suddenly returns, but recent winter storms have made residents think twice about portable units. Because electricity has been out for several days, a portable unit cannot support a typical household for that time period. Permanent, standby generators are now becoming the normal backup in an electrical emergency. However, their cost is substantial. Take a look at a few key costs you must calculate into your potential investment.
Add It Up With A Contractor
When you begin your generator cost evaluation, understand that the large, powerful unit will be more expensive than the small model. Generators have intricate internal components to generate the necessary electricity for a home. Parts costs rise as units produce more power. A contractor must visit your home to add up all the appliances, and other electrical items, you want on the generator. They essentially calculate the total wattage and compare it to available generator models. At that point, they can give you a rough estimates of cost. You may want to remove some items from your power list to reduce the generator cost, however.
If you are on a limited budget, a standby generator with a 7 to 10 kilowatt specification is adequate to power critical appliances. For example, the refrigerator, sump pump and HVAC system can run safely with this model. However, other items, from lights to televisions, cannot draw power. For this simple generator, it costs between $2,500 and $4,500 for the unit itself. You must also add up to $1,000 for installation labor. Although these numbers may seem high, you are adding a major, permanent power source to your home that can last as long as 20 years. It is truly an investment.
The next generator cost consideration provides wattage between 12 and 20 kW. These models cost between $4,000 and $10,000 with an added installation charge of more than $1,000. Although this may seem like enough power to cover the whole home's electrical needs, most small appliances cannot be powered with a medium-size generator. However, you should consider this size if you need more versatility compared to the small model. For example, your electrical load equals between 10 and 11 kW. If you run a small generator at its maximum, you'll eventually break it prematurely. Selecting the medium-size unit allows you to run the system at a low level for long-term system life.
Entire Home Comfort
Costing several thousand dollars to install, a large, 22 to 45 kW standby generator is priced between $9,000 and $15,000. They look similar to an outdoor air conditioning unit because of their protective case. These systems are an impressive investment, but will power the entire house easily. If you have family members requiring a controlled indoor climate or constant medical appliance use, large standby generators essentially create a normal, electrical environment. From turning on lights to operating the dishwasher, this generator can handle almost anything.
Once you select your generator power specification, you need to consider the cost of fuel. Natural gas can power your generator, depending on the area. However, a gas line professional would have to install a high-volume gas meter. The cost of this service is typically around $2,000. Alternatively, lease a liquid propane tank. The lease itself could be around $10 each month, but the propane costs between $2 and $4 per gallon. With a 100-gallon tank, propane could be an expensive option.
Supporting The Fuel Tank
Your fuel professional must also estimate a support for your tank. It cannot be simply installed in a grassy area. A strong, concrete pad should be poured to support the tank's unique size and weight. In general, you'll pay $75 for each concrete yard poured. You want a professional to pour the concrete to ensure that it cures evenly. An unstable pad may sink under the tank's weight, creating a possible flammable situation.
To complete the generator installation, an electrician needs to upgrade your main electrical panel. When the electricity turns off, the generator needs an automatic transfer switch to activate the system and funnel the power to the home. An electrician will actually add another panel to your original configuration to support the switch and auxiliary power. Depending on the electrician, the installation labor ranges from $65 to $85 each hour, plus all the necessary parts.
You must consider more than just the generator's cost when you decide on a permanent system. Electrical wiring, fuel, concrete supports and generator size all combine into a large bill. However, you and your family will be ready for the next power failure.