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What is the Real Cost of a Standby Generator?

When you start your search for the right standby generator for your home, it is relatively easy to find the pricing for many different generators. But a lot more goes into owning a generator, like installation and maintenance, than that initial purchase. Purchasing and installing a generator is an investment, and to budget properly, you need to know everything that can affect the cost.

Here are the six major things that will affect the cost of your standby generator:

1. What You’re Powering

Do you want to power your entire home with appliances, heat, and air conditioning? Are you just concerned with the essentials like the refrigerator or home office? The first question you need to ask yourself when considering a generator is what you need to power. From there, you can find the right type and size of generator that will work best for your home. The initial price of the generator itself ranges based on size and can be anywhere from around $2,000 to over $10,000. Portable generators that power a few necessities, run on gasoline, and need to be turned on and off manually will cost less than standby generators that are hooked up to your gas plumbing, switch on as soon as there is a power outage, and power your entire home. These are two extremes with many options in between, so your contractor should help you pick the perfect one for your home.

2. The Location of the Generator

Most of the time, there are only one or two good spots next to the house that a unit can be easily installed. Many homeowners prefer for their generator to be located on the same side of the house as the air conditioning unit as it is usually the area with less traffic and fewer windows. But sometimes the utilities, like the electric panels or gas supply, are on the opposite side of the house. Then, your contractor will need to cut holes to get across the basement or dig a trench around the house, which will add significantly to your scope of work and cost. Occasionally, homeowners prefer to put their generator further away from the house for reasons such as landscaping, having many windows on the home, or even noise (though modern generators are not that loud, so this shouldn’t be a big concern). Once again, your contractor will need to trench and install underground piping and wire, then refill the area and repair the yard, adding upwards of $2,000-$3,000 to your project cost.

3. The Fuel Source

Not only will your fuel source have a setup cost, like your regular electricity or gas in your car, but you’ll also have to pay for the fuel itself. Your least expensive fuel option for a large 20kW generator will be natural gas, costing around $40 per day. However, if you are powering with propane or gasoline, the cost will fluctuate, and you could be paying well over $150 every day you are using the generator. This difference in price is certainly something to think about when choosing a fuel source.

4. Installation Supplies

While home improvement stores can make it seem like it’s possible to purchase a generator and be good to go, there are actually many other items needed to install your generator. Generators are usually placed on a cement pad or stone, which will need to be poured and leveled. In addition to the concrete and stone, other supplies include a transfer switch, subpanel, circuit breaker, wire, conduit, and piping. These supplies should all be detailed in the scope of work your contractor gives you.

5. Installation Services

Most generator installs will require a team including an electrician, a certified gas professional, and a small crew to pour concrete and move the generator into place. The electrician will connect the electric lines, relocate existing circuits, and even install a sub-panel if needed. The gas professional will make the correct and safe connections from your fuel source to the generator. This is absolutely not a DIY job, so you will need to factor in quotes from contractors that can vary anywhere from $1,000 to $9,500, depending on the type of generator, fuel source, and work involved. Additionally, many areas require a permit and state or local inspection to ensure the generator is safe. Your contractor should handle all of this for you; however, there is usually a small fee associated with the permit.

6. Maintenance

You should have your generator professionally inspected annually to ensure that it is functioning properly and remains safe. Your contractor should either provide you with a service agreement or supply you with a generator maintenance company that regularly inspects your machine. This annual cost usually falls between $200 and $300. If something on your generator malfunctions or breaks that is not under warranty, you will also need to pay to repair it, which can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand for the parts and labor.

While the costs above can be surprising, the benefits of a standby generator outweigh them for many families. Nothing beats the peace of mind of knowing you will be safe when the power goes out. If you’re considering a standby generator for your home, schedule a consultation with the master electricians at Brothers. Let us guide you in choosing the generator that works best for your home.