Budgeting for Backups: How Much Does a Whole House Generator Cost?

If you’re thinking about going off the grid, you’ll still need access to energy. So, how much does a whole house generator cost? Find out the details, here.

A whole house generator cost can rival that of a brand new vehicle.

Why would you choose a generator over that sweet set of shiny wheels? Certainly, you will get more use out of the car!

I’ll tell you why you want to let your new car dream fade away. 

Don’t wait until you are in the middle of a disaster. That is likely not the time to start thinking about that backup generator. 

Use that boy scout mentality. Be prepared. There’s no need to wait until you are throwing hundreds of dollars away in hotels, lost food and work time. 

Look at Hurricane Irma.  

A whopping 64% of the state was without power. For some, this was for several weeks.

You don’t live in a hurricane-prone state? Consider this:

In a study spanning 13 years, InsideEnergy.org reported that the annual average of outages doubled every five years. This shows that outages are inevitable. 

Quality of life depends on a generator.

In 2016, approximately 43% of people around the world worked from home. Having a generator means they won’t be losing money. Generators can save lives. Think of the medical devices that use electricity on a regular basis. 

Here’s how to budget for this backup without selling your soul. 

Whole House Generator Cost Considerations

It’s not just the generator you are purchasing. Think about it. 

When you buy a car, you are buying freedom. A car also costs you in mileage, repairs, and insurance. 

The same idea can be applied to a home generator. When you consider a generator, there are several other associated costs to remember. This is like keeping a vehicle maintained.

Keep in mind and budget for:

  • Installation costs
  • Electrician/Gas Installer costs
  • Plumber costs
  • The cost to run it when the time comes
  • Fuel and gas costs
  • Regular maintenance costs

It’s a great idea to budget for regular maintenance. This can keep your home generator working for up to 20 years. If you use it more frequently, that number will go down.  

You can find an industrial diesel generator for sale to fit your budget. With a little research, the options are endless. Trying to narrow down your choice is the hardest part. 

Size Matters

To budget for a home generator, it is important to know what size to look for. Size matters in the generator world. Some questions to consider about size: 

  • How big is my home? 
  • Do I work from home? 
  • Do I have vital medical devices to run? 
  • What appliances do I need to run during an outage?
  • Do I have children? 
  • Am I running a business from my home? 
  • Do I want solar, gas, or diesel running my generator? 

There are two main types of home generators: portable and standby. 

A portable is more work and will need a transfer switch. You will need to buy those separately. Transfer switches cost an extra several hundred dollars. 

The thing about portable generators is that they are just that! Portable! You won’t need it professionally installed. 

But they won’t last as long as larger, permanent ones. They also won’t power as many appliances. 

These types are good for small homes and RV’s. You need to be at home during the outage to activate the generator. 

A standby unit will be more pricey, but it will automatically switch on during an outage. This could save you time and money right away!

Until you have an outage, your unit will be in standby mode. As soon as an outage occurs, the transfer switch will turn on. Imagine how good you will feel not skipping a beat after losing power. 

Depending on the size and type, the price can vary greatly. With parts and installation labor, costs can reach up to $15,000-$20,000 for some standby models. 

Don’t get discouraged, though. There are more affordable models and ways to budget. Once you decide what you need, the real fun begins!

First, you must think about two main things:

  1. How big is your home? 

Depending upon how big your home is, you will want to choose a portable or a standby generator. For example, if you have a small home, a portable may be best. For a brick and mortar home, a standby is likely less work in an emergency.

  1. What do you need to live when the power goes out?  

Do you work from home? If so, you will need your computer and phone. You may need your printer or fax machine. Don’t forget to consider large appliances.

A refrigerator, stove, and air conditioning/heating units take much more energy.  

Consider medical devices that you may need during a power outage. Calculate these into your decision.

Natural Gas Vs. Diesel

The next choice you will need to make is how to power your home generator. Do you want your generator to power on natural gas or diesel? 

Remember, fuel efficiency is key

Diesel generators reduce costs of installation. This is because there are no wires or spark plugs needed. These units are the most expensive, though, ranging in cost from $3,000-$15,000.

Measure this against gas-powered which can cost over $25/day to run. But, natural gas units will only cost you $1,900-$5,000. 

Other options include solar, liquid propane, or gasoline. The most popular seem to natural gas or diesel. These types of units last longer. You won’t have to worry about storing fuel, either.

Stick to the Professionals (Trust Me!)

I recommend that you budget for professionals in your whole house generator cost. This is not a time where you want to experiment with a Youtube video to install your generator. 

When considering cost, factor in installation labor, plumbing, gas installers, and electrical costs. 

A home with smaller square footage could cost you as low as $500 for the generator unit itself. A larger home needing upwards of 20 kilowatts (kW) of power during a blackout could cost $6,000 for the unit alone. 

A natural gas generator installation can set you back up to $5,000. But you save on fuel and battery costs since they get power through a utility grid.

Electricians will need to wire everything. This will make sure your generator will run the right way.

These guys can cost up to $75-85/hour. Their goal is to install the transfer switch and subpanel. They will wire everything safely. 

Skimping on the professionals can be costly. Mistakes can also be deadly. 

Maintain Your Generator

Whatever type you choose, it’s essential to maintain your generator. like a vehicle, you need to make sure your oil is full and filters are clean.

Test your generator on a regular basis. Do this every three months. 

It’s worth it to invest in a cover for your generator. You can also opt for an enclosure. This will keep it safer and last longer. 

Don’t let it run dry. Always make sure it has enough gas and that it is ready to go. 

You should read up on your exact generator model. The user manual is your friend. The manufacturer may provide recommendations to follow. 

What Else?

Your budget is the most important. But there are other things to consider when choosing between backup generators.  

First, think of noise considerations. Generators can be loud. Some neighborhoods have noise ordinances that are strictly enforced. 

There is a big difference between an urban and a rural neighborhood. In a louder neighborhood with lots of activity, a noisy generation may blend in more. 

Your city may also enforce codes for building onto a property. Check to see if you need to secure a building permit during installation. 

While these aren’t cost considerations, they’re worth understanding. You are making a huge investment. Make sure to do it by the book so you won’t lose your hard-earned investment.

You just forked over a hefty sum for your new home generator. Here are some potential financial incentives. 

Adding a permanent generator may increase the value of your house. As a homeowner, you may get an insurance break on your homeowner’s insurance policy. 

Another reason to hire a professional: most insurance companies require this for the discount. 

The Main Takeaways

You don’t have to calculate your whole house generator cost with your sanity. 

  • It doesn’t matter where you live. Whether it’s winter or summer, a storm is coming.
  • There are backup home generators for every budget and need. 
  • There are costs for the unit itself and professionals to install. 
  • The more expensive units do that best job at keeping you functional for a longer period of time. 
  • Don’t do it yourself. 
  • Maintain it like you would your vehicle. 

Find more helpful tips to make your life run smoother and easier! 


Budgeting for Backups: How Much Does a Whole House Generator Cost?