Are Whole House Generators Worth the Investment?

is a standby generator worth it

Portable generators are a great option for when you are out of power when you are camping or need short-term power when off-grid. However, when you need to power a whole house, especially during prolonged power outages, portable generators may not cut it. If this is the case with you and you live in an area where power outages are common or last for a long time, you may want to invest in a whole-house generator and be done with the headache of what to do during long power outages. 

A whole-house generator will cost way more than a portable generator could, but it will also offer you the peace of mind that your home will keep running even when there is no power in the grid – without you having to lift a finger. Most whole-house generators are made and connected that way that they can detect when the power is out. As soon as this happens, they kick online and you have your power back – literally within seconds. 

However, simply purchasing one is often not enough. You need to know what your power needs are, how much power you draw at maximum, and what kind of fuel your generator will use. Once you know all these details, choosing the best model is a piece of cake. Once you have it, you need a certified electrician to come and install it adjacent to your home. 

What is a Generator?

Once your whole-house generator is installed, you can sleep better – no more power outages and no more food spoiled in the fridge and the freezer. Frequent power outages are not that common, but they are not unheard of, especially if you live in areas of the US prone to hurricanes and other natural disasters. Having a reliable source of backup power (in the form of a backup generator) is necessary and can provide the comfort of life you may need. 

A generator like this is basically a large, energy-efficient generator that can help power your home when you lose power coming from the power grid. A backup generator for an entire house is a bigger and more reliable version of a portable generator, typically not mobile and fixed in place. A whole-house generator is a bigger version of a device we have known for decades, and newer and more energy-efficient versions can provide power for hours with very little fuel used. 

How Does it Work?

A generator like this typically uses a source of fuel, such as petroleum, diesel, or even natural gas, to run the engine that produces the power. The bigger they are, the more power they produce. Whole-house generators can therefore act as a backup power source for entire homes and even smaller business ventures. 

Whole-house generators are connected to the mains and they can monitor the incoming power supply. As soon as they detect that there is no current coming from the grid anymore, they kick in and start producing electricity on their own. These generators are very reliable and they can last for many years, even without coming on for years at a time. As they are very powerful (since they have to act as a home generator), they have to produce a lot of power and this demands some special safety measures. 

Average Cost

As they are so large and they have to be able to produce a lot of power, they do not come cheap. There are basically two types of house generators on the US market: air-cooled and water-cooled. The first cooling technology is employed in generators of a power lower than 24 kW, while those of a higher power rating than 24 kW are typically water or liquid-cooled. 

Air-cooled generators cost upwards of $2,500, while water-cooled can cost upwards of $9,000. The final price of house generators also depends on their total capacity and size and all other special features that can help them quickly overtake the power supply during a power outage. Installation and additional wiring will cost you $7,000 to $9,000, with an even higher price tag for more complex projects. 

Size/Capacity Calculation

When it comes to calculating the size and capacity calculation, you should follow your energy needs, and simply sum up the power of all the devices that you have in your home. And while it may be difficult to do the final calculation, it may be easy to do so for a professional – for this reason, always ask a professional to do the calculations for you. 

These do not take a lot of time, but knowing how to do them can be tricky. In fact, it will almost never happen that you use all the devices and appliances you have in your home at the same time. You may use 70% of your appliances at the same time, but the calculation can get even more complicated: some power appliances, such as pumps take way more power than their nominal power to start up. If the house generator cannot handle this extra load, it can damage the appliance or prevent it from starting at all. 

Life Span

The life span of your standby generator is also important to consider. Needless to say, higher-quality models can last much longer than cheaper counterparts, but you can generally expect a standby generator to last 20-40 years. With a median lifespan of 30 years, you may sleep easily, as there is no way that you will lose the power supply to your home. 

Importance of Generators

This continuous power supply is very important. Power restoration may take some time and during this time, your essential devices and appliances may be left with no power, unless you have a UPS device installed for each of them. The situation is made more difficult for those that work from home, as routers and other communication means demand a constant power supply. 

In addition to this, many people in the US depend on medical devices for a normal everyday experience. These devices may be vital and essential, and it is necessary to consider installing either a home battery or a standby generator to provide vital power to the devices. Electrical medical devices are a good example of these devices. 

Types of Generators

For these reasons, generators are important and sometimes even vital. As we have said before, there are two home generator types. These generators are standby generators and portable generators. 

Portable Generators

Portable generators are smaller and less powerful than standby generators. They are also not as functional and practical and may not run for as long periods as standby generators can be. A typical portable home generator will easily power a device or two or a single larger appliance. They cost less and are easy to move around, unlike standby generators. 

However, they cannot power your entire home, and may even use more gasoline or other form of fuel for each kilowatt-hour they produce. Typically, these generators will produce no more than 3-5 kW of power, which is not enough for a home standby power generator. 

A portable generator typically uses gasoline or diesel for its operation. Needless to say, this type of generator can only run for a few hours, as it demands a periodic replenishment of the fuel. This has to be done when the generator is off, and with some models, it even has to be let to cool down before the fuel can be replenished. 

Standby Generators

Unlike a portable generator, a standby generator uses natural gas. Since it is a natural gas-powered generator, it produces less carbon monoxide than portable generators but it still has to be in a well-ventilated area. Needless to say, these generators produce other gases that can be detrimental to human health. 

A standby generator also costs more than a portable one. This is a more powerful device and can power an entire home after all. In fact, this type of natural gas generator is considered a permanent feature, and it easily takes over supplying your entire home including your AC and heating appliances. Lost power will not bother you anymore, with a generator like this. 

As they are so large and powerful, they do not have a propane tank. They are connected to a gas line and this is a permanent connection. Once installed there is nothing else that you need to do except occasionally clear grass, weeds, and shrubbery around the standby generator. Sump pumps, water pumps, and even septic tank pumps, all of which take a lot of power to startup will have no issues running with a standby generator like this. 

How To Take Care of Your Generator?

Whichever type of generator you may choose, they will serve you during a power outage. We’ve already established that a standby generator connected to your natural gas line is the best home generator that you can buy, but that does not mean that it needs no maintenance. In fact, every type of home generator needs some care (portable more than standby), so let’s consider how to take care of yours. There are just a few things to consider when taking care of your generator: 

  • Use it regularly, 
  • Do not connect too many appliances at once, and 
  • Maintain it regularly. 

Use Regularly

The first thing that you should do when taking care of your generator is to use it regularly. Although some generator shops recommend running your generator for half an hour each week, this may be too often. Aim to exercise it once to two times a month. Let it run for at least half an hour, with a smaller appliance attached to it (something like an electric outside grill). This way, your home standby generator will be exercised and you will be able to notice any malfunction before it is needed, a key to keeping the home generator operable for when you need it the most. 

Don’t Use too Many Appliances at a Time

When the generator is running, it is important to note that you do not need to use 100% of its power. Most generators today can adjust their fuel usage and electricity generation but know that running it at the top of its capacity can be as damaging as sprinting is for humans when exercised over longer periods of time. 

Aim to not use more than 80% of its power at any given time. This way, you will be able to run most of your appliances and will still have some spare power in the generator left. You should refrain from using major appliances during the power outage, as doing laundry, heating, and water heater all at the same time may put too much strain on your generator. Your laundry can wait for a day or two extra. 

Proper Maintenance

Proper maintenance is the final step that is necessary to undertake to ensure that your home generator can work at its peak performance. This is simple and easy to undertake. Here are some steps that you can do to maintain your home generator: 

  • Clear the bushes to ensure good airflow
  • Clear any leafy debris during the autumn and early winter, as these are the periods that you may need to use your generator the most, 
  • Mow the grass around the generator, 
  • When mowing, avoid using the grass trimmer, as it may send smaller rocks and gravel flying toward your generator, possibly causing corrosion and other damage, 
  • Keep it clear of dust and insects, especially the air inlet and exhaust, 
  • If you notice any flying insect nests (such as wasps, bees, and hornets), call a professional to remove them and then open the generator to check whether there are insects/bugs, or nest residues inside. 

Proper maintenance will ensure that house generators run efficiently and smoothly for years to come. They will always be clear and easily accessible in case of an emergency or for professional inspection and maintenance. Keeping the generator clear will also prolong its useful life to its maximum (20-30 years). 

Reasons to Invest in a Whole House Generator

However, low and sporadic maintenance isn’t the only reason you should invest in a whole-house generator. The automatic transfer switch, which will monitor the electricity supply and turn on the generator automatically is another. Here are some more: 

  • Cost-efficient fueling, 
  • Greater power supply than with portable generator installation, 
  • Increased safety, 
  • Increased home resale value, and 
  • A house generator is essential for major appliances. 


A house generator is incredibly convenient, especially during a power outage. These generators have helped many Texas households push through the winter of 2021 when there was a complete blackout in the state. Besides this, they come on automatically and prevent your heating system and hot water system from staying without power for too long, risking burst water pipes. This adds to their convenience. 

Cost-Efficient Fueling

A part of this convenience is reflected in how long a generator can run. As whole-house generators are connected to the natural gas line, they do not depend on frequent refueling (with liquid propane, gasoline, or diesel), and, unlike electric generators, do not need sun to run. This makes them easy to operate for a long time, and using natural gas as the main power source ensures that they run for a fraction of the cost of running a portable generator. 

Greater Power Supply

A generator like this is called a whole-home generator for a reason. They have enough power to supply all the devices and appliances in your home with power during a power outage. Still, you should always be mindful of how many appliances are run at the same time when the power is out – too many and you will reduce the lifetime of your whole-home generator. Some appliances and devices, such as a water pump or a sump pump need that extra bit of juice to start up, so giving your generator a bit extra leeway with its generation capacity is a good thing to consider. 


The added power supply does not come with increased risks, which is another benefit of these generators. A whole-home generator installation is a permanent installation, in a well-protected area where carbon monoxide poisoning is reduced to a minimum. They are larger and sturdier appliances that connect to the home mains, making the risk of an electric shock very low. Besides this, they are well-encased and do not get as hot during their operation, making them even safer for pets and children. 

Increased Home Resale Value

All this added comfort and convenience also have a say in how much your home is worth. Having a home that is prone to outages is never a good thing, but having a home with a backup power supply is desired. For as long as you have gas lines, a whole-home generator will increase the resale value of your home. 

Essential for Important Equipment & Appliances

In addition to all these perks of having a whole-house generator, it is important to note that these generators will also serve as a backup power source for the most important of appliances. These include: 

  • Medical equipment, 
  • Security systems, 
  • The sump pump, 
  • Well water pump, and 
  • Home business. 

Medical Equipment

The medical equipment (including all-electric medical devices) you may use in your home may differ depending on your medical needs. While some people use it for devices that prevent or help treat sleep apnea, others may have devices plugged in that ensure long-term advanced medical monitoring or even for life-support systems. A backup home generator in this sense could literally save lives, so an early investment may be something you would like to consider. 

Security Systems

Your security systems are there to ensure that no intruders can access your home, at least not without leaving a ton of footage and other video materials that can be used in court to prove your point. These systems, as all others, run on electricity, and leaving them with no power for a prolonged time may be a bad idea. As soon as the power is gone, your home relies on a generator like this to power all the devices you may have. 

This includes your security systems. They do not draw a lot of power as it is but will be essential when you are away from home or when a natural disaster kicks in. You should know that crime rates grow steadily immediately after a natural disaster, as people scavenge for food they can find. Some less moral people may use the situation to their own advantage, breaking into homes that have no power. Security systems running with a whole-home generator will be able to offer an added level of protection in trying times. 

Sump Pump

Your sump pump is another device that your home should not be left without, both during outages and higher-cause disasters. Your sump pump will keep your home dry and free of water at all times, especially when coupled with a generator with a transfer switch. This way, your permanently installed generator will be able to keep your place dry, and free of mold, mildew, and structural damage for prolonged periods of time. 

Well Water

When there is no power (and no connection to the city water lines), you may not have access to well water, as the pump pumping the water will need electricity to run. A good generator with a transfer switch will ensure you get enough power to run the well pump and have water access whenever you need it. Beware that the generator should be able to provide more power than the pump’s stated nominal power, as they take more power to start up. A single kilowatt pump may draw more than a kilowatt and a half for a fraction of a second when starting. 0

Home Business

Your home business is as essential as it gets, even with the power down. A big storm will leave many homeowners without several hundred dollars worth of income for that day. However, being with no power for days and even weeks can cause more damage in the long run, as you could be losing clients each day you have no power. Having a generator will help keep a few lights and your computer up and running – more than enough to keep working remotely. 

Factors to Consider when Purchasing a Generator

is a backup generator worth it

So, purchasing a generator can help you tremendously whenever you need it, be it to keep your medical equipment or home office running. However, you can not just purchase any model – you need to know what model would work for you and why this model is the best for your particular needs. Let’s consider some factors your should take into consideration when purchasing a home generator: 

  • The capacity of the generator, 
  • The fuel type – diesel, propane, or natural gas, and 
  • The installation method. 


When it comes to the capacity of your home generator, you should know that the capacity will determine how many appliances you need to run to keep your life comfortable even when there is no power. To calculate the capacity, you should list all the appliances you may have in your home and even consider which of those you will be using at times of distress. Here are some appliances and devices commonly found in US homes: 

  • Water heater
  • Heating system, 
  • HVAC system, 
  • Ventilation systems, 
  • Attic ventilation systems
  • Washer, 
  • Dryer, 
  • Dishwasher
  • Hot plate, 
  • Oven
  • Fridge, 
  • Freezer, 
  • Hot drawers, 
  • TVs
  • Entertainment centers, 
  • Music lines, 
  • Routers, 
  • Chargers, 
  • Phone line (it draws power if you have a wireless receiver), 
  • Toaster
  • Coffee maker
  • Microwave
  • Mixer, 
  • Lights, 
  • CCTV and other security systems, such as an alarm, 
  • Break maker, etc. 

Some newer homes may also have an EV (Electric Vehicle) charger which may draw a lot of power. If you experience a power outage, you should know that you should not charge your EV using a power generator. This will draw a lot of power, a lot of natural gas, and you may end up overheating your generator. It is much better to take it easy with your EV rides while the power is out or be smart about the remaining car battery capacity. 

Fuel Type

The fuel type that is used to power your generator will also have a big say in what type of generator you can purchase and how much you will pay. In general, any type of liquid or gas fuel can be used to power a house generator, but some are stored better than others. Solid fuels are avoided because a generator using these can often take hours to start, so they are reserved for large power plants. 


Diesel makes it to our list, unlike gasoline. Diesel is very energy dense and you will need less of it per volume than any other fuel to get an appropriate amount of electricity. On the other hand, you will also be able to store it for much longer than other fuel types. This is very good to consider, especially as gasoline cannot store for more than 1-2 years. 


Propane, on the other hand, is easy to store and you can even purchase a propane tank and have it refilled every time you need it. Many off-grid households use this gas for cooking and heating, as it is cheap, easily accessed, and stored. Propane can provide enough fuel for a generator to run for several days at a time. 

Natural Gas

Natural gas is the cheapest and the easiest to access. Most US cities and towns have gas lines and they are sturdy and reliable even when disasters hit – thanks to the fact that they are mostly underground. These lines can supply an indefinite amount of fuel to your generator, so that your entire home may run for weeks at a time, if the need be. 

Installation Method

Once you have decided on what size generator and what fuel type you want to use, it is time to consider installation. Installation of generators can cost quite a lot to install and connect to the mains of your home, so you may want to consider doing it yourself to save on installation costs. Unlike a portable generator, which uses extension cords, your standby generator will be installed for the long run, so you may want to be careful with the installation. 


As installing a generator can cost thousands of dollars, a DIY approach can save you a lot of money. When doing so, you need to know the code requirements and need to be able to do the installation properly – to ensure safety when the power goes out. Here is what you need to pay attention to: 

  • The electrical connections, 
  • The plumbing connections, 
  • Building permits, and 
  • Appropriate site selection. 
Electrical Connections

When it comes to electrical connections, you need to decide whether you want to power up the entire home or just a few appliances. A lot of homeowners decide to keep lights, heating, and water heaters on during an outage. This way, you will need a separate breaker panel. If you decide to connect the generator to the mains and power your entire home, you will need to cash out more money – as higher model capacity means a higher price tag as well. 

Plumbing Connections

When it comes to plumbing connections, you may want to consider calling a professional. This way, you can be sure that all the connections are done well, and that there is no leakage. Besides upping your gas bill, these leaks pose a real danger when it comes to fire and explosion hazards. 

Building Permits/HOA Restrictions

Before even considering a home generator, you should consider building permits first. All the necessary information can be obtained at the closest municipality office. In addition to this, contact your HOA (Home Owners’ Association) and consider what they have to say about home generators and noise levels. 

Site Selection

An appropriate site selection is also important. The manufacturer’s instructions will hold all the necessary information on the type of site, vicinity to the house, plumbing and connection details you need to know. They will also hold all the information necessary for proper wind directions and how to act when the generator is on – to prevent the exhaust from entering your home. 


But, in the end, a professional installation is worth every penny. This way, you will be able to ensure your installation is done properly and that the good investment is executed in a way that will not cause issues down the road. The last thing you want is to come back home only to discover that the power was out nd the sump pit overflowing, as the water rises in your basement. 


Is it Cheaper to Use a Generator than Electricity?

No, a generator is more expensive than using electricity coming from the grid. This is because generators use a lot of fuel to produce electricity and will draw fuel enough to generate a bit more power than you actually need. This being said the power plants that your local utility company draws the power from are a much better option, with cleaner energy that is delivered to you at a lower cost than that coming from a generator. 

Can you Run a Generator 24 Hours a Day?

Yes, you can. You can run a generator 24 hours a day for as long as you have enough fuel to run it for that long. This does not mean that you should open the gas reservoir while the generator is running – rather shut it off and then refuel. Doing otherwise may not be smart, as you risk, injury, fire, and explosion. 

Why are Whole Home Generators so Expensive?

Whole home generators are very expensive. A part of the reason why is that they have to produce a lot of power to be able to power your whole home. They also need to be made to be very efficient, as simply scaling up some simpler generators would result in a lot of noise that would be difficult to bear. For this reason, they need more efficient engines, as well as sound insulation and multiple modes of operation – al of the features that render them expensive. 

Is it Safe to Leave your House with a Generator Running?

No, it is not safe to leave your house with a generator running. Generators should never be left to work unsupervised, as they may cause sparks, fire, and injury. Always shut off your generator when leaving your home. 


A whole-house generator is well worth the money invested. This kind of device will protect your home when the power goes out and will help you preserve the quality of your life even when the area is hit with an outage. Unlike portable generators, standby, permanently-installed counterparts are well worth the extra cash, as the peace of mind gained is priceless. 

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