Extreme weather is making power outages more common, but a home generator can keep your house powered up and warm in an emergency.
With winter showing off its worst weather, power outages might be close behind.
The average American experienced 5.5 hours of outages in 2022, thanks in part to severe weather. While that was fewer hours than the previous two years, the long term trend shows that outages are becoming more common, with the increase driven by weather-related outages.
While addressing the conditions that cause extreme weather requires systemic solutions, you can keep the lights on and gain a little peace of mind with a home generator. Generators come with a cost that may make them seem more of a luxury than a necessity.
Consider the costs of a home generator, understand the installation process, and know what to expect from this backup power source. Then you can make an informed decision as to whether you want your home generator to kick on when the lights go out, if you're better suited to an alternative or comfortable and prepared to remain in the dark until the outage passes, even as they become more and more common.
How much does a home generator cost?
The cost of a home generator will depend on several factors, from its make and model to its power capacity and features. According to HomeAdvisor, the typical cost of a whole-home generator lands between $5,000 to $25,000.
One of the biggest factors in the price of a generator is how much it will have to power, typically measured in kilowatts (kW). According to the United States Energy Information Administration, the average American household uses just short of 900 kWh per month, about 30 kWh per day. Typically, generators with 20 kW of capacity are considered whole-home generators and cost more. If a generator has less than 10 kW of power, it's meant for smaller jobs and will cost less.
Another factor that plays a significant role in the cost of a generator is the fuel source. Gasoline-powered generators are the most common type of generator and typically cost less than alternatives like solar battery backups, which store electricity for you to use when you need it.
You will have to factor the cost of the fuel itself into this equation, as you'll need to fuel the generator to use it. Some home generators run on natural gas, which is typically cheaper than gasoline. Propane is a common fuel source for portable generators, less so for whole-home options. Diesel is considered to be the most efficient generator fuel, although it is less effective in cold temperatures. These trade-offs and considerations will play into your decision.
Generator installation, maintenance and other costs
"The largest expense by far is the cost of purchasing and installing the generator," according to Don Whaley, founder and former president of Direct Energy. Installation costs will vary by the type of generator you purchase.
With a portable generator, there is no real installation cost. A whole home generator, by contrast, is a more permanent structure that requires proper setup. Installation costs include labor and electrical work including circuitry and transfer switches. It may include installing a concrete pad for the generator. All that can cost between $500 to $5,000, according to HomeAdvisor.
Maintaining a generator carries a small annual cost. You should also get your generator inspected before seasons when you're most likely to need it. This can cost as much as $80 to $300.
Then there is the cost of actually running a generator, which varies by type of generator. Estimates from HomeAdvisor suggest that if you are operating a whole home generator that is powered using diesel or propane, you can expect to pay around $200 per day for 20 kW of power. A portable gas generator providing 5 kW of power can cost around $100 per day to run, depending on gas prices.
Credits - AJ Dellinger
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