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Are whole-house generators worth it?

By Angie Hicks
www.angieslist.com

Q. What are the benefits of owning a whole-house generator?

A. A standby power supply may sound like a great idea, especially to homeowners who’ve shivered in the dark during power outages during winter storms.

If you’re willing to spend $8,000 to $14,000 on a whole-house generator, and more to have it properly installed and maintained, you can have a backup power source that’s permanently wired to your home, starts automatically during a power outage and connects directly to your natural gas line or an LP gas tank.

Portable generators, which can cost around $1,000, run on gasoline that must be continually replenished. Those units can power just a few appliances at a time, require extension cords and tend to be noisier than whole-house generators, which are fully enclosed.

A whole-house generator, somewhat larger than an air-conditioning unit, is similarly located just outside the home. Generators come in a variety of sizes, depending on how much of your home’s usual power capacity you want to replace. A standby generator can be a lifesaver, especially in situations where loss of power means loss of heat or when a homeowner must operate medical equipment, such as a dialysis machine.

If you’re thinking about buying a whole-house generator, it’s not a good idea to wait until a storm is moving in. Hire a reputable electrical contractor to visit and help you select the right type and size generator for your needs.

Be sure to hire an experienced and appropriately licensed electrician who is certified by the manufacturer to install your chosen product. Be aware that you’ll likely need local permits and will need to hire a licensed plumber to connect your unit to its fuel source.

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