Whole House Generator Costs: How Much Will You Really Pay?

You’ve been wanting to invest in a whole house generator for some time now, but the cost has always scared you away. 

But do you really know how much a new standby unit would cost?

Most homeowners push off the install because they envision dollar signs much higher than the reality of the purchase. Price range can vary dramatically depending on a few different factors— and each choice can affect the final price of your investment.

Let’s look at a few of the factors that can influence how much you’ll pay for a whole house generator:

Cost Factor #1: Wattage. How much power do you need for your electrical load?

Oftentimes the biggest influencer of your whole home generator cost will be the size of the unit. When we say size, we don’t necessarily mean how heavy or big the generator is, (although this will increase as your power requirements increase too!). 

By generator size, we generally mean the kilowatts (kW) or “juice” that your standby will need to operate. For instance, in our Battle of the Home Standby Generator guide, you’ll notice comparisons of three popular home generator sizes: 11, 16 and 20 kW units. Standby generator costs will vary by wattage and of course brand (which we’ll get to as well further down). 

Let’s use Generac units for example. At the time of writing this, prices for small to large-sized units start at $3,459 for an 11 kW generator, $4,219 for a 16 kW and $4,949 for the 20 kW Guardian Series models. 

If you’re not sure which generator size your home needs, read our helpful article.

Cost Factor #2: Fuel Type. Will you buy a natural gas or liquid propane generator?

Generators typically run on two power sources: natural gas (NG) or liquid propane (LP). The price of your standby unit can vary by fuel type, both in terms of initial purchase cost and refueling needs. 

Generally, liquid propane standby generators have a higher upfront price tag, but can save you more overtime on fuel cost. But when choosing between NG or LP whole house generators, the choice isn’t always so cut-and-dried, as both units have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages. 

For instance, natural gas fuel is generally less expensive by unit— and because the fuel comes from underground pipelines, you don’t have to worry about service or cleaning propane tank costs every few years. Yet, liquid propane often burns cleaner, and LP units generally run quieter, so some homeowners choose propane despite the extra costs. 

Read our article and weigh the pros and cons of natural gas vs. liquid propane-fueled units to help you determine your whole house generator cost.

Cost Factor #3: Installation. Will you need a permit to dig a tank / how far do your lines need to run?

Do you even have access to natural gas lines in your neighborhood? Some rural areas may not have underground piping, forcing you to choose LP. Liquid propane generators require an external fuel source, and homeowners often choose to install an underground propane tank to keep a generous supply on hand at all times.

It’s not uncommon for certain areas or communities to require a special permit to dig and install these tanks, and can cost you extra down the road if you are caught without one. For instance, even if no one rats you out (unlikely, as it’s hard to miss a big, shiny generator permanently installed in your backyard!), you will need a permit sticker to pass inspection when reselling your home

Installation may cost more or less, for example, depending on how far from your home the team needs to run fuel lines or for safe installation of ventilation, fuel and exhaust ducting. If existing electrical equipment needs updating to support the generator (like adding a new subpanel near the original electrical panel or an automatic transfer switch), this can tact on more money too. 

Cost Factor #4: Quality of the Unit. Which brand will you choose?

Just like any product, you can end up paying a little more for a trusted standby generator brand, but it’s often worth it. 

An off-brand generator might have a more attractive upfront cost, but will that unit come with a reputation for excellence or a reliable warranty? Long-standing brands like Generac or Kohler have generous warranties and years of innovation to develop  highly efficient units, which often end up saving you more money in the long run. 

There can be a lot of whole house generator brands to choose from and the choice can become overwhelming. Read our Battle of the Home Standby Generator guide for comparisons from three of the most popular brands.

The Last Hidden Cost: Maintenance & Service

Once you buy a new standby generator, the cost considerations don’t end. Purchasing a generator without included support can mean expensive fixes or services later.

If you’re on the fence about where to purchase a generator from, look no further! Our team at SWFL Electric offers timely and professional repairs or service to help reduce your costs later down the road. 

See what makes our crew different and explore the perks of buying a generator with us over the big box stores. Then, reach out for a fast and affordable quote. 

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