How to Choose the Right Home Standby Generator for Your Needs

January 22, 2024

Climate change has contributed to trends like the increasing frequency of power outages. An average home can go without power for at least seven hours per year.

Widespread power outages can be dangerous, especially if you don't have a backup power option.

If you want to avoid this risk completely, consider investing in a home standby generator. Keep reading to learn how to choose the best option for your needs.

Choose a Fuel Source

Some fuel sources might be more available than others depending on where you live. Standby generators are either natural gas or liquid propane. but there are diesel options. A diesel home standby generator will cost the most.

Both liquid propane and diesel generators require large enough tanks for the generator to run properly. The natural gas meter and gas lines must also be the correct size.

A contractor can verify the correct characteristics for these generator types. You can find this information in a generator manual as well.

Determine Your Power Needs

During an outage, how much power do you need? Decide if you want to back up crucial appliances like the HVAC system and your refrigerator or if you want to power the entire house.

To help you decide on backup power wattages, look at these average wattage requirements:

  • Refrigerator: 700 to 1,200 watts
  • Laptop: 250 watts
  • Washing machine: 1,200 watts
  • Microwave: 600 to 1,200 watts
  • Freezer: 500 to 1,200 watts
  • Television: 300 watts

Add together the wattages of the items you need during a power outage. Multiply that number by 1.5 to get the minimum wattage needed for your home generator.

Power Ratings

Large home standby generators are rated by kilowatt (KW). This metric measures the generator's electrical power output. One kilowatt is equivalent to 1,000 watts.

To determine your home's power needs, decide if you want to power your HVAC equipment. Heating and air conditioning have the highest home electricity demands.

To put this into perspective, a 10,000-BTU air conditioner needs 1,500 watts.

During the summer, a blackout can make your home feel miserable. A blackout during the winter is equally as dangerous without heat.

Choose a Transfer Switch

There are two types of transfer switches to choose from. An automatic transfer switch (ATS) allows your generator to automatically turn on when there is a power failure.

Automatic switches sense utility power and can detect an outage immediately. It will start the generator engine and disconnect the power coming from the line.

A standby generator automatically turns on when the power goes out, hence the name. You don't have to worry about manually turning your generator on, but there are still various ATS options to choose from.

Choosing the right switch is essential because it works with your generator to restore lost power. To know which switch works for you, find out the amperage of your electrical service panel.

Locate the main breaker in your electrical panel to figure this out. You can ask a contractor at your generator installation to verify this before beginning the process

An average-sized home has a 200-amp main breaker. This is the amount of electricity your home can consume. Older and smaller homes will have 100 to 150 amps.

Some generators have built-in transfer switches, while others are stand-alone components. A stand-alone transfer switch can be added to your home's breaker box or tied in with the grid.

Consider Remote Monitoring

Remote monitoring is probably not something you expected to see in this generator buying guide. However, many manufacturers are adding Wi-Fi options to home generators.

You can also buy a generator without this feature and get it as an add-on. You can install a wireless monitor to an existing standby generator.

Wi-Fi and a remote app can integrate your generator with your smart home. You'll have access to controls and important diagnostics from your mobile device.

If you aren't home, you can check on the power situation of your generator.

Create a Budget

A home standby generator is a permanent solution for power outages. It's larger and more expensive than other generator types, such as a portable generator.

Whole-home generators range anywhere from $10,000 to $15,000 depending on the brand and other factors. This average price includes installation and gas line hookup.

The generator you choose will dictate your budgeting. Because standby generators are more expensive, it's important to plan and save ahead of time.

Think About Features

After you've narrowed your list of options down with the above considerations, think about what features you want. There might be some features important to you that you can't live without.

Automatic CO Shutoff

Fossil-fuel-powered generators can emit carbon dioxide in the air. An automatic CO shutoff will kill the engine if dangerous levels of CO2 are measured.

Although this is a helpful feature, it is not an alternative to safe operating procedures. You should continue to safely use your generator to avoid CO2 at all costs.

Fuel Gauge

A generator with a fuel gauge allows you to see how much propane or gasoline is left. You'll know when it's time to refuel and don't have to worry about your generator shutting off during a blackout.

If you opt for remote monitoring, you can see this feature on your mobile device.

Low-Oil Shutoff

When your generator tries to run on low oil, it can damage your system. To avoid this problem, consider a low-oil shutoff feature.

Low-oil shutoff protects your generator from damage by automatically turning off when the oil level dips too low.

Choosing a Home Standby Generator for Your Needs

A home standby generator is a huge investment, so it's important to make the right choice the first time. By knowing you need a standby generator, you've already taken the first step.

When shopping for generators, consider fuel sources, power needs, transfer switches, and important features. Deciding on these things can help you create a budget that you feel comfortable with.

This guide has walked you through what you need to know about making the best decision for your needs. For more informative blogs on home improvement, keep coming back to our website.


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