Generator – Portable or Whole House?

HOUSETIPS
February 3, 2023

Regardless of where you live, power outages are a common problem for homeowners. For homeowners along the Gulf Coast, hurricanes can leave communities without power for days while the electric companies try to restore power. When the power goes out, there are options that you can do ahead of time to keep your home running – even during the storm.

Speaking of options, you have several when the power goes out at your home:

  • Move-in temporarily with relatives or friends.
  • Move into a hotel (expensive and may not be an option in a widespread power outage like a hurricane).
  • Endure the darkness and inconvenience with candles and flashlights.
  • Plug in a portable generator, or
  • Enjoy the hum of your whole home generator that connects immediately when the utility company power cuts out.

It is not always possible to temporarily relocate, and enduring the summer heat or winter chill isn’t ideal. When the lights go out, a generator can help to power your appliances like air conditioning, heating, washing machines, water heaters, and more. In the best-case scenario, there are only two options here.

Portable Generator – Despite their name, these massive and heavy appliances are not very portable. Yes, they have wheels, handles, and can be rolled around – but require at least 2-3 people to load into a pickup truck. And you can forget about trying to fit one into the trunk of a car… A portable generator must be safely located outside in a well-ventilated area for safety, and it can be quite loud when in use.

These generators run on gasoline and can only power a limited number of items, which does not include your central air-conditioner. But they are comparatively less expensive, usually costing between $600-$2,000. Since they have wheels, they can be moved out of the way when not in use. Run a few extension cords to the freezer, refrigerator, a couple of window units, a T.V., and a few lamps, and you can certainly manage for several days until power is restored to your area.

Whole-Home Generator – the Mercedes Benz of convenient home appliances! Most whole-home generators include automatic transfer switches that turn the generator on automatically once the utility company’s power has been off for a designated period (30 seconds to a couple of minutes). They can be sized to provide power to the entire house, including the central air-conditioning system(s), all the T.V.s, lights, refrigerator, oven, microwave, etc. Just like the power never went out in the first place! Due to their convenience, they are expensive ($8,000-$40,000), require a permit to be installed, must be located away from windows, doors, electrical panels, and gas meters, and require a concrete pad to sit on.

If you’re considering a whole-home generator, which option you choose must be based on your circumstances and budget. One final consideration – think about how many days you have been without power over the past few years and then attach a value to that inconvenience.

Whole-home generators come in various sizes depending on your square footage, and it is important to purchase the right size for your home to keep the lights on safely. Always consult with a qualified and licensed electrical contractor when you’re considering purchasing a generator. Your electrical contractor should be familiar with the permit requirements, gas service requirements, and safety matters when planning for a whole-home generator.

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