Should I Install a Whole House Generator?
Thinking about installing a whole house generator in your home on the Texas Gulf Coast? Good call. The Gulf Coast, including Houston, is prone to hurricanes, flooding and power outages. And after Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, interest in natural gas standby generators is growing.
Here’s what you need to know about installing a whole house generator in Houston or elsewhere in Texas.
How Does a Whole House Generator Work?
A whole house generator is a natural gas powered system that generates power for your home. It takes the place of electricity from the grid when there’s a power outage.
There are two parts to the system: the generator and the automatic transfer switch (ATS).
The generator itself is the workhorse. But the ATS is what will start your standby generator automatically when it senses a power outage. Once the generator is operating at full speed, the ATS will cut your home off from the power grid and connect your home fully to the generator. That protects you and the grid from power surges or overloaded circuits.
Because the whole home generator has a continuous natural gas supply, you don’t have to worry about purchasing and storing gasoline. And since it’s attached to your main electrical system, you don’t have to run extension cords, like you do for a portable generator.
Cost is usually the biggest factor when deciding whether to go with a portable generator vs. standby whole home generator.
How Much Does a Standby Generator Cost?
According to Centerpoint Energy, the electric and gas utility company in Houston, a standby generator for a 2,000 square-foot home usually requires a 16-18 kW generator, which costs approximately $8,500 to $12,000 installed. That includes running 6 feet of both electric and gas lines, permits and licensing.
The size of your whole house generator depends on the size of your home and the number of electric devices you want it to run. But not only will it give you peace of mind as we enter hurricane season. It may also increase the value of your home. You’ll have to decide if a whole home generator is worth it for you personally. Here’s how to decide if it’s worth it.
Is a Whole Home Generator Worth It?
Whether a whole home generator is worth it depends on where you live, risk factors, lifestyle and cost.
First up, risk factors and where you live. The Texas Gulf Coast is prone to hurricanes and hurricane prep is an important part of home ownership here. When a hurricane hits, power could be quickly restored. Or it could take days or even weeks.
Next up, lifestyle. Are you able and willing to stay in a home without electricity for several days waiting for power restoration? What might start as an interesting adventure (Yeah! Camping at home!) becomes a major inconvenience in 90 degree heat or 30 degree cold.
Then, look at the upfront cost and possible financing. Is this something you can budget for, without causing a financial hardship? Most generator resellers offer affordable financing.
Lastly, some people evaluate home improvements like a standby generator based solely on their monetary payback. Does installing a standby backup generator increase your home value?
Remodeling Magazine publishes an annual study showing the return on home improvement investments. Their cost versus value (CvV) rating on a back-up generator is around 60%. Meaning, if you spend $10,000 on a generator, you’ll get back a $6,000 increase in the value of your home. On the Texas Gulf Coast, a whole house generator is a big selling point.
What Size Standby Generator Do I Need for My Home?
The size of standby generator you need for your home depends on what you want to run while the power is out.
The official name for this is a load analysis. A professional load analysis is typically part of the purchase process when you work with an installer. But here are some tips to estimate the size of generator you need, if you’re at the beginning of shopping for a home generator. That will get you started on pricing out the cost of a standby generator.
Time needed: 1 hour.
How to estimate the size of standby generator you need for your home.
- Make a list of the electric devices in your home and their wattage. Here are examples of what needs to be on your list:
Garage door opener
Electric stove top and oven
Below is an example of a wattage tag that you’ll find on most, if not all, appliances in your home. To convert watts (W) to kilowatts (kW), divide by 1000. For example, a device that uses 2000W is 2kW. READ MORE here
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