Ask Angie: Whole house generators — are they worth it?

angieslist.comJanuary 31, 2014 

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Angie Hicks

HANDOUT — MCT

Dear Angie: What are the benefits of owning a whole-house generator? — Brenda W., Scituate, Mass.

Dear Brenda: A standby power supply might sound like a great idea, especially to homeowners who have shivered in the dark during power outages from recent winter storms.

Peace of mind has a price, but 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 about $1,000, run on gasoline that must be continually replenished, 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, don't wait until the next storm is forecast. Consider talking to a reputable electrical contractor about helping you select the right type and size for your situation.

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 face local permitting requirements and will need to hire a licensed plumber to connect your unit to its fuel source.

Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com.

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