The next time a storm or unexpected event causes a power outage in your neighborhood, you can ensure your fridge stays cold and your lights stay bright by relying on a back up power generator. Several types of generators are available, giving you plenty of options regardless of your desired wattage and the extent of your budget.
Portable back-up generators are gas-powered options in the event of power outages. These devices can cost anywhere between $500 to $1,500, with the more expensive models offering high power output as well as more outlets for your convenience. For example, a high-end portable generator might offer 8000 surge watts and up to eight or 10 different outlets. A cheaper option might offer 850 surge watts and only two outlets.
Expect to use extension cords to power your appliances when using a portable generator, especially when using models that have fewer outlets. Another disadvantage is that you’ll need to start the back up power generators yourself, and you’ll need to do so at least 10 feet away from the house. By running these gas-powered devices in or near your garage or house, you risk carbon monoxide poisoning.
While standby generators can cost thousands more than the portable types, these devices start automatically. They’re also generally powerful enough to run multiple large appliances throughout your home.
Expect to pay around $15,000 for a 30kW standby generator, although cheaper models can be around $5,000. Part of the high-price tag is due to the installation process. A professional will need to install various components, including the generator itself as well as the transfer switch, which activates the generator backup power when the power is out and turns it off when the power comes back on.
Similar to portable generators, standby generators will also need to be placed a safe distance from your house to reduce hazards such as exhaust drifting into the home. Utility companies might also have certain generator placement restrictions you’ll need to follow.
Note that, depending on local codes, your generator might need to rest on a concrete pad before you can use it. Cement pads are available in various sizes and prices, so you can find one that fits both your generator and your budget. In other cases, a bed of compacted sand and pea gravel is also acceptable for a generator base. A rectangular hole in the ground, 6 inches deep, should be filled with the necessary materials before the generator is placed on top.