How much does it cost to install a backup generator?
Most modern households are heavily reliant upon electrical energy supplies. The installation of a backup generator can deliver whole-house energy during a loss of power, or it can be designed to supply only necessary systems until electrical service is restored.
There are small, mid-sized and large generators available, and they work in the following ways:
- Small - will deliver 7-10 kW, and will be able to run a few basic household systems, but cannot sustain the needs of the entire home. These tend to need manual start and will average from $2500 to $4500 with another $500 to $1000 in installation costs.
- Mid-Size - will deliver 12-20 kW, and will be able to function more effectively than a small system, but still will not deliver the power needed for the entire home. This is a good option for those who need heating during cold weather situations. These will cost from $4000 to $10000 and will also come with $1000 or more in installation fees.
- Large - will deliver 22-45 KW, and will be able to operate the entire home. These will usually be permanently in position and contained in protective "cases". They are usually liquid cooled and can be permanently connected to the home. Many will come with installation fees of a few thousand dollars. These will cost from $9000 to $15000.
Unless the homeowner is knowledgeable in home electrical systems, the installation of a backup generator is not to be considered a "DIY" project. Traditionally installation can include:
- Assessment of home energy needs to select suitable equipment (unless whole-house supplies are the goal). To understand the needs of the building the homeowner must do simple math that totals all appliances and household systems, and use the total kW figure to select the proper equipment;
- Selection of equipment and list of installation requirements from contractor or supplier;
- Preparing site nearest to current electrical meter and power panel;
- Pouring of suitably sized concrete pad 1 with cost of $75 per yard;
- Installation of fuel tank to feed generator throughout use. This must be done by a utility company and can rely on propane 2 or diesel. The tank can be buried or positioned next to equipment, and professional connection is also usually required;
- A new subpanel must be installed near the original electrical panel and an automatic transfer switch 3 should be included as well; and
- A detailed plan of which appliances and electronic devices should be disconnected during use is necessary as well. Usually only the installer can indicate items such as televisions and computers that will be damaged by the fluctuating energy of the generator.
- Provide electrical wiring and lighting to code - This is going to depend upon the amount of work required, but electricians average from $65 to $85 per hour. This project might be priced on a per item basis, or the electrician might simply base it on the square footage.
Enhancement and improvement costs
- Higher volume gas meter installed by utility company.
- Automatic transfer switch 3 if one is not included in installation.
- Purchase of a portable generator if a permanently installed generator is too costly.
The wisest course of action for backup generator installation is to work with a licensed contractor who can help to accurately determine the appropriately-sized system for the home. Always request references, obtain information about warranties, and seek at least three bids before selecting the provider. Consider too if any provider is excessive in installation fees in order to compensate for a lower equipment quote.
Remodeling Terms Cheat Sheet
Definitions in laymen's terms, cost considerations, pictures and things you need to know.
See full cheat sheet.
1 Concrete pad
: A flat area of concrete that can be used for a variety of purposes, such as a patio or a driveway
: A hydrocarbon gas used as a common fuel source
3 Automatic transfer switch
: A device that automatically switches the power source to a backup generator in the event the primary power source fails
Cost to install a backup generator varies greatly by region (and even by zipcode). To get free estimates from local contractors, please indicate yours.