Menu Bar

Home           Calendar           Topics          Just Charlestown          About Us

Monday, August 26, 2013

What Is the Going Rate for a Generator?

Don’t feel like reliving the pioneer days this storm season? 
A generator is your best bet, but what does it cost to keep your life up and running?
Written by Shira Boss from the Narragansett-South Kingstown Patch

We’re a little too accustomed to the hunker-down-in-the-dark, pioneer-lifestyle of power outages thanks to freak Nor’easters and superstorms. Generators are the obvious way to keep some of your creature comforts, but how much do they cost here in town and where did you buy one?

Odds are most of us aren’t going to pedal our way to power with a DIY bicycle-powered generator. Portable units are the most commonly purchased and start at around $400, like this unit from Champion, sold at Sears. Generators like these provide about 3,500 watts and can run a refrigerator, sump pump, and lights – but not the air conditioner.

Roughing it not your style? Then aim for a higher-wattage portable with more features, like an electrical start, low-oil automatic shutoff, and larger fuel tank. This $999, 7500-watt Generac model is a bestseller at Electric Generators Direct and can power an average-sized home, minus central air conditioning. Its eight-gallon gas tank will run for 12 hours at half capacity. More power = more money.

Add safety and convenience by connecting the generator to your home’s electrical circuits (you can choose which ones) with a transfer switch, sold separately starting at $150.

Stand-by backup generators require special wiring
If you’re in a storm-prone area or insist on creature comforts, you can upgrade to a standby generator (and expect visits from lesser-equipped neighbors). These larger, more costly units, such as this 20,000-watt unit from Generac, sold at Home Depot for $4047, are permanently installed outside the home, run on natural gas or propane, and take over some or all of a home’s power needs either automatically or through a manual switch. 

There’s even enough juice for you not to notice the switch if you are. Only about 3 percent of standalone homes in the U.S. currently enjoy this kind of power backup, according  to a Businessweek article citing manufacturer Generac. (They calculate 15 percent have portables.)

Standby units require professional installation – a contractor to prepare the concrete base, an electrician to connect it to the house, a plumber to run the gas line – that typically doubles the cost of the unit and could triple it. You might also need permits. Editor's note: in Charlestown, you absolutely, positively need permits, though that should be part of the package deal you get from your contractor.