Angie's List Report: Home Generators

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Updated: 6/21/2013 9:38 am

Eastern Idaho doesn't typically have to deal with tornadoes that do substantial damage. But our area still has severe thunderstorms and cold weather that can knock out your power. In this Angie’s List report, what you need to know about home generators.
Edward Cochran has two homes. One in Texas and one in Indiana. He has generators at both properties for good reason.

“We have a winter home in Mission, Texas. There is a lot of dust, a lot of humidity and when they get big rainstorms it’s not uncommon for transformers to blow. Last year we were out for a period of nine hours. The year before we were out for about 23 hours at one time. Not a lot of times, but when you run out of power it’s really nice to have a back up generator. It makes a big difference in your quality of life in that point and time,” Cochran said.

Whether the generators are portable or permanent, they can add peace of mind in any emergency as Angie's List founder Angie Hicks knows.

“Generators can be a great safety measure in case of a power outage. It can prevent food from spoiling in your home, it can help you do your everyday things, keep pipes from freezing, and if you have any medical equipment that runs off electricity it can be a lifesaving tool as well,” Hicks said.

When it comes to generators, homeowners have a couple of options. Portable generators are cheaper than permanent units, but are designed to run for shorter time periods and are powered by gasoline, so they’ll need frequent refueling. Permanent units can start automatically or with the flip of a switch – and can power everything in your house. Electricians can describe the difference.

“Portable is more common than permanent and there is a few reasons. I think that the ease of use is one. Probably the biggest one is its cost-effective. We can install your transfer switch, emergency panel, for around $500-$600, then there would be the cost of the generator, whatever generator you would pick. That’s pretty cost-effect for a homeowner on a house around 1,500 to 2,000 square feet to have emergency power so that they would be comfortable in a power outage,” said electrical contractor Chris Hinesley.

“When deciding what type of generator you might want to have its dependent on your potential usage. If you are living in the city and you may just need it for a few hours a portable generator can be a great option, they cost about $1,000. But if you live in a rural area where you may be without electricity for a longer period of time or if you have medical issues that require equipment to be plugged in you are probably going to go with a whole house generator,” Hicks said about the choice to add a generator. She continued, "A licensed electrician is the type of contractor you’d hire to install a whole house generator. A whole house generator is going to run anywhere from a few thousand dollars to as much as nine or $10,000 depending on the size of the generator.”

Generators do require some maintenance. You should regularly check your generator to make sure it starts and is operating correctly. Also, always follow specific safety instructions when using generators. Put the generator outside on a level surface in a well-ventilated area at least ten feet away from the house to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.

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