Generator 101: An introduction to residential generator systems

Generators are used in a wide variety of places, from residential to commercial, even hospitals.  They work to ensure you have power for necessities when the main power goes out.  We offer installations on all generators currently available, regardless of if we sell them or not.  We are certified installation and warranty repair technicians with the two main brands, General Electric and Generac.  Please contact us if you have questions or to schedule your free estimate today!


Types of Generators

There are two main categories of generators widely available and in use today.  The first are Portable Generators, which typically tun on gasoline and require someone to start them up when the power goes down.  the second are called Standby Generators and are usually hard wired to the electrical system of the home as well as plumbed to the natural gas or propane lines in the home.  These units have the option of manual start up or automatic start up, where they turn on as soon as they detect an outage and then turn themselves off when power is restored.  There are pros and cons with each set up.


Portable Generators

Portable generators can be found in a very wide range of sizes and prices.  The installation of these generators is easier and less costly.  They also have the benefit of being moveable, or portable, as their name implies.  The down side to these units is that they need to be filled with gasoline and oil regularly, and require manual start up.  Most portable generators currently on the market have push-button starts, but still require someone to be home, start it up and plug it into the generator receptacle.  This is a good option for renters or for some one who wants to be able to take the generator with them if they move.  The transfer switch portion of the generator is NOT moveable, however.  This is also a good option for someone who needs back up power but is on a budget.  These installations (NOT including the generator) typically run between $800 and $1300, depending on the existing electrical panel.


Standby Generators

Standby generators can be found in sizes starting at 7kW up to 45kW or higher.  Most residential uses do not require larger than a 20kW model.  These units offer the convenience of automatic start up, which is means that they ‘sense’ when the power supply from PG&E is unstable or going out and turn themselves on.  The other nice feature is that they run off of propane or natural gas, so they have a longer run time than portable units, as long as your propane tank doesn’t run out.  The downside is that they are more expensive both to buy and to install, the units start at $1799 and go up from there, while the installations start at $2500 and go up.  They also cannot be easily moved, and are considered part of the property unless specified otherwise, for purposes of a sale.  These units are an excellent idea for someone who wants their power to be running regardless of whether they are home or not.  We have had customers with pets or with fish tanks that need to make sure their animals are safe and healthy regardless of power outages, so they have chosen the Standby units with automatic start up.


Regardless of which type of unit you choose, we will help you determine which size is needed to run your home, and go through the various options with you.  All generators are integrated into your home’s electrical system by means of a transfer switch.  The transfer switch ensures that you cannot back feed the power lines and potentially harm someone.  They size and type of transfer switch you will need is determined by the generator you choose as well as by your existing electrical panel.  Please call or email us today for more information or to get free estimate!