What is the true cost of a home standby generator?

Clichés are…well, ‘clichés’ and they wouldn’t be so often quoted were they not so true. There is a certain comfort in hearing such true jargon, it almost musters the thought of compassion, albeit sometimes sarcastic.

You ‘get what you pay for’, ‘worth its weight in gold’, ‘plunk down the money’, ‘bite the bullet’… So what does this have to do with the true cost of installing a backup generator?

Generators and power outages are the topic of conversation everywhere you go…at the local diner, standing online at the supermarket, waiting for gas at your local gas station, at the hair salon, everywhere! The mantra is, “I’ve had it.”, “We can’t take it anymore.”, “I can’t live like this.” and it goes on and on.

NY Times op-ed journalist Nicholas Kristof wrote a worthwhile article dated November 22, 2012 titled “A Failed Experiment”, in which he speak about climate change, deteriorating infrastructure and people’s diminishing patience. His article is very informative, in which he  articulates “In upper-middle-class suburbs on the East Coast, the newest must-have isn’t a $7,500 Sub-Zero refrigerator. It’s a standby generator that automatically flips on backup power to an entire house when the electrical grid goes out.” Mr. Kristoff goes on to say “In part, that’s a legacy of Hurricane Sandy. Such a system can cost well over $10,000, but many families are fed up with losing power again and again.”  He then shares, candidly, (“A month ago, I would have written more snarkily about residential generators. But then we lost power for 12 days after Sandy — and that was our third extended power outage in four years. Now I’m feeling less snarky than jealous!”)

So, let’s visit the concept. Installing a permanent emergency backup standby generator is a financial investment, but today many homeowners are willing to forego that vacation they’ve been planning, postponing a decorating project or passing on that latest piece of jewelry to take a step that will insure their comfort, year-round.

Who will supply and install your generator? “Big box home stores” are great, typically they have everything you need from a nail to an entire kitchen selection of appliances and more. But, who will service your generator? Are there sub-contractors involved? People you don’t know…perhaps have never heard of and certainly people that you can’t check out or meet with until the day your project begins.

It’s not all about ‘dollars and cents’ but rather about having ‘sense’ in selecting the right company to install your permanent emergency standby backup generator. The internet is great and frankly, we’re a huge fan! But, buy your generator on the internet and who will you call to stand behind the warrantee if and when you have a problem? (The internet doesn’t make service calls!) (We could tell  you several horror stories about homeowners that purchased generators online only to find out that their installation could not be completed because no one did the due diligence in checking proper gas pressure and zoning. So, what IS the trust cost? Let’s take a few things into consideration…

  1. Inconvenience
    It’s not just the cost of the installation, but if you give thought to it, the inconvenience comes into play. Perhaps you work out of your home, or have a home office. An electrical power loss could prevent you from accomplishing the work you’ve scheduled for the day, prevent you from meeting a deadline, perhaps cancelling a phone conference or something you are attending online or hosting, just to mention a few suppositions.
  2. Health
    As we age, we become more dependent on the comforts of life we’ve become accustomed to. Several people live with health conditions that depend on electrical power support therefore an extended power loss could jeopardize one’s safety.
  3. Food loss
    The possibility of losing a refrigerator and freezer full of food, could result in a financial loss upwards of $450, not to mention all the time you just spent cooking and freezing food for your family, planning ahead with your busy schedule. So, the frustration mounts.
  4. Safety
    Loss of power presents another important concern. Many homeowners rest easy knowing they have alarm systems and central monitoring. Without power, there is only a minimal battery capability.

    1. Reading by candlelight could cause a fire.
    2. Plugging in an extension cord connected to a neighbor’s gasoline powered portable generation could cause someone to trip and injure themselves, not to mention the horrible power quality some of these units output.  Very hard on your appliances.
  5. Communication
    A lack of ability to receive or make telephone calls, access the internet or email can be crippling and can evoke a sense of isolation.
  6. Related expenses
    Several families were disrupted and suffered to move into a hotel during Hurricane Sandy, many for 10-14 days. Calculating a hotel  for that period of time, adding 2 meals a day times the number of people in your family (and did anyone have to reserve 2 rooms?) and you can easily spend several thousand dollars. What about laundry services during an extended disruption? Movies? Snacks? Water at $4 per bottle? Put that towards a generator and you’ll never have that costly expense again!

Your heating system regardless of how it’s fueled requires electricity to operate. Even gas fireplaces have an electronic pilot light. Washing machine…Dishwasher…Electric Stove? All require power, too.

Compare all of this to what you might perceive as a significant outlay of money and now you’ve got factors that may well allow you to make an informed decision as to the real importance  and true value of what has become an almost-necessity today.

Of course Mr. Kristof continues to make a very valid point as he addresses the deteriorating infrastructure we have today in our country, the work that may be required and our country’s inability to pay for it, and how that truly affects all individuals. One thing we can say for sure, the government stepped in and handled this issue correctly when Hurricane Sandy hit the east coast and all Americans should be proud of the swiftness with which response and aid came through.

However, as we face continuing infrastructure deterioration, which has become our reality, the factors we’ve mentioned might just tip the scale. The process of installing a permanent generator is lengthy. Prepare for the next major power outage now!


Midwest Electric & Generator, Inc – 612-284-1550