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Home Improvement Idea: Installing A Backup Generator

by Gabby Hyman
Repair-Home Columnist

No matter where you live in the country, chances are good that you'll experience power outages at some time. Along the southern and eastern seaboards, homeowners grapple with hurricane damage. In the north and mid-western states, residents experience power outages from lightening storms, tornadoes, and severe cold snaps that down electrical lines. Southwest states experience rolling energy blackouts and residents in western states face earthquakes. No matter where you live, installing a backup generator can prove an invaluable home improvement asset.

Backup generators can be portable or installed in your home as a stand-by power source. They're powered by gasoline, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), diesel, and natural gas. Gasoline-powered generators are the cheapest to operate, but because of their reservoir and heavy fuel consumption rates, they offer the shortest running time without requiring top-offs. Many home generators run on both LPG and natural gas. The ultimate choice may come down to the energy source most available where you live.

Installing Generators and Home Wiring

If you're considering a stationary, permanent back-up power generator, it has to be hooked up to your home wiring system through a transfer switch. That's why many homeowners call in an electrical contractor to do the work. Depending on your county or city public works regulations, you may need an inspection or permit to have the work done.

Your electrical contractor can compute your emergency power needs and create a spec sheet for the range of generators on the market. You'll want at least 20 percent more power than the calculated target to avoid any surprises. Key components of your search should include an electric voltage regulator, noise damping, waterproof housing, and sufficient fuel storage.

During the installation, you choose a power solution that provides juice to the key elements of your home to be served by the emergency power transfer device. You'll probably want sufficient energy to drive your furnace, sump and well pumps, telephone, computer, refrigerator/freezer, lighting, and television.

The generator itself can run between $3,500 and $10,000, depending on the generator kilowatt output. Toss in a concrete pad and the costs for wiring and installation, you can expect to pay another $1,000 to $2,500. The true benefit of a permanently installed back-up generator comes when your power goes out and the generator automatically kicks into operation within a matter of seconds.

About the Author
Gabby Hyman has created online strategies and written content for Fortune 500 companies including eToys, GoTo.com, Siebel Systems, Microsoft Encarta, Avaya, and Nissan UK.