Whole house generator experience?

This topic is only peripherally related to Apple products, so to speak. Because all computers need power.

I am temporarily (at least one year+) located in the NE U.S. in an area with above ground electrical service, lots of trees, heavy storms, and therefore prone to lengthy power outages. So, it seems investing in a whole-house generator might be worthwhile and not have a bad resale payback. I think I would want a natural gas generator that can handle the whole house load.

I understand the total cost of a unit, installation, permits, fees, etc., would be in the $10k U.S. range give or take.

Anyone have experience with this scenario? Reliability? Benefit?

We have a whole house system (of the sort you describe). We installed it after a few weeks long outages because of tropical storms or blizzards. (Also in the NE part of the USA.)

It’s worked exactly as expected.

The one thing that I did that’s worth considering is setting up a UPS on your computer network devices so that they don’t have to reboot in the short time between power out and generator spin-up. I have a small UPS on my modem, my (eero) gateway and my primary switch. When the power goes out, the network stays up.

The good news is that once we installed it, the need for it seems to have vanished. We’ve really only needed it once in the years we’ve had it. Grin.


One thing that I have also heard for a UPS is to get one that handles power fluctuations well. This aspect is far more important in the SE, where thunderstorms have a higher tendency to knock things about rather than knocking them entirely out.

For where I am in the NE, we don’t need a generator unit. However my sister-in-law and son-in-law both have them. They both have what I might instead call an “essentials-only” unit.

Get a reliable service warranty and establish yourself with a reliable service rep. You would not imagine how hard good service might be to find in the backwoods of NE (based on the experience from the in-laws).

Depending on your longer-term interest, you might also check on solar. The NE area seems to have great deals AFAIK. Or you could search for wind turbines too. They populate certain mountain ridges along the Appalachia’s.



Depending on what you want to run you can also go for a standard generator. I have a dual fuel generator that I would only use to power my fridge and electronics if the power went out. It can use propane, which stores much better than gas or diesel. However, I am saving up for a unit as you described.

Worth pointing out that most standard solar installations are meant to be tied to the grid, and will not provide power when your outside electric power is down. You can get solar installations that will function as backup power, but it requires a somewhat different setup.

Is this because it back-feeds into the grid, and you effectively just lose all the power? Or are you talking about the lack of batteries to store power?

I know there are fancy systems that actually cut your system off from the grid when power goes out, and there are definitely some far-more-reasonably-priced manual switching options if you get a qualified electrician involved.

My dad did this. There was basically a manual switch to shut the house off from the grid, and a ginormous power cord that plugged into a generator and tied in to the fuse panel. The generator just lived in a sheltered area, and was kicked on manually as needed.

It was “whole house” in the sense that anything plugged in to an outlet was available to run. But it was lower-wattage (I think 5000 watts or something?) so not everything that normally ran could run. It was definitely enough for lights, refrigerator, computer, that sort of thing - but you weren’t going to be cooking a roast in the oven any time soon.

Whole-house would be the same concept, plus or minus automation, generator size, etc. But the basic implementation with a smaller generator (and thus a much smaller price tag!) may work for you, depending on how much of your stuff you actually need to run at a given time.

I installed a hookup for a generator and a interlock bracket in the breaker panel. This will prevent that the generator will feed power back into the grid witch is not dangerous and illegal.

Bought an Harbor Freight Predator 3500 inverter generator witch is almost as good as a Honda for way less money.

Its important to choose a Inverter generator with a clean sine wave. Ordinary “cranking” generator create havoc on sensitive electronics and modern household appliances.

Consider fuel storage and availability!
You can’t store gasoline and to a lesser extend diesel for more then a couple of months. Let alone the safety concerns to store enough fuel for a couple of days.

I converted my generator to Propane and Natural Gas.
Depending on your situation availability or storage of this is a much better choice. In addition the engine will burn much cleaner and requires less maintenance.

My setup cost about $1500 including four 40lbs propane tanks. But it’s hands on when needed.

Other systems can automatically engage and take over when needed.

For a super smooth transition you can even choose a Automatic transfer switch by APC that will make the transition smooth and invisible to sensitive electronics.

1 Like

This gadget is called a “transfer switch” and you definitely want one, whether manual or automatic. It’s dangerous to feed juice back into the grid (in fact, where I live it’s illegal as well).

I agree with @DrJJWMac that you want your electronics protected against power fluctuations, and UPS’s are the best way to get that protection - with or without a generator.

Is this how your government punishes its citizens? By sending them to live with their looney neighbors for a year?


Just bought a house that has a generator installed by the previous owner. It will not power the entire house but covers most of the lights, refrigerator, furnace, and microwave. If you have natural gas to the house, that’s the way to go. No problems with stale fuel and trying to get refills in a major storm.

Our unit turns itself on once a month to exercise it for a hour. It has to see no incoming power for more than 30 seconds before it starts up, hence the need for a UPS on computer equipment (or a laptop with built in backup battery).

Thank you everyone for your help.

  • LPG tanks are not permitted at this locale; so on-site fuel storage would not be an option;
  • The house is sited on a heavily wooded parcel with minimal roof surface suitable for solar;
  • I looked into Tesla Powerwall units charged by the local power grid – the price is shockingly expensive and batteries sufficient for “whole house coverage” would drain fully during a 24 hour outage – I don’t see the point if solar is not available;
  • Thus the existing natural gas service would probably be the only option.

Good point about the UPS, everyone who mentioned this. I’ve looked into Generac, Kohler, and similar units, which include 10-second automatic transfer switches (ATS).

This transfer panel from APC Hal’s the option to add a UPS to bridge the time between fris down and generator up and protects sensitive electronics so you bont have to buy a bunch of individual UPS devices.


My understanding is that when they loose grid power, most solar systems are designed to cut themself off from both the grid and your house load specifically so they don’t feed back power into the grid, potentially endangering utility workers trying to fix downed power lines.


No, I use an Ego generator though and it would do the job where you live, which is where I live sounds like! It is battery powered and works well. Will run a fan for over a day, my phones, freezer and sump pump for days. For less than 1K bucks. I haven’t run a heater for long on it. Buy long johns.
Ego Generator
I have a neighbor with a gas powered all-house, 'cos he can’t do without anything at all for one minute and it is a real noise problem for the rest of us, all night like having a tractor running outside your window. He is fine though.

If you bought a Tesla, you could hack it to use the car battery as a backup. There’s way more storage in that than in their power walls. :smiley:

1 Like

Well, that’s a strategy. :battery::battery:

1 Like

Gotta go power up the Tesla. I need to jump-start the refrigerator.



There have actually been proposals to do this sort of thing at a very large scale. Rather than having a bunch of electric cars plugged in and charging and massive utility scale battery installations to smooth out variations in renewable power, you have a network of chargers that can draw on the batteries of plugged-in vehicles to fill in when you don’t have enough renewables to meet demand.

1 Like

I agree with the idea. I tried to do it about 6 months ago and even got a quote but they were so busy with similar demands that it was impossible to schedule to actually proceed. That may or may not still be the case.

You do need a substantial gas supply so depending on where your gas line is accessible it can add a bit to the bill.

1 Like