Is it Worth Getting a Home Generator?

Power outages are an inconvenience that can also potentially be dangerous. While sometimes power outages can be predictable, there are times when the power goes out unexpectedly, and you’re left in the dark – quite literally. It’s situations like these where a home generator comes in handy. But is it worth getting a home generator?

As you may know by now, my wife and I moved from sunny California to beautiful Delaware, where we built our new forever home in Lewes. This new home is making me think about a lot of exciting things. I recently wrote about the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy for your home.

I have heard a lot about generators since I have been on the east coast, and I finally decided to research the topic and see if it is worth it for us.

What Does a Generator Do?

An electric generator converts mechanical energy into electrical energy, which can be used to power devices.

Standby Home Generators

Most standby home generators run on natural gas or liquid propane, and their purpose is to kick in automatically should the power go out in your home.

Standby home generators are permanently installed outside your house, hooked up to an existing gas line and a transfer switch. Most homeowners need professional help to install it. A quality standby home generator can power most major components of a typical home.

Portable Generators

Most people choose portable generators because they are cheaper. But the downside with portable generators is that you need to manually hook it up and put gas in it every time you want to run it.

You have to keep big amounts of gasoline somewhere in your home, which can be dangerous if you don’t take precautions. Portable generators are also not as powerful as standby home generators, so you won’t be able to power up your entire home with one.

Is It Worth Getting a Home Generator?

Like any important decision in life, this one is not easy but it helps if we break it down into smaller relevant questions.

What is the Likelihood of a Power Outage in your State?

I think the first thing we need to do is to assess the likelihood that your state will have power outages. If you live in a state where the likelihood of a power outage is low, then you may not need a generator at all. Sure, your neighbor may be impressed with your new state-of-the-art generator, but you may just have it for showing if you never have to use it.

On the other hand, you may live in an area where hurricanes or other natural disasters that cause power outages are quite common. In this case, having a generator for your home may make sense.

MRO Electric collected and analyzed the electrical reliability data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. They pulled the average annual frequency and duration of power outages per customer for each U.S. state from 2015 through 2019.

States with Most Frequent Power Outages

Based on this study, the table below shows some states with the most frequent power outages, together with the average outage duration. As you can see, if you live in Maine, for example, you are likely to have 4 days per year with about a 14-hour outage each day.

StateAvg # of OutagesAvg Outage Duration
Maine3.914.1
West Virginia2.811.4
Florida2.214.6
Montana2.17.8
Mississippi2.17.8
Georgia2.18.7
Oklahoma2.07.2

States with Least Frequent Power Outages

The same study shows states with the least frequent power outages, together with the average outage duration. As an example, I live in Delaware, and based on this data, I can expect about one outage per year, lasting about 1.7 hours. So, the question is, why would I get a generator for less than two hours per year without power? But this is not the only relevant question –let’s go over the rest.

StateAvg # of OutagesAvg Outage Duration
District of Columbia0.71.5
Wisconsin0.82.2
Utah0.82.1
Massachusetts0.81.6
Arizona1.02.0
Delaware1.11.7
Nebraska1.12.7

If You Work From Home, Can You Afford to Be Without Power?

This is also an important question. Let’s imagine that you work from home and are working on a $10,000 deal. The day you need to close the deal, you have a power outage, and the deal doesn’t happen. In that case, you may indeed want to get a home generator. On the other hand, if you can afford not to work for a couple of days out of a year, having a generator may be a luxury.

Does Anyone in Your Family Rely on a Medical Device That Needs Electricity?

This is a very important question. If you critically depend on electricity for some medical device, you may not have a choice. You certainly don’t want to play Russian roulette with your life or the life of your loved ones. If no having power for one or more days can endanger the life of a family member, you may have to have a generator at home.

Can a Home Generator Prevent Flooding in Your Home?

If you live in an area prone to flooding and storms, a generator may be critical to power your sump pump, which prevents flooding in your home. Fixing flood and water-related damage can certainly be costly. If this is your only concern, you may be able to power the sump pump with a portable generator.

How Much Does a Standby Home Generator Cost?

There are a lot of different home generator estimates on the internet. An important thing to consider is that there are two main costs: the cost of the generator itself and the installation cost, which can be hefty.

Alltimepower.com seems to have a realistic estimate. The price range for a whole house generator for a medium-sized home is from $12,250 to $27,150. This price range includes the cost of the generator plus the installation. You also need to consider maintenance and repair costs of about $165 to $485 per year.

But wait there is more! At least in my case. You will need either natural gas or propane to run your generator. We don’t have natural gas in our area and don’t currently have propane. So, if you are like us, you would also have to get propane in your house. The average cost to install a propane tank in the US is between $1,500 and $3,750. 

So, as you can see, it can certainly be costly. But if you’re looking at it from an investment point of view, a generator may increase the value of your home, depending on the type of generator you get. A home generator can also help you sell your home faster. In some cases, having a generator can even lower your homeowner’s insurance cost.

Home Standby Generator: Price, Size, & Install

If, after all, you have decided to get a home standby generator, this video by Matt Risinger will help you get an idea of what to expect in terms of price, size, and installation. He goes over most things you’ll want to know if you are considering one of these units.

Final Thoughts

I think the decision of whether you should get a home generator comes down to an individual household risk assessment of the likelihood of damage and suffering vs. the cost of the generator. I believe that most people do not need a home generator and could do other things with that money. On the other hand, there are specific situations where it totally makes sense. In the end, though, if it makes you happy and can afford it, by all means, go for it!

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