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Ballpark costs for typical back up generator + installation

Ballpark costs for typical back up generator + installation


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Old 07-13-17, 03:27 PM
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Ballpark costs for typical back up generator + installation

I'm in Michigan. I was wondering if anyone has any recent experience with costs to purchase and have installed a back up generator (Generac, etc.). I've been doing a lot of reading and thought it should be in the $500-$1500 range for installation. Well I had a big box store rep cone out today and he quoted me $3k+ just for installation?!? The pad would be at most 6'-8' from the breaker panel, all gas connections would be very close as well....

Any ideas? We lost power recently for 8+ hours again within a 1 year period. Want the peace of mind of a standby.
 
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Old 07-13-17, 03:30 PM
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I personally will not quote any generator prices without seeing the location first hand. There are way too many variables.

Everyone is installing generators now.
I'd recommend calling and get a second or even third quote.
 
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Old 07-13-17, 05:30 PM
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Thanks Pete, that's my mission tomorrow. Get a few different quotes.
 
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Old 07-13-17, 07:21 PM
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In general your cost will vary between minimum of $5000 and up to whatever. It all depends on what you expect (whole house or just minimal power) during outage. Location, house size, locating the generator on the land with respect to other parts of the house, where you current main breaker box is located, just to name a few items. Stay away from the big box stores. They will just contract out the work to the lowest bidder who needs work at the time (and may by-pass codes). You should be dealing with only one company (you don't want to buy the unit at Lowes and have to deal with someone else for installation and service). Usually a reputable contractor will need to subcontract a plumber if or electrician if major rerouting of piping or electrical is needed. Go through a name brand dealer who reps a single manufacture such as Generac or Kohler. Look for maintenance and how they provide for it. Is it a separate contract or do they provide at least a one year service at no cost. Look at who they have recently installed and get references. Be sure they will provide all permits and licenses as needed. What will they use as a foundation? Poured cement, crushed stone, or fiberglass base?

Last year I was ready to pull the trigger on a whole house generator and was going through a single certified company directly representing one manufacture. I also had direct experience from their work from the same company who installed my son's several years ago. My price was close to $9000 for a typical two story home with natural gas service. Due to my son having a stroke just days before I was ready to sign, I backed out of the deal. I will be revisiting it in the near future.
 
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Old 07-13-17, 07:50 PM
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Ouch, I was hoping to be at ~$5k. Generac's 16Kwh model with switch is $3799 pretty much everywhere near me. Gas, electric and pad are within 6'-8' of installation. I'll be getting 2 or 3 more estimates over the next week or so. Thanks for the heads up on permits, was something I have on my list of questions. Servicing will be added.
 
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Old 07-14-17, 07:53 AM
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My 10kw NG permitted whole home installation was $1900 electrician (4 older style load shed modules), $1000 plumber, and $500 for landscaping and siting, to give you an example. About $6500 total with Generator, switch and modules.

Other issues you should consider are a proper load calculation (including possible load shedding) and gas meter size. My utility upgrade my meter free of charge, some will charge you.

I needed permits for electric, plumbing and zoning (for site location).
 
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Old 07-14-17, 10:21 AM
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My 15kW Generac threw a rod at maybe 50 hours and 10 years. My next genset may be a Kohler.
 
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Old 07-14-17, 12:27 PM
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Could be reasonable, but get a few estimates. Sometimes the required gas or electric service work can really increase the upfront install cost. If you go through the state permitting process the cost won't be too bad, but sometimes certain local governments really jack up the permit and inspections costs instead of the state.
 
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Old 07-16-17, 10:11 AM
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I'll be getting 2 or 3 more estimates over the next week or so.
Be sure to ask the contractors if they are licensed and including all permit costs. The Generac preferred installer in my area isn't licensed at all! I suppose they must be sneaking in and installing generators after dark.
 
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Old 07-17-17, 07:09 AM
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"My 15kW Generac threw a rod at maybe 50 hours and 10 years. My next genset may be a Kohler."

Thousands and thousands of Generacs are running just fine. Warranties up to ten years have been offered. That comment is unnecessary to the OP's question.
 
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Old 07-23-17, 06:35 AM
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Well I've gotten 2 estimates so far. To save some money I had them assume I'd be digging the short trench and laying/leveling the pad. Prices have come in at $8k w/16Kw model and $8800 for 22kw. Second quote is supposed to also price out the 16kw, waiting on that. Both are Generac certified servicers and 10 yr warranty included.

As of now, I'll hold off, little to much money for us right now.
 
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Old 07-23-17, 07:12 AM
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Those prices seem reasonable. They won't go down next year.
 
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Old 07-27-17, 08:19 PM
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Update, 3rd estimate was right at $7200 and was from a highly reviewed company. The guy that came out was very informative. Unfortunately that's still more than I'd like to spend.

A buddy of mine mentioned purchasing a portable with 50amp outlet, power inlet box and breaker interlock. I found a few different gens out there. A couple had both a 30amp and 50amp 120/240 outlets.

My home has two 200amp panels. Can I install two power inlets and separate interlocks and feed both panels? The 30 amp outlet would feed a panel with a room or two for lights/tv/gas water heater. The 50amp outlet would feed the panel with well/sump/furnace/fridge, no ac and I'd be turning off most nonessential breakers.

If that's crazy please let me know, just exploring options, safety is primary concern with the wife and kids.
 

Last edited by msu50000; 07-27-17 at 08:21 PM. Reason: Clarifications
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Old 07-27-17, 10:51 PM
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With dual service panels and circuits in each panel that you desire to operate with the generator I don't think this is a DIY project. The best, in my opinion, method would be to install a third panel and transfer all the desired circuits to this new panel. The new panel would be fed from one of the existing panels through an approved transfer switch with utility-off-generator positions. This will NOT be inexpensive.

The alternative, and something to consider BEFORE doing any work, is to actually make a list of how often the power goes out, what season it goes out (winter or summer) how long it stays out and what is the LEAST amount of usage that you consider to be absolutely necessary.

For example, while my power may occasionally go out in the spring, summer or early fall it is outages in winter that concern me. Most of my outages are for short periods of time, less than four hours (often less than an hour) and mere inconveniences. What IS a problem for me is when the main lines are taken down in a severe storm and it is days before power is restored. I have decided that keeping my furnace and refrigerator operational as well as some kitchen counter receptacles for microwave OR toaster/convection oven as well as a few lights is all that I need to remain comfortable. As such I have only a 3,000 watt, 120 volt (only) inverter generator that supplies all I need. It is manual start, needs to be wheeled over the the gas meter (natural gas conversion) and connected up to supply power. It cost me about $2000-2,500 to install and I think it was the an excellent use of my money. We had a big storm in August a few years ago where the power was out for some sixty hours. My neighbors had to move to a motel but I ran my little gennie about twelve hours a day and survived just fine.
 
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Old 07-28-17, 03:53 AM
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Furd, we've lost power twice in the past 18 months for 8+ hours due to power company "hardware failure". 3 years ago the same company left tens of thousands without power for weeks here. It was kind of a big deal for our area. At the time we were just outside of the affected area but have since moved.

I appreciate the input on the transfer stitch.
I don't think that going with a breaker interlock and manually turning off unneeded breakers is to big a deal for us at this point. My thought on the 30amp/50amp dual inputs was for simple wiring without swapping "must have" breakers between main panels, which is another option I've also considered.

Here is an inexpensive option I found:
Duromax XP12000EH dual fuel, I'd run on propane initially and convert to natural down the road.

Can a generator output on both 30 & 50amp 120/240 outlets?

Does or can a generator with both outlets, provide full power to the 50amp outlet if that's the only one being used?
 
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Old 07-28-17, 05:45 PM
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Can a generator output on both 30 & 50amp 120/240 outlets?
Yes, unless there is a selector switch that limits usage to only one receptacle. I have never seen the latter.

Does or can a generator with both outlets, provide full power to the 50amp outlet if that's the only one being used?
The two different receptacles are only for the convenience of using the appropriate interconnect cable. If you have both a 30 ampere and a 50 ampere receptacle the 30 ampere one most likely has a 30 ampere circuit breaker associated with it to prevent more than 30 amperes output. Also, a 50 ampere receptacle cannot provide more than the total generator output so in many cases its output will be significantly less than 50 amperes.

Here is the REAL problem. A dual-voltage generator might be rated as (just as an example) 20 amperes at 240 volts or 40 amperes at 120 volts. However, the largest 120 volt single load the generator will supply is only 20 amperes. This is because the generator has two, 120 volt windings and each is limited to a maximum of 20 amperes. Such a generator will supply TWO, 20 ampere 120 volt loads but it cannot supply a single load of more than 20 amperes. It will NOT supply a 30 or 40 ampere 120 volt load on a single circuit.

Further, the 120 volt loads need to be distributed over BOTH of the generator outputs as evenly balanced as possible for best operation. You must limit the total output of the generator to no more than 20 amperes per output. This stated another way is that you cannot have a 20 ampere 240 volt load AND a 10 ampere 120 volt load running at the same time.

Providing a generator large enough to supply the majority of a home's electrical load is VERY expensive both in capital cost and in operating cost. Standby generators are for use in supplying critical loads during utility outages when not having any power is a huge inconvenience or a life-safety issue. Generally speaking, air conditioning is not considered to be a needed service from a standby generator although there ARE exceptions to this idea. Trying to install a generator that can replace the utility power is simply not cost effective and in almost all cases is simply folly. If you are experiencing a prolonged (weeks) power outage then it is far more economical to simply move to a motel during the outage than to spend the money that it would take to stay in your home.

The example I gave of my own system was to show that for a home on a municipal water system and no sewer pump along with a conventional gas-fired water heater takes very little power for "urban camping" versus the amount of power needed to live the same as with utility power. I can use either my microwave oven or the toaster oven (or a hot plate) by itself but I cannot use both (all three) under any circumstance with the generator. I can run the refrigerator and the furnace without a care but IF I also wanted to run the kitchen appliances I would have to keep an eye on the total generator load. Because I have only a single-voltage output from my generator I do not have to be concerned with "balancing" my load across two generator outputs.

Because you have two 200 ampere panels I assume that you are also on a well rather than having municipal water supply. You may also have a sewage pump or a septic system that requires power for some function. These ARE critical loads and will require a larger generator than you might originally calculate because motors will require three to six times their running current to start. If the generator is already running near maximum then the pump may not start and could be damaged by a low-voltage condition.

Honestly, I think you need to have a full blown analysis done on your home on how best to serve your needs. A good analysis will give options that could decrease the size of the needed generator by re-wiring certain loads.
 
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Old 07-28-17, 06:04 PM
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MSU,

If you're on a limited budget, as I was several years ago, get a gasoline powered unit and a transfer switch. You want a unit that will power your sump pump, freezer. refrigerator and maybe your furnace, and perhaps a few lights. That's what I did and it has served me well for the past several years. It's only now that I can possibly afford the whole house generator. But we are still thinking about it. The only advise I will give is if you get a gasoline generator, be sure to run it several times a month and don't let gas sit in the carburetor, let it run out by shutting off the fuel supply and running out whats left in the carb.
 
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Old 07-28-17, 07:19 PM
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If no 240v plan B would be be an inlet and a separately derived system. Just put four receptacles in the center of you house or in the kitchen not connected to your household electric. The receptacles would connect only to the inlet outside. You can then just run extension cords from the independent receptacles to where ever you need power. If you have a central A/C buy a cheap 8000 BTU window A/C to cool a bedroom.
 
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Old 07-28-17, 07:32 PM
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Honestly, I think you need to have a full blown analysis done on your home on how best to serve your needs. A good analysis will give options that could decrease the size of the needed generator by re-wiring certain loads.
Very well said and also true.

For an automatic backup generator for your home with two 200A panels... there must be load shedding modules included. An automatic generator must be able to start and run with you not there. Any excessive loads.... like well pump, lift pump, electric water heater, A/C, etc. would need to be disconnected or the generator breaker will trip instantly on transfer.
 
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Old 08-18-17, 02:03 PM
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Reviving this for a quick reply. I've decided to go with a portable generator, interlock kit and associated hardware/wiring. Simple and cost effective. I'll be running the furnace, well pump, refrigerator and some LED lights and couple of outlets. Bought a dual fuel unit that is rated for 9,500/12,500 (surge) watts on gas. Less on propane of course. I've got 2 40lb propane tanks that I'll run it with. I'll eventually build a small shelter for it like I've seen many people do online. For now though I can wheel it out of the shed when needed.

I've got an estimate for an outside natural gas line to be ran and with a conversion kit for the generator fuel wouldn't be a big concern if I decide to go a little more integrated in the future.

With all of this I'll save about $5000 compared to a standby generator and have the basics covered.
 
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Old 08-18-17, 05:21 PM
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Good choice for now. You can alway go to the all natural gas in the future. If you fuel with the gasoline just be sure to never leave gas in the carb when notin use. I did and it cost me a new carb. Now I always shut off the fuel supply and let the unit run down due to lack of gas. carb stays dry and ready for new gas.
 
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Old 08-19-17, 05:28 AM
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Norm, I'll probably never run gas for that reason. Nice to have as back up source.
 
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Old 10-10-17, 10:55 AM
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Update

30 amp and 50 amp inlets have been installed and wired into panels. Interlock kits have been installed and generator was ran and tested a few weeks ago for about 2 hours running selected circuits around the house. Everything works great and had no issues. I've created an easy (hopefully) set of instructions for my wife in the event I'm traveling for work. Of course now, we probably won't lose power for a decade...

Thanks for the help on this project all.
 

Last edited by msu50000; 10-10-17 at 12:27 PM.
 

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