Getting a Generator System Installed

This isn’t really inspection related but you guys are obviously a smart bunch - I’m looking at getting a whole house generator system installed at my parents’ house and would love to hear feedback from anyone that has done it or knows about it. From years of inspecting I get how the systems are set up and work so I’m more curious about pitfalls during the actual process of buying and having it installed.

Mom/Dad are on a the natural gas grid in Oregon in a 1200sf 3bd/2ba single-family home with gas heat, electric range/water heater (electric A/C but probably not an issue when most outages would occur). I’m thinking maybe just a whole house system would be best? Thinking the cost of installing a separate panel and explaining to my parents the limitations of a system that only covers part of the house is not worth the hassle. Maybe a 15kW system? Looks like Generac is the main manufacturer and there are a ton of offers through Costco, Home Depot, etc.? Any advice of the process? Am I destined to going through some sleazy sales guy that knows nothing and I’m paying 20% to?


You should be able to buy one off the shelf and then hire an experienced electrician to install it. I helped my brother in law electrician install one about two months ago. Actually, the owner brought it, set it and ran the gas lines and we installed the transfer switch and converted the service to a sub.


That’s what I did about 4-5 years ago. A whole house system.

EDIT: Receive a 10% Costco Shop Card on your qualifying purchase of an installed Generac home standby generator.

We have 2,400 sq. ft, natural gas everything with an extra detached garage.

We put in a Generac 16 KW stand by generator with a Transfer switch outside and turned the 200 amp service disconnect into a sub panel.

It runs once a week test mode for 10 minutes automatically. We needed it for 6-7 days and for a four day stretch a few years back and several hours 4 or 5 times. It is nice having heat or AC and fridge, internet, etc. when it was out all around us for miles.

Never have to think about it…power goes out and 5 seconds later the power is back on and all as right with the world. LOL!

I think it cost ~ $8,000 installed including a 10 year warranty, cold weather battery kit and cold weather oil kit. I went through Generac with a local authorized installer….smooth deal all the way around.


I was looking at buying a whole house a couple of years ago for my home. At the time, there was a huge backorder on them. Instead, I went with an 8,000-watt tri-fuel portable and a six-circuit transfer switch. It will power everything that I need to make the house comfortable until power is restored. My wife is not mechanically inclined, but she would have no problem with the changeover if it was needed and I was out of the state. A whole house might be easier, but probably not needed in most circumstances.

With the push of banning gas generators and hurricane season a few months out, I would get moving on it before they are backorder again.


I know this doesn’t really fill your needs but I thought it was an interesting video. I was intrigued by the disconnect fashioned for the furnace, but this same idea can be applied to your well if need be (my daughters house is on a well).

…and of course, the larger your inverter the more things you can run. The faster it kills your battery also. In his original video he used a high dollar pure sine wave inverter. In this video the inverter is a modified sine wave so it is substantially cheaper.


I did basically the same thing as Jeff, I have a Firman tri-fuel I bought at Costco and a 10 circuit transfer switch, which will power the HVAC system, WH, garage door opener, my office, living room, kitchen, and I have my 92 YO dads bedroom and bathroom wired as well.

I installed most everything myself and had my plumber friend install a NG line, it cost me just over $2,000.00 and a couple weeks working at my own pace to complete it.

I also highly recommend a soft start be installed on the condenser unit if you’re planning on using the AC.

I fire it up and put a load on it once every six months to keep it ready in the event of a power outage.

The automated systems are nice and will run a self-test once a month if it’s set up to do so, and with automatic transfer switches it will fire up and power the house on its own in the event of a power outage.


I tried that a few years ago when I was in Oregon and we had an ice storm and lost power. I tried hooking up my 2000W Honda camping generator to power my gas furnace and it wouldn’t work. I did some research and it said some furnaces would take the “dirty” power from the generator and others wouldn’t. I guess I was unlucky. That video is funny in that gas cars really don’t do well idling for long periods. For years I had a diesel truck and envisioned doing something like that as those trucks can idle for days.

Don’t know why you think that, Seen many job site foremans idle their trucks all day in cold weather. The video doesn’t actually say anything about prolonged idling, It suggests starting your car every couple of hours.

I did mention that his original video used a “pure” sine wave inverter as opposed to the “modified” (dirty) sine wave inverter in this video. The only way to actually get a true sine wave is to have a rotating device (dynamo). Some generators produce a lower voltage and invert it to the required voltage. This is cheaper to manufacture but you get a “dirty” output. You definitely get what you pay for in the generator department.

I bought a 12 kw portable and had an electrician install a plug and a transfer linkage when I replaced my Fed Pac panel. If I had a do-over, I still would have went with the portable unit. It was less than $2800 for everything, and it runs my whole house.

Generac is the most popular system by far do to their marketing. I personally have installed one 8kw Generac and one 20kw Kohler system. IMO the Kohler units are a much better system. I may be a bit bias as my wife works for a Kohler distributer. Currently she is handling large industrial systems. But had worked with residential units in the past. Regardless of whose system you install is that during extended run times the system needs to be shut down each day and the oil level checked and oil added as needed. It is normal for units to use oil during extended runtimes. The biggest failure is caused by units running out of oil!!!


I bought one my own for my home in NJ. From Amazon…before they were taxing. Remember those days. 14kw.

I got a permit, poured a pad, dug a ditch, lined it properly and the provider dropped the line in.

I gave the propane guys a gas stub out.

Then my electrician tied the panel into the main as part of a larger electrical re-wire.

I then wired the generator to the disconnect. It was fairly straight forward, four #4 wires, some incidental control wires in a separate piece of liquidtite.

Loved that thing.

One Christmas we had an ice storm, the entire town was dark…you could see my Christmas lights from across the lake. It was a thing of beauty :).


And now guess who’s home everyone is coming to to use the bathroom and take a shower. :thinking:

Maybe they’ve figured it out with newer cars but older gas cars would overheat when sitting at idle for an extended period.

Money making opportunity ;). Actually, I let everyone fill up as they needed. My well was 450 deep into the mountain. PH balanced, clean, no smells or odd taste. Perfect

Everyone in my old town was on a well and septic.

In NJ, you have to have your well tested before you can sell. I wish I had this water here in FL.

I had one installed here in northern NJ. A 22KW Generac, all in just under $12,000.00
The 7 year warranty requires a year maintenance contract which is about $275.00 a year.
The check the unit and change the oil once a year.

Calculate their minimum average daily electric demand add 20% and install a solar panel system with controller, battery bank and inverter. When others have run out of fuel for their generators, the sun will still shine and they will have power.

When was the last time that we ran out of natural gas?

They live in Oregon where its cloudy and rainy 75%+ days in the winter when the power is likely to go out. Payback on a solar system is probably 50 years+. Mom and Dad are in their 80s :slight_smile:

Also, here in Maui my neighbor just installed a system like you describe and it was over 75K. Granted, he now has no power bill but the payback is still probably 12-15 years. And, again, that’s Maui where there’s a ton of sun. I get it that those are really nice systems but just don’t see it penciling out at my parents’ age and location.

Many solar systems will not provide power when the grid is down.

And the worse part is that the homeowner doesn’t learn that until the outage…