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Lifestyle

Thinking of Getting a Generator? North Texas Families Share Their Experiences

If recent storms have you thinking about emergency backup power for your home, there are many options to consider beyond just plugging a portable generator into extension cords outside.

From budget-friendly solutions to top-of-the-line systems, there are various choices available. Some setups use a mid-size or large portable generator combined with a transfer switch or interlock device to power essential home appliances. Other systems can power an entire house.

BUDGET-FRIENDLY PLAN

Todd Koch can keep his home’s essentials running during a power outage. “It doesn’t power our whole house, but it keeps our refrigerator and core functions going,” Koch said.

Ten years ago, Koch bought a portable gas-powered generator from a home improvement store and hired an electrician to install a transfer switch next to the home’s breaker panel. This setup allows for selected circuits in the house to be powered without running extension cords to each appliance. The transfer switch also lets items like a furnace or water heater stay powered.

Koch showed NBC 5 how it takes about five minutes to set up: pulling the generator outside, plugging it into the system, and flipping a few switches. “It connects directly to the generator and powers specific circuits within the house,” Koch said. With a five-gallon gasoline can on hand, the family can light a couple of rooms, keep the fridge, furnace, and internet running, and even power pool pumps during a freeze.

The generator, transfer switch, and professional electrician labor totaled around $1,500. “It paid itself off the first time we used it,” Koch said. However, someone has to be home to set it up, and it doesn’t power the central air conditioning due to the high power demand.

AUTOMATIC POWER

At Lex Green’s house, a whole-home generator starts automatically if there’s an outage. “It’s all automatic; we don’t have to do anything,” Green said. “You don’t have to be here; it will switch over to the generator source.”

Green’s generator, mounted on a concrete pad, provides power to the whole home, including HVAC. “The number one priority is heating and cooling,” Green said. The generator cost around $6,500 plus installation by an electrician and plumber, totaling around $18,000. “There’s peace of mind knowing it’s there when I need it,” Green said.

WHAT ARE THE OPTIONS?

Generally, there are three types of generators: portable, inverter, and whole-house generators. Within these categories, options vary based on power needs, available fuel sources, and desired convenience.

Dustin Owens, a journeyman electrician with Milestone, explained, “You can get a portable generator to power a few freezers or step it up with a bigger portable generator and a transfer switch.” He added, “Smaller whole-home generators are available if you want automatic standby power.”

For whole-house generators, installation costs vary based on factors like existing natural gas service availability and local ordinances. “HOAs may have noise restrictions, and cities have specific requirements,” said Tommy Parker, Fox Electric operations manager.

Parker also advised considering lead times for generator installation, especially during high-demand periods after storms or before hurricane season. “It may be months before you actually get it installed,” Parker said.

SAFETY AND INSTALLATION

For portable generators, Parker recommended safety devices like a transfer switch, interlock device, or GenerLink transfer switch, ensuring they are allowed by your power company. “An electrician should install these,” Parker said. “You’d have a power inlet outside to plug the cord into, connecting to your generator.”

EXPERT ADVICE

Questions to consider when selecting a generator include:

  • How much power do you need?
  • What fuel source is available?
  • What level of convenience do you desire?

Consulting with an electrician and understanding local regulations can help ensure a safe and effective backup power solution for your home.

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