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Tips for Buying a Home Generator

electric company working on power lines after a winter storm
December 16 2019 • by Deirdre Jannerelli • Home Ownership, Home Tips, Loans

Winter storms, hurricanes, Nor’easters; they can all wreak havoc on our power supply. And the truth is, a power outage can be a major headache. First off, when the power goes out you never really know how long it will be before it comes back on. Depending on the source of the blackout, you could be without power for hours, days, or even weeks. Then, there are all the various worries that come with a power failure. From a fridge full of spoiled food, to a freezing house with no heat, the bottom line is that power outages are no fun.

If you find yourself fearing power outages, you may want to consider buying a backup generator. A generator can provide power to your home, even when your community’s power source is down. There are two types of generators you can buy; a portable generator, or a permanent “standby” generator. Let’s take a closer look at each.

A portable generator can be moved from location to location, and is designed to only be used on an emergency or short-term basis. For example, portable generators are commonly used to provide power while camping. They can also be used to run power tools or appliances when electricity isn’t available. They typically run on gasoline or propane, but there are some solar-powered models as well. Portable generators are generally less expensive than standby generators, but their price can vary significantly depending on their size. The cost of a small or medium-sized portable generator could run anywhere from a couple hundred dollars to a thousand dollars, while a large version could easily cost you several thousand dollars. One of the most important things to note about portable generators is that most of them emit carbon monoxide. Because of this, it’s critical that a portable generator never be used inside your home, or near windows or doors.

A standby generator is sometimes referred to as a “whole-house generator”, or a “home generator”, and is permanently installed outside of your home. Generally considered a safer alternative to portable generators, standby generators turn on automatically when there is a power interruption, and they automatically shut off when the power comes back on. So, unlike a portable generator, there are no extension cords to plug in, and since you don’t need to turn them on or off, they can protect your home even while you’re away.

Depending on which size you choose, a standby generator can power all of your home’s critical systems and appliances including your cooling and heating, lights, refrigerators, and sump pumps. And unlike a portable generator, a whole house generator can run for several days.

If you’re interested in buying a standby generator, it’s important to have it installed by a licensed professional, as there are many separate components to the installation. The installation process for a standby generator typically involves the following steps:
  1. Get a site survey by the generator install company. While technological advances have resulted in quieter-running standby generators, they still make noise. And depending on where you live, there may be noise laws that must be adhered to. Local regulations may also dictate where you can have the generator installed on your property. A professional generator installation company will assess all of your community’s ordinances, as well as your home, to ensure that your generator will be safely and legally installed.

  2. Select an appropriate generator. The generator that’s right for you will depend on your specific power needs, as well as the size your home. Your installer should be able to help you choose one that meets your specific power needs. They’ll not only consider how large your home is, but they’ll likely ask questions like, “Do you want to power essential appliances only, or are you looking to power everything in your home during an outage?” Once they understand your preferences and requirements, they’ll perform a load calculation to ensure that the generator you purchase will be the appropriate size for your needs.

  3. Purchase a generator. Standby generators can be expensive. According to, a permanent whole-house generator can run anywhere from $2,500 to $15,000 including installation costs. The good news is that there are options to help finance the cost of a standby generator. Some installers have their own financing options, and many generator manufacturers offer financing as well. You could also use a personal loan to pay for a generator, and some banks even offer generator-specific loans. BankFive for example, offers Generator Loans to qualified borrowers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. No matter which generator you end up buying, it’s important to evaluate the rates and terms of the financing options available to you. If you don’t really know where to begin with the generator financing process, you may want to speak with a lending professional who can help you evaluate your options.

  4. Obtain the necessary permits. Before a standby generator can be installed, the applicable permits will need to be obtained from your town or city. Permit requirements will vary by location, but can include electrical and plumbing permits. In most cases, a homeowner will not be able to pull permits without a license. Luckily, a licensed professional installer should be able to get all of the permits needed for a generator installation.

  5. Have the generator installed. Once the generator has been purchased and delivered, and the necessary permits have been pulled, the installation process can begin. This process typically involves pouring the concrete for the pad that the generator will sit upon, connecting the generator to your utility service provider, and wiring it to your home. Depending on the type of generator being installed, the installation process could take anywhere from one day, to a week or more.

  6. Get a final inspection. After your home generator has been installed, the installer will need to check all of the connections, as well as the generator’s fuel and oil levels. Your installer will also help to ensure that your generator receives any necessary inspections mandated by your state or local municipality.
Following the installation of a standby generator, it should be routinely checked to ensure it’s in good working order. A good rule of thumb is to have it checked or serviced each year prior to the start of the winter season.

No matter what type of generator you choose, a backup generator can be immensely helpful during a power outage. It can provide a sense of normalcy in a blackout, allowing you to keep the lights and heat on, prevent food from spoiling, and allow you to cook and charge your electronic devices. If you’re interested in learning more about affordable standby generator financing in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, visit