Standby Whole Home Generators – Pros & Cons

Standby generators are a great investment for your home. They provide you with an easy solution to power your entire home during a power loss. Just like with portable generators there are a variety of pros and cons to purchasing and installing a whole home generator system. Let us first look at the pros. Firstly, and the most obvious, is that a standby system can power your entire home. When I say whole home I mean it. This includes your air conditioner, furnace, water heater, refrigerator, oven, lights, electronics, and so on and so on. You will be hard pressed to find a portable system that can do this. Portable systems simply do not have enough wattage to accomplish this.

If you have a standby system during a power loss then you may not even notice that the power has gone out. Standby systems are all automated. What that means is if your power does go out the standby system will automatically sense this and switch your circuit board’s power source away from the electrical grid and over to your standby system. In most cases this will look like just a flash of the lights as your whole home system turns on. You do not have to worry about rolling the generator out, messing with all of the cords, and plugging everything. It is all done automatically for you. Standby systems are the ‘easy’ button when it comes to power generation.

All generators need a fuel source rather they are portable or standby systems. With portable units you have to constantly refuel them as they burn through gallon after gallon. Standby systems though are different. They can either be hooked up to your own natural gas line and be fed a never ending source of gasoline from your city. Or, they can be hooked up to a propane tank. A few years back when I lived out in the country we had an eight-hundred gallon propane tank. It provided fuel for our oven, furnace, water heater, and other things. With standby systems you can either leverage the existing propane tank you have on site or you can purchase another one strictly for your standby system. No matter what fuel source you choose to go with you will not have to worry about constantly refueling your generator with a standby system.

The last pro that I am going to mention also bleeds into a con. A standby generator system is an investment into your home. It can be a very expensive investment. The good news is that you get some of that investment back. A fully installed whole home generator will raise your home’s value equal to about fifty percent of the total cost of the system. So, while you will not recoup all of the money spent you are able to get some of it back if you decide to sell in the future.

Alright folks, so now we are onto the cons of these generators. As you can guess the biggest and most obvious is the cost. A portable system can cost five-hundred dollars up to fifteen-hundred… maybe two-thousand dollars but that is rare. A standby system can cost you four to six-thousand dollars and then you have to have it installed. The install cost is typically the same as the unit itself. If you purchase a four-thousand dollar system then expect to pay another four-thousand in installation for a total cost of eight-thousand dollars. This price range varies depending on the size of standby system you need. If you only need a sixteen-thousand watt system then you are going to pay significantly less then a forty-thousand watt system.

While we touched on install just a second ago it is still worth mentioning that you will need a professional install done by someone at the dealership you bought the generator from. On top of that you will also need a plumber to hook up your new standby unit to either your natural gas line or to you propane line. Lastly, you may even need to have it inspected by the fire department or by your propane supplier. In some cases you will need a permit as well. If you are unsure of your local regulations then check with the dealer that you are purchasing the unit from. This is why these installations can be so expensive.

Besides the overall cost and install there is one other con worth mentioning. This is maintenance. Your standby system will need maintenance performed after ten days of running. This maintenance includes checking the oil level, changing it if necessary, and also checking and or changing the filter. If you are unsure of how to do this then most generator dealerships offer an annual maintenance plan where their technician will come out and maintain your generator. I’ve seen these plans range from three-hundred to six-hundred a year. While on the topic of maintenance you may notice that your generator turns on automatically for about fifteen minutes each week. This is intentional and allows the unit to operate and stay functional. Nothing to worry about.


Standby generators basically boil down to two main points. Do you want the convenience of having a standby system automatically turning on during a power loss? And, if you do want that then are you willing to pay for it? If not, then you can go portable generator route just expect a lot of manual work to get power back on during a power loss. Portable systems have to be rolled outside, setup twenty feet from your home, cords have to be routed and plugged in, fuel has to be added, and THEN you can turn it on and begin to get power. Standby systems though turn on at the drop of a hat the moment your power goes out… they are just far more expensive. The choice is ultimately up to you.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson

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