Major storms do major damage. One recent example is Hurricane Sandy, which killed over a hundred people, did $50 billion in damages, and knocked out electricity to millions of homes. Loss of power can be particularly hard, and even fatal, on many people. This is true especially in the winter when Arctic winds comes. The recent and repeated phenomena of the “polar vortex” brings sub-freezing temperatures with ice and snow storms that take out power lines and delay first responders. The very young, very old, and those with certain medical conditions requiring medical equipment are most at risk without electricity to negate extreme temperatures and power the devices they rely on. The best protection against being left in the cold and dark is getting the best whole house generator, with the help of professional home generator reviews.
The following table lists the top 5 whole house generators picked by our experts. Below you will find the corresponding reviews as well as the comprehensive buying guide containing everything you need to know before buying a home generator.
|Generator||Wattage||Price||Editor's Rating||Our Review|
|Generac 6462 Guardian Series||16000||Check the Current Price||4.9/5||Click to Read|
|Briggs & Stratton 40346||20000||Check the Current Price||4.8/5||Click to Read|
|Kohler 20RESAL-200SELS||20000||Check the Current Price||4.2/5||Click to Read|
|Generac 6438||11000||Check the Current Price||4/5||Click to Read|
|Briggs & Stratton 40396||20000||Check the Current Price||3.9/5||Click to Read|
Why Should You Get the Best Whole House Generator?
If you absolutely can’t do without power to the entire house, or don’t want to face the limitations of a small, gas-powered generator, purchasing a whole house generator is something that you should give serious thought. But a unit that really delivers comes with many advantages. You will never be without power. Unlike a quiet portable generator, a whole house unit is installed permanently on a concrete pad and connected directly to your home’s electric box to provide uninterrupted power that can kick in automatically. It is directly connected to a ready fuel source, such as gas, propane, or diesel, that can supply all of your electricity needs for days.
A unit generating 20 kilowatts can easily power the average home, and you may not need to forego the microwave popcorn or even turn down the AC. It depends on the size of the home and power needs; a 5,000 watt unit might be better for an RV or small cottage. Whole house generators allow even very large homes with high power use to keep things running smoothly no matter what happens to the public power grid. Most likely you’ll conserve power to conserve fuel, but if you’re one of those whose loved ones or livelihood depend on electricity being available, good quality whole house generator for your budget is vital.
Boredom is also an issue. If you face the possibility of days without electricity, that means days without television, computers, electric lights, and all the other conveniences. More than boredom, it could mean misery. It means no AC or fans in the stifling heat of summer, and little warmth in the bone-chilling winter. No more home-cooked meals. Children and even adults will tend to go stir-crazy. Even if you have a camp stove or back yard grill for meals, no power means all that food in the freezer or refrigerator will go bad, and you’ll find yourself making daily trips for fresh supplies and bags of ice. Aside from comfort, there is also safety to worry about, without bright lights and backup power to security systems.
If any of that sounds terrible, you should look into getting as much standby power as budget permits.
What Do You Need To Know Before Buying a Whole House Generator?
The highest quality generators can of course be pricey. The more power you need, the more you’re going to pay up front. Then there’s fuel costs. The more power you use, and the longer runtime the generator needs to provide it, the more fuel you need. The type of fuel a particular unit uses, and how expensive it is or difficult to get in your area, should be considered when shopping for a whole house unit. Fuel levels will have to be checked, unless you want to be scrambling for fuel every time the weatherman predicts a storm. Some units might also require a certain amount of fuel pressure, so be sure your hardware or local utility can deliver.
There’s also a noise factor. Even a portable generator can run at a constant 80 decibels – about the sound of a loud lawn mower, and running continuously. A whole house unit is generally more efficient and more insulated. But noise level is something to consider, so be sure to take a look at the manufacturer ratings and consumer reviews for each prospective unit to give you some idea, balanced against any options for enclosures, insulation, or sound-proofing. Many models are given a rating of 62 decibels, but that is often the noise level measured at 25 feet away. The closer the generator is to your living area, the lower level of noise you’ll be looking for.
There may be hidden costs. A licensed electrician will be needed to do the electrical work, and probably a plumber or local utility technician to hook the unit up to its fuel source. A contractor may have to come in to pour the concrete slab. Whole house generators tend to be bulky, so unloading, moving, and space requirements should be considered. Unless you or friends and relatives can handles all this safely and reliably, special labor costs should be factored in.
As a home generator is a permanent addition to your home, and will generally contribute to its value, you may also run into red tape such as building permits and property tax. There are also safety inspections and code requirements. Sometimes the retailer or installer will handle these things, but it pays to be sure up front, so you don’t get slapped with a fine or citation for non-permitted improvements.
Odds are you won’t need the unit to run at full blast 24/7, but noise levels and fuel consumption can also be dependent on run time.
Before purchasing, make sure a trained technician visits your home to assess your power needs, living area cubic footage, home electrical system, appliances, and possible installation issues. Find out the minimum level of wattage you need, and go from there.
There’s also quality and durability. Whole house generators work hard and will need maintenance if they’re going to be ready to power your home in an emergency. The best whole house generators can be set up with periodic self-tests to ensure they’ll be up and running when needed. Standby generators require a short run-time periodically, known as exercise, to test and ensure the system is functioning properly and ready for an emergency.
How Much Should You Spend on a Home Generator?
Be aware that the energy produced by generators is not the same as grid-supplied electricity. Generators produce harmonic distortion, which can affect or even damage sensitive devices like televisions and computers.
To get your own rough estimate of what kind power you’ll need, you’ll have to add up the relative requirements of the appliances in your home. You can find a guide online on sites like consumerreports.org. Adding up all these numbers will give you an idea of the maximum wattage you might be consuming. though you should refer to an expert technician for actual needs, at least this will give you a rough idea of what kind of wattage you’re going to need.
A permanent generator that provides 10-15 Kilowatts will typically cost between $3,000 – $10,000, and an added $400 – $1,000 for installation fees. A larger generator that can provide 20 – 40 Kilowatts will usually cost between $5,000 and $20,000. These generators will operate even if you’re away, saving you the headache of returning home to a refrigerator full of spoiled food. In terms of relative costs, it’s often wiser to spend that extra $500 or so on higher wattage for your family needs.
To determine the best whole house generator for your needs, make a list of items you would want powered during a blackout. Each device should have a watt rating. If there is only an amps rating, multiply that number by 120 to find the wattage. If an appliance uses a motor, you’ll have to find the startup wattage and use that instead. Add up the total wattage of the items, and then add an additional 10 or 15 percent to be safe. This is the amount of power your choice of the best whole house generator must provide in order to meet your needs.
Even the best whole house generators involve extra costs such as fuel tank installation and set up fees, consider that generators are generally a little larger than comparable AC units, and regulations usually require that they be located x amount of feet from property lines or dwellings, and concealed by fences or shrubbery, all of which can add up. Some local regulations may also include periodic inspections.
On the plus side, a smart choice in the best whole house generator will more than likely raise your home’s value and lower home insurance rates.
Top 5 Whole House Generators – Our Reviews
1. Generac 6462 Guardian Series
This is a 16000 watt unit. Well-built and compact, it measures only about 25x48x29 inches. It ships quickly, with a composite mounting pad which could eliminate the need for a concrete base, depending on local ordinances. It also has a durable metal enclosure rated for 150mph winds. It also runs on either propane or natural gas, and is rated to operate with lower gas pressures. The runtime test is 12 minutes, with options for scheduling weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly. We definitely give this a high rating as well-constructed, and running smoothly and quietly, though you may want to replace the oil and filter yearly to ensure it stays running well.
Professional installation is relatively quick and easy with this model, but even experienced DIY homeowners might want to pass this one up as some home generator reviews suggest the manual leaves something to be desired. Customer service has been reported a little lackluster at times, and you will have to rely on local dealers for service, but there are very few problems reported with the generator itself. For the most part, home generators reviews relate that if it’s properly installed and maintained, it kicks in when needed to make outages a breeze.
2. Briggs & Stratton 40346
This unit comes with the rugged 35HP built for tractors and commercial uses, so it runs strong if a little loud according to home generators reviews, even under heavy load. The 40346 is ideal for medium to large homes with 200 amp service and one or two central HVAC units. It’s a reliable unit and the weekly diagnostic runs like clockwork. Home generator reviews suggest that the insulation is not really adequate as far as keeping the unit quieter, but is easily remedied by any DIY types.
Installation is also not terribly complex, but you’ll definitely need to bring in an electrician for the final 240v hookup. A maintenance kit with handy oil and filters is also available as extras, as it is a heater kit which is actually recommended by those living in cold weather regions, as the light 5W30 oil can tend toward freezing. There may also be issues due to the fact that you will have to rely on local distributors for service and service contracts, which can vary. The ability to program the exercise schedule right into the computer is also a plus. But this is a great value among the best whole house generators as a strong unit that runs reliably and is easily maintained.
3. Kohler 20RESAL-200SELS
This is a nice unit that comes with a composite< noise-dampening enclosure and a 5 year warranty. It can be set up for online monitoring and even text alerts. Home generators reviews indicate this is a reliable, powerful, and surprisingly quiet generator that’s well worth the investment. Professional installation could be pricey compared to some units, but home generator reviews note that it looks good and runs well, although some minor adjustments may come along, due to slight vibration, and known engine throttle problems that can cause dirty power flow. The cause is often a bad carburettor gasket that’s relatively cheap to replace. Cold-weather users will want to pick up a carburettor heater.
In addition to being very quiet for its size it also has very low levels of harmonic distortion, so you don’t have to worry about running your HD TV or laptops with this unit to rely on. The one major problem that appears is not the unit itself, but the manufacturer. Several people report poor or slow customer service, as well as a few surprises regarding their warranty or service coverage in some areas. But if you read the fine print and follow Kohler’s instructions you wind up with an excellent generator that’s almost completely covered by a 5-year warranty.
4. Generac 6438
This 11,000 watt unit is powered by propane or natural gas, but those running it on natural gas say it runs with less noise, but as usual with somewhat less power (10,000 watt). The air-cooled, V-twin generator seems to be trouble free and runs strong even under the heavy load of a large house with pool filter and two-thirds of appliances going. A 250 gallon tank is recommended for liquid propane as it burns nearly 2 gallons of fuel per hour on a heavy load, though much less if you ease up on the power use. The 6438 is a great unit at this price, and most home generators reviews state that it kicks in seamlessly when the power goes out.
It is very easy to do the routine maintenance of changing plugs and oil, though the oil has to be pumped out. Overall it’s a nice looking unit that’s very reliable, even performs its self-test regularly without issues. It is a little noisy under load but still quieter than a portable generator, and it does what it’s designed to do – power your whole house. One buyer reported it running perfectly for 7 days straight in the aftermath of a hurricane. If there’s one problem users have reported its with the Generac web site; if you have a problem, call.
5. Briggs & Stratton 40396
Home generators reviews indicate these units are relatively quiet and easy to install, and pack a lot of power even for a 20 kilowatt unit, making it feel like you’ve installed a heavy industrial unit. One of these has proven adequate for the emergency needs of even larger 4000 to 8000 square-foot homes with multiple AC units. It’s a handsome and durable design under its black enclosure. But you probably don’t want pretty, you want a good, strong, reliable standby generator, and the 40396 is it. Many home generator reviews report that it ships quickly with a great warranty which you probably won’t need. Professionally installed units run excellent and do as advertised without reported problems.
It does lose a bit of power running on natural gas, but if there’s any problems its with phone-in customer service and not the unit’s performance. It does take a few seconds to kick in when the grid fails, but once it’s cranking you’ll feel lucky to have it. It’s a tad pricey, and a little bigger than most models even in the 20kw range, while the automatic transfer switch is bulky, as well. But most purchasers give it high marks across the board, and it comes with a good warranty coverage.