A whole house generator is an excellent way to deal with power outages. A whole house generator, if sized correctly, can power your entire house (including heavy appliances) without any fluctuations. A standby generator is usually tagged as a whole house generator. On the other hand, portable generators are small in size and production capacity compared to standby generators. They can also be treated as whole house units for people with less power requirement.
Once you have selected the generator, the next step is its installation. In this article, we will discuss the right way to install the whole house generator and what things you need to consider while installing the unit.
Before we begin, let’s look at some of the things you need to consider before buying the generator. These considerations are important for installing the generator and ensure its proper working in the long run.
The most important thing before buying a generator is the generator capacity. To successfully size your generator, you need to list all the appliances you need to run on your generator. When you buy a whole house generator, all the fixtures, appliances, and machines are included in the power calculation. Once the starting and running wattages of all the appliances have been calculated, you will have an exact figure with you. It will tell you about your power needs.
Another important thing to consider is the fuel type. A majority of the whole house generators run on diesel, natural gas, or propane. Whole house generators running on gasoline are very few. You must select the fuel type according to your convenience.
Make sure that local laws and your homeowners’ association will approve the project. Make sure you don’t purchase the generator or any other equipment unless the building department issues a permit. Don’t proceed until you verify with the building inspector that the generator (brand and model) is okay and will pass the inspection.
How to Install the Whole House Generator in the Best Way
Installing a standby generator in your home is not a run-of-the-mill DIY project. It requires advanced electrical knowledge, managing natural gas plumbing, making propane connections, and setting up transfer switches and other equipment. If these things are not taken care of, unfortunate events can take place. You can get electrocuted or damage the costly generator.
Choosing the Installation Site
While picking the installation site, the most important thing is to follow the manufacturer’s recommendation and the local laws. However, some general instructions must be followed at all times while installing a standby generator. These instructions are given below.
- Standby generators must be installed outdoors. They produce carbon monoxide, which is harmful to health.
- Make sure you maintain a safe distance of 20-30 feet from your neighbors. A standby generator produces around 60-85 dBA noise levels. Keep this in mind while picking the installation site.
- Your generator must be at least 5-6 feet away from the overhanging roof, windows and doors, and other vents or openings.
- It must be 3-4 feet away from all other obstructions such as walls, trash bins, or garage walls. This is to ensure space for heat emission and proper ventilation.
- Choose concrete or gravel to make a generator pad. Never leave your generator without a roof overhead.
- Place your generator near propane tanks or natural gas supply to minimize the installation costs. However, you must also consider the points mentioned above.
DIY Installation vs. Contractor
A DIY standby generator installation requires in-depth knowledge and experience in electrical connection, plumbing, and generator management. You also need advanced-level tools for it. A majority of homeowners are not prepared to perform the actions successfully. This is the reason why a lot of states don’t allow DIY installation for standby generators.
On the other hand, contractors are licensed by states for generator installation. They have all the experience, knowledge, and machinery to complete the installation. They can also help you get permits and deal with inspection visits. It is important to select a state-approved and well-reputed contractor, so the inspection team does not reject your project.
Selecting the Contractor
Once you have decided that you will hire a contractor for the installation, it is now time to choose the best contractor. Follow the guidelines given below while selecting the contractor.
- Check the permit/license of the contractor and confirm that they are aware of the local codes for generator installation.
- Always choose certified electricians and plumbers for making electrical/gas connections. Your home’s safety depends on it, so be careful here.
- Get price quotes from at least 3 contractors.
- Make sure you ask for previous work history and references for finished projects. Don’t forget to read genuine user reviews from Google or Facebook pages.
- Always settle with a company that is insured, bonded, and has a good reputation.
- Don’t agree on upfront payments. Make small milestones of the project and pay in terms.
- Bargain a little with contractors but don’t settle for low-quality items.
- Always ask for itemized billing to have an idea about the quality and price of equipment and materials being used by the contractor.
- If the contractor is employing workers on your property, don’t forget to check worker compensation and insurance proof. If a worker gets injured on your property, he can sue you for damages. If the contractor is working alone, then you don’t need this proof.
- Ask for a written lien waiver. It will protect you from a lien placed on your home after the work is done. Professional and well-respected contractors won’t have any issue in providing this.
- Ask for a guarantee statement about the equipment and materials bought by the contractors. Make sure that any problem will be fixed free of cost and how long the warranty will last. Good contractors don’t have any issue providing warranties.
Dealing with Inspectors
One of the most important aspects of standby generator installation is dealing with the inspection team. The general perception about inspectors is not good, and they don’t cooperate with the public. It is their job not to “cooperate” with you by allowing mistakes in the installation. A trivial error or mistake can lead to a big mishap in the near future.
The best way to ensure that the inspectors will not reject your project is to make the inspectors a part of the process. There is zero room for mistakes here. You must start consulting with the inspectors before buying a generator. Discuss the brand and model with them and ask that it is allowed to be installed. Some states have certain requirements for generators, like CARB certification for generators to run in California. Once they approve the unit, invite them to visit and discuss the installation spot, materials, and all other aspects. If everything is done in the right way, there will be no chance of rejection here.