When thinking about electricity, and the things we need electricity to operate within your home, it becomes no surprise that so many consumers have decided to equip their homes with power generators.
However, with this, it becomes a pressing question of how much this new power generator will cost.
Why Do We Need Power?
While the idea of being without power could become a devastating event by itself, the true importance of electricity comes with what it operates. Of course, we aren't worried about the television or the printer in these situations.
Of course, generators become a great resource for recreational use, being a great power source on-the-go for camping, parties, or those less desirable work sites. They also become a great life source in time of power loss.
It's said that the average consumer maintains around $247 dollars worth of food within their refrigerator at a time, not taking into account deep freezers or secondary cold storages found in many homes. Depending on the true monetary loss of food, this cost could have a drastic impact on a family.
Most cooking sources found in homes require electricity of some sort to operate, regardless if you're a fan of the microwave, stove, or oven. Even gas cooking requires your local utilities to maintain electricity, and like all stable sources of power, as much as we would like to believe there is no risk of loss, we are buying a generator due to our understanding of the possibility.
The ability to stay warm or cold in the harsh seasons becomes vital for many people during power outages. Every year, extreme weather causes power outages during large snow falls or heat waves, putting lives at risk.
Many people in rural areas utilize wells in order to get clean drinking water. If you utilize well water, electricity is needed to lift the water from the ground and supply pressure to your lines. For people living with city water, electricity is still needed by your local utility company to maintain that water.
Individuals with health issues should also consider an important upgrade to a generator, as your health unfortunately does not consider the fact that the power has gone out, and needed medical supplies will need to remain operating.
Lighting can be an important aspect to safely make your way around your home. In situations of power loss where generators are needed, LED lighting earns a whole new advantage as less power is needed to operate the lights.
It's important to understand the value of outdoor solar lighting in these instances, as they could be brought inside to be used as lighting in power outage situations.
Companies such as Boundery have taken power loss safety one step further by creating the EBULB' Emergency Power LED Light Bulb, which is an LED light bulb which screws into your normal light socket, which has an internal battery. This battery charges while the light is operating normally, and if sudden power loss does occur the light instantly turns on to provide vision. The bulbs can also be removed and utilized as a hand held light.
Types of Generators
It's important to understand what generators do in the first place--generators use a fuel source to run a motor, which ultimately generates power. When considering buying a generator, you should consider three main questions:
- What fuel will you be using, or what fuel is available?
- Where will you be using the generator?
- What will turn your generator on?
We will be focusing on home use generators, but larger units can be found to run businesses from small shops to large corporations.
With the cost of fuels being an always changing component to generators, you should always check your local fuel prices and availability to calculate your estimated consumption. Resources for average fuel prices within your state may also help in making your decision.
Gasoline has become a popular fuel type for home generators, due to availability of fuel and the fact most consumers have other reasons for having gasoline on hand, such as lawn mowers. With any gasoline engine, you should thoroughly read the manual for your device to understand if there are limitations on alcohol content, and if the fuel should be pre-mixed with oil.
- Gasoline generators are focused on low output, often 3000 to 5000 Watts, with a fuel consumption of around 0.75 gallons / hour.
- Using a reasonable average price of premium gasoline of $2.70 per gallon, which is often recommended in generators, a gasoline generator will cost around $48.60 per day to operate.
- Reasonable purchasing prices for a 3000 to 5000 Watt gasoline generator can be found for $400 to $1200 dollars at most retailers, with some high output systems up to 12,000 Watts on the market for $3000 to $6000 found at specialty retailers.
- Standard gasoline found at the fuel pump often contains up to 15% alcohol (depending your location) which can have negative effects on small engines. If your generator states to use alcohol free fuels, be sure to find alcohol free fuels at local gas stations, or in many hardware stores.
- Pre-mix is specific oil added into your gasoline. Be sure to follow the proper mix ratios to ensure proper oiling without affecting the fuels ability to burn cleanly.
Gasoline does have a limited shelf life, with pure gasoline having a shelf life of three to six months, and normal gasoline with 15% ethanol having a shelf life of two to three months before it begins to break down and lose its rate of combustion.
Diesel generators have become a popular option in rural areas due to availability of fuel at most rural gas stations, used to fuel trucks, farm equipment, and semis. The lower RPM engine also allows a lower fuel consumption, and increased longevity.
- Diesel generators are focused on high output, commonly from 4000 to 9000 Watts, with fuel consumptions around 0.5 gallons per hour.
- Using a reasonable average cost of diesel $2.38, a diesel generator will cost on average around $28.56 per day to operate.
- Reasonable purchase price for a personal home use diesel generators with an output of 4000 to 9000 Watts often ranges from $800 to $5,000 with high output units costing anywhere from $5,500 to $25,000 or more.
- Diesel fuel availability is more limited in some locations, with prices being more variable from state to state, and having more drastic price changes over time. Alcohol is not found in diesel fuels however, and pre-mix is not required due to the oiling aspect of diesel fuel.
- Shelf life of diesel is one to two years with proper storage. Diesel fuel is also known for being a safe fuel to store, being ignited by the pressure within the combustion chamber, and not igniting by spark or flame. Of course this is still a combustible fuel and should be handled with caution.
Natural gas has become a great fuel source for home use, and the same could be said for home generators. These generators are tapped into the natural gas running into your home, and are a stationary unity.
- Natural gas generators are focused on mid to high outputs, common 7000 Watt output generators consume around 115 cubic foot of fuel per hour, with an average price of $17.57 per 1000 cubic feet. A natural gas generator will cost around $48.50 per day to operate. Many of these systems are able to operate at partial output to meet need, meaning during the day it may operate at 50% while the lights are off, and in the evening it may run at 100% while lights are being used. This could reduce your cost to operate.
- Each month, these generators require a startup to purge the natural gas from the system. This monthly startup and operation will cost an average of $5.00 per month in fuel, or $60.00 per year in maintenance. You are also expected to change all filters and oils within the system every 3 to 6 months. This maintenance cost will depend on the specific system you own.
- As stated before, natural gas does require your local utilities to have power, and the line no be damaged. For cases of large storms, this does create a small risk.
Natural gas is highly flammable. These systems should be installed by a professional, increasing the initial upfront cost. The system should periodically be tested for leaks. Medium output natural gas generators with an output of around 7000 Watts can be found for $2,000 to $3,000, with high outputs with upwards of 22,000 Watts being found for $5,000 to $12,000. Remember this does not include the cost of professional installation.
Where Will You Use Your Generator?
When buying a generator, you should always consider where you could possibly use the unit. For many people, a generator will remain the backup for your home with no possibility of being used elsewhere. In this case, any of these fuel options would be great choices.
If your generator will be used elsewhere, or need to be stored away from its location of use, you will need to buy a generator on wheels. This will limit you to diesel or gasoline generators, as the natural gas generators will need to be hard wired to the house.
Turning On Your Generator
With generators which will be moved, or be portable, you will have a starter or pull cord attached to the generator directly. Be sure to gain an understanding of how your generator operates to avoid fumbling or fighting with it when you actually need it. Many stationary units are also manually started by the owner, meaning once a loss of power occurs, you would need to go outside to start the generator by either a starter or by hand. Consider utilizing outdoor solar power lights to ensure you have light, even if the power has failed.
An option for stationary generators, which many homeowners prefer, is a control unit which connects to the power source in your home. At any point in time your home loses power, your generator will start and begin powering your home. This hands free system means regardless if you're sleeping or away at work, your home will be powered.
Generators are a great resource for any home, from protecting your home during loss of power to creating a portable power source. With high cost variability, it's important to understand what fuel is available locally to you.
The most important thing any homeowner can do is reduce power usage. By reducing needed power, you are able to buy a smaller generator. You could reduce electrical usage by gradually buying energy saving appliances, or changing all of your lighting to LED lights as an easy start.