On August 30 2017, Hurricane Irma struck the U.S. significantly affecting the State of Florida. The massive destruction caused by this major hurricane left 64% of Florida with no electricity from September 10, 2017. Some even experienced power outages until September 19, 2017, making it one of the biggest blackouts in the history of the U.S.
Imagine being in that situation. Natural disasters are uncontrollable, but you can always be prepared when they hit. That is what standby generators are for - it ensures that your whole house has a backup electricity source when prolonged power outages occur. These generators have enough stored power to supply electricity to every vital appliance in your home. Choosing one might be tricky for beginners, so we have consolidated this list and reviews to make it easier for you to decide.
Liquid Propane/Natural Gas
22,000 watts/19,500 watts
Liquid Propane/Natural Gas
20,000 watts/18,000 watts
Liquid Propane/Natural Gas
20,000 watts/18,000 watts
Liquid Propane/Natural Gas
8,000 watts/6,000 watts
- 1 5 Best Whole House Standby Generators
- 1.1 1. Generac 7043 Home Standby Generator 22kW/19.5kW Air Cooled with Whole House 200 Amp Transfer Switch, Aluminum
- 1.2 2. Briggs & Stratton 40346 20000-Watt Home Standby Generator System with 200 Amp Automatic Transfer Switch
- 1.3 3. Kohler 20RESCL-200SELS Air-Cooled Standby Generator with 200 Amp Transfer Switch Single Phase, 20,000-Watt
- 1.4 4. Briggs & Stratton 40445 8000-watt Home Standby Generator System with 50-Amp Automatic Transfer Switch
- 1.5 5. Cummins Onan 5.5HGJAB-1270 Rv Qg 5500 Lp - 5500 Watt 120V Single Phase 60Hz Fixed Mount Generator Set
- 2 How Does a Home Generator System Work?
- 3 Why Do You Need a Standby Generator?
- 4 How to Choose the Right Whole House Generator for Your Need?
5 Best Whole House Standby Generators
Generac 7043 is dubbed as the largest air-cooled generator available in the market today. Air-cooled generators are those that use air pressure to keep the engine of the generator cool. This generator is made with all-aluminum enclosures that are treated with Generac’s proprietary RhinoCoat powder-coating. This makes the aluminum perfect for any weather conditions and will remain rust-free.
This standby generator offers an automatic whole house back-up power for most homes. It is fueled by both natural gas and liquid propane. It also allows you to set and manage which appliances to connect to the generator during emergency power outages. This is made possible by its Mobile Link Remote Monitoring. You can connect to your generator and check its status through your mobile phone, tablet or PC. However, this system is sold separately. It has a control panel with a smart interface and user-friendly controls that use a multilingual LCD display. It helps you monitor your generator’s battery status and track your maintenance schedules to keep the generator in its best working condition.
You can rest assured that switching between the regular power source to your generator will not cause harm to your appliances with the Generac’s 5% total harmonic distortion (THD). This ensures a clean and smooth delivery of electricity to your most sensitive appliances. Likewise, it comes with a 200 Amp transfer switch. Peaceful nights will never be disturbed by the low-noise operation of this standby generator at 67dBA – that’s similar to the sound of a dishwasher. Plus, the generator is normally placed outside the house, so the noise is diffused. A 5-year limited warranty is offered for this generator.
This generator claims to be the most powerful air-cooled generator on the market today. This means it is easy to maintain despite the significant amount of power it can deliver. However, with its high price, too much is expected of it as well. There are many things that buyers usually overlook like the non-inclusion of the MobileLink technology in the standard package. This is sold separately, and the remote monitoring of your generator isn’t something you can expect right out of the box.
The Briggs & Stratton 4046 Standby Generator competes with the Generac 7043 head-on, in terms of power supply capacity. Both have 20,000 running watts and are fully automatic. The Briggs & Stratton 4046 also comes with a 200 Amp transfer switch and it can be installed either indoors or outdoors, which is suitable for an air-cooled generator like this. It is equipped with a 999cc commercial-grade engine that will surely meet the electrical power your home needs. It runs on natural gas and liquid propane fuel.
It is enclosed in a weather-resistant and rust-proof aluminum with an advanced powder coating that protects it from corroding and chipping. It is also fully insulated. The front and rear panels can be removed if you need to access its components for maintenance and repairs. You can place your generator as close as 18” to your home if you have space constraints, but really need a backup power supply. Briggs and Stratton's generators proudly comply with the National Fire Protection Agency 37 standard. It also has a low-noise operation level of 70dBA, or similar to the sound intensity a running shower makes.
This generator can seamlessly provide backup energy and prioritize the most needed appliances, based on your preference. This is made possible by the patented Symphony II Power Management Technology. It is equipped with a user-friendly control panel that lets you program the generator’s automatic switching capability, since you may also set it to manual. It also has a USB port should you need more information about your generator’s condition. Briggs & Stratton offers a five-year limited warranty on selected parts and labor.
The Briggs & Stratton 40346 20000-Watt Generator is a reliable and durable generator. It does not over promise, but it delivers. It took into consideration potential space constraints and made sure it operates with the least noise possible, despite its power. There are no issues on the unit itself, but there have been reports that their Customer Support is hard to get in touch with.
Not all generators would disclose how long it would take, to start-up once the power goes out. Kohler does. In just 10 seconds, you can enjoy electricity at your home and your much-needed appliances, as if nothing happened. Kohler 20RESCL Standby Generator delivers a seamless transition and advanced voltage and frequency regulation, to prevent surges and fluctuations that may damage your electronics. It is also equipped with PowerBoost Technology for excellent startup power.
It is bundled with a 200 Amp transfer switch that allows the most electricity-demanding appliances like air conditioners, sump pump, heater, oven and refrigerator, to power up at the same time. It is flexible and runs on both natural gas and propane at 18kW and 20kW running watts, respectively.
This generator can withstand natural calamities like hurricanes. It is also made to operate even in near-sea locations because of its corrosion-proof and impact resistant enclosure. This enclosure also helps maintain a quiet operation of the generator and it will not be a cause of distraction for your household and your neighbors. Kohler offers a 5-year or 2000 hours limited warranty for this standby generator.
Kohler 20RESCL Standby Generator delivers and lives up to its commitment to provide power to a whole house without a long delay and without the annoying noise. Most users say it is the easiest standby generator to install. The only downside we see at the moment are the issues with the Technical Customer Support, who are supposed to help with troubleshooting needs. The brand should really pay attention to this, considering that this is a piece of high-value equipment.
If Briggs & Stratton can manufacture the most powerful whole house generator that can produce as much as 25kW, they also built the smallest one in the industry. Despite it being relatively small for a standby home generator, it delivers 8,000 watts of power for your necessities and comfort. It has an engine displacement of 500cc and runs on both propane and natural gas.
This model is bundled with a 50 amp transfer switch to manage the electricity demands of your appliances. This transfer switch can also power up 10 standby circuits. It is fully automatic and provides backup power in seconds. The generator system works with a low-noise level of 65 to 70 dBA. Both the generator and the transfer switch are weather-resistant and are in a full-aluminum enclosure.
You may also mount this generator as close as 18 inches to your property. You don’t have to worry about fire compliance because Briggs & Stratton got you covered on this aspect. The manufacturer offers 5-year limited warranty coverage for parts, labor and travel.
The Briggs & Stratton 40445 is the perfect small generator for small to medium houses. Its compact size is suitable for those who have space limitations in their backyard. Likewise, its low-noise and low-vibration features allow the closest placement possible at 18 inches or 1 ½ foot. It is not too pricey, considering it already comes with an automatic transfer switch.
Cummins Onan 5.5HGJAB is known as one of the quietest standby generators in the market today for its output. It has a low-noise reading of 69dBA at 10ft. and meets the National Park Service sound level requirements. It is enclosed in a sound-attenuated housing to guarantee low-noise and low-vibration levels.
It is small but powerful and can power one or two air conditioners while running smaller appliances at the same time with its 5500 running watts output. It does not come with a transfer switch, but it is already equipped with a digital voltage regulator to ensure a stable energy distribution to your appliances. It also automatically starts upon detection of a power outage and automatically disconnects when power resumes.
This generator will go places with you if you have a recreational vehicle or an RV because it is made ready for RV applications. It also comes with a universal mounting tray to support this. The Cummins Onan 5.5HGJAB is propane-powered and uses air-cooling which makes it low maintenance. It can also self-troubleshoot and is user-friendly especially for first-time standby generator users.
Cummins is a trusted brand in the generator industry. This compact generator has an impressively low-noise rating and is flexible for home and RV applications. Those who have small homes and mobile homes will greatly benefit from this generator. It has a digital voltage regulator built-in in its system and will automatically start and disconnect the generator as necessary. All of these features make this an excellent choice. However, its high price point might make you think twice.
How Does a Home Generator System Work?
- The generator starts working a few seconds after the power goes out. The transfer switch which is connected to your house’s electrical panel detects the loss of electricity and then sends a signal to the generator.
- The generator will then send back-up power to your appliances.
- The transfer switch actively manages the demands of your appliances based on the constant running watts and the surge watts they require to avoid overload.
- As soon as the transfer switch senses that the electricity from utility source is restored, it will switch off the generator, allowing the primary power source to directly supply electricity to the appliances.
- The transfer switch will continuously monitor and repeat the process as necessary.
Why Do You Need a Standby Generator?
You live in a hurricane and storm-prone area.
According to AccuWeather, the top 5 hurricane-prone cities in the US are:
Miami, Florida, Key West, Florida, Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, Tampa, Florida, New Orlean, Louisiana.
With the threat of global warming, storms are becoming stronger and more frequent, leaving greater damage and longer power outages. And if you live in or near these cities, you will most likely need a reliable standby generator soon.
Someone in your household is electricity dependent.
Probably 80% of us cannot live without electricity for more than half a day. A handful of people actually depend on electricity more than the average. For example, people who need oxygen support at home or those who use Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine for proper breathing need electricity all the time. A household with a breastfeeding infant with stored breastmilk on the fridge will also need power 24/7. These are the instances that will surely make you consider getting a whole house generator.
Portable Generators versus Standby Generators
Feature: Power Output
Winner: Standby Generators
For home applications, standby generators win over the portable ones which can only deliver 50% output of the most powerful whole house generator made for residential applications which are between 20,000kW to 25,000kW.
Feature: Automatic Backup
Winner: Standby Generators
Portable generators’ startup options are manual recoil, electronic start switch and remote control startup as the most advanced. Most standby generators come with an automatic standby switch that detects a power outage and automatically switches the source in a few seconds.
Feature: Portability and Mobility
Winner: Portable Generators
For obvious reasons, portable generators win this comparison since they are made for this purpose. Most portable generators are also recreational van and camping reading which makes it a plus of outdoor lovers.
How to Choose the Right Whole House Generator for Your Need?
1. Power Requirement
The smallest generator we featured on this review supports up to ten standby circuits with a total output of 5,500kW. If you need more power back-up and need to supply to over two (2) air conditioners, water heating system and more, the safest output is between 16kW to 20kW. Most brands offer free home inspection, load calculation and recommend the most suitable standby generator for your home at the end of their visit.
2. Type of Fuel
There are three most common fuel types used for whole house generators. These are Gasoline, Propane and Diesel. Each one has advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a look at each one:
Diesel is the most widely available fuel to source among the three. Even in times of natural calamities, the chance to find diesel sources is high because it is widely used by various trucks and vehicles for emergency and military operations. It is also known as the least flammable fuel source and can also operate in the coldest locations as long as it is mixed with a fuel additive.
Among the disadvantages of Diesel is the short shelf life of 18 to 24 months without additives. Some States also regulate and even prohibit the operation of diesel engines. Diesel engines are also known to produce louder noise.
Most standby generators are gasoline powered or dual-powered. Despite the wide-availability of gasoline, many users are wary about it because it is highly flammable and it cannot be stored in large quantities. Likewise, it is also higher-priced. It also has the shortest shelf life at 12 months.
Propane is also known as LPG, although LPG is not necessarily propane. This type of gas is also readily available and top-ups can be home-serviced. Most propane-powered engines are more quiet than diesel and gasoline.
Propane is another highly flammable fuel - it can be hazardous if the fuel lines get leaks. It also has a higher installation cost due to the complexity.
3. Installation Requirements
Unlike portable generations which are “plug and play,” whole house generators will need a certified electrician and plumber for the installation. Always check the price if the installation is included or if you can get support from the manufacturer in providing an accredited electrician and plumber who are adept with their brand and generator systems.
4. Location, Noise Level and Zoning
Noise level and emissions are the primary considerations for the zoning guidelines. Aside from checking local ordinances when it comes to selecting a generator based on its fuel type, it is also necessary to check zoning restrictions. Generator installation guidelines are somewhat similar to air conditioners’. Each State will definitely have different sets of guidelines.
5. Warranty Coverage
Power outages are rare in the US, unless you live in a hurricane-prone area. Most brands offer a warranty coverage of five (5) years or 2000 hours whichever comes first. To make the most out of your generator, make sure to “exercise” it at least once a month for the first six (6) months and once every quarter after that. Most standby generators allow automatic programming or switching from the control panel. This will help you assess any problems even before the end of the warranty coverage.