Big Storms and Big Generators…


As I am writing this, Tropical Storm Elsa is heading toward Middle Georgia. By the time you read this, we will have dodged the bullet or it will have smacked us around. Either way, Elsa is the first of several that will come visiting this year. Are you ready?

I have written several times about the joy of having a generator for the times that the power is knocked out. Some of us remember a few years back when power was out for nearly two weeks! This is an incredible hassle and if you are older or sick then it can be life-threatening. For example, what if you depend on an oxygen concentrator…

The older I get then the more sensitive I am about the difficulty of getting a portable generator set up and going. I have a terrific propane-powered generator by Generac sitting in my barn. However, the thing weighs over 200 pounds and must be started by a rope pull. Fortunately, I have a tractor with a front-end loader to lift the thing out of the barn but the manual pull start gets harder every year. So, as I get older and punier, I am thinking about ways to accommodate these issues.

The first and obvious solution is to get a generator with an electric starter and there are several portable models available. You need to keep a trickle charge on the battery so that it will work when you need it. Also, I like using propane for my fuel as it doesn’t gum up the carburetor. Unfortunately, Generac- my favorite brand has an electric start model, but it will not use propane for fuel. Champion and Westinghouse seem to have the best reviews for generators with electric start and use propane although so far as I can tell they are both manufactured in China.

The generators that I am really salivating over are the permanent standby models. These are larger capacity, but they are set up in a permanent location in their own weatherproof enclosures and are powered either by natural gas or by propane. They really are fantastic and have automatic switching devices that sense if the power goes off, the controller senses it and automatically starts the generator and switches over in seconds. Not only that but they all have an automatic testing cycle where the generator will start itself up once a week for about 10 minutes and self-test just to make sure everything working properly. Of course, the newer models can also be controlled by Wi-Fi or with your phone…

The reason that I don’t have one of these babies is strictly financial. The smallest one made by Generac is about $2200 dollars plus the installation, wiring, etc. So figure that that installation may well cost as much as the generator itself…in this case another $2200. Keep in mind that this is for the smallest model generator which will run your lights, refrigerator, maybe a hot water heater, and in our case a well but no HVAC. Most people buy the bigger models such as the 20-kilowatt version. These will cost around $5,000 and perhaps another $5,000 for installation but it will run everything, heat, and air, stove -the works! Yep! That’s the one that I want…but alas… I am a humble home inspector without ten grand for standby power. But if I could- I would.

The main brands for the permanent standby units are Generac, Kohler, and Cummins. These are all high-quality companies and you should have wonderful protection for years!

Ned Dominick has been inspecting homes in Macon, Warner Robins, Byron, Forsyth, and all Middle Georgia since 1978. He and his qualified inspectors have examined over 30,000 local homes. If you have questions, check out Ned’s website at or give him a call at 478-738-0893.


Share This