How to Choose a Whole-House Generator

Simplifying the process of choosing a home generator.

Selecting a Home Generator

Huge storm sweeps through the Northeast. Car accident downs neighborhood power lines. Increased demand for power causes brownout. Unforeseen blizzard blasts Texas.

Power is out for days.

Headlines like these are, unfortunately, increasingly common. Between rising rates of natural disasters and man-made accidents, life is unpredictable. One way to take back some control over your home is with a standby generator system. If power is lost, a generator will automatically transfer your electrical loads over to keep the appliances you need up and running, despite a utility outage. While all home generators will help provide power during an outage, not all of them are exactly the same. To decide what generator makes the most sense for your home, there are a few things to consider. 

When it comes to choosing a home generator, lots of questions arise. Do I use natural gas or propane? How many watts are needed? How many circuit panels are required? How do I install my generator?

At Briggs & Stratton, we understand that the selection process can be overwhelming. There are lots of things to consider, but with the right information, you can find the right generator to fit your needs.

The first thing to consider when choosing a generator is how you plan to fuel it. The two options available are natural gas (NG) and liquid propane (LP) – both of which provide seamless backup power.

Natural Gas Icon

Natural Gas

Liquid Propane Icon

Liquid Propane

If you choose to fuel your generator with natural gas, it gets hooked up to your home’s existing gas line or one is set up. This means you don’t have to worry about keeping and maintaining a supply of fuel, can keep your generator running for weeks and will likely have fewer installation needs. Another positive is that natural gas is usually cheaper than propane. One downside is if the natural gas supply is affected – such as a gas line being disrupted due to damage from a storm – then your generator will be affected as well. You will also have to check with your natural gas provider to ensure their system can support your generator’s fuel needs and acquire the necessary permits.

If you choose to fuel your generator with liquid propane, you will need to have a propane tank to hook up your generator to. Propane is a good option if you don’t have easy access to your city’s natural gas line. Liquid propane has a cleaner burn than natural gas and as long as you have it, your generator can run whenever it is needed. With that said, using propane means that you will have to refuel occasionally and that the length your generator can run is dependent on the size of your tank and the amount of propane you have.

Determining Wattage Needs

Aside from selecting a fuel source, the next most important thing to determine is how many watts your generator will need to be able to support. To calculate that value estimate, you can use our generator sizing tool where you can select the size of your home, your fuel source and the items you would like to power. The more appliances you want to power in the case of an outage, the more wattage you will need the generator to supply.

A good rule of thumb is to build in 20% extra voltage beyond what your appliances require in case more applications need to be powered. If your appliances need more than 8,000 watts of power, a standby home generator will be needed rather than a portable generator. Consider what is most important to you to power in emergencies, and that will largely determine what size and type of generator your home needs.

Another thing to consider when identifying what generator size to purchase is the option of load management. If you won’t need your whole home or all of your selected appliances running at once, load management can allow you to purchase a smaller generator while still giving you all the power that you need. 

Determining Your Transfer Switch Needs

Once you select your specific home generator, you will need to determine the correct transfer switch to connect to your control panel. This switch shifts electrical current away from the grid to the generator when an outage is detected. Depending on how you are powering your house, you can either connect the transfer switch to your main control panel or purchase a sub-panel that will serve to power only specific applications. 

Generator Installation Process

When looking at installation, you’ll want to keep in mind that a standby home generator has certain requirements of where it can be placed. You’ll want to make sure you have a location around your home where your generator can be five feet away from any opening in the home, with the exhaust directed away from any windows and doors.

Before installing your generator, you will work with your dealer or installer to obtain any necessary legal permits and finalize installation requirements and materials. Work with a power expert to safely set up your backup power solution.

The Value of Choosing the Right Home Generator

Whether you’re working from home, just spent hundreds of dollars stocking your fridge or need to watch the season finale of your favorite show, a home generator can help you avoid the inconvenience of being without power.

Armed with the right information, you can find the standby home generator that fits best for your needs and you’ll no longer have to fear the unpredictable power outage. From air conditioning to microwaves, your home will be supplied with the power it needs, whatever the circumstances.

Find your nearest Briggs & Stratton authorized dealer to help you navigate purchasing a home generator. 

Ready to start protecting your home?

Our Whole-House Generator Sizing Calculator allows you to select what you want to power in your home and directs you to the appropriate-sized generator system.