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Keeping the lights on: the pros and cons of a whole-house generator

Installation of a whole house generator in time for hurricane season.

Photo by Jodi Jacobson.

When the lights go out, you have two basic choices: You can sit in the dark and wait for the electricity to come back on, or you can do something about it.

For many homeowners, doing something means purchasing a generator, which can keep the lights on in an emergency. Whole-house generators are gaining popularity, but should you choose one or opt for a smaller, portable model? Here are the pros and cons of a whole-house generator.

Sponsored by Generac.

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  • Simple operation — A portable generator can be great, but using it in an emergency is often a hassle. You need to flip the appropriate switch on the electrical panel to operate the generator safely, not an easy thing to do in a darkened basement or utility room. A whole-house generator can be programmed to come on automatically in a power outage.

  • Peace of mind — Simply knowing that your entire home is protected can ease any worries. Because the generator powers your entire home, you do not have to pick and choose which appliances or outlets you can use during a blackout.

  • Increased home value — The mere presence of a whole-house generator could increase the resale value of your home. Buyers love the peace of mind, especially in storm-prone parts of the country and areas that experience frequent blackouts.

  • Less risk of damage — Having the lights go out is inconvenient, but a total loss of power also opens you up to damage. From frozen pipes in the winter to a damaged well pump, the knock-on effects of a power outage can be long-lasting and expensive. Having a generator that comes on automatically and stays on as long as you need it reduces the risks of that kind of costly damage.


  • Cost — You can pick up a portable generator for a few hundred dollars, but a whole-house unit will set you back many thousands.

  • Maintenance — If you want your whole-house generator to come on in an emergency, you must maintain it properly, and that can be expensive. Whole-house generators require extensive, ongoing maintenance.

  • Noise — Your whole-house generator might make your neighbors envious after a storm, but it could also make them angry. Large generators can be loud, and that could create problems in a quiet neighborhood.

  • Space — Whole-house generators are large, and attaching one to your home could mean giving up a lot of useful space. If you do install a whole-house generator, you need to think carefully about where to put it.

  • Refueling costs — Whether your whole-house generator runs on gasoline, diesel fuel or propane, you will eventually need to refill the tank. Refueling can be time-consuming and expensive. If your home is served by natural gas, however, the generator can be connected directly to the line, eliminating this potential drawback.

Sponsored by Generac.

Wanna sponsor? Email

Power outages can happen at any time. It’s easy to think that losing power happens only during a storm, but damaged poles, downed power lines and technical snafus at the power company also can knock your lights out, and when that happens, having a generator can give you peace of mind once you understand the pros and cons.


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