Whole House Generator Installation Tips

By Mark J. Donovan

August 12, 2016 4 min read

I looked at two whole house generators to install on my property, a Kohler generator and a Generac generator. In the end I decided to purchase the Kohler generator because it had a key feature that helped keep my overall whole house generator installation costs lower: Its automatic transfer switch had integrated load management sharing. Unfortunately, the Generac generator did not. Consequently, with the Generac solution, I would have had to buy either a large 22kw generator with no load sharing required, or a 16kw generator with remote load-sharing boxes installed in my home.

So what is managed load sharing? Load sharing allows you to have up to several high-current carrying loads that are not absolutely critical to have running during a power outage, e.g. a clothes dryer, an air conditioner, oven, etc. For example, with load sharing, you could have the microwave, dishwasher and oven on a load-sharing circuit, so that in the event that one or two of them were on while the generator was operating, the automatic transfer switch wouldn't allow the second or third item to turn on. As a result of the managed load sharing a smaller generator can be used to power the house, thus saving you from having to buy a more expensive generator.

In my case, I chose the 14kw Kohler generator with the integrated load-sharing feature built into the automatic transfer switch. The cost savings over the 22kw Generac generator, or the 16kw version with external load management boxes, was around 40 percent. I also had a concern with reduced system reliability with having multiple boxes located in and around the house for the items I wanted to load share.

Because we don't have access to natural gas, we purchased a whole house generator that operates off of propane gas. In researching having propane tanks installed, I learned that I could either buy the tanks outright, or rent them. I chose to buy the propane tanks, two 120 gallon tanks, rather than rent. The cost of the two tanks came to around $1,150. However, by buying the tanks I get to purchase propane gas at less than half the rate than if I were to rent the tanks. For example, I am now paying between $1.50 and $1.70 per gallon by owning the tanks. I was paying, when renting just one tank, over $3.50 per gallon. So seriously consider the financial benefit of buying the propane tanks when installing a whole house generator.

Note that you will need two 120-gallon propane tanks to reliably run the generator. Otehrwise, there will be insufficient gas line pressure to ensure the generator will always operate when required.

Both whole house generator installation companies that I had come out to my property and assess the site for the generator were insistent about keeping the propane tanks relatively close by. They recommend that only 15 to 20 feet should separate the two. The main reason for their recommendations was that trenching for the gas and electric lines is very expensive, and in some cases impossible to do if there are large tree roots in the way. Unless you are willing to pay a high premium for the generator installation, or don't mind taking out a tree or two, then expect to place your whole house generator and propane tanks fairly close to one another.

Mark J. Donovan's website is at http://www.homeadditionplus.com. COPYRIGHT 2016 MARK J. DONOVAN DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM

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