Preparing for power outages is more important than ever, as our lives have become highly dependent on the regular flow of electricity. When you have a portable or backup generator, you won’t have to fear sudden outages in your area.
Portable generators can also be used outdoors for recreational activities like camping, at construction sites, and as the primary energy source in your RV or tiny home.
So, having a portable generator can be a boon during an emergency and an asset for outdoor adventures. But what are its other uses, the costs of procuring one, and the types of portable generators available today?
If you’re looking to invest in a portable generator, you should know that its cost depends on its energy input and output, type, design, brand, and other factors. This guide has everything you need to make a decision for your household.
What Are Portable Generators?
A portable generator is a temporary and transportable source of electricity. It can be used for households and commercial applications. There are many different portable generators available in the market, each catering to a specific need and application.
Not all portable generators run on the same energy source and deliver the same power output. Today, companies worldwide are building portable generators to meet all kinds of needs—be it something small as camping, industrial power, or backup power for households.
Applications of Portable Generator
Portable generators are convenient, easy to store, mostly lightweight, and affordable. All of these features make them very useful in several ways:
- As emergency power- Don’t let blackouts cause your food to spoil or hinder your workflow on a strict deadline. Instead, use a portable generator to power essential appliances, such as lights, the refrigerator, your computer, and phone chargers. Emergency power sources are crucial to get through blackouts and natural disasters.
- Around job sites- Many construction sites or remote locations have limited access to power. In such circumstances, portable generators can be handy and reliable to run power tools and equipment.
- Off-the-grid living- If you love camping or live in an RV, a portable generator will help you maintain access to all your devices, like laptops, a small freezer, a radio, and a mobile charger.
- Outdoor events and festivities- Portable generators are also used in outdoor events like concerts, parties, weddings, festivals, and markets to provide power to those who need it.
Factors That Influence the Costs of Portable Generators
On average, a portable generator costs about $500 to $2,500 for the unit or $900 to $4,000 when connected to a household electrical system. Meanwhile, a whole-house generator costs around $3,000 to $11,000.
As mentioned earlier, the exact amount you will have to spend on a portable generator depends on many factors, such as:
A generator that can deliver a lot of power will cost more than a low-capacity device. Based on the sizes, here is an estimate of the costs:
Avg. Price Range
No. of Appliances
2 to 5 kW
$250 to $1,400
One appliance and a few light fixtures
7 to 10 kW
$2,000 to $3,000
Up to 10 light fixtures, a sump pump, and 4 to 5 appliances
13 to 16 kW
$3,000 to $4,500
1,500 sq ft home
17 to 20 kW
$4,000 to $6,000
1,500 to 3,000 sq ft home
22 to 25 kW
$4,500 to $12,000
3,000 to 5,000 sq ft home
30 to 48 kW
$10,000 to $16,000
5,000+ sq ft home/commercial building
Generators can run on a number of power sources, such as gasoline, natural gas, or solar energy. The type you choose will affect your expenses and overall power output. It is best to choose the fuel type most readily available to you to reduce costs.
These amounts are estimates and could differ based on your location.
$250 to $4,500
$3,300 to $6,700
$250 to $4,000
$900 to $4,300
$500 to $3,300
Gas-powered generators are the most affordable, with expenses ranging between $250 and $4,500. That said, these prices will change depending on where you live.
Gas generators are quite noisy and require a lot of storage space, making them an impractical choice for many homeowners.
Diesel-fueled portable generators are often seen at construction sites for drilling machines and other heavy equipment. They are very expensive, ranging between $3,300 – $6,700, so they are best for commercial or industrial use.
A portable liquid propane generator can cost around $250 to $4,000. This is a more eco-friendly choice than diesel and gasoline, and it is excellent for those who live off-grid or in rural areas.
A natural gas generator can cost between $900 and $4,300. Natural gas is a lot cheaper than diesel or propane but is not ideal for portable use, as robust pipelines are needed to ensure maximum safety.
Solar-powered generators are far and away the most environmentally friendly and cost-effective household option. They range from $500 to $3,300, depending on the Capacity.
Although the initial investment is quite high, it’ll save you a considerable sum of money on your energy bills in the long run.
Brand and Model
Since quite a few brands manufacture generators, their prices can be pretty competitive. Most premium and reputed brands will offer a range of models for different capacities and usage. Even then, their prices will be high, as you’re not just paying for the generator but the brand, performance, and longevity.
Similarly, the more features there are, the more you will have to spend.
Entry Level Generators (500W to 2000W)
- Price range: $150 to $1,200
- Features: Easy to move around, mostly fossil fuel-powered.
- These generators are small, and they are some of the most budget-friendly options you can get. They are undoubtedly the easiest to travel with—you can take them camping or driving cross country. That said, they have very limited power outputs.
Mid-Range Generators (3000W to 8000W)
- Price range: $300 to $3,000
- Features: Larger than entry-level generators, can run multiple essential home appliances off-grid simultaneously.
- When shopping for a generator, choose a reasonably priced setup that will meet your household’s energy needs. It should be able to power essential appliances and devices during a blackout.
High-end Generators (10000W to 18000W)
- Price range: $3,500 to $6,200
- Features: Can power an entire home, including HVAC systems and large appliances; few options with this amount of output; installation costs differ depending on the fuel type
- These generators are massive, and installation is rather complex. If it’s a fuel-powered machine, it would need a concrete slab. On-grid solar-powered generators would make the most sense for longevity and practicality. Moreover, homeowners could take advantage of the Federal Solar Tax Credit incentive.
Portable Generators: Other Expenses to Consider
Aside from the base cost of a generator, you will incur other expenses, including:
Installation prices are high for high-end generators. A large, fuel-powered system would need a concrete slab for stability, whereas a solar-powered system needs a robust solar panel system. These are expensive projects but will benefit your household in the long run.
Maintenance and Servicing Expenses
Using a fuel or gas generator will produce fumes and build up residue. Best practices dictate that your generator be serviced at least twice a year. This routine check should be done before peak power outage season to help prolong the generator’s lifespan. Basic checks could cost around $80 to $300.
Accessories and Add-ons
Having additional accessories can make life with a generator easier. For example, a wireless monitor will allow you to remotely check your generator’s status.
Additional batteries, smart management apps, and other practical additions will add to the overall costs.
If you choose to extend your generator's warranty, be ready to spend some extra bucks. While it may seem expensive as a lump-sum payment, having a warranty will save you from additional expenses if something happens to the system down the line.
Tips to Keep in Mind to Save Money
Here are some simple tips to keep your generator expenses within your budget:
Research and Compare Prices Online
This goes without saying: always do your due diligence before investing in anything, especially a pricey system like a portable generator. Consider your household’s usage, location, and the fuel type available. Compare different options to see what fits your needs and budget. Never go with the first listing you find without checking out other options.
Consider Refurbished Options
A refurbished unit is not a bad idea if you hesitate to spend so much in the first go. Many websites offer gently-used, premium-brand generators at reasonable prices.
Time Purchases for Seasonal Discounts
The holidays are here; make the most of the sales when you purchase a generator. Buying one at a discounted price will help you save a lot of money.
Choosing and purchasing a generator is not an easy task, mainly because of the number of options available. Regardless of your choice, know that a generator is a worthy investment—it is crucial for emergencies, so making the right decision is vital.
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