Factors Impacting Generator Installation Costs

This article explores the various factors impacting installation costs for any standby generator installation. Installation costs will vary with each generator model and not all generator installations are the same. 

Let’s look at some of the major factors impacting generator installation costs.

Generator Installations Require Two Contractors

For LP and natural gas generators, a licensed electrician with proven experience installing standby generators will be required to handle the electrical. A licensed plumbing or mechanical contractor will be required to install the gas line. Both contractors will pull permits, if required by local code enforcement.  

Experienced generator installers likely have a relationship with a licensed plumbing contractor and can offer a turnkey installation quote which includes electrical and plumbing. The key benefit of turnkey installations is you look to just one contractor to fix or resolve an issue. If two contractors point fingers at each other, you need not worry because you look to one contractor whose primary job is to make everything right for you the customer.

Experienced generator installers make far fewer mistakes, if any at all, on generator installations and hope to service your generator and keep it in good running order.

Generator Placement for Natural Gas and LP Generators

Placement of a standby generator will have the biggest impact on installation costs. A natural gas generator placed near the gas meter will keep installation costs at a minimum because it is far less costly to run electrical wiring than a gas line.

Your best-case scenario for a low-cost installation is having the gas and electric meters on the same side of the house. Gas and electrical line runs are shorter, resulting in lower material and labor costs.

Image illustrating Guide to Best Location for a Standby Generator

If the gas meter is located on the opposite side of the house, installing the generator near the gas meter will minimize installation costs. Electrical wiring can be run through the attic or under homes with a conventional foundation.

Most local codes allow natural gas lines to run above ground and attached to the side of the house. This method is also the least expensive. If you prefer to bury the fuel line, trenching will add to installation costs in labor and equipment. Be sure to specify your preference with potential installers.

For generators fueled with LP, place the generator on the side of the house where the LP tank is installed. Local codes typically require the generator to be no closer than 10-feet from an LP tank. A plumbing contractor is not required for LP since most LP service providers can install a fuel line from the tank to the generator.

Is a Concrete Pad required?

Most air-cooled generators come with a preformed mounting pad attached to the generator. Set the generator on a bed of rocks and on level ground. While a concrete pad is not required for air-cooled generators, many homeowners prefer a concrete pad. Be sure to specify your preference for potential installers.

Liquid-cooled generators are considerably larger and will require a concrete pad. Be sure to check the dimensions of the generator and allow for an additional 3-6 inches around the generator. Dimensions can be found on the Specifications Sheet for any generator found on the Buckeye Power Systems website.

Wiring from the generator to the ATS gear can enter the generator from under the generator or from the side of the generator. If generator wiring is to enter the generator from underneath the generator, your contractor will need to trench conduit for high and low voltage lines and provide a conduit stub up within the dimensions of the concrete pad. Your installer will check the generator specifications and installation manual for the precise location of conduit stub ups for wire runs. Stub ups should be installed prior to pouring the concrete pad.

Are you building a new home?

If so, here’s how to save a bundle on installation costs. Purchase the Automatic Transfer Switch (ATS) gear during the build process and have your home builder's electrician install the transfer switch while wiring your new home. Instruct the homebuilder to pour an appropriately sized concrete pad (if required or desired) while doing other concrete work.

The home builder’s plumbing contractor can run a fuel line and shut-off valve from the gas meter to the generator. The plumber will need to know the BTU output of your new generator and that information can be found in the specification sheet for the chosen generator.

The only remaining task for a generator installer is to connect the generator to the transfer switch(es). All other work is complete and likely at substantial savings when compared to installation costs on an existing home.

Choosing the right installer

Choosing the right installer is, perhaps, the most important aspect when considering standby power for your home. We recommend hiring an experienced generator installer, and preferably an authorized dealer of the generator manufacturer. If you experience a warranty issue, an authorized dealer will resolve the issue.

You also want to establish an ongoing relationship with an installer who can also perform post-installation generator service (oil and filter changes and generator testing) and warranty repairs. Again, authorized dealers are the way to go.

Our shop in Memphis, Tennessee has been installing standby generators for residential and industrial customers for over 20 years. Every few months we will receive a call to correct the installation errors on a generator installed by an experienced electrician but with little or no experience with installing generators.

Experience truly matters with most standby generator installations.

Let’s Talk About Overall Project Costs

When budgeting for a professionally installed standby generator for your home, it is best to assume installation costs will closely approximate the cost of the generator equipment.  This isn’t always true but, often, this rule of thumb is fairly accurate.  So—if you spend, say, $6,000.00 for an air-cooled generator and ATS gear, expect the total project to be around $12,000.00. 

The same rule of thumb applies to liquid-cooled generators. Larger liquid-cooled generators require a concrete pad, larger fuel lines and wiring, and additional labor is required to wire multiple transfer switches. Special equipment is also needed to move liquid-cooled generators to the desired installation location.

Coming up next, we explore Generator Sizing and Load Management issues.To go there now, click here.