Updated: March 5, 2021

7 Best Whole House Generator Reviews & Buying Guide

by Charles Jasper

If you live in an area where power outages are frequent, a whole house generator (also called a standby generator) or a portable home generator can make life a whole lot easier in case of an emergency. Standby generators are fixed in place and provide emergency power for your entire home, not just one or two critical items, while a powerful portable generator can power things like a sump pump, AC or other smaller items. With the right size generator, you’ll experience minimal interruption in your daily life when you have power outages.

Best Whole House Generator Reviews

Choosing the best whole house generator can be tricky. There are a lot of factors to take into account, from the size of the generator, to the fuel type, to even what kind or size of transfer switch you need. That’s what this buying guide is here to help with. After reading our whole house generator review, you'll be much better placed to get the best standby generator for your home.

1. The Winner - Best Standby Generator

Generac 7043 Home Standby

Generac 7043 Home Standby
  • True power technology
  • Engineered and Built in the USA
  • 200 AMP Smart Transfer Switch
  • 515 pounds weight
  • 5-Year Limited Warranty

This mid-sized whole house generator is a good fit for a medium sized home and the home owner who wants the peace of mind a whole house generator can bring. This unit is produced by Generac, one of the most trusted names in the residential generator industry. This generator is a dual-fuel model and able to be powered by both natural gas and propane.

On propane, the generator will produce 22 kilowatts, while on gas, it produces 19.5 kilowatts. This is more than enough to run all of the lights and household appliances in a modest medium sized home. Best of all, because this home standby generator produces electricity with less than 5% total harmonic distortion, you can be confident that it’s safe for your delicate electronics.

This generator has a fairly small footprint for being such a powerhouse. It measures 48 x 25 x 29 inches and weighs 515 pounds. That means that installation is easier than you think. You don’t need a huge slab to put your generator on, and the installation system even provides a composite mounting pad if you don’t want to pour concrete.

One great feature of all Generac systems is the inclusion of remote monitoring from your smart device or computer. With the remote, you can see any pertinent information you could want about your generator. This includes total activity, detailed monthly reports about the battery and even shows you what the weather is like in that area.

Read Full Review: Generac 7043 Home Standby Generator


  • 22 kilowatt generator on propane
  • 19.5 kilowatt generator on natural gas
  • 200 amp transfer switch included
  • Generac remote monitoring app

2. The Runner Up - Standby Generator

Champion 8.5-kW Home Standby Generator

Champion Power Equipment 100294 Home Standby Generator Review
  • Automatic function
  • 50-Amp Automatic Transfer Switch
  • 10-year warranty
  • Propane or natural gas fuel
  • Easy to install

This standby 8.5-kW generator by Champion is very simple to install and to operate. It is completely automatic and can be used 24/7 to power the home. You can power it with either propane or natural gas fuel, but for continuous usage you will need to use natural gas. The automatic features on this generator are great because it will automatically cut on when a power failure occurs. To make sure that it is always ready to go in case of an outage, the machine automatically runs a weekly test of its own functions.

There are a lot of innovative features to this generator which set it apart, but one of the most notable features is that it is the quietest in its class of performance. Some generators are made for places where it is okay to be loud, such as a construction site, but this generator is made for residential homes and is quieter than most. Inside of the generator is a 439cc Champion engine. The engine will shut down automatically to prevent damage to the system when the fuel levels get too low.

Champion is a reputable manufacturer with many years of experience making generators. They offer a 10-year warranty on this generator and have a friendly customer support team. It has a 120/240v power switch and a 50A switch. At 460 lbs, this is a sturdy and heavy generator. For homes in both cold and hot climates this generator will perform exceptionally well because it can start at temperatures as low as -22 degrees fahrenheit without a warming kit.


  • Quietest performance in its class
  • Automatically starts when an outage occurs 
  • Easy to install
  • Individual breakers on the panel

3. Winner - Portable for Sump Pump, Refrigerator, and AC

DuroMax XP15000E

DuraMax XC15000E
  • Approved for all 50 states
  • 713cc powerful DuroMax engine
  • Great 15,000-watt home backup generator
  • Automatic low oil shut off
  • Great for use on job sites

DuroMax is an industry leader in home backup generators and this one is no exception. It is outfitted with MX2 technology which allows you to get the maximum amount of power by using the 120V and 240V power sources at the same time. One of the great features of this generator is that it has an automatic shut-off feature which stops the generator when the oil gets too low. This is a good choice for job sites and other locations where power is needed periodically because it will lower the power usage when it is not being used.

The noise control on this generator is very good and it has quiet operation. It is completely portable with a built-in wheel and handle system. It is 380 lbs, so it is very heavy, but the wheel system does a good job of distributing the weight so it can be easily moved. Like other Duromax power systems it is made out of 100% metal and has copper winding. The gasoline fuel tank is 10.5 gallons which powers the V-twin engine.

It packs 240-volts and 15,000-watts and measures 33 x 30 x 35 inches in size. There are many safety implementations for this generator such as automatic low-oil cutoff, individual breakers on the panel to prevent overpowering the engine, and an idle control system which reduces RPMs when it is not in use. It is a powerful enough generator to power the lights, refrigerators, and AC system of any home, and you can rest assured that it is completely safe because it is outfitted with surge prevention technology.


  • Wheel and handle system for portability
  • Automatic low-oil cutoff and idle control
  • 100% metal construction with copper windings
  • 15,000 watts and 240 volts

4. Runner Up - Portable for Whole House

DuroMax XP12000EH

DuroMax XP12000EH Dual Fuel Generator
  • 12,000-watt
  • Metal construction
  • Runs on propane or gas
  • 457cc engine
  • 3-year warranty

This portable generator by DuroMax is a heavy duty piece of machinery that does not hold back on the power. It is a top pick for the best portable generator for the whole house because it is capable of powering lights, HVAC systems, refrigerators, and everything else in the house all from it’s 224 lb, 30 x 29 inch metal construction. The wheels on the bottom make it easy to transport from one area to the next.

It has an 8.3 gallon fuel tank which can run on either propane or gasoline, giving the owner flexibility over their fuel choice. The included propane hose is 5 ft long. This is a top of the line portable generator (nicknamed “the BEAST”) that makes the perfect backup for a large household which needs a powerful generator to get the job done. It has the same amount of power as other top home backup generators, but is completely portable.

There are several different outlets on the generator including 120/240v outlets which can be run separately or at the same time, and a heavy-duty 50-amp outlet for when you need the most power. This DuroMax generator has a built-in muffler for quiet operation. It is not as loud as other generators with similar makes. The construction is completely metal with copper windings on the inside. It is made to be long-lasting and it is covered by a 3-year warranty from the manufacturer.


  • Wheel and handle kit included
  • Can run on propane or gasoline
  • DuroMax MX2 power boost
  • 120V, 240V, and 50A outlets

5. 10,000 Watt Home Standby Generator

Briggs & Stratton 40325

Briggs and stratton 40325
  • 3-year warranty
  • Safe for powering computers
  • Can power heavy duty A/C units
  • Economic fuel consumption
  • Propane power

When it comes to powering air conditioning systems, this generator is top tier. It has a patented system for powering multiple heavy duty AC systems at once. Compared to other similar generators this 10,000 watt home standby generator by Briggs & Stratton has very economic fuel consumption. It uses a lot less fuel than some of the larger generators. For those with computers and other expensive electronic equipment, one of the concerns with using a power generator is the chance of a surge causing the computer equipment to become damaged.

This Briggs & Stratton system protects computers by only delivering a safe amount of power, and at a continuous rate without much fluctuation. The design of the generator is streamlined to be more compact and fuel efficient than previous Briggs & Stratton generators. Installing the power generator is fairly easy and it can be placed on the exterior of the home. The company provides the buyer with a 3-year warranty and has really good customer service. If the buyer has questions about how to install or operate the generator, a local Briggs & Stratton representative can help. 

This generator can be run on both natural gas and propane gas. It uses less fuel than other generators which saves money. At 50% power the generator uses 1.39 gallons of fuel per hour. The output is a 120/240V which requires a separately sold transfer switch. This generator is small, compact size and comes in a dark gray color. It is a sleek looking generator with a metal encasing that will not be an eyesore at the home like some bulky generators that show all the mechanics on the outside can be.


  • Compact size
  • 10,000-watt
  • 120/240V power output
  • Highly fuel efficient performance

6. Dual Fuel Home Generator

Briggs & Stratton 40325

Westinghouse WGen9500DF
  • Gasoline or propane
  • Outfitted with several safety precautions
  • 457cc 4-stroke engine
  • Turn on with remote
  • 3-year warranty

The Westinghouse WGen9500DF is a portable dual fuel generator which can run on propane or natural gas. They have made it possible to switch from one fuel type to the other, even while the unit is operating. It is a lightweight generator at 220 lbs with rugged wheels for transporting over any terrain. The fuel tank is 6.6 gallons and can run on gasoline or propane. It peaks at 12,500 watts while running on gasoline and 11,200 watts running on propane. For each full tank of fuel it can run for between 12-17 hours. It is able to provide enough power for household appliances, HVAC systems, and sump pumps simultaneously.

The generator can be started with a remote control keyfob which is included with the purchase. Also included with the purchase is a tool kit for operating the generator, an oil funnel, and a battery charger for the 12V battery the generator requires. They test each generator for performance and safety in their facilities. Each generator is also backed by a 3-year warranty from the manufacturer and they have a great customer service network to answer any questions about installation or operation.

There are multiple outlets on the generator including a 120/240V. It requires a transfer switch to connect the generator with a home or RV. All of the outlets have reinforced rubber covers to prevent safety hazards. It is rated as one of the quietest dual fuel generators currently on the market as well which makes it a top choice for residential use. The smart idle system reduces to RPMs when the generator is not in use to keep fuel costs low. Another good thing about this portable dual fuel generator is that it is super easy to install and maintain.


  • Portable wheel and handle system
  • Low-oil shutdown feature
  • Remote start with keyfob
  • Easy to use

7. 3-Phase Whole House Generator

Generac 7077 

Generac 7077
  • Smooth and steady performance
  • LED light status indicators 
  • Durable aluminum outer shell
  • Easy to install and operate
  • Made in the USA

Generac is the top brand for home generators because they have innovative technologies which are developed in the USA. One thing that stands out about this generator is that it is safe to power computers and sensitive electronics with it because of how smooth and steady the power is. When the power gets cut out, the generator senses it and starts up automatically. The automatic start function means there is less time spent in the dark and less work to do to get the lights back on. It can power all of the lights, appliances, electronics, and AC units in the home without getting overloaded.

There is an option to use the generator to power the whole house, or you can select just enough power to turn on a few specific circuits in the home if you want to minimize power usage. It has an aluminum encasement which some have said gets rusty when exposed to moisture so it is preferable to keep it as dry as possible to prevent any rusting. It is on the high end of price, but the features and power it packs definitely make it worth it.

Additional purchases are required such as a Generac battery and automatic transfer switch which are not included with the purchase of the generator body. The installation and the maintenance of this generator are incredibly simple and efficient. It is easy to access the inner workings of the generator because three of the four walls of the aluminum encasement are removable. It has streamlined wiring and the base which goes onto the ground requires little prepwork to install.


  • Largest 3-phase generator on the market
  • Aluminum encasement
  • Automatically starts during a power outage
  • Requires minimal maintenance

Whole House Generator Buying Guide

Home Power Supply

What Is a Whole House Generator?

There are nearly 3.5 million people without power from their utility provider right now. In California, the electric company has regularly scheduled outages to ease pressure on the grid. If you happen to go through an outage or you live in an area with storms, a power outage can wreak havoc on your home.

In colder areas, a power outage can lead to water pipes freezing and bursting. In hotter areas, humidity can cause severe damage to your home. A dead refrigerator means spoiled food, no power means your security systems won’t work, and more.

That’s where a whole home generator comes in. This type of generator is hardwired into your home’s electrical system via an automatic transfer switch (ATS). If there’s ever an instance where the power stops coming from your utility, the ATS will detect it and turn on your backup generator.

That process takes less than a minute in most cases, meaning you won’t experience much of a delay at all. While the power is out, your standby generator powers your home. And while you don’t necessarily want to turn on every single light in your home, as long as you get the right size generator, you can live your life fairly normally.

Important Things to Keep in Mind

External Power Supply

Before you go and pay thousands of dollars for a standby generator, you should realize that they're not a “one size fits all” solution. We’ve compiled a list of some of the most important things to consider when shopping for a generator.

1. Budget

The price of a whole home standby generator can range from $2500 all the way up to over $10,000. Keep in mind what your budget can afford before you make your final decision.

2. Power Requirements

You need to look at the size of your home and the household appliances you have to determine how much power your generator should have. The biggest energy sinks are going to be your climate control (AC or heating), followed by your kitchen appliances. Once you determine what the total wattage you need is, you can begin looking at appropriately sized home generators.

It isn’t just the appliances you’re running. You should also consider the number of people you live with. As you have more people, your wattage requirements are going to go up. Not just because of increased usage, but also an increased demand on your heat pump or central air. A small generator isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however.

3. Efficiency and Upkeep Cost

You don’t want a generator that’s going to cost you more to take care of it than it did to buy it in the first place. There are whole home generators, however, that have durable and corrosion resistant exteriors that make them long lasting. Likewise, more efficient standby generators will be able to cycle up or down to meet the demand you place on them rather than run at 100 percent power the entire time.

4. Fuel Consumption and Fuel Types

When it comes to the fuel type that a generator will run on, there are generally four options: liquid propane, diesel, gasoline, and natural gas. Each has their own challenges that we’ll cover later in this buying guide. Suffice it to say that you should plan for how you’re going to provide the fuel your generator needs.

The average power outage can range from a couple of hours to a few weeks, read our guide on how to prepare for a power outage. Consider your fuel type and how long it will last. If you’re using natural gas, what happens if the gas stops flowing? Is your propane tank large enough to provide power for an extended period of time? These are all things that you should be considering.

5. Location

Whole home generators are meant to be placed outside. Because they burn fuel, you absolutely cannot put them indoors or you run the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. They also need to be wired directly into your circuit box. A short direct connection is best, so based on the size of the generator, you may have limited options where you can put it.

6. Noise level

Depending on your neighborhood, you may have noise restrictions in place. Consult with your HOA to determine what noise level you’re allowed to have. While most home standby generators are less than 60 decibels, under full load, some can be quite loud. If you are looking for a small quiet generator read our quiet generator guide.

7. Safety features

You want basic safety features for your generator to protect your home as well as your generator. Look for things like high temperature automatic shut off, and automatic cutoff for low oil levels or low fuel levels. These can all prevent damage to your generator.

8. Warranty

Most major manufacturers come with a 5-year warranty, but lesser known makes may have little to no warranty. You might save money by forgoing the name brand, but you’re also taking a gamble on the quality of the build.

9. Type of Transfer Switch

There are three types of transfer switches. The first supplies your entire circuit breaker (and thus your entire home). The second will only supply a section of your circuit breaker, so only those things you deem essential are powered. And the third takes the place of your circuit breaker panel. You should think about which kind you’re going to want for your generator.

10. Remote Monitoring

Some whole house generators have optional remote monitoring accessories that you can install. Others come with the capability built in. Remote monitoring is a great thing and can help you keep track of servicing your generator, providing alerts for monthly tests and other things. They also will keep you out of the inclement weather as you check to see how much fuel your generator has burned.

11. Installation and Maintenance

In most cases, we recommend professional installation. Standby generators are wired directly into your home’s circuit breaker panel or replaces it entirely. That means you’re going to be working with a lot of electricity. If you aren’t comfortable with dealing with that, a licensed electrician can save you money and even keep you from injuring yourself.

Standby generators also need regular maintenance. You can do some of the preventive maintenance yourself if you follow the checklist that manufacturers provide. However, you should still have the information for a qualified and certified repair shop in your area in case there is ever something that goes wrong that you can’t deal with.

These are just a few of the things you should be keeping in mind when you shop for your new backup generator. Our reviews of some of the best whole house generators should help you narrow down your options too.

Standby Generator vs. Portable Generator: Which Is Best?

Portable Power Station Winter

There’s a huge difference between a portable generator and a whole house standby generator. For one, a standby generator is much smaller than your whole house unit and produces much less power. Here’s a chart of some basic differences between the two:


Whole House Generators

Portable Generators

Power output:

Units range from 14 kW up to 150 kW for businesses or large homes

Units generally range from 8 kW to 14 kW

Fuel Type

Diesel, gasoline, natural gas, or propane

Gasoline, propane, natural gas, or propane




Automatic Start?



Powering Things:

Use your home’s outlets

Use limited outlets on the generator

Noise Level

As low as 58 decibels

As low as 51 decibels

Home Exterior with Power Supply

There’s no doubt that if you live in an area with frequent power outages, a home standby generator has very specific advantages. However, you may wonder if you should just get a portable generator and what the trade offs between the two are.

Here are the main advantages that whole house generators have over traditional portable generators.

  • Solution for the whole house and both sensitive and high wattage appliances – New whole house generators are more efficient and can provide smoother power. In most cases, the power has a total harmonic distortion (THD) of under 5%. That means that your sensitive electronics like laptops or smart home devices can be safely operated. These generators also provide enough power for your entire home, not just four or five things.
  • Easy to use – Whole house generators are extremely easy to use. Once you have them installed, the automatic transfer switch takes care of everything else. When your electrical company no longer provides power, your generator kicks on. With a portable generator, you have to get it out, set it up, start it, and then run outdoor-rated extension cords to everything you want to power.
  • High capacity – It’s all in the numbers. Standby generators can provide up to 150 kilowatts of power, compared to 14 kilowatts from portable generators. When you need power, the choice to get a whole home standby generator is obvious. 
  • Maintenance is easier – Your whole home generator usually needs servicing once per year to check the oil and make sure that everything is running correctly. You do need to power them on once a month to keep them in proper working condition, but the total maintenance is much less than that of portable generators.
  • Less noise than portable with new technology – From a sheer noise to wattage ratio, whole house generators have come a long way. Gone are the generators that sound like a fleet of motorcycles when you power them up. Modern standby generators are no louder than an air conditioner.
  • Weather – When the weather is bad, the last thing you want to do is go outside in the wind and rain. Standby generators run automatically, meaning that you can sit inside in comfort knowing that your generator is working as intended. Additionally, portable generators are vulnerable to rain and moisture because the plugs are on the generator. Your standby generator is hard wired into your home so there’s no vulnerability there.
  • Run time – Home standby generators have larger reservoirs of fuel. Whether it’s a 150 gallon diesel tank or a large propane tank, your whole home generator can run for days without need for refueling. Portable generators generally have a 1 to 1.5 gallon tank that gives you ten hours of run time in the best scenario.
  • Self-test – All generators should be run for a half hour every month to keep them in peak operating condition. For a portable generator, that means you have to haul it out and set it up and run it manually. Whole house backup generators will automatically test themselves every month without you having to do it manually.
  • Run cost is lower – Standby generators are more efficient and burn less fuel per watt than portable generators. Depending on the fuel type you choose, you will also pay less per gallon than a gasoline-powered portable generator.

On the other hand, there are definite disadvantages to even the best whole house generators, as well as situations for which a portable generator is the best option. Here’s the other side of the story.

  • Cost – There’s no denying that a whole home generator is much more expensive than a portable generator. You can spend up to $30,000 for the largest standby generators, and even a small 6 kilowatt generator costs about $5000. A 6 kilowatt portable generator on the other hand, costs about a fifth of that.
  • Installing – Home standby generators require a lot of installation. From installing a mounting pad to drilling a hole into your wall to run a cable to your circuit breaker panel, there are a few things you need to do. Portable generators just require a dry solid surface like your driveway.
  • Portability – It’s in the name. A portable generator can travel with you if you need to evacuate, making sure that you have a backup power supply when you need it. A standby generator is tied to your home, and if you have to leave your home, you leave your backup power source.

The bottom line? There's no clear-cut one size fits all solution for generator type, and it really comes down to your power needs and how comfortable or portable you want your generator to be.

Guide to Generator Fuel Types

Garage Exterior With Power

The best whole house generators can be fueled by more than one source. The most common are gasoline, liquid propane (LPG), natural gas, and diesel. There are also generators that can take two or even three of these fuel types, switching between them on the fly.

Here are the different types of fuel and their advantages and disadvantages. The right choice for you will ultimately depend on your needs.

1. Gasoline

This is the usual gasoline that you find everywhere. However, for whole house generators, because the gasoline will often sit for longer periods, it’s best to get gas that has no ethanol added to it. This can be a challenge to find now, but it is the best. If you cannot find gasoline without added ethanol, then you may need to use a stabilizer for your fuel.


  • Easily obtained
  • Extremely easy to carry around


  • Short shelf life before it begins to break down
  • Extremely flammable and dangerous to store
  • Power outages tend to create scarcities of gasoline
  • Can be fairly expensive
  • Not a very efficient fuel type for generators

2. Liquid Propane

This is a commonly available fuel type that is stored in large tanks. Because of the flammable nature of propane there are local and state regulations regarding where the tank can be stored. In some cases, the easiest solution is to install an underground propane tank. These can have volume capacity of over 500 gallons. With care, an underground tank will last 40 years or longer. This longevity can make it the best standby generator for a lot of people.


  • Burns very clean
  • Stores well for a very long time
  • Propane deliveries are usually still available during power outages
  • Generators that burn propane are usually quieter
  • Propane burning generators have longer engine life than other types of fuel
  • Easier to operate and less expensive


  • LPG delivery systems can be more complicated which means greater risk of failure
  • Tank installation can be expensive (roughly $2,000 for an underground tank and $1500 for an above ground tank)
  • Ruptured lines are extremely dangerous, so do not use in earthquake zones
  • Not good for colder weather because it begins to breakdown
  • Shorter life for generators than for diesel models

3. Natural Gas

Natural gas is great in that it requires no on-site storage for your generator. The natural gas is provided as a utility via a line that runs to your home and to your generator. However, if you live in an area with earthquakes, natural gas service can be disrupted. Additionally, if you live at high altitudes, natural gas can be difficult to obtain because the thinner air trips carbon monoxide sensors.


  • No on-site storage necessary. Unlimited fuel from the utility company
  • Burns clean
  • Always available as long as the utility lines are intact
  • Emission compliant
  • Air cooled engine generators are quieter


  • Earthquakes or other natural disasters can break supply lines
  • Provides less power than other fuel sources
  • Burns more fuel than other types of generators, which can lead to higher operating costs
  • Broken natural gas lines can be very dangerous.
  • Initial cost of generators is usually higher for a natural gas generator.
  • Initial installation cost is higher because the fuel system requires special plumbing.
  • Natural gas generators have a shorter life than diesel generators

4. Diesel

Diesel comes in three forms: regular diesel, bio-diesel, and emulsified diesel (this diesel is mixed with water to minimize emissions when it is burned). Diesel is also known as fuel oil and deliveries can be counted on during most power cuts provided that there are no other natural disasters at the same time. 


  • Fuel is extremely easy to obtain
  • Home delivery services are easy to find
  • Engine life for properly serviced diesel generators in extremely long
  • Much less expensive to maintain.
  • Fuel consumption is usually 7% of rated output. For example, a 20 kilowatt generator will use 1.4 gallons per hour at full rated load.
  • Diesel engines are designed to run for long periods at a time
  • Efficient even in sub-arctic conditions with proper low-temperature additives.


  • Storage life of 2 years without additives
  • Installation of on-site storage can be expensive
  • Above ground tanks are unsightly and lower property values
  • Diesel engines are much louder than propane or natural gas generators
  • Can become rough when run at low loads due to wet stacking which causes carbonization of the fuel injectors
  • Operate best at 70 to 80% of load
  • More maintenance intensive
  • Heavier than natural gas or propane burning models

5. Dual-fuel and Tri-fuel systems

These fuel systems are able to switch between different types of fuel at will. For instance, you can run on natural gas but if there is a fault in the line, switch over seamlessly to LPG. Or this can even work the other way. If you’re running your generator on LPG and run out of propane, then you can switch over to natural when you need to. Some of the best whole house generators are hybrid dual-fuel generators: a terrific option for maximum versatility.

Tri-fuel systems switch between three types of fuels, giving you even more flexibility. The best home backup generator combination would be a diesel, propane, and natural gas, which gives you the best of all worlds.

Keep in mind that depending on the region you live in, certain types of fuel might be more preferable to others. For example, the earthquake prone West coast should not be looking at natural gas as a fuel source. Likewise, if you live in Montana where temperatures can drop to 40 degree below or lower, natural gas and propane are not ideal fuel sources. Check with your local businesses to see what they use as their fuel source and follow their lead.

There are also solar powered generators as well, if you’re into being green. Look here for different types of solar powered generators.

Installation, Electricals, and Permits

Kohler Home Power

Installing a whole home generator will always require licensing from your local municipality, especially because you’re doing electrical work on your home. The various types of permits required will vary and you should check with your local town hall or building authority to check. 

Professional installation is strongly recommended when it comes to whole house generators. Professional installers have all the required licenses and can ensure that your renovation is both up to code and properly licensed.

A transfer switch is necessary when you install a backup generator. Otherwise your generator will never know when to come on. Thankfully, most generators come with a transfer switch included in the package. You’ll often have a choice over what size you purchase, ranging from 100 amps up to a dual 200 amp switch that can handle a total of 400 amps. Check our other whole house generator reviews for more information.

There are three general types of transfer switch:

Whole house transfer switches supply your generator’s power to the entire circuit breaker panel, providing power to your entire home. This switch is installed between the meter and your circuit panel. When it detects a power outage, the switch automatically disconnects from the utility grid and connects to the generator for backup power.

The rating of the transfer switch depends on the rating of the circuit breaker panel. If your circuit breaker panel has a 200 amp main, then you need a 200 amp switch. If you have a 100 amp breaker panel, then you need a 100 amp automatic transfer switch.

Sub-panel transfer switches provide power to a specific portion of your circuit breaker panel. That way you only provide backup power to certain areas of your home, like your heat pump, kitchen, and living room. This can be a good option if you have a lower kilowatt generator.

This is important because household appliances can have huge wattage requirements and even larger start up wattage pull. If you have a lower wattage generator, you might not be able to run everything without sacrificing power to other home appliances.

A load center transfer switch replaces your entire circuit breaker panel entirely. This type of switch has a Service Entrance rating, which means it includes the primary disconnect for the electrical service.

Since all homes are mandated to have a primary disconnect, this type of switch has to have a utility cutoff on the side of the panel. Normally, this is a switch that is with the main circuit breaker panel as a main breaker or a switch on the side of the panel.

Whole House Generator FAQ

• Can I install a whole house generator myself?

In most cases you shouldn’t install a whole house generator on your own. That’s because you’re dealing with up to 200 amps of power coming into your home. Not to mention doing electrical work requires a permit in most towns or cities in the United States.

If you’re a licensed electrician, then you can absolutely install a backup generator on your own and wire it into your circuit breaker panel with no problems. However, for the rest of us, a professional installation is usually the best option.

• How long can a standby generator last?

Home standby generators have specific shelf lives that usually depend on the type of fuel that they use. A diesel generator can have a run life of up to 20,000 hours (833 days). That means you can run them for that long without worrying about failure. Of course you aren’t going to run them that long, so with proper maintenance, it can last up to 30 years.

For natural gas powered generators or propane generators, you can expect about 3,000 hours of runtime, which is 125 days of straight run time. Of course, again, you aren’t going to run it for that long continuously.

• Which is better: air cooled or liquid cooled?

Generators run hot, which is why a home standby generator will always have some form of cooling system. The choice between liquid and air cooling depends on the power you need and your ambient climate. Generally air cooling is used for home standby generators up to 22 KW, as generating more power than that over a significant period of time could heat the engine more than air cooling can cope with.

Liquid cooled systems are more robust and effective, but come with a higher price tag. Unless you have a need for more than 22 KW or live in a hot climate, the bottom line is that an air cooled generator is probably sufficient.


Whole house generators are a great way to provide power to your home in the event of a catastrophic power failure or just an inadvertent hiccup. With the automatic switchover that these types of generators provide, you don’t have to worry if you find yourself in the path of a hurricane.

Hopefully with our help, you have been able to shop and find the whole house generator that’s just right for you. If you’d like to dive a little deeper into things. we have a huge number of home generator reviews that you can read here. With these tools under your belt, finding the best home generator should be a snap.

About the author

Charles Jasper is the owner and main author of Generator Guider. He has a degree Engineering and 20 years experience on using generators on various projects, around the house, and while traveling and camping. He has a passion for everything related to home improvemen and loves to travel on his RV. When he is not working, you might find Jasper working on projects around the house or organizing a camping trip.