Generators can be complicated to shop for, especially if you’ve never had to figure out the best type of whole house generator for your home. In addition, to get the most from your generator, you must understand how much wattage you need, how a whole house generator can add value to your home, and the best brands to look for.
The best whole house generator for most people is the Generac 7043 Guardian 22KW. This generator has a very high wattage limit, is from one of the best and most trustworthy generator brands, and is super easy to use.
This article contains our four top picks for the best whole house generator for those sudden power cuts or going off-grid. Below, we will go over the specs of our favorite whole house generators, listing the pros and cons of each one. Then, we’ll talk about what you should look for in a generator and whether a generator can add value to your home.
- Best Whole House Generator: Top 4
- Best Whole House Generator Reviews
- Things You Need To Know About Whole House Generators
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
- The Verdict: Our Best Whole House Generator Winner
Best Whole House Generator: Top 4
If you want to skip straight to the best whole house generator to keep your entire house running off the grid, here are our top 4:
We’ve also reviewed the best dual-fuel generators, so if you don’t need a whole house generator, check that article out!
Best Whole House Generator Reviews
When it comes to generators, you don’t want inferior quality. Poorly made generators aren’t just less efficient – they are incredibly dangerous! So, if you want an idea of what to look for, here are our top picks, all of which are safe, efficient, reliable, and have powerful engines:
1. Best Overall: Generac 7043 Guardian 22KW
This was a close call with the number 2 on the list, the Kohler whole house generator, but it’s the most powerful option.
My main reason for having the Generac generator as the winner is that Generac generators and engines are engineered and built in the USA. That’s pretty awesome.
As for power, propane will give you 22,000 watts, whereas natural gas will provide you with 19,500 watts. It’s also capable of load balancing, simultaneously supporting high-power items like stoves, air conditioning, and electric dryers and lower-power items like phone chargers.
There’s a remote monitoring feature built into the generator, which means you can check that everything’s working efficiently from the comfort of your still-lit home. You can do this via an app on your smartphone, tablet, or computer, so there’s no need to get off the couch.
If you need to check up on things using the built-in LCD, it’s a multilingual interface that’ll give you a detailed breakdown. This includes battery levels and a countdown to the next maintenance interval to ensure there’s no downtime between servicing, and keeping your home protected.
- 5-year limited warranty
- Rust and corrosion-resistant, powder-coated exterior housing
- Built-in “self-test” mode to ensure everything’s working in case of an emergency
- High-tech LCD control panels support multiple languages and a range of remote monitoring systems
- Accessing the terminal for the machine is a little tricky, plus there’s limited space inside for wiring
- Generac has gained a reputation among customers and other online sources for needing frequent maintenance, more so than some other brands
2. Longest-Lasting: Kohler 20RCAL-200SELS
This generator was a favorite on many of the lists I looked at and got strong customer ratings across the board.
It’s powered by a super-powerful Kohler Command Pro engine, custom-designed for commercial use.
You can use liquid propane gas for up to 20,000 watts of power. Otherwise, you can use natural gas, which will afford you 18,000 watts.
You can also jump between the two by simply pressing a button. In layman’s terms, that’s enough to juice your washing machine, air-conditioning system, dishwasher, TV, and other electricals throughout your house.
If we dig into the circuitry, this generator has hydraulic valve lifters, removing the need for interval stops during operation. In other words, you’ll get more prolonged periods of continuous use out of the generator if the power doesn’t come back on for a while.
- Restores power to your home within 10 seconds of a blackout
- The machine housing is not only stylish but also corrosion-resistant
- Built-in “PowerBoost” technology helps to power sudden demands on the machine without dropping smaller loads that are already sucking power
- Ongoing maintenance costs are pretty high, as are the prices for replacement parts
- You’ll need to contact an official Kohler dealer to avoid costly installation bills. They also custom-mount the machine on concrete pads, reducing installation costs and time.
3. Best Value: Champion Power Equipment 100837 Home Standby Generator
This whole house generator is quite lovely to look at. You could be forgiven for mistaking it for an outdoor storage unit. It’ll safely operate at extremes in temperature, giving you power in case of a blackout.
Under the hood is a 754-cc OHV engine that you can power with either natural gas or propane. Plus, it’s reasonably quiet when in operation – not the most silent, but not loud enough to be disturbing.
If you want to get into specifics, it’s around the 63.5-decibel range. But, again, this is partly thanks to a low-tone muffler and sound-muffling lining.
If you choose to power this machine with liquid propane, you can expect around 14,000 watts of continuous power output. On natural gas, you’ll get a power output of 12,500 watts.
- 10-year warranty
- The unique gull-swing design makes it easy to access the internal control panel
- Robust, durable materials that are built to be outdoors yet are easy to remove and maintain
- A built-in 24-volt starting system can function in sub-zero temperatures of minus 22° F right up to 104° F
- Bulky and heavy
- Getting someone else to install this machine is pretty pricey
- The noise levels can be a bit annoying, but it’s still pretty quiet compared to some others
4. Best Budget Generator: Generac 6998 Guardian Series 7.5kW/6kW Air Cooled Home Standby Generator
Coming in last on the list, the Generac 6998 has a power output that’s less than half of the other machines listed. But I’ve picked this one because it had some stellar reviews across the board, in addition to, of course, being cheaper due to the lower output.
Let’s face it. Not everybody will need as much as 18-20,000 watts in the event of a blackout.
Under the hood, you’ve got Generac’s True Power Technology, which promises “best-in-class” power quality with less than 5% THD.
THD means ‘Total Harmonic Distortion.’ The amount of THD stated will influence your generator’s performance. The lower the number, the better. Above 6%, you can start seeing some electrical issues.
This whole house generator has some pretty helpful quirks. For example, besides the remote monitoring features, it also has LED indicators built into the Evolution Controller. These lights will tell you the generator status, utility power presence, and whether the generator needs maintenance.
- The sturdy aluminum body is resistant to harsh weather conditions
- Link Remote Monitoring lets you check on the generator’s status and service intervals remotely from your device
- Depending on the appliances you’re running, the generator’s variable speed will auto-adjust the power output
- Generac battery is not included! You’ll need a Generac battery 5819 for this whole house generator
- Additional costs for installation – it’s a little too tricky to get this up and running yourself
- I’ve read some reports of warranties not being honored by the manufacturer, but honestly, you’ll need to take that with a pinch of salt
Things You Need To Know About Whole House Generators
Whether you have settled on a specific generator or still have no idea what you are looking for, shopping for generators is tricky. One mistake, and you’ve spent thousands of dollars on a device you can’t use.
So, below, we’ll take a brief look at some critical information you should have before you decide to buy yourself a whole house generator.
Why Do You Need a Whole House Generator?
So, before we get into the details, why do you need a whole-house generator? To power your whole house! You may be looking for a generator to run continuously in an off-grid setting or as a backup power supply during electrical outages.
Last year we were hit by a cyclone, leaving power out for weeks, and the year before that, we got flooded out. During the flood, my husband wasn’t home, and I lost a freezer load of meat because I couldn’t get the generator going. He moved heaven and earth to get home, going so far as to walk over the railway tracks to cross flooded roads! However, it was too late for the freezer food.
Now we have not one but three freezers full of food (we like to be prepared!), and it would be a disaster if we experienced a power failure.
In addition, power outages can mean a lack of internet or un-chargeable mobile devices – what if you live remotely and cannot call for help?
These are all valid reasons to have a backup power supply, which is precisely what a whole-house generator gives you in an emergency.
Whole House vs Standby Generators
If you’ve been browsing around, you’ve probably seen several types of generators, including whole house and standby generators. Between these, in most cases, you’ll likely want to go with a whole house generator.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the advantages that a whole-house generator has over standby units:
- Whole house generators have higher-quality engines. So you’ll typically be looking at something more akin to a vehicular engine on a whole-house generator. For a standby generator, it’s more like sticking a lawnmower engine on the side of your house. Less power!
- Most whole house generators use liquid cooling. However, this one isn’t a given. Some models here are air-cooled, but you’ve also got liquid-cooled options. Liquid can cool the generator more quickly in the event of overloading outages.
- Whole house generators need less maintenance. As a result, you’ll typically enjoy more prolonged periods of uninterrupted operation with the best whole house generators.
- Whole-house backup. They don’t call it that for no reason. With a whole house generator, it’s like nothing ever happened. With a standby generator, you’ll choose which valuable circuits you want to keep operational and which ones can be lost to the dark until the power’s back.
- Better fuel efficiency and less noise. Whole house generators have lower RPMs and are, therefore, usually quieter. They’re also more fuel-efficient and so cheaper to run.
On average, a standby generator will run a smaller home within a wattage range of around 9,000 to 20,000 watts. They’ll save your refrigerated food, keep the air conditioner running, and give you some light. However, they can’t run everything at once or for a long period.
Your average whole-house generator, however, will range from about 20,000 watts to 50,000 watts, meaning you can keep the house running as it was before until the power comes back. You can’t put a price on that kind of peace of mind in an emergency.
What to Look for In a Whole House Generator
If a whole-home generator sounds like the best choice, you’ll still need to know a little about what to look for in each model.
Best Brands for Whole House Generators
Generac and Kohler are two of the best brands for whole house generators. These generators are generally reliable and efficient, although they can be more expensive than those from less well-known brands.
You can trust Briggs & Stratton and Champion, although they aren’t as well-known as Kohler and Generac.
You can’t always come by fuel as easily as you might think. In more remote areas, having an abundant fuel source can be tricky. Moreover, you need to work out what type is best. Usually, your options are gas, LPG (liquid propane gas), or natural gas.
Choosing a dual-fuel generator that can run on more than one type of fuel can be a real lifesaver. That way, if you run out of one in your area, you can switch over. In addition, choosing a generator with efficient fuel consumption is always best.
Generator Size and Power Output Capacity
Your generator should always exceed the amount of power your house uses. This is where you’ll need some working knowledge of electrical circuitry and the electrical load of all essential appliances within your home.
The most essential appliances you’ll likely want to account for include your refrigerator, heater, medical devices, and basic lighting.
Once you know how much they use, think about your “occasional appliances.” These might include your stove, dishwasher, and washing machine. Chances are, you won’t need to use all these appliances simultaneously.
Still, you can get by with a smaller generator by cycling through the appliances, such as only cooking when you’ve finished a load of laundry.
You can usually find an indication of a device’s power draw within manufacturer documentation. In most cases, you’ll find the amperage on the manual or packaging.
So, if you need to work out your home’s power requirements in watts, then you can use this basic formula: (Starting Amps x Volts = Watts).
However, don’t buy a 20,000-watt capacity generator if your home’s demand at its peak is 19,000 watts. You should never get too close to the limit when running a generator.
Leave about 10% leeway for additional appliances to avoid unexpected overloads. That way, you’ll always have plenty of power for your home.
If you are not confident with this calculation, a licensed electrician can help.
Transfer switches let your generator jump into the ring if your power fails by continuously monitoring the power flow through your utilities. These devices are convenient since they automatically engage your backup power supply in the case of a power loss.
All generators need a transfer switch.
To better understand how a transfer switch works and why you need one, Keith of Mr. Electric of Huntsville explains:
A generator is a separate driven power source. Because of that, when you turn a generator on, you need a way to turn off your house. You need to disconnect your house from the utility grid system and put it onto the generator power source. This must be done mechanically.
A transfer switch either works manually or automatically. When you have a manual control, you must push over a switch whenever you want to power up the generator. On the other hand, an automatic transfer switch can do all the work for you.
When you flip the switch, you switch power grids from the electrical grid to the generator’s grid. Without this switch, you could overload every electrical device in your house.
Keith recommends an automatic transfer switch system over a manual one. That way, you won’t have to go out in lousy weather, hooking up and starting the generator when power is lost.
Also, when you’re not at home, the automatic system will turn the generator on and power your home, so you don’t lose any food in your fridges, freezers, etc.
Still, before you get one, look at your home’s electrical service panel and check the amperage on your main breaker. You’ll need a switch that matches this value.
As with any electrical device, you’ll need to take some safety precautions when you have a generator. Some of the most critical steps to take include the following:
- Ensure your generator is at least 30 feet from your home and out in the open air to eliminate the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Switch breakers on and off to avoid overloading the generator system.
- When you turn your generator on, disconnect your house from the utility grid system.
- Don’t make a cord and hook it into the dryer plug. This is illegal and could end up electrocuting someone.
- Stabilize your generator’s fuel if you plan to store it with any fuel left in the gas tank.
Does a Whole House Generator Add Value to Your Home?
Whole-home generators are expensive to install, but they’re very handy during a power outage. However, does a whole house generator add value to your home when it comes time to sell?
I’ve asked several real estate and generator experts for their opinions. It turns out that the answer to our question is more personal than you might expect, and it very much depends on the property’s location and whether your buyers appreciate the value and convenience of a whole house generator.
For buyers that have experienced prolonged power outages (like us during our two-week flood), a whole house generator adds massive value to a home.
In most areas, a whole house generator is more of a bonus. It’ll set your house apart from other homes and may make it easier to sell. When a buyer considers two places with similar merit, yours may tip the balance because of your generator. Besides that, you’ll find it won’t add much monetary value.
A whole house generator helps your home sell easier but not necessarily for more money.
Whole House Generator Value Depends on Your Location
A whole house generator may not add value to the sales price of your home, but it can certainly help it sell quicker and easier. When buyers are looking at multiple homes to buy, yours could come out on top because of the generator.
Location is something that came up a few times. A whole house generator can add value to your home if you are in an area prone to tornadoes, storms, or power outages.
On the other hand, in “safer” areas, your buyers may not see the value of a whole house generator.
Bill Samuel, a full-time real estate broker in the Chicagoland area, agrees. Bill says that, in his opinion, a whole house generator does not add value to a home in the Chicagoland area. He adds:
Our grid is fairly reliable so the need for a generator is very minimal.
In other areas where the grid is less reliable, this may be different. Of course, having this additional feature on your house is certainly appreciated by any buyer.
Generally speaking, additional bonus features like a whole house generator will help your house sell faster but not necessarily for more money.
Shaun Taylor, on the other hand, offers an interesting perspective. Shaun runs Moriti Safaris, based in South Africa. He agrees that whole house generators add value.
This reiterates the fact that it very much depends on your location. The recent buyers of 2 safari lodges were ecstatic about having a fully integrated whole house generator system included in the sale. Shaun adds:
I use whole house generators at the lodges that I run safaris from. They are absolute essential items as far as I am concerned because today, we have to have electricity.
It adds value from the point of view that you do not have to worry about outages and it also starts the thinking process of living off the grid and how we can look after ourselves, which gives a feeling of comfort in this day and age. I can say from experience that it adds value.
Only Quality Models With Professional Generator Installation Add Value to Your Home
Ashley Baskin, licensed real estate agent, says that, just like any other upgrade, the value that the generator adds depends on the quality of the generator and how professional the installation is.
She agrees that a whole house generator can add value to your home – but only sometimes. A poor installation or poor-quality generator can cause a decline in your home’s value, especially if buyers see the generator as a nuisance instead of an upgrade!
So, to add value, you’ll need to get a reliable model and order a professional installation.
A smaller generator you need to turn on during a power outage likely won’t add any value at all. However, a high-quality automatic switch-over whole house generator system of a reputable brand like Kohler or Generac can add value.
Additionally, installing a whole house generator is not a DIY project; you should engage an appropriate contractor to install it properly. Finally, keep all receipts associated with the installation so that you have a record to show buyers.
If installed properly, your home will see an increased value of about 3% (on average).
However, the value of the generator is not always known to the buyer, and in some cases, the buyer must be educated. This can be one of the most challenging aspects of selling a home at an increased value, and can sometimes deter uneducated buyers.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Do you still have questions about whole-house generators? Well, we might have the answer you are looking for. Here are a few of the most common questions about getting and installing whole house generators.
You can continuously run a whole house generator for around 500 hours, but not all models can do so. In most cases, you can leave whole house generators running for days as long as you keep the fuel flowing. Still, always follow your owner’s manual when determining how long you can run your generator.
You likely need a generator with at least 6,000 W power output to run a whole house, but every home is different. In addition, the amount of power you need will differ depending on how many devices you run continuously and how much power they draw.
The average cost to install a whole house generator is between $2,000 and $6,000, depending on how large the generator is, your current electrical system, and how much modification the electrician must do to accommodate your generator. This cost does not include the generator price, which ranges from $3,000 to $10,000 on average.
The Verdict: Our Best Whole House Generator Winner
A high-quality whole house generator from a reliable brand with proper installation can make your life easier if you live in a location with frequent power outages. In addition, a good generator can add value to your home.
So, if you want to keep the power going strong while adding value to your residence, you might want to go for the Generac 7043 Guardian 22KW. It’s a trustworthy, reliable whole house generator made in the USA.
However, if you can get by with a less power draw, opt for the Generac Kohler 20RCAL-200SELS 20kW. It’s also made in the USA, which gives it a definite thumbs-up from me.
Wednesday 8th of February 2023
What is the average cost to have someone install it? Can you just contact an electrician, or do you need a 'specialist'?
Thursday 9th of February 2023
Hi Carol! Any electrician should be able to install the generator and the switch-over system to switch from grid to generator power. The price depends on what type of system you'd like to install, and whether you want the generator to automatically start up if the power goes out. At our place, we don't use an automatic system. Instead, we switch over the plugs ourselves, then start the generator. We like to have the extra control :D. We also like to turn as many things as possible off before we start the generator. Things like fans, lights we don't need, the coffee machine, the hot water system - particularly things that draw a lot of power. Our poor generator is quite old and having all those things turned on at start-up is just too much for the old girl! However, a manual system means that if you're not home, the generator won't start! There are advantages to both systems, and they'll both have different installation prices. This website reckons it costs between $10000 and $20000 to purchase and install a whole house generator.
Tuesday 11th of August 2020
It's good to know that a whole-house generator has lower RPMs and won't miss a beat in a power outage. I'm wanting to get a generator for my new house in case of the power going out in a storm. Should I look for bigger generators to put in the back or have a professional install it for me?
Tuesday 11th of August 2020
Hi there Taylor! It is generally recommended to get a professional to install it for you. They can make sure it's all wired up correctly and can install an automatic switch over system so you don't have to go out in a storm to manually turn it on. Portable, smaller generators can still be very helpful to run a couple of lights or small appliances though, so it depends on your preferences. Read more expert generator tips or my newest article: Does a whole house generator add value to your home?