In this podcast, Timothy Kent from N.E.T.R., Inc talks about Generac and other types of home generators. He explains why more homeowners are installing generators. Then, he describes the potential of different capacities of generators. Finally, he outlines costs, considerations, and the installation process.
John McDougall: Hey, this is John McDougall and I’m here today with Timothy Kent, the electrical supervisor with N.E.T.R., Inc. Welcome, Tim.
Tim Kent: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
John: Good, good. So we’re going to talk about generators and in specific Generac generators and the benefits and the cost. Can you explain the importance of having a backup generator for homes and businesses and how generators, in specific, Generac, offer reliable solutions?
Tim: Yeah, definitely. A lot of people back when I first started putting in generators didn’t really know that this technology even existed. They thought it was only available for commercial properties or hospitals. They didn’t realize they could actually get one in their home til Generac came on the market. Generac does offer a lot of commercial and industrial stuff, but for the homeowner, residential, they have basically very affordable, all different types of Generac brands.
All different types of different brands or different amounts of power you can have to your home. Basically, some of them, what they started with was what we call air cooled generators. Basically means that it’s just like a fan and it just cools it off. But as far as to install them and as far as why they’re needed, it’s a lot of people now, dealing with the pandemic, really changed a lot of minds.
Tim: Pre-pandemic, generators were a luxury item. They were an item that very few people had. People didn’t deem it necessary, because if power went out, they could just go into work. It didn’t really matter. They were working at the office, they always had power there. They could get their work done.
Problem when you’re in some of these coastal cities, coastal towns, high prone areas of long-term power outages, and you’re stuck at home working to get your living, you can’t not work for two weeks because you don’t have power, which is where the Generac market really boomed and whole home generators actually really boomed as a whole. So now you see them basically all up the coast. Everyone has them. I remember going up there answering emergency calls and all you hear is everyone’s generators on. Every single house has one because they’re so used to losing power and this gives them the ability to still work from home mainly.
Also, if you have any medical conditions, like some people are on oxygen, it allows them to make sure that they have a constant stream of oxygen and they don’t have to worry about reserve tanks and if they’ll run out and how much power they need. And basically the best part about it is you don’t have to mess with them. They just automatically do it. Change over when power goes out and automatically shut off when it comes back on. You just sit right on your couch, wait a minute, and everything comes back out. Which is a great benefit of a lot of people who might not be comfortable dealing with electricity or generators or manually plugging them in.
So I think it’s become a real lifesaver for the day and age that we live in to have all of our electronics, to be able to still do things. On top of the heat, your food, your meats that you have in freezers and all of that, you don’t want that to go bad, especially with how expensive groceries are nowadays, one of the things you don’t want to have. So it’s become a real life saver that people are willing to pay the money for. It’s not this rare item. I guess it’s gone the way of having a swimming pool is my best comparison. Swimming pool…
John: Yeah. And there are a lot of options now. So I want to talk a little bit about other options and then other brands compared to Generac. But first, what you made me think of is when my neighbor’s Generac generator goes on, I’m jealous. And, again, I’m thinking of getting either a Tesla Powerwall to connect to my solar or a Generac generator, but as an interim step, because it’s a complicated decision, I started looking at smaller options.
So during the pandemic I got a Honda, a little $1,200 classic generator, which people love. People use them on a fishing boat, contractors use them. They’re really popular and good. But the first time the power went out, I went to put it outside and I had to think back to my days when I lived in Vermont in an all solar house with a generator in a shed.
And I realized, “Oh yeah, it’s snowing.” I mean, a wet snow and I’m going to run a cable so I know enough not to put the generator in my house or in my garage because it can kill you, the fumes. But what I hadn’t really counted on was just how complicated it is to get that so that you’re not going to electrocute yourself, putting it in a safe spot outside, running a cable through a window and then water’s coming down on it. How dangerous is that to just run those nice Honda generators outside in a snowstorm?
Tim: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, so Generac makes their own versions of portable generators. They come in quite a different size. They’re a little bit bigger than the Honda ones, for those people that don’t really want or need a whole home standby generator. So they have other options. Basically, as far as danger goes, yes, obviously the exhaust, you need to make sure you’re outside, you can’t have it inside. The exhaust coming out is toxic. But it’s also, like you said before, it could be during a snowstorm, we could be getting two feet of snow. Well, you have it in the shed. Well, now in the storm you lose power. Now you have to go out there, it could be the middle of the night, and you have to grab your generator and lug it over to where you’re going to plug it into outside, get it started.
And then manually, if you have what we call a manual transfer switch — that is what most electricians would install for you — you have to make sure you turn all that stuff on. And for certain people they don’t care about that. They’re fine with doing that or they have a perfect area to put it and it just works. For the vast majority of people, however, maybe it’s too heavy. The generators are very heavy to lug around. Obviously trying to pull it through snow, or high winds, or rains is not exactly the whole safety point that you want to have. The whole point of this is to be safe, to have your heat, to have all of that. Having to go out and fight the elements to get power back up is not a solution that people are comfortable with dealing with.
That being said, the portable generators, if it’s done correctly, done by a professional, you wouldn’t have to worry about the water or any type of danger like that. I wouldn’t suggest running a cord all the way across your lawn., Keep it as close as you can to your plug-in point at your house. But they’re made to be in elements. They’re made to be weatherproof and made to get wet, cold, hot, snow on them. They’re designed for that. But, like you said, it’s a lot of work when you realize, “Oh, now I have to go grab my generator that’s across the yard through a foot of snow.”
John: Yeah, absolutely. And what about other brands compared to Generac?
Tim: So the next brand that everyone would bring up would be Kohler. Kohler and Generac are kind of the Ford and Chevy. They’re the fighting back and forth, two top brands. At least in my opinion. There’s a couple other brands like Briggs & Stratton and Cummins that make generators. But generally what you’ll see out there is Generac and Kohler.
I prefer Generac for a couple reasons. Generacs are actually a little bit more affordable than Kohlers and they’re also quieter. When they’re on, the decibels are actually less than Kohler generators are. Also, one of the things that I really like about them is that Generac’s main priority, what they do best is generators. All shapes and sizes, but they do generators. They are venturing into power walls, but it’s all emergency standby power.
Not that Kohler’s a bad product at all, but also Kohler does plumbing supplies. Kohler has their hands in a lot of other stuff. Generac focuses on their generators to make them the best of the best, to make them durable. Generac has a 99% success rate basically for all their generators that get installed. Their warranties are the same between Generac and Kohler except Kohler has a nice little asterisk that says it only goes up to 2000 hours. So they’re both five year limited warranties, but then Kohler has just 2000 running hours.
So if you’re losing power for a week on end, you could hit that 2000 working running hours pretty quickly. Generac does not have that. Theirs is a five-year straightforward limited warranty. On top of that, for the homeowner and for the technician, Generac has a lot of people you can call. So for us, N.E.T.R., we’re authorized Generac dealers. We’re also authorized Generac service providers, which means that you can call us to not only install your generator, but also to service and maintain your generator. And to help us in the field as technicians, Generac has dedicated phone lines with dedicated technicians to help answer any questions we have or help figure out if there’s a problem with your generator. They do that one of the best out of all the other companies, that’s for sure.
John: And are there a lot of maintenance needs?
Tim: Not generally. So essentially the generator is a small engine. It’s basically what it is. So think of your lawnmower engine. Oil changes once a year, air filter, oil filter is mainly, on average, the maintenance package that companies like N.E.T.R. or other generator provider companies offer once a year. It also allows us to test your system, make sure it’s working properly, no error codes. It is a big investment, so you want to make sure it’s running.
What leads to most failures of Generacs or even Kohler generators is lack of maintenance. Just like if you weren’t putting any oil in your car and driving it everywhere, your engine’s going to not have a good day down the line. So the maintenance is extremely important to maintain it, to keep it up to date and keep everything running properly. But as far as that, that’s about it. There isn’t any major aftermarket costs that you have to do. It’s just the maintenance once a year and that’s about it.
John: And what about options? Are there certain products that are popular?
Tim: Not to get too electrical lingo here, if you have a 200 amp service, so 200 amps coming into your home, my recommendation is Generac makes three top models for 200 amps and three top models for 100 amps. And it depends on what you’d like to use it for. Generac has a 26 kilowatt, 24 kilowatt, and a 22 kilowatt, which basically means that’s the amount of power they provide to your home. So to explain, a 24 kilowatt gives you about 100 amps of emergency power. So it’s about a half of your 200 amp service. That’s plenty of power to run off in an emergency. That’s plenty of power to run your whole home, your stoves, heat pumps, if you have them installed, your fridges, boiler, regular heating system, no problem. All of your top tier items will be able to be powered and then some.
If you have the 100 amp system, and maybe you have 100 amps to your home, they have probably an 18 or 14 and a 10 kilowatt. So 10 being the lowest one that they make for automatic transfers. Basically that one would be simply for your bare bones basics. So your fridge, your freezer, some lights and your heating essentially is what that would be. And then you kind of go up from there depending on your needs. So they have a lot of availability for the needs of what the client specifically wants.
And N.E.T.R. ourselves, we don’t go in there and just shoot you out the most expensive one and call it a day. We like to discuss with the customer what their actual needs are and give them the right recommended generator brand size that they need.
John: And is there a big difference in cost from top of the line to middle or decent?
Tim: Yeah, so I mean, from an install perspective, there’s at least a $10,000 difference between the low model to the high model. I mean, they’re all the same quality, it’s just how much power they output. I guess there’s no cheap model in the sense of this one is missing other things, it’s just the amount of power that it gives you to your home. But it is a big difference. It is the cost of the generator itself, cost of material. And I always run the philosophy, me with any of my guys, anyone here at N.E.T.R., to never sell a customer anything they do not need. It’s very much if their needs line up with a small 10 kW generator and that’s what they want, I’ll bring that up to them. Not because it’s the cheapest one or anything like that. And then I’ll always give them options and explain what they get with the other models, but to let them know that it’s not just a one model suits all, here’s the price.
They have much flexibility and versatility in what they pick and what they choose and how they want to utilize it along with that. So it’s giving them the options and decisions to ask me questions to educate them on how it all works and how the system is going to function in their home, and what they need to do, and what they need to know about how to make it operate correctly, and when’s time to call us out because there’s a problem. And having all of that knowledge can help them even save a lot of money in the long run.
John: And what about common price points? Are there common packages or what can people expect overall?
Tim: Yeah, so because N.E.T.R. has a plumber, we’re able to do it all in one — use N.E.T.R. for everything. So basically on the lower end packages, so the 10s to the 14 kilowatt generators, run anywhere, including plumber costs… I would say 10 kWs are around $10 to $12,000. And then I would say the 14 kW is around $13 to $16,000. Then when you get up to the higher models, like the 22 and the 24 kilowatts, including plumbing, those run anywhere from probably about $20 to $23,000, give or take. All of it depends on your local city jurisdiction. And then obviously your specific house can vary. But for us generally, those are where the price points are for all of our generators. And also depends on added accessories. Generac has some accessories that you don’t need, but you can always buy them if you wanted to, so that can change the price around as well.
And for us, all of our pricing to customers is what we call straightforward pricing. So when me or one of my electricians presents a price to a customer after they’ve done it all up, it’s not a, “I think this is roughly what it’s going to cost.” It’s more of, “This is what it’s going to cost.” So you don’t have to think and worry, “Oh, now they’re going to get lunch. Is that going to be extra? Is that going to take them extra time?” It’s not time-based, so they don’t have to worry about that. So it allows us to be able to let them know what this is going to cost them before they agree to anything. So they don’t have that on the other end, “Is this going to cost me an extra $1000 because of X, Y and Z?”
That’s just how I do it for my electricians. I think it’s much more people-friendly, user-friendly, and it helps them understand. Because it allows my guys to tell them this is the price. If they’re like, “Well, what about this, this and this?” And it’s like, “Still, this is the price.” And if there is an unforeseen question, we will let them know that and then we’ll maybe contact the people to get that question answered and then come back to them if there is that. But we always educate them on the possibilities of additional costs. If it’s a local or town governance basically, or a certain rule or code mandate that may give them extra cost that’s out of our control, we will notify them about that potential cost and then we’ll obviously take the steps to contact the town or city to get that answered for them.
John: And how do you get started with N.E.T.R.? It all starts with an analysis of my home, right? You come over and do a quote?
Tim: Yeah. So what will happen is, if you want a generator quote or are thinking about getting a generator, what you would do is you’d call N.E.T.R. and then they would schedule a time and date that worked for you. And then it would be me or one of my electricians, who is highly qualified in Generac and generators, would come out, talk to you, talk about your needs, talk about what you want, talk about the location of where you want to put it, run by the electrical codes basically that are required with it, and any issues that may arise, if there are any, depending on your home. And really get a feel for what you need, what you want, and then give you the options.
The homeowner has the choice. It’s your home, it’s your decision. It’s also us that has the knowledge. So we like to pass on the knowledge of you’re calling us to educate you on a particular service or a particular… “Why do I go with Generac? Why do I go this size?” We’re there to answer all of those questions for you. So at least when we’re done, you’re satisfied with the questions we’ve answered. And hopefully we’ve answered all of those questions as well.
John: That’s awesome, Tim. Those are really great tips for getting a Generac generator, and I appreciate your time today.
Tim: No problem. Thank you very much.
John: All right, good. This has been John with Timothy Kent of N.E.T.R., Inc. Check him out online at netrinc.com and we’ll talk to you next time.
Tim: Thank you very much. Have a good day.