Budget-Friendly Residential Standby Generators

Q: I have a small vacation cabin that I close up every year. However, this year I’m excited to be adding a permanently installed residential generator so I can keep the cabin open all year!

Even though it will be a smart investment, I am on a budget. Do they make smaller residential standby generators?

I really don’t want to oversize this job and my budget with a normal-size house generator.

-Dan, Maine


A: I start receiving a lot of questions about standby generators in the spring. Also, in the news you soon may hear that it was 10 years ago that Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. This also reminds us about the importance of residential standby generators.

A standby system is not a portable generator that uses electrical cords and runs on gasoline. Standby residential generators are a permanent part of the home’s electrical system, and they run on natural gas or propane fuels and turn on and off automatically. In the last 10 years they have also become more affordable as they gain popularity, and yes, smaller sizes are available.

Example: 14 kW or 20 kW (kilowatt) standby generators are popular home sizes. But, if you check with your licensed standby generator installer, you can also find more affordable smaller-sized units like 12 kW, 10 kW, and 8 kW –providing once again that good things do come in small packages.

Ed Del Grande, home improvement expert


H/T: The Miami Herald


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8 Responses to “Budget-Friendly Residential Standby Generators”

  1. ronnei chapman
    September 2, 2015 at 2:52 pm #

    hi on the propane generators how long would a 250 tank of propane last it

    • KOHLER Generators
      KOHLER Generators
      September 4, 2015 at 11:31 am #

      Hi Ronnei,

      It’s not possible to give an accurate answer without knowing the generator’s model number, as different models will have different fuel consumption. For most residential models, the approximate LPG fuel consumption will be somewhere between 1.75 gph to 9 gph.

      You can calculate approximate gph using any spec sheet available on http://www.kohlergenerators.com. Essentially, you take the cfh number (usually in parentheses) at 100% load for LPG, and divide it by 36.39, as that is the conversion factor for converting cubic feet to gallons.

      Hope that helps! -Mallory

  2. Andrew Cooper
    September 3, 2015 at 6:23 am #

    Can u please educate me. I have an impression that generator is quite noisy. This is new to me that generator is part of the house runs by the electrical? Is it like battery operated?

    • KOHLER Generators
      KOHLER Generators
      September 4, 2015 at 11:34 am #

      Hi Andrew,

      Our standby residential generators are not battery-operated, but serve as a permanent part of the home’s electrical system. Our units run on natural gas or propane fuels and turn on and off automatically. It has a battery, but the function of the battery is to aid in engine starting (like a car) and provide power to the controller. The noise is coming from the engine; it’s a commercial-grade engine and will create a noticeable sound level when running. It’s comparable to a lawn mower in many cases, in terms of sound. If you need any more clarification, please reach out to our customer service team at generator.feedback@kohler.com.

  3. Melissa G. Butler
    September 16, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

    No one has answered my question about the trickle battery charger, does it or does it not have to be put in a separate conduit to the breaker panel, my dad said
    not & he thought if he ever got one he & his electrician could run it along with
    the communicator wire !? Three conduits being ran a long length with wire he said would be so expensive !!!

    • KOHLER Generators
      KOHLER Generators
      September 17, 2015 at 10:22 am #

      Melissa –

      The following is drawn directly from our installation manual:

      The installer must connect AC power for the battery charger, which is built into the controller. Route low-voltage communication leads through separate conduit from the AC power and load leads.

      Unfortunately, we are limited in our capacity to help with wiring questions beyond very basic information, as we are not licensed electricians or certified technicians. Our network of dealers and distributors employ factory-trained technicians that serve as our field technical support. We would encourage you to contact your authorized Kohler distributor for detailed assistance on generator wiring. You can find out who your distributor is by visiting http://kohlerpower.com/industrial/salesservicelocator.htm. Otherwise, if you would like to obtain a copy of an installation manual, please call our customer service team at 1-800-544-2444 from 7 AM – 5 PM CT, M-F, or contact them by email at generator.feedback@kohler.com.

      • Melissa G. Butler
        September 24, 2015 at 7:56 pm #

        So basically your saying three separate conduits should be used & each wire, utility, communicator & trickle battery charger in a separate conduit for each & this is Kohler specifications !? When you have weather Kohler or your own contractor
        do the installation, does a Kohler dealer company come out for yearly inspects
        of transfer switch & generator while warranty is in effect !? I thought I read that,
        & warranties after 5 years cost $500.00 !?
        Thanks, M.G. Butler

        • KOHLER Generators
          KOHLER Generators
          September 28, 2015 at 10:57 am #

          Low-voltage communication leads should be routed through separate conduit from AC power and load leads. Our residential generators require annual maintenance, which includes changing the oil and checking the oil filter, air filter and spark plugs. While we do encourage customers to utilize one of our certified dealers for this, it is not mandated; any qualified individual may perform the annual maintenance without voiding the warranty. Warranty coverage after 5 years is not available.

          As Kohler does not perform installations directly, we are limited in our capacity to provide specific installation instructions beyond what is listed in our installation manual. Our network of certified Kohler dealers and distributors provide our field technical support, and are there to assist with installation guidance. For detailed installation information, please contact your authorized Kohler distributor. You can find your distributor information by entering your zip code at http://kohlerpower.com/industrial/salesservicelocator.htm.